Given Molly Rose Brewing's love for bringing beer and food together, and a fondness for breaking down the barriers between beer and other drinks, the Melbourne brewers' next steps feel particularly fitting.
Simply put, they have an impressive new home planned for future guests. If you're one of them, once you step inside you’ll be greeted by myriad Molly Rose beers for takeaway. Keep going and a horseshoe bar will welcome you to a space where cocktails will be the focus as much as the beer. A beer garden sits outside to the right, a function room can be found upstairs, and a small 20-seater dining room sits at the back.
And while it’s a grand vision, it’s not one that requires founder Nic Sandery (pictured above) and team far from their current home. Indeed, it's all happening next door to their current taproom in Collingwood. While that space, which opened midway through 2019, will remain largely the same, it too will connect to the rest of the multi-faceted venue, and will have access to food prepared in the kitchen next door.
“This will still be the more brewpub experience with guiding and tasting the beer,” Nic says of the original venue. “While the middle will be cocktail, wine bar with higher-end beer from a bottle. Then the beer garden will just be a fun outdoor space.”
Once the work is fully realised, it will see Molly Rose’s hospitality footprint triple in size: they're not just taking over the next door building but the one along from that too.
Nic first spoke to his landlord about taking over the vacant block two doors down back in 2020 when outdoor dining became a serious focus for hospo operators due to COVID. And while the landlord was keen, she ultimately decided to sell the block and her own home next to the brewery; thankfully, the new owner was keen to have Molly Rose take over both spaces.
“The new owners took it over and were happy for us to rent it off them," Nic says, "and they also wanted to rent the house our old landlord had been living in.
“This wasn’t something we were planning to do but the opportunity was there so we thought, 'Why not?'.”
For fans of food and beer pairing – and Nic is chief among them – the most exciting element of the plans is likely to be the intimate dining room dedicated to bringing food, beer, wine and cocktails together.
“The rest of it is really a bar with food, but when this opportunity came up to expand, I quite self-indulgently stole a bit of space to put the 20-seater dedicated restaurant,” Nic says.
“Restaurants are a hard game to be in and it’s hard to make money, particularly for small ones, but because this kitchen will be servicing our current brewery, the beer garden and the bar, the restaurant doesn’t need to pay for the kitchen itself.”
Molly Rose have long collaborated with other drinks makers, bars and chefs, with the new setup designed as a platform to elevate this side of the business further. Nic also feels the nature of dining has steadily been changing in Melbourne, with a move away from a focus solely on pairing menus with wine.
“It’s not paired wine anymore, they do a cocktail, a beer and a cider, or a fun pet-nat type wine,” he says.
“Dining in Melbourne has changed a lot from paired wines to just paired drinks and there’s a greater interest for really unique beers. We have this opportunity to do this really fun project with set menus and only open a few nights a week where people can enjoy the food that’s been made in front of them with the beer that’s been made right next to them.”
That last point represents a first for Molly Rose too: a brewhouse to call their own. To date, the brewery’s model has been a two-pronged approach: some beers start out with wort made at other breweries before being fermented at their brewpub; others are brewed and packaged entirely off-site. The new brewery will sit between the small restaurant and the beer garden, and although it will be a small 300 litre setup, it does mean they can now not only produce small batches of beers more often but also work closely with others.
“It will be a focal point of both the beer garden and the chef’s table restaurant,” Nic says.
“We don’t have a brewhouse so this gives us something to play with. It means we can get our friends in to do collaborations.”
With some structural work still underway and planning still being confirmed with the local council, Nic says he’s unsure exactly when it will be ready to welcome guests. What is certain, however, is it will be a space dedicated to combining distinctive drinks and food unlike many others – and also the realisation of what Nic's long sought to achieve with Molly Rose.
“We were always going to be hospitality focused," he says. "Our point of difference is that we can provide a really great experience and level of service. The best way to give them the Molly Rose experience is to have them in our venue.”