Pub crawls are generally reserved for footy fans, bucks’ nights and college O-weeks. The obvious drawbacks being high levels of intoxication and copious amounts of parochial, preservative-laden, mainstream, boring-beer consumption. But if you pick the right spots, order the right beers and leave the footy jersey at home, you could be in for a great night.
A well-constructed beer tour will be carefully considered, with the order of venues purposeful and the beer selection methodical. So it stands that the first venue needs to be a central meeting point, holding down a buzzing atmosphere and providing a great first impression. With this in mind, you can’t look past Cookie. The beer taps hold bold selections that represent a vast amount of styles and regions. As far as educational venues go, Cookie’s staff are highly capable of steering you in right direction and finding you something to please your palate and occasionally challenge it.
A compendium of bottled beers broken down into styles will give you a cursor for your second round here. Take the time to research and try something new. The list will always include a handful of beers that are out of stock, but don’t blame the venue – it’s the fault of notoriously inconsistent suppliers, so don’t get your heart set on anything in print.
The next venue is one that needs to up the ante in terms of beer selection. It’s also necessary to have somewhere that feels a little transient. At this stage of the game, it’s all too easy to throw in the towel and settle in here for the night.
The small and vaguely opulent surroundings of Penny Blue are the setting for an incredibly large beer selection. The real drawcard here, though, is the hand-pumped ale. If you’ve never drunk as the English do and committed the ultimate warm-beer sin, then it must be done here. Currently the Kooinda Pale Ale is coming up through the pump at around seven degrees, but this is always rotating and the temperature adjusted to suit the beer (it gets even warmer). From here, glance towards the fridges to find a solid local, national and international offering. The name of the game here is to stick to the locals, show some provincial pride and you’ll be well rewarded.
Third stop is the one that will make or break. It’s the food stop. Any good tour needs a refuelling point and there is no better or heartier fuel than the beloved parma. That’s where Mrs Parma’s comes to the party with a menu dedicated to the classic Australian/Italian flavour marriage. The variations are seemingly endless, making your choices hard enough, until you discover they also stock one of the city’s best representations of Victorian micro brews. The key is to look out for some parma and beer pairings so as not to upset the beauty of either. The staff are well versed in helping with these selections and considering the calibre, it’s hard to make a bad choice. But if you need some guidance, you can’t go past the Hawthorn Pale Ale.
The final venue is arguably the most critical in the delicate balance selection. Somewhere that has something for everyone at the conclusion of this epic tasting journey. Each member’s palate will have evolved throughout the night and it’s important to land in a well-stocked bar that will please all and ensure that everyone ends on a high note.
So it’s over to Biero Bar. The thing that initially strikes you about this bar is the row of ‘towers’ behind the bar – a revolutionary system conceived to maintain bottled beers for extended periods and allow them to be tapped off. But they become almost background noise when see the extensive tap beers and fully stocked fridges. Just so you know, this represents about 30% of the stock, with the cellars holding what can only be described as a veritable cornucopia of beers.
The staff here are all passionate, knowledgeable and could entertain even the most amateur of beer drinkers for hours on end. Having close ties to local breweries, the odd custom-made and hard-to-find beers reach their way to the taps on a regular basis. The prices are all reasonable, to the point of being generous. But if you find yourself there with a wallet full of cash at the end of the evening, don’t hesitate to try the Sink the Bismarck by Scottish brewers BrewDog. At 41% abv., this strongly hopped and flavourful brew is worth all $200.