Amid the myriad sandstone facades of Murray Street, an old pub has been reimagined as a new venue for Hobart’s craft beer drinkers. The venue has an impressive history: until the recent change, it had been trading as the Victoria Tavern for 180 years. Now it’s been renamed Dirty Pennies, and the static beer selection has been replaced with a much more vibrant mix of beers and spirits.
The bar is the brainchild of a group of mates who have been hanging around in the world of booze for a long while. At the forefront is Ben Cook, whose curriculum vitae includes work with whisky and gin.
Their idea was to found a bar at which they’d want to drink: “the old school style of drinking, with good booze,” as he puts it.
A lack of pretension was an important aspect for the Dirty Pennies crew, and part of that is making their booze affordable.
“We wanted to create a place where you don’t have to check your bank balance every time you buy a drink,” he says.
They’ve drawn elements from some of their favourite pubs around the country, and roped in an artist mate to make murals on the walls too. Pointing to the furniture, Ben says: “You can sit on a $2 chair, at a $5 table, and get change from $10 for a beer.”
There's also an emphasis on longnecks, on trying to encourage people to “treat beer like wine” and get 750ml bottles to share as a group. For the peckish, there are tasty jaffles available until late in the night – another incentive to hang around and indulge. And, given the connections the proprietors have within the alcohol industry, it’s also no surprise that Dirty Pennies is home to tastings and industry events.
If there seems to be a bit of a punk ethos behind it all, that’s about right – even the name "Dirty Pennies" is a nod to a punk song. It’s also in keeping with the tradition of the old tavern, which has enjoyed a certain reputation throughout the decades.
Indeed, in the candlelit bar, late in the evening with the beer freely flowing and stories being told, there’s a sense that some of the characters of old Hobart Town have reincarnated and found a new spot to drink.