Build it and they will come might be the mantra central to classic heartstring-tugging flick Field of Dreams but it’s not just Kevin Costner’s character who's driven by that vision. Australia’s beer industry is filled with people who share that same dream, whether it’s small breweries in quiet towns or bars in busier places working to create a welcoming space for people to enjoy craft beer in the knowledge that, soon enough, they’ll embrace it.
There are few people who have embraced that mantra as wholeheartedly as Adrian Chong and Wei Lee, the founders of Hopheads. In the earliest days of craft beer in Melbourne, the pair were a regular fixture at the beer events that ignited a love for the good stuff among many an adventurer.
Adrian’s love for beer saw him launch Taps, Malaysia’s first craft beer bar, with his family and, on returning to Melbourne, Adrian and Wei Lee opened the bar and bottleshop Hopheads in Point Cook in 2015. Located on the outskirts of Melbourne’s western suburbs, the area wasn’t known for craft beer, but what Hopheads showed was that if you build a haven for it, and do it well, people will certainly come. And soon they’ll be sharing the same love for beer that had once driven Adrian to travel across the city in search of it.
Three years later, they teamed up with their beer-loving mate Ryan Cochrane to bring the concept a step closer to the city and opened Hopheads Altona. At the time, the beachside suburb was a place without any real access to a wide selection of beer, just as Point Cook had been.
Located within Altona’s business hub, in the central thoroughfare that is Pier Street, upon opening the venue turned the suburb from macro lager cornfield into a baseball diamond glistening with IPAs, hazes and wild ales (OK, we’ll stop with the Field of Dreams references now).
Walk in and you’re able to enjoy as wide and varied a beer lineup as can be found just about anywhere, with 12 taps constantly showcasing what’s new, good and delicious. If that selection isn’t enough to satisfy, choose from one of the hundreds of beers that await in the fridges and pay a small corkage fee to enjoy your pick while sitting in.
Whether you’ve approached the venue and bottleshop to catch up with friends or to take a selection home, despite its name and colourful mascots, Hopheads’ appeal extends far beyond hopheads. The fridges are stacked high with a wide range of releases from local breweries, whether core range classics or the latest and freshest. That approach is extended to international breweries too, with some of New Zealand’s finest and obscure but highly-hyped releases disappearing from Hophead’s shelves soon after they arrive in Australia.
Like Point Cook, the focus for the Altona venue is on creating a welcoming space to discover and enjoy new beers; the bar is perhaps best described by the casual air that greets you the moment you walk in. That includes an encouragement to bring food in from neighbouring businesses (which also gives you one less reason to leave one of the venue’s many brewery showcases, launches and tap takeovers).
Of course, still driven by the mantra that saw them take a gamble in Point Cook, the Hopheads team haven’t stopped building either, with a third store appearing from the cornfields in Yarraville in March 2021.
Sorry, that really is the last movie reference, even though that may not be the last Hopheads…