Since 2013, this weekend in May has always had a similar look to it for Ben Weereratne and his mates. Gather at a pub for lunch – normally The Palace in South Melbourne – and spend the afternoon moving across Melbourne to visit some of its top beer venues.
Like many, Ben's Pint of Origin pub crawl has become a Good Beer Week ritual, seeing them travel across the city to try beers from across the country and much of the rest of the world, often running into other groups along the way.
But, with pubs closed in Victoria this year, and Good Beer Week taking place online, they decided to launch their own virtual PoO Crawl.
“It kind of snowballed but we’re all stuck in isolation so were trying to find something to do,” Ben (pictured above in the blue top on their 2017 Crawl outside Ladro Tap) says.
“The idea was to have a do-it-yourself home edition of our pub crawl but then we wanted to somehow make a game based around that.”
Ideas were thrown around about converting a Monopoly board or turning it into a game closer to Cluedo but in the end they decided to build their own board and play it over Zoom.
“It’s just kind of got out of control,” Ben says.
Players start at Carlton Gardens and the board runs from The Palace in South Melbourne to The Terminus in North Fitzroy. You’ll spot other local references on the board too, from cafés to kebab joints.
Before Ben and co played it a few weekends ago, many of the participants went out to source beers from each of the regions typically featured across the gamut of Pint of Origin. Land at The Rainbow and you might decide to stick there until your Former Tenant is all gone, though some players weren’t drinking and just came along for the banter.
“There’s no real winner or loser, the idea is more to try and get to each spot,” Ben says. “So, people went out and bought ten beers, one from each spot.
“You go to that venue and it chooses the beer you’re going to have next. While there you just chat and talk nonsense and then when you finish the beer you might roll again and try and go to the next venue.”
Ben says close to 20 people played along using avatars based on how they’d dressed on their fifth crawl in 2017. To play online, they used Roll20, a website for playing tabletop games online that's popular for the likes of Dungeons & Dragons.
“There was some pandemonium. We weren’t expecting that many people.”
While a few of them were pulling levers behind the scenes, mostly the night felt like an actual bar crawl, with people dropping in and out to say hi.
“We were just chatting and people were coming in and out and didn’t have to be a part of it the whole time. The Zoom went for seven hours or something ridiculous,” Ben says.
It was a game that developed as the night went on. Originally, they had the idea of creating a sobriety test so you could make inside the venue but as the night went on, they decided to change that up.
“At first it was a dice roll to get into a pub but that fell by the wayside because people enjoyed answering some weird trivia to get into a place,” he says. “We used a 1980s Trivial Pursuit set so the questions were really obscure and it was fun answering a few questions just to get in.”
As the night went on, chance cards were added to reflect actual experiences they’d had on past Pint of Origin crawls.
“People would talk about homebrewing for an hour so you’d lose all your time.”
Keen to not let the game rot on his computer, Ben got in contact hoping others might be keen to adapt it for their own crawls. Now that you can have five mates over in most parts of the country, you can print it off and play it at home too.
Though, as someone who stepped out to look after his kids a few times during those seven hours, Ben advises that, when it comes to players, less can sometimes be more.
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