The Fisher name has a long history in Victoria, with countless country towns across the state home to a Fishers IGA. The first family store was opened in 1911 and, by the time the business was sold in 2015, 16 supermarkets bore the Fisher name.
Overseeing the sale was Alan Fisher, the fourth generation owner of the business. And it’s fair to say that, when he decided to move away from supermarkets, he wasn’t thinking about jumping straight back into retail. Yet, while enjoying a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale in Byron Bay with wife Sarah and contemplating their next move, the road back to retail began.
The pair’s love for beer led to almost inevitable discussions about how they’d like to start their own brewery. But, after some consideration, they felt the country’s swelling number of breweries might be enough and instead chose to focus on selling the beer they enjoyed.
On returning to Melbourne, Alan and Sarah decided to open their own bar and bottleshop. They set about creating Fishers Craft Beer Bar, and the Fisher name was once again connected to retail, albeit this time it was less about fresh produce and more about fresh IPAs.
Not content to wait for a physical store to get into the world of craft beer, however, the idea of an online side to Fishers was soon devised. Launching in time for Christmas 2017, the online store has a particular focus on hampers, with beers chosen and arranged based on the regions they are from.
As for the bar itself, it opened in winter 2018 and is as impressive as it is idiosyncratic, after the modern, craftier Fishers found their home in Melbourne’s second oldest pharmacy, located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne. Originally built in 1856, by the time Alan and Sarah took it over, the appearance suggested the door had been shut some 50 years earlier with the building remaining untouched like a time capsule.
Following a lengthy period spent navigating red tape with the local council, Fishers Craft Beer Bar occupies four storeys, turning the building’s small footprint into a sprawling space unlike anything else in Melbourne's crafty landscape to explore. The original stained glass windows have been restored, while the pharmacy’s apothecary, has turned its focus to a rather different cure for what ails you. That said, the various vials and bottles of once-legal and outright bizarre concoctions unearthed as they brought the remarkable cellar bar back to life can still be viewed as you descend into the venue's bowels – albeit behind bars.
Elsewhere, you can choose from booths, ornate sofas and stools, giant beanbags or not one but two outdoor rooftops in which to enjoy your drinks. You might catch DJs spinning records while there too.
The Fishers team hs also amassed one of the most impressive bottle and can lists south of the Yarra – there were 260 beers lining the shelves of the fridges (yes, everything is kept chilled here). Ask them why and it quickly becomes apparent that, well, why wouldn't you give people what they want for a good time?
While running a beer business might be worlds removed from running supermarkets in northern Victoria, there’s a feeling this is the start of a new Fishers set to be around for generations to come.