From the off, the crew behind Bodriggy have spoken of their desire to celebrate and be very much part of the Abbotsford community they call home. And their actions have backed this up.
They put Bruno, the former owner of the Auto LP conversion warehouse they now occupy, on one of their cans. They make a beer for the Old Bar's pub footy team. Look closely at the artwork on that beer, Speccy Juice and, in the background through which their blazed mascot wanders, you'll spy myriad local references, including a tag on the wall that belongs to one of the area's best known artists.
Last night, at a pre-launch opening party, they took things even further. Just before 8pm, the DJ stopped playing, the aroma of smoking gum leaves filled the air, and Wurundjeri Elder Bill Nicholson (pictured above) took to the floor for a smoking ceremony, taking the opportunity to offer insight into the history of the area, his culture and to make a call for respect.
And now, tonight (August 2), the public will finally be able to experience the latest brewery in this fast-developing craft beer hub for the first time. When they do,they'll find one of the most impressive venues of its kind in Australia – one that's been a long time coming.
When The Crafty Pint first wrote about the team’s plans back in 2016, the fledgling brewery site was a warehouse containing little more than a few cars, a basketball hoop and an idea. It was an ambitious idea too: a brewpub, a live music venue and bottleshop all designed to be an Abbotsford community hub with a capacity of around 400 people.
It would take another two years for the brewery to appear at the rear of the warehouse (in which time we'd used the space for our brand relaunch party), allowing them to bring brewing in-house for the first time. And it’s taken another year to get the venue side of their Johnston Street operation up and running. Now, for the team behind the brewery – Pete Walsh, Jon Costelloe and Anthony Daniel – who also run Dr Morse across road, the preparation is all over. Well, almost: the bottleshop and upstairs function room are still some time away.
Today, the main bar is a far from empty. It’s licensed to fit 424 people, is filled with booths, tables, a bar that pours beer (some directly from four towering serving tanks) and an array of other drinks, plus a full kitchen. More than that, the attention is in the detail; as Pete says, they’ve done a lot of work with the space to retain the feel of the old LP conversion centre that’s an important part of the area’s working-class and industrial roots, while also giving it a sense of iron clad elegance.
“We’re just trying to bring something to the area and also bring a reflection of the building itself,” Pete says. “It’s been a really natural process – there’s a lot of history in that building and the space itself.
“Looking at the shopfront you can see something that’s so ugly it’s kind of cool now. Actually, it’s still probably a little ugly.”
Holding onto that heritage has included salvaging old lights, reusing materials when they can, and hiring what Pete calls a “guru” metal worker to design parts of the bar from scrap. Just take a look at the metalwork overhead or the sliding doors leading to the brewery and it's quickly apparent it's a labour of love – and less of a surprise, perhaps, that it's opened a few months later than planned.
“A lot of the design and feel of the venue we want to be quite nostalgically Australian without crossing into the bogan,” Pete says.
As for the practical side of things, there will be 62 taps all up once the upstairs function space is finished and more than 20 drinks on tap, including wines from Hop Nation and Garage Project. Cocktails and spirits are a big focus, as the nigh on ceiling high back bar makes clear, with a tequila and mezcal range to match the food coming out of the kitchen.
The venue itself is set to open from 11.30am each day with the kitchen serving both lunch and dinner. Spearheading that is head chef Johnny Dominguez, who had been working a little further along Johnston Street at the Rochester when he came on board at Bodriggy, but who has previous experience at fine diners like Vue du monde and Dinner by Heston.
“He’s got a really good combination of rustic pubs and high-end places,” Pete says.
“There’s a fair mixture of different influences in there; the majority of the cuisine is Mexican but there’s Argentinean stuff too and it’s all based off the back of this gnarly charcoal grill we got built for us.”
As for what caused the delays, it was a mixture of a slow planning application process, soundproofing the space, the time it took to upgrade their water and gas supply for the brewhouse, plus an unexpected encounter when they started digging out their downstairs toilets.
“We hit a giant slab of granite a metre in – it was just one huge block of granite,” Pete says. “We thought we were going to dig it out in about two weeks and it took us about six; that was probably the biggest delay.”
Back when Pete, Jon and Anthony opened Dr Morse at the start of 2014, the Abbotsford end of Johnston Street was worlds removed from the bustle of the street’s Brunswick and Smith Street end. Today, there’s never been a better time to drink craft beer in Abbotsford – while neighbouring Collingwood and Richmond are hardly short of breweries or good beer venues either – and the team that helped kicked it into gear are eager to welcome locals to drink in their own brewery.
Pete, who lives around the corner, is certainly ready: “I love this area.”
Photo at top of article by sarahmclayart.