South East Queensland has an overabundance of fun. Apparently, Dreamworld, North Stradbroke and Brisbane BBQ Festival are all "Too much fun for just one day". Clearly, we’ll be overwhelmed if we’re not careful.
(As an aside, the state of Ohio also claims to be "Too much fun for just one day", but, if an entire state has to insist that it’s worth more than one day, it seems reasonable to conclude it probably isn’t.)
And, when it comes to an overabundance in the way of fun, you can add West End and South Brisbane to the list. Forget dangerous rides, soldier crabs and heartburn, however, this kind of fun is all about the beer. It's not much more than a year since we posted our Crafty Crawl covering West End and South Brisbane but, such has been the growth in quality beer offerings since then, we've been forced – as with Melbourne's 86 Tram – to divide in order to conquer, to create two from one, if for no other reason than to keep things manageable.
This one focuses on South Brisbane (with a sneaky trek over the border into West End at the denouement), with the venues a mix of dedicated beer joints and those that might otherwise be flying under the beer lover's radar… until now.
Stop One: Malt Traders
Most of South Bank has a very family-friendly feel to it. But Malt Traders is definitely not for kids.
The entrance to this cosy bottleshop is bathed in the warm glow of a wall of whiskies – about 150 whiskies, in fact, emanating a golden aura like a newly formed star. The shelves are organised by country and region and give the distinct impression this is a place inhabited by people that really know their booze.
But we’re not here for the whisk(e)y, or for the small batch gins, vodkas and tequilas showcased on wooden crate shelving. We’re not here for the huge range of organic and biodynamic wine, either. We’re here for the beer.
If you’re just after something to cool you down on a hot day, grab one of the two sessionable brews available on tap. Sipping a schooner at one of the outdoor tables will give you the chance to make the passers-by jealous of your life decisions.
The real draw of this little spot isn’t the taps, though – it’s the fridge. Or rather, fridges, running the length of the back wall of the store. They’re bursting with beers from around the world, including plenty of rarities and weird-and-wonderfuls that don’t often show their face in our fair city. And, whether it’s a fresh New Zealand IPA or a bourbon barrel aged beauty from the States that’ll make your toes curl, you can buy it, open it and drink it right there, in store.
Grab yourself a charcuterie or cheese board to go with it and you’ll wonder why you don’t always drink in bottleshops. (Hint: Because it’s usually illegal.) There's also a few grassy areas of South Bank where you’re allowed to drink alcohol with food so, if you prefer, you can take your findings down by the river and enjoy a brown ale by the brown snake. MW
Malt Traders South Bank is at 6A Little Stanley Street, South Bank. Perfect for takeaways – just make sure you don’t leave them on the train/bus/ferry.
Stop Two: Tippler's Tap
Tippler's Tap is a god damn institution. Its move from Newstead to South Bank in 2015, while undertaken with heavy hearts and many a sad salute to the smail-like OG location, was made easier by most of the original furnishings finding a place in its new home across the river. Vlad the Taxidermied Pigeon, the undeniable mascot and protector of the venue, watches over you as you messily inhale a Reuben (there is no way to consume diner-style food in a clean manner, unless you’re a Conehead from the inextricably bad 1993 eponymous film, a film only made watchable due thanks to the presence of half the cast of Seinfeld) and contemplate which of the 13 taps you’re going to descend upon next.
Tippler's Tap has invested an enormous amount of effort into the continuation and growth of craft beer culture over the years, sure, but the staff's undying love for and commitment to ribs and wings has truly been the most invaluable asset to the carnivores of this pristine city. GL
Get your fill at 5/182 Grey Street, Southbank. And, should you find yourself in Fortitude Valley, check out the second Tippler's that opened in June 2018 at 70 James Street.
Stop Three: Saccharomyces
Not only can we all say and spell Saccharomyces properly now thanks to these legends, we also have a cheeky laneway hidey-hole on the southside of the river. Flanked by apartment blocks, Saccharomyces is particularly well hidden, existing roughly in the centre of the narrow, one-way street that is Fish Lane.
With ten taps of craft and comforting eats along the lines of burgers, toasties, snacks and S’MORES (delicious, feels-like-camping-without-camping, biscuity, marshmallow-y, chocolatey goodness) pop in for a pint and a feed. There, you'll chance upon Saccharomyces’ hand written tap lists, DIY road sign pointing to key venue features, and knick-knacks on display, all showing off the bar’s unique personality.
Look out for its regular dalliances with the surrounding arts scene and be sure to also flex your flipper fingers to tackle one of the three pinball machines that proudly stand opposite the bar; it’s good for your health. GL
Saccharomyces invites you to sacrifice your hard-earned at 24 Fish Lane, South Brisbane.
Stop Four: Wandering Cooks
Wandering Cooks is one of those places that makes you feel like you’ve stepped out of real life for a moment. The words "sanctuary", "oasis" and "haven" come to mind. You’ll find them off the edge of Fish Lane, which is a micro-culture unto itself, in a spot that could be a boring commercial space in anyone else’s hands. But in the hands of the Cooks, it’s a stretch of hanging gardens, bohemian décor and fire in the belly for hospitality.
They began primarily as an incubator for food and drink businesses, offering commercial kitchens and event spaces for hire. While this is still a major part of their business, they’ve evolved into so much more. Their passion for supporting local producers and creators has turned them into a community hub that revolves around all things edible and delicious.
But you don’t even need to know their story to love them – just get in there and start tasting. They’ve got four rotating taps of excellent beers – all crafty, all Australian and nothing bland. A schooner or two surrounded by herb gardens and street art and you’ll be blissed out in no time. (There’s also a range of Aussie small batch spirits and wines if you’re keen to branch out.)
As for food offerings, prepare to be spoiled. Fresh produce aplenty? Food trucks? Vegan baked goods? Weird and wonderful pickles? Cuisines inspired by countries across the globe? All can be found here. MW
Head to the corner of Fish Lane and Cordelia Street and you’ll find Wandering Cooks. It’s the sort of place you might miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. But now that you know you’re looking for it, you’d be a fool to wander past.
Stop Five: Ballistic Alehouse & Kitchen
Ballistic Beer’s been providing us with delish brews aplenty since early 2017. But, for a large number of Brisbanites, their brewery taproom in Salisbury has been a bit of a trek to reach. Their Alehouse & Kitchen on Montague Road, however, gives the northsiders and inner suburban inhabitants the easy access to Ballistic Beer they’ve been dreaming of. (Yes, we dream about beer.)
Step inside and be enveloped by a sense of suaveness. The leather lounges, the wooden barrels and the navy blue walls and curtains surrounding you all work together to conjure a feeling of intrigue and sophistication, like you’ve entered the headquarters of a secret society of beer lovers. But there’s nothing exclusive about this place. Ballistic’s goal is to create a place where everyone’s welcome, a home-away-from-home where community, comfort and conversation are prized.
Rock up to the bar and make the difficult decision as to what to drink. Will you pick one of the six taps pouring Ballistic’s own beers, fresh from the brewery? (Hint: Everything Ballistic makes is worth a go, with a long list of awards to back that up, making this is a no-brainer option.) Will you check out the guest tap, which rotates between some of head brewer Lachy Crothers’ favourite brews? Will you get distracted by the masterfully curated shelf of whiskies, or the shelf of craft gins, or the other spirits and wines available?
If you want to give the drinks list the attention it deserves, you’d better stick around for a few, which means you’ll need something to eat. Share a plate of lamb koftas and some smoked chicken terrines, or get some Vietnamese rice paper rolls and tofu bites into you. Or, if you’re well past the stage of sharing, just get a big ol’ burger that’ll knock your socks off and growl at anyone who tries to eat chips off your plate. MW
So, this is the "beyond" of the title, as it's in West End, but located in a spot where it makes more sense to be the last stop here than part of the new, improved, West End Crawl that's coming soon. As such, you'll find Ballistic Alehouse & Kitchen at 1/208 Montague Road, underneath a yoga studio and next door to a rock climbing centre, a boxing gym and a futsal place. It’s healthy by association.
If you're still in the mood for more, you can check out:
- South Bank Beer Garden – 30BA Stanley Plaza, South Bank
- Bourbon St – 184 Grey St, South Brisbane
- Hop & Pickle – 6E Little Stanley St, South Bank
- The Charming Squire – 3/133 Grey St, South Brisbane
About the author: Mick Wust writes fun and dumb things about beer at Schoonerversity, and is a freelance copywriter at We Write You. Some entries by Georgie Levi (hence the MW and GL at the end of each venue).