Melbourne is home to dozens of breweries and the inner-city suburb of Richmond has played an important part in the development of the city's craft beer scene over the last few decades. Yet there's still room for new breweries to still come along that look and feel like none that have come before.
Nice Guys Brewery & Bar is such a space, with the 1970s-inspired brewpub's curved interior, softly-coloured lighting and velvet furniture resembling the kind of bar Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling might have enjoyed a drink in the movie with which it shares a name.
Owner and brewer Grant Morley says since opening the brewery at the start of the year, people have been comparing its look to many different scenes, from the cantina bar Mos Eisley on Luke Skywalker's home planet to a beer bar in the Czech Republic or a home on a Greek island.
“People really take ownership of how it looks and there’s no right or wrong," he says. "It invokes different things to different people.”
The Richmond warehouse on Victoria Street was built in the 1970s and while working with the builder and artist who worked on the brewpub they wanted to embrace its history, while also creating a brewpub venue unlike any other.
“We just needed some curves," Grant says. "It was just a bit brutal so that’s where we ended up going.
“The other brief was really that I didn’t want to look like any other brewpub."
Another facet of Nice Guys that makes it slightly out of time in 2021 are the sort of beers Grant brews on his 500-litre system: he favours classic styles of beers while still offering a diverse range for anyone who walks in.
“We’ve got an English Bitter and people thought that was pretty brave but it’s been really well received,” he says, adding there's been one compliment he particularly cherishes.
“Brewers are telling other brewers to come in," he says, "which I’m pretty delighted about.”
Over the next few months, they're working to finish the kitchen so they serve a range of bao buns with their beers, while also adding local wine and cocktails to their taps.
Before that happens, we caught up with Grant to find out Who Brews...? Nice Guys beers.
NICE GUYS BREWERY & BAR
Who are you?
I'm Grant Morley and I am the owner and brewer at Nice Guys Brewery & Bar in Richmond, Melbourne. I am a highly awarded homebrewer – Vicbrew Champion Brewer on a record score, Australian Amateur Wine & Beer Show Champion Brewer, and Australian Amateur Brewing Competition gold medal – who decided to take the leap from hobby to profession.
I am a triple-degree scientist and, most recently, CEO of a small biotechnology company developing novel Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer medicines. I am heavily involved in the homebrew community, being on the Australian National Homebrew Conference committee and previously on the committee of my local homebrew club, Westgate Brewers.
Where do you brew?
I brew at my home in Ascot Vale and at my brewpub, Nice Guys Brewery & Bar, 306 Victoria Street, Richmond.
Why do you brew?
I love everything craft beer and immersed myself developing my recipes over the last ten years to make the freshest and tastiest beer I can.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
I dabbled in homebrewing in my uni days, but ten years ago set out to make a clone of Little Creatures Pale Ale. I served it to my friends as the real deal, and when their comments came back that it was better that they remembered, my fate was sealed. For the next decade, I lived and breathed making all-grain craft beer.
What's the inspiration behind the brewery name?
"Nice Guys" is our customer ethos. Our name reminds us of our customer-first focus and to take the time to connect with our customers.
The Nice Guys ethos came from my father who was a suburban chemist. Often on the weekend after the shop closed, we would drop off food and other supplies to vulnerable or unwell customers. He was the ultimate "nice guy" and showed me about doing that little bit more for your customer and developing genuine and strong connections with them.
At our brewery we strive to be nice guys but, ultimately, it will be our customers that decide whether we are worthy of the name.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our Enigma Pils. One of the first styles I started trying to perfect was lagers and more specifically pilsners. The reason for this is they are difficult to brew and you can’t hide any faults; the other reason is they are delicious. When I first visit a new brewery, I will always seek out their lager to see how good a brewer they are.
At the brewpub, we try to offer a diverse range of classic craft beer rather than focusing on experimental beers. Our vision is to "bring classic back to beer" by brewing using traditional techniques and quality ingredients. All our beer is served from Brite serving tanks housed in a cool room to ensure the beer is at its best, fresh and most flavourful. We have a lot of repeat custom from brewers from other breweries, so we must be doing something right.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
Our brewpub is 70s inspired so expect to hear Isaac Hayes (theme from Shaft) and Curtis Mayfield (Superfly), but we also drift into some early 1980s with great UK beats including punk (Clash, The Jam).
What beers are in your fridge right now?
None, just far too busy. I often sneak a beer at the brewery though.
Which local beers have blown your mind in recent weeks?
I love Sailors Grave for their creativity and deliciousness – they are smashing it!
They’re not exactly local but anything from Garage Project. I haven't had a bad one yet.
Where can people find your beers?
The only place to find Nice Guys beer is at Nice Guys Brewery and Bar in Richmond. We have no plans to sell to bars or bottleshops for the next couple of years. Our singular focus is customer engagement through face-to-face interaction and fine-tuning our beer recipes.
Where do you hope your brewery will be ten years from now?
The packaged beer market is oversaturated and I really enjoy the customer experience in the brewpub. As such, I would like to open another couple of brewpubs around Melbourne.
To meet the nice guys behind the brewery, head to 306 Victoria Street, Richmond. You can find other entries in the Who Brews...? series here and hundreds of good beer businesses in the free Crafty Pint app.