Ben and Maria Kraus get it. The couple behind well-regarded Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth
are a month off opening their first outpost, the culmination of more than two years of planning. And just like the mothership, Bridge Road Brewers Brunswick East will have a holistic outlook, emphasising food and service just as much as beer. Ben cites Three Blue Ducks – and particularly its Byron Bay property The Farm – as a north star.
“I think it’s a really good example of Australian hospitality and modern Australian cuisine,” he says.
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He’s yet to hire a head chef for the 350-person site, but the brief is clear. Freestyle pizzas (i.e. not Neapolitan) will be a cornerstone of the menu, supported by big and small dishes that are vaguely healthy, but not health food. “[But] at the same time, not delicate,” Ben says. He’s determined to avoid burgers, parmas and other standard pub grub.
The U-shaped venue, which faces Nicholson Street and shares a wall with the forthcoming Rumi, likewise has a few unconventional touches.
At the main bar, 30 taps will pour beer and wine. So far, so normal. But rather than presenting choices on a chalkboard, magnetic letterboard or TV, Bridge Road will project them onto a rear wall for on-the-fly updating. And the front bar, which has a further 20 taps embedded in the wall, isn’t really a “bar” at all. There’s no counter or other division between customers and staff – the two will stand shoulder to shoulder at the taps in an intimate way we’ve never really seen before. This area also has open-fronted fridges for grabbing takeaway beers and wines.
Of-the-moment street artist Drez painted the striking abstract mural that runs through the heart of the bar, connecting Nicholson Street with the parallel but pedestrian-only Bluestone Way – future home to an indie cinema and other complementary businesses. It’s from here that Bridge Road’s 1000-litre brewkit and 2000-litre fermenters are visible inside. This shiny equipment will produce smaller-batch beers exclusive to Melbourne, with kegs of Little Bling Session IPA, Celtic Red Ale, Beechy XPA and other Bridge Road staples sent down from Beechworth on the reg.
“We wanted to invest in having a brewery as part of the venue, rather than just doing a taproom – to have a real purpose and identity,” Ben says.
Bridge Road Brewers Brunswick East is due to open in September 2023 at 127–149 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East.