For a long time, Geelong proved something of a mystery to people in the craft beer world. Despite being a large city only an hour away from Melbourne, the city driving the craft beer revolution in Australia, its people seemed strangely impervious to the lure of the good stuff. A few small breweries came and went, others have come and stayed, but the city continued to be a tough nut to crack.
These days, the cracks have appeared and been pried wider and wider apart. The "Beer Ambassadors" behind the city's annual Great Australian Beer Festival and its spin offs tout their plans to make Geelong a craft beer capital and better beer is appearing on menus and taps in and around the city. But the biggest single impact of all has been the opening of Little Creatures Geelong.
Little World Beverages, which used to own Little Creatures and White Rabbit before Lion purchased it in 2012, snapped up the sprawling former Valley Worsted Mills site in 2011 and set about creating a new, $60 million brewery to brew the beers that originated at Creatures' spiritual home in Fremantle fresh for the East Coast. Alongside the hugely impressive brewery, the company put their undoubted talents at creating welcoming hospitality experiences into practice too.
The result is the Canteen: one of the most welcoming of brewery bars and eateries you'll find in Australia. Before you even reach the bar and kitchen inside a vast warehouse space you make your way through a cheekily landscaped and colourfully planted outdoor courtyard that plays host to regular craft markets. Inside, the bar and kitchen add to the reclaimed industrial feel of the place: they're built inside shipping containers.
You'll find all of the Creatures regulars on tap – as fresh as you could want them to be – as well as the Open Tap: this rotates regularly through small batches (usually just a keg or two) that allow the brewers to experiment.
The venue has proved so welcoming that the locals have flooded through the doors since day one and, their imperviousness finally cracked, were rewarded with their own beer: the pared-down quaffer called Furphy that started out as a beer for the local region only before growing into a national behemoth with a life of its own.
The remainder of the site is constantly evolving too, with friends such as the Little Veggie Patch crew enlisted to bring more life to the grounds of the redbrick village and, from May 2015, sister brewery White Rabbit moving from Healesville to take up residence in one of the neighbouring warehouses.