The craft beer world abounds with characters, but few with a tale to match that of Billy: Melbourne's ultimate pub dog.
The Staffordshire Terrier has called top craft beer venues like the Great Northern his home in the past. He's had his own Twitter account (as a wine rep) and became the centre of legal action to ensure dogs were allowed to keep attending the Great Northern, as documented in this short film.
And, in 2013, Billy ascended to new heights as the face of the Palace Hotel in South Melbourne, the big old corner venue renovated and reopened as a "proudly pooch friendly" local pub by his owner and mates. Billy's in the logo, on the menus, on the wall and above the windows; he's even the inspiration for the "Happy butt sniffing!" sign that welcomes guests to one of the two beer gardens.
If Billy were the only remarkable feature about the Palace, we wouldn't be featuring it on The Crafty Pint. And, remarkable though the steak-scoffing hound is, there's much more to admire since the sprawling venue on a corner of City Road was turned into a craft beer-loving, great music-playing, laid back classic boozer.
There's nothing flash about it, just the simple things done right, whether that's the pool table and the choice of beers on the 11 taps and the handpump in the front bar, the welcoming feel of the bare brick walls, cushion-strewn seats, recycled wood and "keg stools" of the main dining area, or the beer gardens, one of which has walls lined with plants, the other offering booth seating.
The music adds to the atmosphere too - who wouldn't warm to a venue when 'Waterloo Sunset' is playing when you first walk in? - with the playlist compiled by one of the most knowledgeable musos in the Melbourne bar scene. They've taken the trouble to install a system that allows different audio to be played in different rooms to accommodate sport, functions - even silence.
As for the food, the fine dining of the Palace's former life is long gone. In its place is classic pub grub, including US-inspired beer-friendly dishes like hot chicken wings and the odd curveball - when was the last time you had beef bourguignon, hey? Add to that open fires in winter, an impressive upstairs dining room and function area with separate bar, plus Funky Bunch bingo and $15 gyros on the first Thursday of the month and you've got the sort of pub that South Melbourne was crying out for. And that every suburb should have too.