Back in the early days of The Crafty Pint, we'd frequently hear people comment on the seemingly impenetrable state of Geelong when it came to the march of craft beer. Less than an hour from Melbourne, which was already staking a claim as a city of real significance in the global beer world, it was a world apart when it come to trying to hunt down a decent variety of beers.
As more breweries opened in the region surrounding Victoria's second most populous city, as its annual Great Australian Beer Festival continued to draw the hordes to the Racecourse each Summer, and as Little Creatures opened the doors of its Geelong brewery to offer newcomers to something other than lager a safe harbour from which to start their craft beer journey, it seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates opened at the city's venues. And yet...
So, two years after opening their brewery and venue in Torquay, winning awards for their beers and gaining national recognition too, Blackman's Brewery decided to take things into their own hands. If you can't get your beer on tap in other people's venues in the city closest to your brewery thanks, in the main, to the prevalence of tap contracts there, why not open your own venue where no one can keep you off tap?
Thus Blackman's Brewery Bar opened towards the end of 2016, positioning itself handily near one of the Geelong strips earmarked for a hospitality led renaissance. While the bar isn't actually on Little Malop Street, it's a mere hop and a skip down an alleyway. Built inside a small former stables, there's much to remind you of their Torquay home: the white tiles behind the bar from which the ten taps protrude and a simple, clean, rustic-industrial look, featuring wooden benches, tables and fittings created from reclaimed timber by brewer Renn Blackman's dad. While there's no brewery to show off here, they've put a glass wall on the cool room so visitors can at least see some of the machinations that go into getting beer from brewery and into your glass.
The Blackman's range is on offer, including short run one-offs. They share space with a rotating lineup of beers from their beer world mates, while capacity sits around a cosy 60. But the potential to go beyond that 60 is great – and not just because it gives them a base in the city to showcase their wares and beer lovers somewhere in the city offering more than just a token tap or two of craft beer. The adjacent buildings and (at time of writing) borderline derelict square where the bar sits is in the early stages of regeneration. A pizza joint and Greek restaurant are among the new businesses moving in, while the site's owner would like to turn the open space into a communal beer garden too, for which Blackman's would supply the beers.
From the off, they've embraced fellow local producers too. They've had The Hot Chicken Project serving customers on Saturday nights, the rotating wine list is curated by the Union Street Wine Bar, they pour a permanent collaboration coffee lager brewed with Cartel Coffee Roasters and have teamed up with Hugh and Chris from the Little Green Corner for quarterly beer and food pairing nights.
Given the success that Renn and Jess Blackman enjoyed in the first couple of years after opening their brewery – during which time they managed to get married too – expect their bar to become a highlight of any beer lover's visit to Geelong. And, hopefully, another crack in the aforementioned impenetrability of the city's beer scene through which they and others can lure a wider local audience.