Abbotsford’s Bodriggy Brewing Co is finally open, and we have some good news. The place absolutely lives up to its promise of being more than a regular brewery.
Yes, it’s in a big old warehouse. Yes, fermentation tanks are visible up the back. Yes, its brick and rusted iron finishes are rather masculine. But the atmosphere transcends the basic cellar door-type operations Melburnians are used to.
Much of that comes down to plain old light, or lack thereof. When we popped in for a preview earlier last week, the sun was just taking itself off to bed. Inside was properly dark, and a DJ was giving the venue’s dual Funktion-One speakers their first workout underneath second-hand stage lights and a thoroughly soundproofed ceiling. Much like Dr Morse, the Rochester and Vic Bar – three places Bodriggy co-owner Jon Costelloe also has shares in – there’s a real night time energy here without it being overly loud or nightclub-y.
Though the bar is licensed for 424 people, it feels much smaller. Costelloe and his business partners, Pete Walsh and Anth Daniel, have been careful to divide the warehouse into separate areas, each with a different feel. There are big, group-friendly trestle tables, smaller stand-up tables and a quasi-restaurant area with comfy banquettes, booths and smarter finishes. In the middle, a flame tree stretches out of a gigantic rusted-iron planter box to tickle the rafters.
“We want this place to be an institution,” Walsh says. “The way it feels, the way it sounds and the way that people walk through it are really important to us.” At Broadsheet we hear these kinds of statements often, but in this case it carries some real weight. Collingwood’s Stomping Ground is the only other brewery we can think of with such a holistic approach. Both places brew and serve beer, but it’s not their sole purpose.
Want a Noisy Ritual pét-nat? Great, Bodriggy has it on tap along with four other wines. A tequila or mezcal? You bet. Just consult the towering, soft-glowing shelves behind the bar. Bartenders Mikey Braun and Max Hart come from Black Pearl and Boilermaker House respectively, meaning the cocktail game is strong too. Take our advice and skip your usual order for one of the three unusual options on tap. A cascara (coffee cherry) number tastes a little like chinotto, and a Mexican tepache, made by fermenting pineapple juice, has a powerful funk the bar balances with a citrus garnish.
If you’re here for the beers, head brewer Tristan Barlow (who formerly held the same role at Alphington’s excellent La Sirène) covers a decent amount of ground. There are light, I-just-want-the-closest-thing-to-a-Carlton Draught options such as a crisp pilsner and summer ale, right through to geeky, obscure styles such as kettle sours and lichtenhainer, a low-alcohol wheat beer.
Another thing you should order at the bar is Johny Dominguez’s light, fresh, zingy Central and South American food. The former Dinner by Heston and Vue de Monde chef’s menu is somewhat familiar but includes some interesting diversions.
Por ejemplo: you’ve probably had stuffed jalapenos. But packed with meaty smoked swordfish? Probably not. Likewise, while anticuchos – a sort of Peruvian satay or shish kebab – are common enough, Dominguez’s delightfully sticky, char siu-like combination of beef heart and grilled potato isn’t. And it’s not just “tasty for offal” – it’s tasty full stop. Other hits include elote (corn on the cob), big plates of pulled pork and other slow-cooked meats, and a zippy rendition of ceviche. This is food you’ll come back for, regardless of anything else. That alone makes Bodriggy a rare proposition in a city where food is usually an afterthought at breweries.
Bodriggy Brewing Co
245 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9417 2293
This article was updated on August 5, 2019.