Hop Nation have opened a new home in a nearby neighbourhood, with the brewery launching Zymurgy in West Footscray today (Nov 20). The name refers to fermentation: a shared passion of the brewery's founders Sam Hambour and Duncan Gibson, and their collaborator in the project, Julian Hills from Yarraville fine diner Navi.
“There’s a lot of families that want to go out – and do go out – and we felt that spot was a good place to set up and showcase what we do,” Sam says of their decision to open in the neighbouring suburb.
Their showcase features the brewery's increasingly expansive booze offering, which includes wine and mixed ferment beers under the Site Fermentation Project banner, and the Ray lineup of hard seltzers. Ten taps will pour Hop Nation’s beers, with one pouring their wine and another reserved for cocktails.
Sam says Zymurgy gives them a chance to provide a wider hospitality offering than at their brewery home in an industrial park by the Maribyrnong River.
“With a production brewery that turns into a bar three times a week, that can be hard to do,” he says.
The relationship between the brewery owners and the chef goes back some way too, with Julian working as a chef at the Mornington Peninsula winery Paringa Estate when Sam was a winemaker there. Sam says they’ve collaborated on events with Julian since then, including at Navi during Good Beer Week.
“From Duncan’s and I's point of view, we wear a few hats but cheffing definitely isn’t one of them,” Sam says.
While Zymurgy won't be known for the contemporary degustations that have seen Navi become a widely-adored fine dining establishment, a quick glance at the menu tells you there's a talented chef behind it. It's built around a charcoal grill and includes ox tongue Ruebens and pretzels with Wagyu butter, while Julian will also be displaying his love for fermentation and food preservation through house made pickles, koji and miso.
“We wanted to team up with somebody who had a similar vision of really good quality stuff with quality ingredients that’s still approachable,” Sam says.
“And Julian really wanted to set something up with a focus on preparing all his ferments and ingredients himself, but in a more casual setting.”
For now, the venue is effectively operating as a beer garden throughout Melbourne's warmer months. While an indoor space is coming, Sam says they wanted to open outdoors first to get cash flow moving while also providing a spot that best suits COVID restrictions.
“We just wanted to get it open and going while the weather was good before Christmas,” he says.
“We thought instead of spending the money on indoor space where you could only fit ten people because of the square metre rules, we may as well make the beer garden nice. That’s what the government is pushing and it’s also November too.”
This weekend’s opening caps off a busy few months for Hop Nation, who purchased Tribe Breweries’ Mornington Peninsula site at the start of August, and still have plans for a second Footscray brewery. This week, Garage Project announced Hop Nation had started brewing some beer for the New Zealand brewery, while also revealing their plans to find a space of their own in Australia and asking fans for recommendations.
“We had a bit of spare capacity so they approached us,” Sam says. “We’ve been chatting about it a while and I know they’ve wanted to do more stuff for Australia.”
Zymurgy is located at 561 Barkly Street, West Footscray. You can find it and hundreds of other good beer spots on our free Crafty Pint app.