As much as Melbourne can feel like it's filled to the brim with breweries, there are still some suburbs where it's something of a surprise to realise there isn't one, if not several, breweries for locals to call their own.
Mountain Goat have been brewing in Richmond for more than two decades, and others have since joined them in the 3121 postcode, but look eastward across the Yarra River and the residents of Hawthorn haven't enjoyed the same fortunes when it comes to local beer offerings. That's despite the suburb being home to one of Melbourne's earlier brewpubs: the Geebung Polo Club, which opened in 1989 and stopped brewing a decade later.
Sure, a brewing company bearing the suburb's name launched in 2009 but, while Hawthorn Brewing Company's founders often spoke of building a home of their own there, that never materialised. What's more, the company they sold the brand to, Australian Venue Co, appears to have let the brand rest during last year's COVID lockdowns. Throw into the mix the fact that Slowbeer's first standalone home was in Hawthorn and, well, to misquote a playwright, having no breweries in Hawthorn seems less like misfortune and more like carelessness.
That's all set to change, however, as chomping at the bit to bring brewing back to Hawthorn is the team behind Ramblers Ale Works. The brewpub is set to open in May, making it the first brewery in more than two decades in the City of Boroondara, which takes in the leafy likes of Kew and Camberwell.
Behind the new venture are Ben Leslie and Ben Cummins, who have turned a monthly homebrew club formed in 2014 into a fully-fledged commercial operation.
“It really just started as a few friends looking for a way to catch up outside of social sport,” Ben Leslie says. “We would brew a batch one month, bottle the next.
"It just kept growing and I just became more and more engrossed in the process. Ultimately, it got to the point where a few of us wanted to take it to the next level.”
As well as being an avid homebrewer, Ben Cummins is a PhD physicist at RMIT University and has been the one paring down their past brews to the lineup they'll soon be brewing on their 500-litre system from Spark Breweries and Distilleries.
“Ben [Cummins] started refining our brews,” Ben L says.
“We had about 40 past recipes; 20 of them were good, but we settled on ten that we really wanted to showcase.”
Those ten beers cover a broad range of styles, many of which are named in honour of Ramblers' Hawthorn surrounds. Located at 96 Riversdale Road, the brewpub's location is an enviable one surrounded by tram stops, close to a major train station at Glenferrie, and is an easily accessible spot for Hawthorn's many residents.
The importance of their locale was at the forefront of the founders' minds when designing their venue, which Ben L says was born out of his own experience in hospitality as well as some of his favourite venues in the UK and Ireland.
“We wanted to create an environment that was welcoming to everyone, but that also wasn’t just a place for people to watch the footy or get smashed,” he says.
While their journey to bring locally-made beer back to Hawthorn might soon reach its destination, Ben L says even once they're open there will be a few more steps to take before Ramblers is where it needs to be.
“To start, we’ll just be opening as a bar featuring a few of our own beers, along with beers from the people who have supported us along the way," he says.
“The next step after that will hopefully be bringing in a food truck, followed by hopefully scaling up and getting our beers into bottles or cans.”
As for the brewery's name, that was inspired by a love for travel.
“Australians love to travel – we ramble across the country and across the globe – that’s where the name is from," Ben L says, before adding: "However, the fact that I love to talk, and often find myself rambling away, doesn’t hurt either.”
Keep up to date with Ramblers Ale Works by heading to their website or by following them on Facebook or Instagram. Once they open, you'll find Ramblers alongside hundreds of other venues in the free Crafty Pint app.