Inner North Brewing Co’s name might perfectly encapsulate their location, but it’s only one way in which the Melbourne brewers have centred themselves in their community.
The small, inner north brewery is found in a Brunswick back street that itself sits off another back street, and since opening early in 2018 they’ve brought that once quiet, dead end street to life. Spend any time at all there with the team, led by founder Zack Skerritt, and you’ll soon see just how much of a community they’ve created.
Maybe it’s unsurprising, given his background in structural engineering, but when Zack first saw the largely uninspiring warehouse – originally a cold works but with a history that includes hosting raves in the 1990s and acting as a comedy production studio more recently – he felt it could be reinvented once again.
His first move was to take out the low-hanging ceiling to reveal a sloped tin roof that’s impressive each time you walk in, and from which skylights fill the brewery with natural light that turns popping in for an IPA into something of a church-like experience.
Reminding you the congregation at Inner North are here for rather more worldly pleasures are the picnic tables in the beer garden out front and, once you’re through the roller doors, the tiled bar and its twelve taps that instantly greet you. While you’re very much in a converted warehouse – the old red bricks and peeling white paint ensure its industrial past lives on – the abundance of plants further transforms it into a vibrant and very much alive venue.
Well, venue and working brewery too, to be totally accurate. The brewhouse – which produces 800 litre batches of beer – is on show for all to see, with bar seating running the length of the tanks and games of cornhole regularly enjoyed beside the stainless.
The relatively small size of the brewhouse, and the presence of an even smaller pilot system dedicated to single keg releases, means beers don’t tend to stick around for too long. So, while there is a core range that includes a classic pilsner, an IPA, a hoppy stout and a twist on saison called The Frenchy Pale, new recipes regularly find their way through the bar’s dozen taps. Here, collaborations are key, such as When Life Gives You Lemongrass..., first brewed with Sydney Road’s Good Days, or the Strawberry Gum IPA brewed with the wine bar Rascal.
Staff at the brewery get to take creative control of the single keg system to brew whatever takes their fancy – no matter how madcap. As something of a byproduct of 2020, takeaway longnecks, growlers and cans have all become standard sights at the brewery, but if you’re sticking around to try those beers, the food options are plentiful too.
While Inner North doesn’t boast a kitchen, you can order food from a number of the surrounding businesses: the classic boozer around the corner, the Victoria Hotel, provides pub food with Los Hermanos and Green Acre providing tacos and pizza respectively.
The sense of community goes beyond the warehouse walls and one-off beers, however, and is carefully nurtured by the Inner North team. Take the likes of the 100 Pint Club; it’s a concept that’s not exactly original but has garnered a particular devotion among Inner North’s loyal locals, as evidenced by the boxes of cards kept behind the bar belonging to club members. Drink a hundred pints and you get rewarded with a free, giant tasting paddle and a plaque with you name on it mounted in the venue – not to mention the right to drink from the slightly-larger-than-a-pint handled beer mug for the rest of your life.
That sense of community only developed further during the COVID pandemic, as the Inner North team set about dropping fresh beer in longnecks to locals, with the bottles returned and reused in a form of modern-day milkman service and culminating with the launch of their beer subscriptions service in the depths of lockdown 6.
Such a service shouldn’t come as a surprise, given this is an inner north brewery where locals don’t just know each other – their dogs are regulars as well. Inner North: as much an attitude as it is a place.