In a world where multinationals seem to get larger and larger and bring evermore seemingly disparate businesses under the one banner, more people are paying increasing attention to how their dollars are spent and where they go. Similarly, in the world of beer, many local breweries are looking at how they can best distance themselves from some of the world’s largest.
For Dale and Sue Messina – the couple behind BoJaK Brewing – they decided to put their family-run credentials front and centre by naming their brewery after their two sons, Beau and Jack. Having spent years living and working around the suburb of Dandenong, the couple wanted to leave behind their careers – in construction and the police force respectively – and instead bring a brewpub to their neighbourhood.
When BoJaK Brewing opened in 2018, Dale and Sue brought a new kind of venue to the suburb and pushed Melbourne’s south-eastern craft beer corridor even further from the city’s centre. Though KAIJU! and Brick Lane had already set up operations in Dandenong, both were focused on production; BoJaK, on the other hand, train most of their focus on serving beers inside their own four walls.
The wood-panelled, open and spacious venue that’s nestled in an industrial park feels comfortable from the moment you walk in. The graffiti that runs along one wall doesn’t just make the space bright and lively but reemphasises the family aspect of BoJaK, with Beau and Jack frozen in time at the point the brewery opened.
Like many suburbs on the city’s fringe, when it comes to buying booze in Dandenong the options are big: big pubs and big bottleshops. Thus, the kind of venue in which it feels like everyone on one side of the bar knows the name of everyone on the other side is a novelty, as too is finding somewhere you can share a couple of tasting paddles alongside your pizza.
The entire menu, in fact, taking in the likes of nachos, loaded fries and charcuterie boards, is of the beer-friendly as well as sharing-friendly sort. The sizeable selection for “kidlets” is yet another reminder of how family-centric they want the venue to be.
Brewing on a 500-litre Braumeister system, Dale’s beers are exactly that you’d expect from a modern brewpub. The beer list is always changing but walk in and you’ll generally find a list that runs from the accessible Knock Off Draught (a Kolsch), to rich stouts, saisons and some particularly lovely hop forward beers. Almost all of their beer pours from one of the venue’s 12 taps, with a number also released in cans since midway through 2019.
A 15-minute walk from Dandenong train station and the suburb’s vibrant and multicultural centre also makes the brewery a breeze to get to for the people of postcode 3175. And, while the building itself is in an industrial unit, it’s surrounded by houses (and the expansive Greaves Reserve), so it’s little wonder locals were quick to claim it as their own.
Ultimately, that’s what being a family-run brewery is about for Dale and Sue: a watering hole for locals. And that's what they've created at BoJaK: a brewpub that's all about community – a celebration of being surrounded by your neighbourhood. That, and tasty beer too, of course.