It’s been four months since Broadsheet broke the news that Australia’s most irreverent brewery, Moon Dog, was working on a new headquarters in Preston with an indoor river, tropical lagoon, waterfall and room for 725 people.
Moon Dog World is on track to open late September as originally planned, with some previously unannounced features: a semi-hidden tiki bar serving rum cocktails, a sizeable playground for kids and a sunny beer garden.
Running to schedule is a minor miracle in the hospitality world, where venues rarely open on time. And in this case it’s even more miraculous. Unlike most building projects, where everything from door handles to wall cladding is decided on and ordered months ahead of time, aspects of Moon Dog World’s design were purposely left up in the air.
“It’s not a normal process, but it’s also an exciting process,” says architect Rohin Adams of Two Design. He also designed Port Melbourne’s Starward Whisky distillery and happens to organise the Run to the Dog fun run.
“We keep on working things out as we go along,” says Moon Dog co-owner Josh Uljans. “A couple of times we went, ‘Oh fuck, that doesn’t fit’.” So we had to change the design. Then you look at it and go, ‘That looks a bit dumb. Change the design’.”
“It can be very frustrating at times,” says builder Maverick Carman. “Every couple of days I have to sit down with Josh, or do a walkthrough of the site and go, ‘What do you want here?’” There’s no tension though – Uljans and Carman have been mates for 10 years and enjoy the process.
Just taking on the enormous 12,000-square-metre site was a leap of faith for Uljans and his two business partners. “We couldn’t really work out how to make it work,” Uljans says. “It’s just such a huge footprint.”
Eventually they set aside the 1500-square-metre front warehouse for a bar, and three rear warehouses for brewing. The initial concept included a pool with a swim-up bar, a hammock and beach area, and a bus with a cigar lounge inside. This idea was later canned due to the legal hurdles that arise when swimming and alcohol come together. Any pool 300 millimetres or deeper also requires a fence around it – a bit of a buzz kill.
“The Moon Dog lagoon is 299 millimetres deep,” Adams says, with a touch of glee. “It’s deep enough to float in.” He pauses. “I don’t believe there’s any planned restriction on people wandering into the lagoon.”
Carman and his team cut the lagoon’s gentle curves from the concrete slab in just a few days using a powerful road saw. Shipping containers were then stacked on either side, and roomy elevated decks built on top, using 8000 decking screws and nearly four kilometres of merbau timber. “I’ve never laid this much decking in my life,” Carman says.
As much as this fantastical fit-out is about fun, it’s also about dividing the cavernous space into smaller, more intimate zones. The team wants every visit to feel slightly different, depending on where you choose to hang out. San Diego’s Stone Brewing, which is surrounded by several acres of water features and lush gardens despite being located in an industrial estate, is a big source of inspiration.
“We want Moon Dog World to be iconic and genuinely unique,” Uljans says. “Not just in the context of Australian breweries or hospitality spaces, but internationally.”
Moon Dog World opens in late September.