Brisbane’s love affair with the brewpub continues in 2019, but the city has also added a nice brace of cocktail bars in the CBD as well as more colourful hideaways in the inner suburbs. Here’s the best of 2019 so far.
The Pinterest-worthy Hello Gorgeous opened in the former digs of Chester Street Bakery in February this year with a stunning pink tiled bar, neon signage and tropical palm leaf wallpaper. “Before we'd even signed the lease, Bea had this wallpaper,” owner Justin DeBeer says of his partner and stylist Bea Berry, who was in charge of interior design. The eye-popping venue is geared around long afternoons where friends can share plates of grilled Skull Island prawns, Wagyu ragu tortellini and coconut-crusted drunken prawns. The lengthy drinks selection includes 30 red, rosé and white wines, and 10 sparklings and champagnes by the bottle.
It may seem a long way from the rolling hills and rows of vines that usually come to mind when you think about a vineyard, but that’s partly the point with City Winery. Co-owners Adam Penberthy and Dave Cush are bringing fruit from where it grows best around the country right into the heart of Fortitude Valley, turning the old Campos coffee premises on Wandoo Street into a working winery, cellar door and restaurant. In that sense, the venue pays homage to in-house label Gerler Wines’ namesake Carl Gerler, who established a vineyard in Brisbane’s northern suburbs in the 1800s before eventually making his wine using grapes transported down the range from Toowoomba and Warwick. With the ability to pick and choose its grapes from one vintage to the next, City Winery has opted to steer clear of more traditional styles of Australian wine, instead pouring fiano, grenache, gewürztraminer, nero d'avola, nebbiolo, tempranillo and sangiovese.
Death and Taxes
The DNA of some of Brisbane’s best bars – including Cobbler, Savile Row, Finney Isles and Sling – runs through Death and Taxes. Owner Martin Lange, his old Sling business partner Blake Ward and his wife Wiebke Lange have created this venue (long-term Lange lieutenant Sam Tripet is manager and also has a small stake in the business), which is inspired by the underground bars of London and Paris. It’s hidden in a heritage-listed warehouse in Burnett Lane, and stepping through Death and Taxes’ double doors is like entering another world: there’s beautiful leather booths, 100-year-old flooring and a four-metre-tall back bar with 600 bottles. There are 30 cocktails, a 40-bottle wine list and BYO food is encouraged.
Alba Bar and Deli
Old-world San Sebastian meets New York in the ’90s. That’s how owner Jamie Fleming likes to shorthand Alba Bar and Deli. And with its mustard-trim wooden banquettes, dark green tiled bar-front, crisp white walls and classic pintxos style of eating, Fleming’s first venue mixes funky design with a neat dash of culinary authenticity. A debut this may be, but Fleming has worked at Maker in Fish Lane and Sydney’s Lobo Plantation, and he appeared on Masterchef in 2014, eventually finishing fourth. The TV show appearance fed into a stint working pans at Wilhelmina’s Liquid + Larder, also in Sydney. With Alba, he’s attempted to distil the best of them into something simple and unpretentious. The neat 50-seater took over a brick storage bunker on Burnett Lane earlier this year serving simple, unfussy pintxos plates such as Movida sardines and Cuca tuna as well as three different types of jamon. The wine list leans towards Spanish varieties deliberately chosen to complement the food. There's also a slick mixed-drink selection.
Technically Soapbox opened in 2018, but so late in the year that it missed our 2018 round-ups. This 100-seat brewpub was the first of its kind in the Valley and a passion project for owners and friends Scott Robertson and Luke Nixon. The pair completely gutted an old dance studio and rebuilt it into an industrial-style brewery where they sell beers based on their old home-brew recipes. There are currently eight beers on tap including five core brews (a kolsch, an IPA and a pale ale are all present and correct, along with a recently introduced lager) and a few rotating styles, such as a porter and a biscuit ale. The menu offers share plates and mains, many of which feature beer. There’s spicy chicken karaage, Wagyu beef cubes with beer mustard, potato curry croquettes with a pale-ale vindaloo sauce, and a 250-gram Wagyu rump with porter-onion gravy. Robertson and Nixon have just introduced takeaway cans also.
Sea Legs Brewing Co
Sea Legs – a handsome boozer next to the Story Bridge in Kangaroo Point – is another brewpub that opened in the dying days of 2018. “I think there's something cool about walking out and the Story Bridge is right there, or that when I'm standing on the brew deck I can see it through the windows,” says head brewer Jon Fuchs. The 15-hectolitre brewery is a modest warehouse-style venue replete with exposed tanks and beams, overhead string lighting and an eye-catching breezeblock facade. The range made in-house includes the Sea Legs Milk Stout, a Breakaway IPA, Tropical Lager, Dr Swift's Golden Ale and Sea Legs Pale Ale. Food is simple pub grub with burgers, wings, charcuterie boards and hand-stretched pizzas.