It bears repeating: Forester's Hall, the former A Bar Called Barry, has 32 craft beers on tap. "When I was a lad, you drank VB and Carlton, and that was it,” recalls co-owner, Russell Griggs. “You wouldn't even drink beer from New South Wales, because that was sacrilege. Things have changed."
They sure have. In part, it's thanks to people like Griggs, his brothers Stephen and Paul, and sister Alison Clarke. Together, they own The Royston Hotel and The Terminus (not to be confused with the Abbotsford venue of the same name), two pubs instrumental in popularising craft beer in Melbourne.
Forester's is the group's most ambitious project yet, which is perhaps why they've added manager Edward Harley to the list of owners. When the upstairs bar is completed, the vast 1920-themed speakeasy will boast 50 taps, or 10 more than there are now. "I don't know it's necessary, but it's fantastic, isn't it?" Griggs says.
For the truly picky, new beers can be suggested online. "Our website is based on a template for a church,” explains Griggs. “There was a built-in prayer request button. We thought, rather than muck around and delete it, let's make it a beer request button."
Eight pizzas accompany the beer selection, tending towards meat, though there are two vegetarian options. Nothing costs more than $15. On Fridays and Saturdays, the venue's striking stage, which is backed by a huge golden shell installed in the 1920s, hosts bands playing rockabilly, blues and funk. It's not so much a pub as it is a huge bar.
"All my favourite bars are speakeasies,” Griggs explains. “In LA, New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne." It's Canada, however, which inspired the insane number of taps at Forester's. He recalls visiting a particular venue with more than 130. "Wouldn't it be great to have a crack at that?” he says. “Maybe one day. For now, I think this is a good number."