Five years ago, when David Gibson and Nathan Lennon approached Bob Hawke – who passed in 2019 – to start Hawke’s Brewing, Hawke was keen to take the brand national from day one. While that is still a plan Gibson and Lennon intend to see out, the pair has kickstarted the brewery’s next chapter with the opening of The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre, inside an impressive 2100-square-metre warehouse in Marrickville. And it’s so much more than your regular brewery.
“When we met with [Hawke] for the first time, never in our wildest dreams would we think we’d have a brewery with a venue attached,” Gibson tells Broadsheet. “It’s definitely been an evolution for us. It started with wanting a beer with the former prime minister and suddenly it turned into a beer brand.”
Inside you’ll find the brewery itself on the top floor, which is set to produce up to 1.3 million litres of beer annually. Downstairs is the “leisure centre”, separated into segments that include a front bar, a Chinese restaurant and a pool room devoted to Hawke’s legacy that adheres to the design trends of his ’80s heyday. Photos of the former PM – and notorious beer-lover – hang from walls throughout the 300-person-capacity space.
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Aside from pouring Hawke’s core range – including its flagship lager – the front bar offers a rotation of limited “one-hit wonder” releases. At opening, there’s a hoppy sour, an extra special bitter and the brewery’s Legend IPA, released every year in honour of Hawke. A small range of fun Australian wines, cocktails and even shooters, such as the “lamington” featuring 1800 coconut tequila and dark chocolate liqueur, are also available at the bar.
The ’80s vibes continue on the mezzanine level dubbed Sanctuary Cove, which gives ample views of the space below. Then there’s the pool room at the rear of the leisure centre. In addition to being home to a free-to-play pool table, the warmly lit lounge room-like area is a museum of Hawke’s life. It was created with the guidance of his daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke, and has been modelled on Hawke’s own pool room at his former Northbridge home.
“We really want to educate people about Bob. It’s obviously a brewery, but it’s also about Bob’s life and keeping his legacy alive,” Gibson says.
The room’s dark-wood-panelled walls are decorated with framed photos, caricatures and newspaper clippings of the former PM. There’s also large glass display cabinets filled with Hawke’s personal possessions, including his famous America’s Cup blazer, golf clubs, and cigar box, among others.
For a feed, put your order in – for dine in or take-away – at the in-house Chinese bistro, Lucky Prawn, headed up by chef Nic Wong (ex-Cho Cho San, Cicciabella). It’s like a mashup of your local RSL and the quintessential ’80s-era Australian-Chinese joint found in regional towns across the country, complete with ornately decorated red carpet, lazy Susan tables and paper menus. (Hawke famously offered asylum to 42,000 Chinese students following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.)
Taking cues from its name, the menu offers plenty of prawn-based dishes in form of prawn crackers, prawn toast, steamed dumplings and crispy wontons. Other menu highlights include classics such as honey king prawn, sizzling beef and black bean, sweet and sour pork, and sang choi bao. While mango pudding and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with Ice Magic are great finishers, the deep-fried Viennetta – enough to serve four to six people – is a must.
But the venue is not just about looking to the past. It’s also been mindfully set up to be kind to the future. The Sydney Street site’s entire rooftop is covered in solar panels and uses a carbon recapture system to help grow vegetables for the kitchen’s on-site hydroponic farm – for now it’s just lettuce for the sang choi bao, but growing other vegetables is on the cards.
The brewery’s green ethos is built into its DNA, says Gibson, pointing out that when they co-founded the business with Hawke, the former PM’s only stipulation was that his share of the royalties would be donated to Landcare Australia, the environmental charity he established in 1989.
“It’s really important to us if we can bring people together over beers and educate them about new ways to do things,” Gibson says.
The Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre
8–12 Sydney Street, Marrickville
(02) 9069 5583
Thu to Sat 12pm–midnight