Bridge Road Brewers are set to expand into Victoria’s capital, with the Beechworth operation today announcing plans to open a brewery in Melbourne’s inner north. The new site is part of East Brunswick Village (EBV), a major housing and commercial development in Nicholson Street, and will feature a production brewery, a 350-seat venue and a 30 tap bar.
Bridge Road’s new venue will form part of the Bluestone Way section of EBV, which is set to open in October 2022. Brewery co-founder Ben Kraus (pictured above), who launched the brewery at his parents’ home in 2005 with partner Maria before moving to their current location in the High Country town, says opening an outpost in Melbourne is something they’d considered for years.
“We’ve been looking – at the back of my mind – for a decade to do something in Melbourne on and off,” he told The Crafty Pint.
This was partly driven by a desire to bring the combination of full-scale production, hospitality and takeaway sales under one roof that's been a feature of the Bridge Road Brewers experience for years to the city. While such an offering has become easier to find in Melbourne in recent years, thanks to the likes of Stomping Ground, Temple, Bodriggy and others, previously it was something more commonly found at regional breweries.
“It’s just a continuation of wanting to bring down the way we do hospitality and what we offer,” Ben says.
When he saw the site's developer, the Banco Group, was looking for a brewery to be a part of the new build, he says at first it wasn’t the kind of space he had in mind, but the more he learnt about it and spoke to the team there, the more it felt like the right fit, particularly given its location.
“They showed that they were keen on what we do in Beechworth and our history,” Ben says.
“It’s really important to me that it’s a place to come, not just for those in the Village, but also those who live in the area, who are across the road, and in the wider community.”
The site will house a 1,000-litre brewhouse with both 1,000 and 2,000 litre fermenters and, although the bulk of their production capability will remain in Beechworth, they’ll be making beers specifically for Brunswick East too. The decision to include a fully-functional brewery rather than just opening a taproom was to give the community something more tangible with which to connect.
“It gives locals ownership over something that’s their own and produced locally,” he says, adding they’ll bring in mobile canning for beers developed on-site.
While the exact details of what the experience will be like are still to be worked out, Ben says they’ll retain elements from their home in Beechworth, but ensure the new venture stands apart too.
“The venue will have its own identity, its own menu, and its own look and feel,” he says. “But it will always be tied back to what we do here, so there will be some familiar points and some things that are totally new.
“Hopefully we’ll get to a point where both venues influence each other on the food and beverage front. So beers created down there will influence what we do up here.”
The brewery will sit beneath new apartments just a short distance from Melbourne’s CBD, which is another reason he says they're avoiding the temptation of trying to transplant an historic coach house in a small gold rush town to the Big Smoke.
“We’re not going to take a new building and dress it up to look like Ye Olde Beechworth," he says. "I think that would be a misuse of the site.
“I’m sure it will be recognisable to those who have been to Beechworth, but we’re definitely not trying to mimic or cookie cutter what we’ve done here.”