Things are changing down near the Maribyrnong River – and not just at Hop Nation’s Footscray taproom. The brewery, opened by former winemakers Sam Hambour (Paringa Estate) and Duncan Gibson (Yering Station) back in 2015, is right near where the state government is building a new bridge linking to the West Gate Tunnel, an elevated roadway and a new bike path as part of its “Big Build”.
Hop Nation has been brewing and serving house-made beer, wine and spirits from its taproom (housed in an factory space dating back to the 1880s where items including soap, candles and ammunition were once made). But the business quickly outgrew this set-up and in 2020, much of its production was shifted to a larger site in Mornington. This left room for the Footscray space to become more visitor-friendly.
“For a long time [the taproom] was 90 per cent production and hospitality was an afterthought,” Hambour says. “We’re so focused on the quality of our product, sometimes we forget about where it is and how it’s served. So we’ve kind of brought up the service in the place to match the product.”
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The space, with its 10-metre-high pitched roof, exposed brick and extremely Melbourne roller door entrance, has been infused with lime green touches, while green neon lights give the space a sci-fi glow.
Experienced hospo design firm Studio Y led the revamp, moving the bar to the side to make room for additional table seating. The old furniture, made by the Hop Nation team (which, Hambour jokes, might have given visitors splinters), has been replaced with black high-tops and picnic-table-style tables and benches.
With the refresh came the chance for the team to offer a more substantial food menu. The taproom now houses Good Pizza, a pizzeria from chef Alex Addams Williams, formerly of Figlia. The focus here is on long-fermented dough with toppings including vodka sauce with fior di latte; miso mushrooms with mozzarella and gremolata; and pepperoni with a drizzle of honey.
The renovation has also seen the number of taps increase to 17, and there’ll be a mix of brews like Site Fermentation’s beer-wine-hybrid sours and all seven beers in Hop Nation’s core range, including the brewery’s new Footscray Draft.
Four of the new side-pull taps, by Lukr Faucets, have a larger diameter than stand taps, giving a unique creamy head to Hop Nation lagers like the Rattenhund pilsner. The refreshed taproom will also offer visitors the chance to sample new brews early. “We release new, experimental beers about twice per month and we always have the first pours here,” Hambour says.