Every city has a Fortitude Valley.
It’s simultaneously the cultural hub of the city and the dodgy part of town your parents warned you about. It's pulsing with live music and street art and it's home to the greasiest kebabs you'll ever eat.
The number of op shops is matched only by the number of strip clubs, and the coolest venues that have been there for years are next door to that nightclub that's changed its name 18 times over the past decade.
The weathered hotels and deeply-entrenched convenience stores remind the shiny new eateries and boutiques that this town didn’t pop up overnight. It’s seen stuff.
Brunswick Street transitions from tattoo studios and art spaces to the gritty buzz of the mall, to the quiet, suave stretch of road reaching towards New Farm. James Street is the tree-lined home to upmarket shopping, fine dining and vine-covered alleyways. Chinatown offers weekend markets, interesting architecture and every kind of noodle dish you’re craving after a few beers.
The Valley is a living, breathing animal – always evolving, yet always recognisable. Its personality is full of complexities and contradictions and that’s the way we like it.
It’s also full of beer. That’s the way we like it, too.
But a wander through The Valley involves too much good beer for just one person, so a few of our writers have pooled together to give you this Crafty Crawl.
Stop One: Hellbound
Our Crawl begins right on the fringe of The Valley at Hellbound. While this hole-in-the-wall bar is technically in New Farm, the identity of the bar screams Fortitude Valley. It’s in the part of town where the entertainment behemoth that is The Valley meets the quiet, upmarket eateries of New Farm. Every inch of the walls and even the roof is covered in art and the stools along the bar beckon you forth to unleash your inner barfly.
Hellbound’s taps showcase some of the best of the Australian independent beer with a focus on local brews, as well as an impressive range of can stock. Wings, poutine, and other North American bar staples make up the menu and pair perfectly with the hockey or NBA being played on the screen.
While Hellbound is without doubt a dive bar, it offers so much more. Carefully curated taps, solid eats and a general immaculate vibe make this a great spot to stop and take it all in before heading down Brunswick Street into the chaos that is Fortitude Valley proper. Mitch Wilkins
Hellbound is located physically at 697 Brunswick Street, New Farm, but spiritually in the heart of Fortitude Valley.
Stop Two: Felons
Over the past few years, Felons' home has established itself as a Brisbane and Fortitude Valley icon. At times it can seem like all of Brisbane is there enjoying a brew and a view, with the sheer impressive scope of the venue always hinting at something new and unexplored. You could easily spend an afternoon exploring the many nooks and crannies of this brewpub.
Felons sits smack-bang on the banks of the Brisbane River in Howard Smith Wharves, just beneath the iconic Story Bridge, and it seems to have something for everyone. A long dry-bar offers ample seating from which to soak in river and Story Bridge views, but if you prefer a lay in the sun there’s plenty of space for that too. The beer offerings seem to mimic the space, with options to please just about anyone. While your usual lineup of lagers and ales are on tap, Felons also offer exciting limited releases and a rotating range of seltzers, cocktails and other non-beery things from their abundant taps.
Continuing this theme is the food offering. Anticipate some choice paralysis when scanning the QR code at the table to view their menu. Wood-fired pizza, traditional fish and chips, and flame grilled steaks are just some of the options at the brewery.
For something different, head across to the Barrel Hall. Here, Berlin nightclub meets Munich beer hall meets Belgian barrel cellar meets Asian fusion spice kitchen. Check out the art, knock on the barrels, and knock back some barrel-aged beers while playing pinball or enjoying free live music in this cavernous entertainment venue. Mitch Wilkins
Felons has the city address of 5 Boundary Street, with a couple of lifts on Bowen Terrace there to take you down the cliff into the wharves.
Stop Three: Bloodhound Bar
Sniffing at the border that leads into leafy New Farm, Bloodhound Bar sits patiently (if not always quietly) on the corner of Brunswick and Robertson Streets. From the outside, Bloodhound has the look of a two-storey historical pub, complete with corrugated iron awnings and wraparound balcony. But, inside, the rustic aesthetic of exposed brick and scuffed timber floors is edged with with band posters, local artwork, a cow skull and a magnificent mural of two pheasants (fighting? playing? mating?) looming behind the bar. Yet even the eclectica can’t distract from the altar of booze that confronts you as you enter the door.
While the bartenders at Bloodhound are deadly with the spirits and wines displayed on the back wall, beer is the cornerstone of their expertise. The ten-strong tap list is always well curated, putting forward a spread of styles, breweries, and countries of origin. The exceptions to this are the events Bloodhound hosts to honour a particular style, or the tap takeovers they embark on to help punters appreciate a brewery in more depth.
Upstairs sometimes doubles as a live music lounge, with a secondary bar to keep you hydrated while you’re soaking in the tunes. And, of course, there’s always the balcony for when you feel the need to look out over the Valley like Mufasa surveying his kingdom.
Add in the aroma of tacos and South Asian eats and the mystery of all the nooks and crannies, and you’ll find Bloodhound’s the bar that keeps on giving. Mick Wüst
Bloodhound Bar is waiting for you at 454 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. Unlike the eternally droopy face of the dog that shares its name, this bar will make you smile.
Stop Four: Valley Hops
There are a lot of good reasons to not put a brewery on a rooftop. The setup alone is near forbiddingly intimidating, and then there’s the matter of hauling all of those heavy grains up on a regular basis and sending the beer back down. Thankfully, the minds behind Valley Hops ignored these obstacles and have created something truly special.
Valley Hops is yet another stop on this Crawl that offers a brew with a view. The spacious rooftop bar shows off some cracking views of the city and the iconic Story Bridge, framed by an open canopy of ample greenery.
Since opening in late 2021, they’ve put together a solid core range of beers, with the 21 Pubs pale ale and Herbalist IPA standing out from the pack. The taps also include limited releases with something to pique your interest every visit. The menu lists elegant bar food and share plates, boasting flavours of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe among others. If that’s not your thing, there’s a wood-fired pizza setup right there by the bar, with pizza and beer combo deals.
Sitting on this serene rooftop, taking in the view, and enjoying some live music is more than a bit bloody nice. Valley Hops can act as a sanity bubble for the vibrant nightlife of Fortitude Valley and, as a bonus, their beers extend down to surrounding venues such as Cloudland just below, so you can still enjoy their brews as your night progresses. Mitch Wilkins
You’ll find Valley Hops on the roof, oddly enough, of 641 Ann Street. Don’t stress - there’s an elevator.
Stop Five: King Lear’s Throne
A tiny beer bar called King Lear’s Throne. We’re all asking the same question, right?
King Lear is Cockney slang for "beer". A throne is a toilet, or "can". Beer can. Hur hur. This place isn’t afraid of dad jokes. Which is apt, because the design style could be described as Cool Dad Chic, decked out by owner Ken Parry to suit himself.
The lighting in this punky music den is the best kind of dingy, like the toolshed in your childhood backyard. The façade is full blackout windows. The tables are pieces of timber attached to black 44 gallon drums, constructed on the day of opening. One wall of the bar – which is about the size and shape of a bus – is corrugated iron and local artwork (which is for sale); the other is posters and graffiti of a crumpled beer can with a sword through it.
As you’ve guessed, KLT is all about the tinnies. The rotating list has around 40 cans on it, and it’s as unpretentious as they come. It goes from XXXX and VB through pale ales and craft lagers to Berliner weisse, NEIPAs and IIPAs. You want a can of your kind of beer? No problem. You got it.
There are also three shelves of spirits, with an emphasis on whiskies. As the number of whiskies has grown since opening, Ken’s simply built bigger shelves that come out further from the wall. No messing around here.
There’s definitely no room for a kitchen, so King Lear’s Throne is BYO food. Bring in a hotdog or order a delivery, and work your way through the can list. Mick Wüst
King Lear’s Throne is at 3/693 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley. Drop in for a tinnie and tunes. Don’t overthink it.
Stop Six: Stone & Wood
A stop in at Stone & Wood's Brisbane brewpub is like taking a quick visit to Byron Bay without leaving the Valley. Tucked away in a heritage-listed building next to the rail line at the end of quiet Bridge Street, this place is as bright, warm and welcoming as you'd expect from the Northern Rivers natives – with some added industrial touches. The fit-out of the 90-seat taproom is in keeping with the building’s industrial history, with plenty of natural flourishes to give it a bit of that coastal vibe.
Inside you’ll find 24 taps pouring Stone & Wood's beers, along with an eight hectolitre brewery and five fermenters dedicated to brewing small batch beers exclusive to the Valley venue. The pilot batches are a real standout and where the brew team concoct some more leftfield brews, such as the Strawberry Sunday Sour brewed in time for Ekka each year.
If you’re hungry at this stop on your journey, the menu here is a carefully curated selection of classic pub eats put together by local foodonauts, William Wallace Catering. Along with the pub eats are some inventive snackables perfect for when you’re hungry and also not hungry. Jakkii Musgrave
Check out Stone & Wood's Brisbane home at 99 Bridge Street, Fortitude Valley.
Stop Seven: Soapbox
Now we come to a familiar sight to anyone who catches the train northbound from the city: Soapbox Brewing. Opening to the public in late 2018, Soapbox were the first craft brewers to call Fortitude Valley home and their beers, designed to give you something to shout about, fit right in here.
The sleek industrial interior hints at this space’s former life as an agricultural store. Large French hardwood tables dominate the centre of the room and the concrete bar top is made from materials reclaimed during the brewery’s construction. The brewery floor makes for a calming view as you sample one of the many stalwart core range beers or try something new from their pilot program.
The core beers range from crispy, easy-drinking lagers to robust stouts, with the outstanding Loudmouth Amber Ale occupying the space in between. Soapbox’s beers take up the bulk of the ten taps, leaving a tap for a guest cider or other non-beery offering. The staff are happy to walk you through their beers with tasters and offer flights for the indecisive.
Soapbox is a venue that puts you at ease. While the aesthetics are certainly Fortitude Valley, the energy is considerably more relaxed, making for a perfect spot to grab a chill afternoon drink. Despite the industrial nature and history of the venue, and the brewery’s name, Soapbox is a quiet and comfortable space with no hint of pretentiousness.
If you’re looking for something to snack on while you enjoy some drinks or a substantial feed before you bar-hop, Soapbox has you covered. The menu houses a great selection of snacks and mains that vary from pub classics to something a little more fancy, with even the odd beer-inspired sweet. There’s plenty of options for those avoiding gluten or meat, and offerings for the kids. Mitch Wilkins
Soapbox is located at 89/101 Gipps St, Fortitude Valley, just a short walk from Fortitude Valley train station.
Stop Eight: Netherworld
Netherworld is last on this list because it’s an intoxicating mix of familiar and foreign, and it’s the hardest venue on the Crawl to leave.
This is a den of drinking that celebrates all things monstrous, horrific and supernatural… and also games. Lots and lots of games. We’re talking rows of arcade games from yesteryear, a flurry of pinball machines, hundreds of board games and card games of all sorts, and a handful of consoles that bring out everyone’s inner child… and all while you’re surrounded by the stuff of nightmares.
The rooms are dark and noisy, but so much of the noise is laughter. Demons and beasts and creatures from the deep lurk in every corner, but they’re depicted in neon colours.
Perhaps surprisingly, neither the dingy feel nor the horror theme creates a hostile environment. Partly due to the natural warmth of the staff, and partly from intentional culture setting, Netherworld exudes nothing but safety and friendliness. Demographics and subcultures mingle in interesting ways throughout the venue, and there’s a real vibe of inclusivity.
The diner-style menu is dripping with weird flavours from Japan, the USA and Mexico. Like everything in Netherworld, it’s a fusion of things you’re comfortable with and things you hope you’re cool enough to try. All menu items are vegan as standard, with cheese or meat options available for omnivores.
The 24 taps at the bar include a cider, a ginger beer and a few house-made non-alcoholic sodas (which the bartenders are happy to spike for you)… but the rest are craft beers, with a strong focus on local and sessionable. You’re encouraged to drink and play games at the same time, but you must must must use a coaster on the arcade machines or else you’re the worst person in the world.
Netherworld is a haven of nerdiness that has to be experienced to be believed. Bring friends and plenty of $1 coins. You’ll be here awhile. Mick Wüst
Netherworld sits on the corner at 186 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. During busy periods, there may be a line out the door… but it’s worth the wait.
Got more time on your hands and keen for more adventures in beer? You'll find more to sate your desires at the following:
- BrewDog, 235 Brunswick St - a three-story venue opposite the train station with 20 taps, all the junk food you can handle (including plenty of vegan options), and a Shufl board for you to get obsessed with.
- Tomcat, 1/210 Wickham Street – live music, a secret whisky bar and plenty of tinnies filled with the good stuff.
- Jolly Roger, 187 Wickham Street – All the punk rock and emo vibes coupled with a solid collection of can stock.
- Ivory Tusk, 633 Ann Street – Palm Springs inspired bar, Mexican inspired menu, craft beer inspired back wall.
- Bad Luck, 693 Ann Street - Another addition to The Valley’s vibrant live music scene brought to you by the legends behind King Lear’s Throne and former Brisbane live music staple, Crowbar.
- Farrier Bar, 164 Arthur Street – an underground and underrated late night hangout for those with refined tastes.
- Ze Pickle, 4 Hynes Street – stupidly big burgers and a range of fine beer to wash them down.
If we've missed any good beer purveyors, drop us a line.