Not too long ago, Caxton Street in Brisbane was known colloquially to some as CaXXXXton Street. Every single one of the strip of bars, clubs and restaurants a short walk from the city’s Suncorp Stadium had a Lion contract. Had someone suggested it would become home to one of the easiest craft beer crawls in Australia, they’d have been laughed out of the room.
Yet visit today and you’ll find plenty to satisfy the most avaricious of beer geek’s tastes, particularly if you head into Brewski. While it wasn’t the first venue to bring choice to the street, it’s the one that has embraced all things craft most passionately since owners Matt Emmerson, Antoinette Pollock and family took over what had been a taco and tequila joint in 2014.
Their reasons for doing so were twofold: after a career in advertising, homebrewer Matt was keen for a change of scenery; and, as local residents, the couple was keen to see a venue that they’d like to drink in open within walking distance of their house. So, just like the couples behind Bulimba’s Oxford Taphouse and The Winston in North Hobart, they created their own.
In the early days, walking into the bar off Caxton Street was quite a dichotomous thing. Your eyes would be initially drawn to the large, glowing, custom-made IPA sign hanging over the bar before alighting on the shelves adorned with the latest and greatest beers from around the world. Then you’d peruse the taps and find four of the eight pouring offerings from Lion’s craft range – nothing wrong with that, but still a little jarring given the esoteric nature of what surrounded them.
It was the legacy of an existing contract, one that would have been too costly for the new owners to exit early. But it’s one that, once it had run its course, resulted in a happy divorce and the result for drinkers that Matt and his clued up bar staff have free rein to pour whatever they want, whether it’s the latest quirky release from one of the city’s many gypsy operations or a lineup showcasing a big name overseas brewer.
As for the venue itself, having stripped back much of what was there in its previous guise to reveal some of the original brickwork from the 1800s, it’s now a mix of murals, street seating, benches and dude food – wagyu burgers, pizzas, deep fried mac ‘n’ cheese. At the time of writing, the small terrace out the back was in the process of being significantly extended over the car park at the rear and will ultimately triple Brewski’s capacity.
It will mean more good beer and more capacity for the sort of quirks we’ve found whenever we’ve dropped in: a series of single hop aftershaves for sale; barbers working away in the front window; a BBQ smoking and hot sauce making session for breakfast, for example. Indeed, beer events are very much part and parcel of the venue; “It keeps me entertained,” says Matt, whose own home brews have been known to make the occasional appearance in commercial form on tap under the “BOB” banner.
Taken together with the likes of Stadtler & Waldorf, with its own banks of crafty taps, and the late night rabbit hole that is former strip joint Lefty’s across the road, a visit to Caxton Street is no longer one to be endured, but one to indulge.