For the local or tourist taking a stroll along Southbank in search of a drink, beer has been little more than an afterthought for quite some time. Restaurant after restaurant butts up against one another, offering seafood and prosecco or a happy hour on their signature cocktail. You’ll find craft beer here and there, yet few places on the water's edge have made a point of it.
But, with the conversion of the old World Bar into its new incarnation, Hopscotch Urban Beer Bar, you will no longer be short of a drink when sitting south of the Yarra. Boasting more than 30 taps and ample space to fit groups of any size, it’s a welcome addition to an area whose craft beer credentials have previously been kept intact solely by the Belgian Beer Café.
Created by John Ahern and Steve Garcia of the Publican Group – who also own Melbourne venues Terra Rossa and State of Grace – they saw a need to refresh what World was offering Southbank punters and recognised there were few places focusing on the beverage side of the industry.
What they have created is a neon filled, Club Tropicana style space that you’d never suspect hid behind the glassed terraces of Riverside Quay. Hanging plants, floral murals and illustrations of the brewing process intermingle, while above the bar the neon urges "TAKE ME, I'M YOURS".
On the taps, concessions to the visiting tourists are made, with the likes of Stella Artois and Melbourne Bitter given space. But, with the massive collection of copper taps spread along the bar, Australian craft gets a decent showing too with independents such as Fixation, Stone & Wood, Four Pines and Holgate occupying around a third of the tap space and more dedicated to the craft beer arms of the country's bigger players. With an in-house brewery, known as Frank the Tank, you can also find specialties beers from local breweries who Hopscotch has invited through its doors.
In the fridges, Feral, Two Birds, Big Shed and Prancing Pony all get a showing, as do popular internationals such as Brooklyn Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Outside of the beer realm, the wine list offers a solid variety, while cocktails can be found on tap, as slushies, and made to order.
While the "hop" part of the name hints at their beery intentions, Hopscotch’s main raison d'être is as a playful space where even the printed hopscotch court on the restaurant floor encourages memories of a more youthful – and less stressful – existence, backed up by the casual and fun approach taken to their food offerings.
The menu, designed by head chef Adam Baughan, makes a point of welcoming you to eat with one hand – all the better to hold your beer in the other. Pork baos, cheeseburger spring rolls, ramen fried chicken and beef tartare show there are plenty of options for someone after a quick bite or for sharing with your companions. For the beer lover with a meal in mind, beer can chicken, reuben sandwiches, burgers and souvlaki should satiate. Come dessert time, the nitro ice cream bar offers a rotating list of beer influenced flavours every day.
In an area where the craft beer converted have often been at a loss as to where to take their visiting friends or family, Hopscotch has filled the gap. And, with it only a hop, skip and a jump from Flinders Street Station, it couldn’t be easier to make the leap.