In contemplating what you might look for in a craft beer venue, few people would think to put taxidermied deer heads and political references at the top of their must have list, but St Kilda’s Freddie Wimpoles manages to deliver on both so well that you couldn’t imagine it any other way.
As the new guise for the former George Hotel, on the corner of Fitzroy and Grey Streets, Freddie Wimpoles quickly embedded itself almost seamlessly into the suburb's evolving nightlife, thanks to a tap list offering a lineup of local and US breweries and a dive bar style fit out so well executed you could swear the place has been open for much longer than it has.
Named after Frederick Wimpole, mayor of St Kilda in the late 1880s and one time owner of the George Hotel, the connection with the history of St Kilda has been thoroughly thought through. Launched by the team behind The Fifth Province across the road, the idea of giving the historic building a new lease on life appealed to owner Liam Ganley, so he brought in general manager Scott McKay to bring the concept to life.
With the former mayor not only a previous owner of the building but also one of the first directors of what is now Carlton United Breweries, paying homage to Wimpole seemed the clear choice when naming the venue. But, in deciding on a concept for the bar itself, the team looked further afield.
Despite drawing from local history, the bar oozes Americana thanks to the mounted deer heads, wood panelling and neon lighting more commonly found in the dive bars of the US. Initial designs followed the lead of venues such as Heartbreaker in Melbourne's CBD and Sydney’s Shady Pines Saloon, where old beer posters, cowhide rugs and taxidermy are all integral parts of the furniture.
But, whether looking to Sydney or beyond, Freddie Wimpoles is very much its own beast, with touches such as a thousand strong can collection lining one wall and chandeliers constructed from deer antlers ensuring it’s a place you won’t forget visiting. Adding weight to the strength of the underlying concept, much of said can collection was donated by a seller from Gumtree who loved the idea so much that he slashed the price of his collection in order to have them displayed in the bar.
Since opening in May 2016, Wimpoles has become a local favourite. On any given day, you'll find St Kilda residents perched along the wooden bar top, awaiting their turn at the pool table or grabbing a table for a quick bite from the American influenced menu featuring the likes of chilli dogs, chicken wings, jerky and a range of sandwiches.
Up at the bar, the 13 taps feature US beers such as Brooklyn Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as well as local offerings from a wide range of Australian breweries, including Two Birds, Quiet Deeds, Feral, Stone & Wood and Pirate Life. American bourbons and whiskies have a strong presence on the menu, while an evolving cocktail menu keeps the saloon vibe flowing.
Now a regular choice for breweries looking for a venue to host events south of the river, Wimpoles has quickly become a go-to for beer lovers looking for good beer in the St Kilda area too, something that's finally becoming rather easy than it was for far too long. Combine the beer offering with plenty of corners from which to people watch – and a tram stop right outside – and it’s worth the travel, no matter where in the city you hail from.
Remarkably, given the incredible number of small details throughout the space, the former George was stripped out, remodelled and morphed into Freddie Wimpoles in just four weeks. Unlike almost any other bar or brewery you might speak of, the process went off without a hitch – without even the merest flash of council red tape to hold things up. Perhaps, in some way, the former mayor was keeping things moving smoothly from his seat at the bar up above.