La Sirene is one of Melbourne’s most established breweries. Founded by partners and co-owners Costa and Eva Nikias in 2010, it took the boundary-pushing brand, known for wild fermented brews, until late 2022 to open a taproom of its own, in Alphington. The brewhouse was a success, but it proved to be short-lived thanks to a council-imposed closure last year that left the duo stranded with thousands of litres of fermenting beer and nowhere to go.
After a few months of searching for a new spot, La Sirene has now converted a Reservoir warehouse into its new brewery bar and home.
“Obviously last year was such a mess, having to close so soon after opening,” Costa tells Broadsheet. “But this new spot being in close proximity to Edwardes Lake, Merri Creek and Coburg Lake gives us some really fun opportunities to experiment with the microbes in our brews and create drinks that are wild and unique to the area.”
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La Sirene doesn’t operate like most modern breweries. It employs centuries-old techniques with Flemish roots, fermenting in giant, open-top metal bathtubs called coolships. Nearly everyone else in Australia uses closed, sterile systems.
The coolships have a large surface area that cools the liquid faster. The open top also allows airborne yeasts and bacteria from the surrounding environment to inoculate the beer, resulting in complex and unusual flavours. This wild fermentation is what makes La Sirene special and its location, right next to a large nature reserve, is crucial to the brewing process.
The drinks list is extensive. Fourteen taps showcase an eclectic mix of beers ranging from an easy-drinking Czech-style lager right through to an adventurous chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla stout and plenty of sours, pale ales and wild farmhouse drops in between.
There’s an even longer list with more than 35 of La Sirene’s bottled and canned beers available to drink in-house or take home, as well as a curated wine selection of favourites from local producers.
A succinct cocktail list focuses on using La Sirene’s beers to approach classics from a new direction – a Negroni using the Farmhouse red ale and a spritzy gin and tonic spiked with the Citray Sour both stand out.
“We want to experiment with flavour profiles in our cocktails as much as our beers, so incorporating some of our wilder ales into a classic drink is a fun way to play around with that,” Costa says.
Eva says the food is “inspired by southern European wine bar cuisine”. Grazing boards and salty snacks take the lead here; grilled seafood and steak or ham sandwiches are available as more substantial options, while plates of Tuscan olives, extensive cheeseboards and sardines on Wild Life Bakery sourdough make great lighter pairings.
The taproom itself is a former mechanic’s warehouse that’s been converted to make it feel as rustic as the brewing process. Outside, a north-facing courtyard with handmade picnic tables catches plenty of sun. Stepping inside through barn-style doors painted by local artist Benjamin Knock, you’ll find dozens of wooden barrels with a labelling system that only Costa can decipher – he’ll be happy to tell you about it – lining the walls.
Indoor tables are assembled using recycled wood from the Nikias family farm and a long bar is nestled between the coolship and giant brew kegs, placing visitors quite literally in the middle of the brewing process.
“We’ve been so humbled to share our journey with the public and the support we received after our last space closed was really eye-opening for us,” Eva says. “We didn’t realise how much of a following we had, so bringing those people into our space and showing them what we do, sharing a couple of drinks over some great food and a conversation – it feels really special.”
Bar La Sirene
277 Edwardes Street, Reservoir
0452 339 210