The Craft & Co's Preston Taproom Opens

Melbourne’s northern suburbs welcomed another crafty destination over the weekend, as The Craft & Co opened their Preston taproom to the public. The substantial venue, which also features a brewery and distillery, is located in Chifley Drive – the same street Moon Dog World calls home – just a short walk from Northland Shopping Centre.  

And the multifaceted operation's founder Paul Baggio says early signs are there's plenty of appetite for more drink-themed revelry in the area.

“There were a lot of people on bikes, just cruising between one brewery to another,” Paul says of the opening weekend.

The new venue joins The Craft & Co's original two-storey Collingwood brewpub home, which opened in 2015 as a place dedicated to tying craft beer, spirits and wine together with food.

At the rather larger Preston site, craft beer and spirits share the stage: the former is produced on a 40 hectolitre brewhouse; the latter on an 850 litre distillery setup. The bar pours an ever-changing lineup of beer, spirits and cocktails, while food trucks will be a regular sight in a venue featuring table tennis and plenty of other family-friendly activities.

Having launched The Craft & Co in Collingwood – as well as growing up in Thornbury – Paul has been keenly aware of how this part of Melbourne has been changing.

“It wasn’t lost on us what’s happened around here, particularly over the last ten years where it’s got its own hip status,” he says.



The major drive to get Preston up and running, however, was a need to expand production capacity.

“We had to find the space to grow,” he says. “Smith Street and Collingwood were great for the venue but then when we started growing, it had its challenges.”

Getting ingredients in and moving finished beer and spirits out of Collingwood was never easy but, with Preston, they have space and capacity on their side. While their 10-hectolitre Collingwood brewery will continue producing smaller batch sizes, the new system is capable of producing around 30,000 litres per day if needed.

“We thought, if we’re going to do this, we don’t want to be going back and doing this again,” Paul says.

“We’ve certainly been doing some work with export, and we’re going to be working with Singapore, and that and the UK are a big part of our growth strategy.”

The first beers to come out of the brewery arrived late last year, with the core lineup featuring Japanese Rice Lager, Hazy Pale and a Draught. But beer is only part of their focus: another major driver behind the new brewery is a desire to produce more whisky wash.

“I don't think we would have had the confidence to put this secondary investment to the level we did if we didn't sort of have a multi-beverage approach,” he says. “We've got this really long range strategy with whisky and dark spirits.”


You can always spot the breweries that have had space issues in the past...


Prior to launching The Craft & Co, Paul has spent years supplying wineries, breweries, distilleries and other food businesses with equipment, and while spirits have become a major focus for The Craft & Co, that wasn’t always the plan.

“We put the still there following a background in winemaking, living overseas, and a fascination with distillates, but it wasn’t to do whisky,” he says.

“I think at the heart of it, the connection between brewing and dark spirits and Australian whisky has come hand in glove."

Their just-released Solera Aged Whisky has been taking shape since The Craft & Co Collingwood first opened, with the seven-year-old blended from a wide array of base spirits.

“We put it in large vats and then some small oak and then we started really playing with the Solera style of maturation,” Paul says.

“It just took a bit of space and mucking around, really. But that’s the beauty of being a small-scale, artisan producer – we could sort of just evolve with it.”

While referring to their use of amphorae for ageing beer in the past, he adds: “We don't we don't shy away from that level of innovation. But we’ve just really released our first whisky and are looking forward to seeing how that’s received. So, if it’s something that really takes off, then the logical next step is that cross-pollination.”

The Craft & Co Preston is located at 96 Chifley Drive. You can find it and hundreds of other good beer venues on the free Crafty Pint app

All photos are by Raphael Recht.

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