Anyone who walks into Jimmy’s Tap & Barrel hoping a bloke named Jimmy will pour them a beer is in for a surprise. Due to the fact that Jimmy is a dog, his time behind the bar is limited.
Jimmy’s owner, however, is Joel Bateman, the main man behind the Ascot Vale bar and someone with whom local craft beer drinkers are likely to be well acquainted given Joel previously managed the nearby Ascot Vale Cellars, while also working as a rep for Dainton Family Brewery.
Previously the home of Reunion Bar, following a fairly major refurbishment the space was reborn as Jimmy’s Tap & Barrel in February 2017. As the latter part of the name suggests, Jimmy’s attention is well and truly directed towards malts, with equal love shared between craft beer and fine whisky.
The venue features 12 taps pouring a broad range of craft beer. Although the focus may be heavily trained on Australian craft, notable gems from international craft breweries also make an appearance. Their beer fridge also features an impressive lineup that pits local craft breweries against international classics like Saison Dupont and Boon Geuze.
As for the barrel side of the business, spirit lovers have an ample array of distilled offerings to choose from. The range of whisky includes plenty of treats that are rarely seen in Australia. Much like the tap lineup, there’s a host of Australian craft spirits available too, a selection that runs from the increasingly ubiquitous Lark Distillery and Four Pillars through to offerings from many of the county’s smaller producers.
Only five kilometres from Melbourne's CBD, Ascot Vale is a fast-changing suburb. While the area is reasonably filled with quiet residential streets, more recently it’s becoming increasingly known for its cafes and restaurants. Yet, the main shopping district on Union Road has for some time been lacking when it comes to bars, making Jimmy’s a welcome addition.
Those hoping to spend an afternoon there needn’t look much further than Sundays, when local musicians grace the stage most weeks. Adding to the bar’s casual vibe is the house rule allowing people to bring in their own food. While that does mean there’s no kitchen, the takeaway options of Union Road are plentiful and always improving.
The bar’s roof height front windows mean the front of the bar is constantly filled with light during the day, while the closeness of some of the tables and barstools help create a vibe that the bar is a local hangout first and foremost – with the added bonus of putting quality booze front and centre.
Such a layout is likely no accident. Before opening, one of Joel’s main goals for Jimmy’s was that it would become a hub where the local community would come and enjoy themselves, a place that would be just as well known for its relaxed attitude and friendly staff as it is for the drinks it pours.
Only a few weeks into opening, that hope was quickly realised with Jimmy’s attracting a devoted crew of regulars, most of whom live locally and were clearly in need of a place where they could get their crafty fix. That there's not much else like it in the surrounding suburbs gives the bar a rather broader pool of "locals" to win over, meaning Jimmy is likely to be joined by plenty more wanting to be Joel's best friend.