Marvel-ous Moon Dog To Open Vast Docklands Brewpub

August 25, 2023, by James Smith

Marvel-ous Moon Dog To Open Vast Docklands Brewpub

Beer lovers might have thought Moon Dog’s one-two combo earlier this month – gaining the council’s green light to move into the former Franco Cozzo site in Footscray plus their plans to open in Frankston – was quite the knockout punch from the fun-loving booze factory. Yet it turns out they weren’t quite finished. Not by a long shot.

Today, The Crafty Pint can reveal they’ll be bringing their unique offering to the heart of their hometown: opening a 1,500-capacity brewpub next to Marvel Stadium.

It will take shape as part of the Home Docklands Precinct, located at 685 Latrobe Street, on the northwestern side of the stadium. Plans at this stage are to create a 100-capacity pub and restaurant that will be open at all times, and to install a brewpub-sized brewery inside a much larger space that would open on game days, for public events, and also be available for hire for large functions.

“It’s just a kick of the footy away from the stadium,” Moon Dog co-founder Josh Uljans told The Crafty Pint.

While the Moon Dog team had been looking at potential sites around Frankston and Footscray / West Footscray before the COVID pandemic started, the opportunity in the Docklands precinct has come about far more recently. They were only approached by the developers behind Home in May, with talks moving fast as the team behind the precinct outlined a vision designed to benefit both local residents and visitors to the Docklands.

“We were pretty keen to find new opportunities, and this just seemed like a really interesting thing to look at,” Josh says. “And different to anything else that we’re doing. 

“It’s very hard for small businesses to reach audiences that aren’t actively engaged, so we’re pretty excited to see what these new venues and the Marvel site can do.”

 

Moon Dog co-founders Jake Uljans, Karl van Buuren and Josh Uljans back in 2019 when they were preparing to open Moon Dog World.

 

The announcement continues a remarkable journey for the brewing company launched by three mates – Josh, older brother Jake, and Karl van Buuren – in 2010. Back then, they made their name with typically madcap, often high ABV, and always ridiculously-named beers brewed on repurposed dairy tanks in an Abbotsford warehouse near CUB where Josh and Karl lived for a few months.

Few would have pegged them rising to become one of the biggest indie brewers in the country a decade later. Yet a number of factors – among them the creation of an approachable and affordable core range, the addition of the huge and hugely popular venue Moon Dog World, their entry into the hard seltzer market in a manner that outstripped any of their peers – has seen them become of the most recognised names in booze.

Claiming Champion Large Brewery at last year’s Indies awards showed the liquid in their cans was better than ever too, something backed up when their flagship pale ale Old Mate won a trophy in the hotly-contested Champion Modern Pale Ale category at this week's awards.

“It’s exciting,” Josh says of the place in which they find themselves in 2023. “It’s been a very wonderful journey, very strange, and it’s just very exciting.

“We’re 13-years-old now and it’s exciting to still be doing new and interesting stuff. It’s clearly a pretty complicated time for the craft beer industry, and it’s certainly not been a very easy three years for us, so it’s nice to be facing a bright future.”

 

Moon Dog head brewer Kevin te Wierik with their latest Indies trophy.

 

The success of Moon Dog World in Preston, which blew up beyond even the owners’ wildest expectations when it opened and has been bringing in punters in the thousands each week even through this challenging winter, was the spark that led them down this path.

“It was a great thing to recognise the impact of localising your brand and becoming part of a community,” Josh says. “It made a heap of sense to do more of that: to make yourself a really important part of the community.”

Melbourne’s lockdowns put any plans on hold for a couple of years, until, he says: “We made the decision this time last year that we wanted to get back on track with it. The areas we were excited by [pre-COVID] we were still excited by then.”

As for what gives them confidence they’ll be able to replicate the success of their flagship venue elsewhere, Josh references the broad demographic they attract. The tropical vibes and outlandish flourishes of Moon Dog World were always designed to appeal well outside the beer bubble even before they introduced Fizzer, but he says any given Saturday will see the crowd move from large groups and families into more of a restaurant feel and then those there to watch sport or party with mates.

“It’s a really broad audience,” he says. “One day you could have a group of retirees coming in for a meal and a hen’s night, all co-existing happily because it’s a really big space that delivers a lot of different experiences. It’s nice to be able to do that and not just pigeon-holing yourself.”

“Everyone is looking for something new and different and fun and exciting. And so we think Moon Dog is a pretty broad base and a broad brand these days that can appeal to a whole bunch of different people.

“We make our venues fun and unique and interesting and inclusive. Our service is spot on. we make it inviting, and I think that’s the right approach. We’ll find out!”

 

Marvel Stadium and the new Home Docklands Precinct taking shape against the Melbourne skyline.

 

Their partners in the Docklands development describe themselves as "Australia’s leading creator and operator of apartment communities exclusively for renters, inspired by the services of great hotels". They have already opened two Home sites in Southbank and Richmond and are set to add both Home Docklands and Home Parramatta in 2024.

The Docklands precinct will feature 676 build-to-rent apartments, spanning two towers, with 2,500 square metres of retail space, and hotel-inspired services. Development manager Matt D’Apolito says their vision is "to create a vibrant, active destination" catering to residents, the local community and visitors.

"Home is delighted to welcome on board Moon Dog Brewing as a coveted partner with a loyal and expanding customer base, following the success of Moon Dog World," he says. "The Moon Dog brand, coupled with their demonstrated ability to successfully operate large format spaces, was an exciting opportunity for us to partner with an operator that could unlock the potential of our 1,900sqm brewpub space.

"We are confident this partnership will provide residents, workers, and the public a space to enjoy.”

Given the flurry of recent announcements, Moon Dog team is clearly going to be kept busy building, launching and filling three more large venues over the coming year, with the three-storey bar complete with rooftop bar in Footscray set to open first. And it’s a situation they’re delighted to find themselves in after the uncertainties of the decade to date.

“I’ve no idea what we’re going to be doing in the future,” Josh says. “I really enjoy building projects and growing the business so it’s back being fun again after a few years of it not being fun.

“Moon Dog has always been a very flexible thing – we’ve changed with the times – and we’ve no idea what the future will bring, but right now it’s really exciting to be focusing on delivering these projects, and to have a whole bunch of other stuff that different people across the business are working on. It’s good.”


Images of the site taking shape taken from the Home Docklands website.

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