When people talk about visiting a “local brewery”, it’s easy to imagine they’ve got a place just like Gales Brewery in mind.
The warehouse venue is off the beaten track but still easy to get to, it’s industrial while remaining welcoming, the beer is made right next to where you’re sat, there’s a good chance the brewer is pouring you a beer, and, more likely than not, they’ve tweaked the recipe just a little bit from the last batch.
Unsurprisingly, the brewery’s home is in Brunswick East’s Gale Street where, like many quiet streets in this part of Melbourne, you'll find both ageing weatherboards and old warehouses. It makes for a particularly appealing location for such a venture; despite being just a block east of Lygon Street, it’s the sort of street you’re unlikely to head down unless you live or work there.
That all changed midway through 2022, however, when Gales opened their doors. Two mates who’d worked together as electronic engineers for years realised their expertise had become outdated. So, faced with the prospect of re-skilling, they decided to change tack entirely, with one focusing on the reimagining of the warehouse from electronics workshop to brewery venue and the other bringing decades of homebrewing nous to bear in the brewhouse.
Indeed, while the first Gales beers were only poured for paying customers in 2022, Dave Williamson had spent years considering going pro, with his skills as a homebrewer making him a particularly popular neighbour. He’d studied brewing at Ballarat’s uni and, by 2018, discussions about breathing new life into the warehouse got serious.
They've done a seriously good job too; from the moment you walk inside 28 Gale you can tell they understood how to make the space work both as a brewery and a venue.
Strip it to its bones and Gales Brewery is unmistakably a brutalist and industrial space: a roller door, polished concrete, high walls, and steel columns greet you as you walk in. But such a description doesn’t come close to capturing how well the team have achieved their aim of adding femininity to the venue the way nature does when it over-runs an abandoned space.
The large windows that open onto the street fill the place with soft, warm light, while the timber and wallpaper combine to soften the ambience. Plants hanging from the roof, the rusted steel, and a fern-filled, decaying concrete structure that feels more like an artwork than part of a venue all add to that welcoming vibe. Each of those touches serves as a reminder that nature will take over long after we’re gone while ensuring Gales stands apart as a unique taproom in a city that’s bursting with them.
Little wonder, then, that Brunswick East locals quickly embraced the brewery or that it regularly fills with friends, families and their dogs, all eager to catch up over a beer. They’re brewed on a 500-litre system that hugs one side of the venue; as a longtime homebrewer, Dave’s always eager to explore a variety of beer styles, tweak recipes and look to bring something new to the classics.
More often than not, Dave’s also the person pouring you beer from one of the ten taps while talking you through how he’s made it and why. Although Gales doesn’t have a kitchen, its proximity to Lygon Street means the food options are countless, and you’ll sometimes find food trucks parked in the driveway.
It leaves the Gales crew free to focus on providing beer and hospitality at what is very much a local brewery. And one that, even in a city now boasting them at all points of the compass, managed to have its own distinct personality.
It does so while still telling a story old enough to have been lost under moss: lovingly crafted drinks served in a space designed to bring friends, old and new, together as part of a community.