The very first Crafty Crawl to appear on this site featured a public transport route – the 86 tram in Melbourne. That most famous of the city's trams has only gone on to become better and better over time. Yet, who would have thought the train line connecting Melbourne with the long-suffering butt of many a circuit comedian's jokes would one day join it as a worthy endeavour for travellers seeking good beer.
However, the past few years has seen the city’s southeastern corridor develop a hearty beer movement of its own. Enterprising brewers and barkeeps know how to spot an opportunity when they see it, setting up shop in what were once unimaginable places well beyond the Hoddle Grid and its surrounds.
In so doing, they have helped revitalise, reshape and reimagine suburban neighbourhoods that might otherwise seem half a world away from Melbourne’s perceived epicentre of beer culture. All of a sudden, locals have a family-friendly option besides the local RSL for a meal and a quick pint, thirsty shoppers can wet their whistle after going into battle with the Genius Bar without resorting to the complex’s gaudy sports bars, and craft beer lovers from near and far have every reason to don their backpacks and head southbound for what are destinations in their own right.
Indeed, he stars have aligned to such an extent you can venture so some of Victoria's best breweries and beer venues via the Frankston line. And, with a little help from a cab or two, you can add some serious craft beer heavyweight too, as you'll find in this entry in our Crafty Crawls series*.
STOP ONE – BANKS BREWING
Banks is located a short walk from Kananook station (the penultimate stop on the Frankston line). Given the length of the trip, we recommend loading up on snacks and supplies before setting off.
Banks beers appeared as if out of nowhere in 2015, thus it’s rather fitting that their home is also found in the middle of nowhere – comparatively speaking, and with apologies to the fellow residents of the Seaford industrial estate. In no time at all Chris and Penny Farmer’s operation took the Melbourne beer scene by storm with their exceptional brown ale, various takes on the hazy / milkshake IPA style and the impressive Champagne For My Real Friends Brut IPA. The range, showcased across the brewpub’s 12 taps, changes frequently with Oh, A Milkshake IPA, Taproom Series: That’s Not A Knife Hazy IPA, Got Milk? Sweet Stout and Hawaii Gose among those pouring on our visit.
You’ll find much here besides super fresh beers to tempt you and your posse into a much longer stay. There’s a pool table and comfy Chesterfield couches that beckon invitingly, with nearby TVs usually displaying American sport. The young (and young at heart) can shoot hoops for real at the basketball half-court outside. And, completing the Americana theme, Cal-Mex tacos are on hand should you be feeling peckish following your best Stephen Curry impression from the (imaginary) three point-line.
Hops and hoops await at 12 Hi-Tech Place, Seaford.
DETOUR ONE – DAINTON BEER
While the "Crawl" of the title has a particular meaning in the world of beer and bars, it's always been intended more as an alliterative catch-all phrase for suburb or area guides rather than an instruction that readers must embark upon these mini-tours in one go and in the suggested order. After all, some offer so much potential that you wouldn't be able to do some stops justice by attempting them in one day. And, in the case of this one, if you venture a little way off the trainline, there's some other gems to be unearthed.
Among them is this brewery, found no more than a $15 cab ride from Mr Banks or Seaford railway station. It's the home of one of Melbourne’s most colourful craft beer stalwarts: Dainton Brewery & Taphouse.
Dainton draws from one of the broadest palettes of any brewery in Australia when conjuring up their often trophy-winning creations. Dan Dainton and team have brewed everything from a New World-hopped ESB (that this writer would love to see brewed again) to grisettes with guavas, from gin-infused Belgian IPAs to smoky rye-spiked Baltic porters. The outsider might see an industrially clad brewing facility, the insider sees surrealist art in beer form.
The fermentation vessels from which these artfully frothy delights came can be seen behind the bar. When it comes to holding your gaze, they seem up for waging war with the massive screen above the counter displaying the various treats on offer. If Untappd is your bag, you might find yourself glancing across the stage (on which bands regularly perform) and back up to the screen again as your mugshot is briefly broadcast along with your latest in-house check-in.
With so many crazy options available you could very easily go overboard at this stop. But fear not. On hand is the always dependable, incongruously sensible Dainton Draught lager. At 4.5 per cent ABV it is designed with sessions in mind. What’s more, you can sample in various serving sizes, including 150ml tasters, and there are plenty of hard-to-find-elsewhere packaged takeaway beers as well.
Melbourne’s veritable kaleidoscope of beer can be found at 560 Frankston-Dandenong Road, Carrum Downs.
STOP TWO – ALICE REBEL’S CAFE AND PROVIDORE
Alice Rebel’s stands out from the crowd in this Crawl, being the only spot you can grab a coffee and scrambled eggs at 8.30am then a barrel-aged mixed ferment beer at 8.30pm on the same day. The Alice In Wonderland-themed local is the work of Meg and Matt and Anderson, whose love for quality beer leaves them well placed to entice the people of Cheltenham down the rabbit hole of good beer. Having started life as a café in 2015, it was a love of beer that saw Meg and Matt add both a liquor licence and a bar to the venue.
The Chelsea café and bar’s two taps focus mostly on pouring the local, whether that’s neighbours nearer the city like Bad Shepherd or those further out like Mornington Peninsula Brewery. Beer fans eager to try a broader selection should look to the ever-changing selection held with inside the beer fridge. It’s there that some of those local breweries' latest releases find a home and where a barrel-aged Boatrocker beer is always waiting to be cracked and shared.
You’ll find Alice Rebel’s at 5/446-450 Nepean Highway, Chelsea, a short stroll from both the train station and the beach.
DETOUR TWO: BOATROCKER BARREL ROOM
When Boatrocker opened its Barrel Room at the backend of 2015, we wrote that it could prove to be “one of Australian craft beer’s great follies”. It wasn’t that we didn’t think it was a fantastic concept, one that would enhance the country’s beer landscape, or that we doubted Matt Houghton’s ability to produce quality beers. It was just that it sits in the middle of an industrial estate in the middle of Braeside, population zero.
Time has suggested it’s more in the other camp we suggested: the sort of venue on any beer tourist’s bucket list. It’s evolved over time too: the initial 15-tap bar that sat in the middle has made way for a gleaming still after WA’s Hippocampus came under the Boatrocker Brewers & Distillers banner; the number of barrels has increased along with the variety of liquids within; a new eight-tap bar sits in front of a wall of bottles likely to cause drooling in anyone with a passion for craft beer and spirits; and a beer garden continues to grow out front.
It’s still the sort of place you have to want to get to, with the nearest station more than 3km away. But, if you’ve got any interest in good beer and just how beautifully it can be twisted into new shapes, why would you want to be anywhere else?
Give your palate a workout at 34 MacBeth Street, Braeside.
STOP THREE – BAD SHEPHERD
If you’ve resisted the detour and stuck to the train, you’re next required to head to Cheltenham. The opening of the Southlands railway station was intended to make access to the shopping complex of the same name that much easier but, in a convenient boon for beer lovers, it made travelling to Bad Shepherd’s home easier too.
Instead of getting lost trying to find the Apple store at Southland, you can lose yourself in Bad Shepherd’s multi-award-winning hazelnut brown ale, their “bit of history in every glass” 100 percent Victorian Victoria Pale Ale or whatever new release has just hit taps. If that’s not enough, there’s always offerings from Wolf Of The Willows pouring too.
Though Bad Shepherd is best known for its American-style BBQ, the brewpub is unique in that it offers an entirely separate list of menu options for vegans. We think every venue should strive to provide vegans with an option – as in a genuine choice rather than a mere “vegan option”. There’s no apathetically slapped together superfood bowls or risottos to be found here either. In a bold statement that one hopes will inspire change elsewhere, you’ll find beer-friendly treats such as pulled BBQ jackfruit sandwiches, mock chicken salads and even vegan loaded chilli fries. Whatever your tastes, this is one of the best stops at which to fill up.
The contrasts don’t end with the opposites-attract menu either. Like many brewpubs, Bad Shepherd’s home is of the industrial ilk, however floor to ceiling windows and the greenery beyond provide an inviting sense of openness. Those flying solo are welcome to pull up a pew at the bar and have a chat with the friendly staff, while couches lining the opposite side loom longingly for those wishing to stop in for a couple of pots or more.
Get lost in hoppy goodness at 386 Reserve Road, Cheltenham.
NB: Talking of getting lost, it’s easily done once you hop off the train. Exit the station and head for the underpass (if exiting from platform 1). Follow the zebra crossings that veer off to the left through the car park until you find the main road. There, hang a left, at which point you will see the railway bridge. This is the only means by which you can cross the tracks. From there it is an easy 10 to 15 minute walk.
STOP FOUR – 2 BROTHERS BEERHALL
Melbourne’s southeast is awash with great options for good and hyperlocal beer these days, but it wasn’t always thus. Indeed, for many a year, 2 Brothers was the sole outpost, meaning it’s something of a veteran of the Victorian beer industry.
Now well into their second decade of brewing, during which time the team there has racked up an impressive collection of gongs for beers as varied as a big English style barleywine, an Australian pale ale and a European-influenced lager. Originally, however, the brothers in question, Andrew and David Ong, has been inspired by the beer scene in the US; both had worked there and, upon their return, they picked up the brew kit from a brewpub in, of all places, Times Square.
Their Beerhall, which is where you’ll be visiting on this stop, has evolved over time – including a major refurb and creation of a beer garden out front in 2016 – starting out as a place local tradies and the odd early beer adventurer would stop by (often to fill up one of their impressive growlers as they, again, were pioneers in this area) before becoming the bustling bar it is today. It’s the best place to see what they’re up to as well, with the wall of taps that backs onto the brewery combining their core range beers and ciders with an ever-changing lineup of specials and rarities, some of which will barely be found elsewhere.
The brewery of brotherly love is located at 4 Joyner Street, Moorabbin.
STOP FIVE – GRAPE AND GRAIN
It’s a hop, skip and a jump from 2 Brothers to the other side of Moorabbin where you’ll find the penultimate port of call: Grape and Grain.
At either point of the compass across Melbourne you will find a bottleshop that decided to go all out and enter the bar game, though it’s at the southern point where you’ll find one of the true originals (although see the list below for another that predates it by some years). It’s a formula that, along with one of the most scintillating arrays of weird and wonderful beers this side of anywhere, has helped steer the trajectory of Melbourne’s craft beer culture.
In recent times, Grape and Grain’s lines have showcased everyone from Knee Deep to Deep Creek, as well as rarities including Stockade’s Old Money 2017 and Boatrocker’s Sparkling Dramjet. If, amazingly, the tap list doesn’t catch your fancy, the well stocked fridges boast a huge selection of locals, imports and yet more rarities. In fact, Grape and Grain is among only a couple of retailers outside Queensland stocking Bacchus Brewing’s eclectic wares.
If you weren’t hungry enough for southern BBQ, vegan comfort food or behemoth-sized burgers at an earlier stop and you’re now feeling peckish, Grape and Grain has got you covered. You’re welcome to bring in food or have it delivered from any of its neighbouring vendors. The potential for perfect food and beer pairings is limited only by your imagination (and a 3km radius).
Treasures from the bine and the vine await at 14/16 Station Street, Moorabbin.
STOP SIX – OTTER’S PROMISE
It’s back on the train again, bound for Armadale station and the sixth and final stop on the Frankston Crafty Crawl: Otter’s Promise.
Armadale is perhaps as famous for its shopping as the location in which you found stop four. Indeed as you make your way up High Street you will pass upscale boutiques, antique furniture shops and eye-catching wedding dress displays. So fetching is the passing scenery you might even have George Michael’s rendition of Miss Sarajevo playing in your mind. Just be sure not to overshoot the entry to Otter’s Promise (you’ll know you have strayed too far if you arrive where the 6 and 16 tram routes intersect).
Once inside, your imagination shall be liberated of marital objects of desire, only for it to be recaptured again by an equally desirable draught and bottled beer selection. On our visit the taps were pouring KAIJU! Metamorphosis IPA and Quiet Deeds’ vanilla porter, to name but two; while the fridges offered up everything from freshly canned Feral Hop Hog to an English-style bitter from Tasmania’s Morrison Brewery. If you have any spare room left in your backpack, which is by now likely stuffed to the brim with brewery taproom exclusives, the packaged selection is also available for take-home purchase.
But you needn’t dash off so soon. Not when there are plenty of seats at the bar begging you to prop up and chat to the friendly staff about how the times are changing, as evidenced by La Sirène’s Citray Sour winning over the local tradies. Communal tables are dotted about the chic, bare brick space inviting in groups, while a couple of outdoor tables on the footpath provide the perfect sun-soaked setting for a spot of people watching. As there is no kitchen at Otter’s Promise, food can be ordered in from any of the surrounding eateries should you need end-of-the-line sustenance.
Join the trendsetting, sour-quaffing tradies at 1219 High Street, Armadale.
In addition to these six (plus two) stops, a number of other crafty venues can be found in the southeast region:
- Mordy Cellar Door – a pioneer of the bottleshop-in-which-you-can-sit-and-drink setup, this Mordialloc spot has been serving up the good stuff since Red Hill Brewery was the only brewery found to its south.
- Sonder Bar – located near Bentleigh station, Sonder boasts a solid local tap list, plentiful packaged offerings, pizzas and a sunny courtyard.
- Lydford & Co Wine & Taps, Mentone – combines an approachable draught and packaged beer list with classic American diner fare.
- The Cheeky Squire – should you head right to the Frankston end of the line beyond Seaford, you'll find one of the growing number of James Squire Brewhouses close to Frankston Pier.
From Otter’s Promise you may wish to continue on to the bars and bottleshops of Hawthorn, which can be found at the top of tram route 16. These include Beer DeLuxe’s Hawthorn outpost and Far Side Beers.
And, if at any point along the line you find yourself in need of a hearty meal of spaghetti and dim sims, cooking on the Frankston line has long been a tradition along Melbourne’s sandbelt.
You can find other entries in our Crafty Crawls series here or download the Crafty Pint app for free and find hundreds of good beer venues all over Australia. NB "Crafty Crawl" is our catchy, catch-all title for suburb, area or PT line guides to good beer around Australia and we're not suggesting you take any of them on in one go unless, of course, they're approached sensibly.
If we've missed any venues that should be included above, let us know.
About the author: Graham "Stoutwhiskas" Frizzell is a legally blind beer writer and brewer in the making. You can find his beer writings at Blind Taste Test. Additional input by the Crafty team.