A classic inner suburban corner pub with a colourful history, Fitzroy's Rainbow Hotel had been getting a little tatty around the edges in recent years. At the same time, the much-loved Lambs Go Bar around the corner was under threat as the landlord moved ever closer to making good on his promise to end the lease and turn it from colourful beer bar into something else. So, on the one hand there was a once great pub in need of new owners, on the other, bar owners in need of a new pub. And in a moment that would make Hannibal Smith proud, the plan came together.
Former Lambs Go Bar lessees Jason and Adam King took over the Rainbow's lease late in 2010 and, once they'd bade farewell to their former haunt with a burlesque-themed bash, set about breathing new life into it. A major overhaul took place in January 2011 - the old bar was reshaped and the band area moved to make the main bar more spacious; the beer garden was given a serious cleanup, a new lick of paint, decking and a swanky serving hatch to the bar; and much polished timber and beer memorabilia was added throughout - turning it into a rather classy looking affair with more than a nod to traditional UK boozers.
On the beer front, there are ten rotating taps and around 100 beers from Oz and overseas in the fridge. There are also a couple of taps upstairs, which has been given the Lambs Go Bar feel - "cruisey", they call it, with sofas and such - while the food is designed to be of the quality pub variety. There's live music throughout the week, while in 2012, the Rainbow played host to NSW's brewers for Good Beer Week with a Pint of Origin Tap Takeover and has continued to host them every May since.
2012 also witnessed the return of the 101 Club, a feature of the Lambs Go Bar, which challenges punters to drink one of each of their more than 100 different beers. On completion, Beer 101 is from the holy grail: a six pint monster filled with a tap beer of your choosing, while your name goes up in lights on an honour board above the bar and full membership entitles you to regular discounts and specials.
Thursday nights are Beer Appreciation Nights, with all main courses matched with a complimentary pint or bottle of beer. The third Thursday often sees a guest invited in for the evening to talk about their beers.
It's clear the King brothers have poured their souls (and one imagines a fair bit of moolah) into their new place, so all that remains is for you to go and check it out and, if you like what you see, make it worth their while. If you're reading this in the summer, all the better, as the beer garden, complete with pool table, has become something of an inner Melbourne favourite.