It wasn’t long ago that only a small handful of bars genuinely championed craft beer inside Melbourne’s iconic (well maybe not iconic but certainly very practically designed) Hoddle Grid.
As recently as 2016 when we published our first Crafty Crawl guide to Melbourne’s CBD we were able to fit all the venues we deemed the best spots to enjoy good beer into one story. Today, that’s no longer the case so we’ve split our crawl into two; one for all the stops south of Bourke Street and one focusing on those to the north.
You can read the Southern Crawl here, a piece that leaves you at Bourke Street ready to lock into part two.
NB Workshop is featured in our 19 Tram Crawl here.
Can you name a dish more iconically Australian than the chicken parma? Either way, if you're in the mood for a slab of crumbed chicken (or one of their vego options) topped one of myriad ways, then a visit to Mrs Parma’s for lunch (or dinner) is a handy stop on your tour of Melbourne’s beery centre.
Take your pick from the ten-plus parmas on the menu – ranging from the classic ham-topped version through to parmas with meatballs, chilli, or even vindaloo – and peruse the taps along the bar, which on any one day will feature Victorian loved breweries such as Boatrocker, Holgate, Moon Dog or Mornington.
Mrs Parma’s was one of the first Victorian pubs to pour nothing but craft and has never wavered from its Victorian-only approach. If you're in town for Melbourne's annual Good Beer Week, owners Fiona Melbourne and Melissa Leaney tend to go a little overboard with festival specials too. KM
Immerse yourself in old school delights at 25 Little Bourke Street.
Whisky & Alement
You don't have far to go to find your next stop. That said, while the two venues are mere metres apart in distance, they're miles apart in feel. Whisky & Alement is found in Russell Street and is where you’ll likely end up partaking in an experience growing in popularity with each passing day: the boilermaker.
Boasting a whisky list in excess of 500 different varieties and vintages, the team here knows its stuff better than anyone in Melbourne when it comes to the Scottish drop. Their small yet perfectly formed beer list offers up a range of boilermaker options depending on your preference for dark, malty, sweet, or smoky, and the bar team is always more than willing to mix and match if you have something in mind.
So pull up a seat at the bar and see where the whisky takes you – you might just find something in that beer glass you’d never noticed before. KM
Tuck into a malty delight treat for whatever ales you at 270 Russell Street.
If you spend time in the States, it isn't hard to find dive bars pouring awesome beer. On one past trip, we recall enjoying Bells legendary Hopslam for some insanely reasonable price while sat amid a frankly (and, no doubt, deliberately) woeful and tacky recreation of an African safari. There's something so appealing about the sleaze of a dive bar – and if you can let it seep into your jeans with a good beer in hand, well...
Thus Heartbreaker has quickly become a Crafty Pint favourite since opening in the heart of the CBD. You're met by the neon sign above as you walk in, shining a moody glow upon booths and one end of a bar that's serviced by staff that know their shit pouring beers covering the spectrum from straight up pales to sours to the barrel-aged from taps with appealingly gnarly handles. There's a diverse can and bottle list too, while the spicy corn snacks are the perfect accompaniment.
It's the sister venue to The Everleigh (and a growing number of other boozy enterprises), which supplies a handful of its excellent cocktails (pre-made), with the Negroni pretty damn tempting. There's pool out the back, stools so you can take up residence at the bar and, the pièce de resistance, the jukebox. You can't attempt to create a dive bar vibe without getting the music right and this beast will swing from guilty pleasures like ELO to hard rock to Hendrix and back again in the blink of an eye. The dim lighting and ambience can make an early evening visit feel a little seedy, yet it's open til 3am too. Look out! JS
Break your heart again and again at 234a Russell Street.
If you’re interested in matching your love of an IPA with a side of Scotch, Boilermaker House in Londsale Street has you more than covered. It wasn’t long ago that throwing a beer and whisky together was typically the preserve of those eager, Withnail & I like, to get as much booze into their system as quickly as possible but these days Australian bars are showing that the meeting of malts is best done with care and attention.
Part of the Speakeasy Group, which also runs Mjolner and Eau-de-Vie, Boilermaker’s 12 taps are constantly rotating and usually boats a lineup that looks to squeeze in every beer style under the sun. With that many beers and some 900 whiskies to choose from even the most seasoned beer or whisky fan can easily be crushed under the weight of choice.
The suggestion is to let the Boilermaker staff do that thinking for you and chose from the list of signature boilermakers that changes over time. WZ
Enjoy the meeting of malts at 209-211 Lonsdale Street.
Melbourne’s laneways have long been heralded as hot beds for quality dining and drinking options but it’s really only more recently they’ve started filling with excellent beer too. Among those worthy additions to Melbourne good beer laneway culture is Whitehart, which opened its doors early in 2017. Well, opened the doors is a bit of a misnomer since the two-storey bar is built from shipping containers and is really more of an open space tucked down the end of Whitehart Lane.
Inside those shipping container bars there’s good beer aplenty, with taps that regularly rotate through the hop-forward, the sour and the dark. Food trucks regularly make their home out the front, while you'll find DJs spinning an eclectic array of tunes as the afternoon turns into the evening.
You'll find Whitehart's unique space at 22 Whitehart Lane.
Perched on the corner of Little Bourke Street and Hardware Lane, Kirk’s connection to the CBD and serving booze runs deeper than most, with Kirk’s Bazaar having a history stretching back to the 1840s. Since 2014, Kirk’s Wine Bar has been offering one of the city’s most impressive wine lists but if it’s good beer you’re after head next door to Kirk’s Pub.
Inside, a dozen beer taps await anyone who wander in, as many do each weeknight, with the place quickly filling just as Melbourne’s offices start to slowly empty. Walk past at the time and you’ll find them around Kirk’s meandering centrepiece of a bar, where people gather to talk about the day, with a beer in one hand and the other hovering over a bowl of pickles or clutching a Scotch egg, and the lure to join them hard to resist.
Step back in time at 382 Little Bourke Street.
Like Kirk's, Captain Melville is one of Melbourne’s oldest licensed venues, a venue that drips with character and, these days, a steady torrent of quality beer too. The pub’s 14 taps rotate heavily through mostly Australian craft beer, though international quality drops are also known to pour too – particularly when Captain Melville hosts Pint of Origin Asia during Good Beer Week.
Sitting on Franklin Street on the CBD’s northern boundary, it’s one of the city’s quietest thoroughfares, making a top spot to enjoy a beer, particularly on the veranda in the afternoon. Inside, the booth-filled front bar is as welcoming as it has been for the past century and half, while the separate dining area provides ample space for anyone planning on settling in for an entire afternoon or evening.
If it's well into the evening when you do arrive, the very late night cocktail bar and hospo hangout Loch & Key is always worth a stop.
Pull up a pew at 34 Franklin Street.
- Sun Moth Canteen – 28 Niagara Lane. Located in the laneway that runs between Little Bourke and Lonsdale Streets, Sun Moth is a bright and airy stop worth visiting whether you’re after beer, natural wine or coffee.
- Cookie – 252 Swanston Street. The first floor of the former Communist Party of Australia headquarters at Curtin House is one of the CBD’s original craft beer haunts. Other venues are more dedicated to beer these days, but you'll still find something to pair with their delicious Thai food without much trouble.
- Mjølner – 106 Hardware Street. Inspired by Nordic fare from the past, the crew at Mjølner also do a fine line in pouring beers and whiskies fit for a Viking – via horns, of course. Or, should the mood take you, via a bone you've freshly emptied of marrow...
- Section 8 – 27-29 Tattersalls Lane. One of Melbourne’s original outdoor bars, this pallets-and-containers venue is still one of the best in which to grab a beer.
- Penny Blue – 2 Driver Lane. Another longstanding member of the CBD's good beer venues, Penny Blue is also one of the city's most idiosyncratic, allowing you to lounge on the unlikeliest collection of furniture while picking from the beer lineup at the end of Driver Lane.
NB "Crafty Crawl" is our 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.
Additional entries by Kerry McBride and James Smith.