Bulimba – a riverside pocket in Brisbane’s east – is the kind of place that continues to draw pride from its traditions. From shipbuilding to wharfage to defence, the industries that built the suburb have largely come and gone, leaving an impression on the place’s identity and its locals.
Perhaps no industry has left its mark more than brewing, however, and no beer more than the eponymous Bulimba Gold Top ale.
For 135 years, Bulimba was at the heart of brewing in Brisbane – right up until Bulimba Gold Top was discontinued in the 1980s, leaving a multi-decade void. However, since opening in 2017, Revel Brewing Co in Bulimba’s Oxford Street has filled that space and revived the long-held tradition in the suburb.
As co-founder Matt Flexman puts it simply: “We wanted to bring brewing back to Bulimba.”
From the outset, Matt and fellow founder/director Jay Neven – both long time locals – wanted their brewery to feel like a cornerstone of the community, and it hasn’t taken them long to largely achieve that status.
After a hugely successful year that followed their opening, during which they claimed several awards for their beers, it was the COVID-related shutdowns that really rammed home the place they’d sealed at the heart of their community.
"We've always believed in the cultural artery that Oxford Street is, and we believe our brewery is really part of that heartbeat now which we are so proud of," is how they put it. “Everyone knows us, and everyone has supported us, particularly through the pandemic.
“Even during COVID we couldn’t keep the locals away. It really was touch and go there in March 2020 – if our community had not been behind us, we wouldn't be here now. We're really humbled by it."
As such, they rebounded with even more of a commitment to give back: through sponsorship of local sporting teams and local events, and, of course, "brewing fresh indie beers!"
While there’s no Gold Top on the menu (a trademark to which CUB holds the rights), the beers have made their mark on the locals and the wider community. A core range of quality and highly drinkable beers includes a hard-working lager, a resin-packed IPA, a quaffable summer ale, and a much-lauded pale ale – all of which have even snagged tap spots in some of the area’s older, more mainstream establishments. Alongside their staples, the Revel team maintains a steady flow of new releases, often featuring collaborations with local businesses.
Their rebound from the pandemic has been spectacular too, thanks to the creation of a second, and much larger brewery and restaurant inside the century-old, heritage-listed Acetate of Lime Factory, designed by brewer and chemist Auguste de Bavay. It opened to the public in November 2021, overlooking the Brisbane River a mere stone's throw away from their Oxford Street HQ, and is another sign of just how far craft beer has come in Australia over the past decade.
The new Revel (shown in the first seven photos of the slideshow) isn't just a landmark venue for Brisbane but sees the team breathing new life into a building that's part of Australia's historical brewing DNA – honouring the past while offering their community a taste that's very much of the present. Given how much they've achieved in their first few years of operation, who knows what the future holds for Revel.
As for their original venue in Bulimba (in the last four photos of the slideshow), it's about as classic a contemporary suburban brewpub as you could wish for, centred around shaded picnic tables in a grassed area outside for people to enjoy a beer along bustling Oxford Street. Inside, it’s an open and airy space with long bar tables that occupy the spaces not taken up by the brewery’s 15hL brewing system and their busy kitchen.
While Brisbane’s weather is suited to year-round outdoor drinking, the drawcard for sitting indoors is the ever-present and highly-sensual aroma coming from the site’s hardworking wood-fired pizza oven. Pizza is arguably the best beer-drinking food and Revel do it as well as anyone else: both their wood-fired pizzas and their pasta are excellent and incredibly popular. It’s unknown what, if any, food was available from Brisbane’s Gold Top-producing brewery in the late 1800s, but it surely wouldn’t have been as good as this.
NB The map here shows the location of Revel Rivermakers. The Bulimba HQ is at 41 Oxford Street, Bulimba, and can be found via the free Crafty Pint app.