We all make bonehead decisions sometimes. But not all bonehead decisions need to be bad ones. And you’re unlikely to find a better example of that than Melbourne’s Bonehead Brewing.
Sure, Travis Nott and Anthony Dinoto’s decision to leave their respective careers behind to create a brewery from scratch might have been a nerve-wracking experience, but it fundamentally feels like the right call.
Indeed, at its heart, Bonehead Brewing’s story is the sort of local, bootstrap tale that makes the independent craft beer scene such an exciting one. But to understand it we need to go back to Travis and Anthony’s final year of high school, when the pair first met and became mates…
Their subsequent professional lives took them along different paths yet, in hindsight, the former’s career in branding and marketing and the latter’s time spent running small businesses feels like a very fitting background for two mates who would go on to start a brewery of their own.
More to the point, the pair had a shared hobby: homebrewing, which they got into within a week of each other. But for the schoolyard mates, homebrewing together started out as competition more than collaboration: a friendly rivalry to see who could brew better beers. Over the next decade or so, however, competition eventually became collaboration as they started brewing and slinging beers for birthdays and events for loved ones. At the same time, their minds drifted towards going pro.
By 2017, their business plans had taken shape and they found a home in a former mechanic’s warehouse in Melbourne’s inner north-western suburb of Kensington. It’s a small industrial pocket where Anthony’s family had long owned businesses and, after many months spent building the taproom and brewery themselves, they opened to the public at the start of 2018.
Bonehead Brewing wasn’t the name they’d initially chosen: in what may have been one of their first bonehead moves, failure to do a proper IP search left the fledgling brewery without a name. They do say things often happen for a reason, though, and Bonehead Brewing feels like the perfect name for a brewery team that approaches everything they do with irreverence and good humour.
Their core range couldn’t be a better example of that ethos: each beer is brought to life by a colourful character, while all are designed to be approachable, dialled-in and easy to return to. Whether it’s the classic Mum’s Pilsner or their New England IPA, Phaze Out, if you want a collection of beers that are true to style and born to be bought by the four-pack, Bonehead have you covered.
Augmenting the core range is a steady stream of limited release beers featuring as broad an assortment of beers as you’ll find anywhere. They tend to fall under the Bonafide banner or the pun-heavy Smells Like Pop Culture series, while the brewery’s many collaborations with bars, bottleshops and restaurants are a constant reminder that working closely with their community is front and centre for Bonehead.
None of their beers showcase that love for local better than the Art For Boneheads series. Here, they invite local artists to design beer logos and paint murals on their taproom walls, while simultaneously turning their Kensington home into an art gallery.
All of the beer is produced on the faithful 10 hectolitre brewhouse Bonehead have operated since day one, with their own canning line and more sizeable tanks added over the years to help them push their beer into more parts of Victoria, as well as into other parts of the country.
The taproom retains much of the feel of its former life; when you walk inside, there’s no doubt you’re in a working brewery. But while towering fermenters greet you, so too do low-hanging lights, indoor plants, comfy leather seats, and a fireplace that roars to life when required to create an incredibly intimate warehouse in which to enjoy brewery-fresh beer.
A dozen taps line the bar, showcasing the latest releases from the brewery, while a selection of cocktails, wines and boilermakers are always on offer too. Since opening in 2018, the taproom’s become a popular haunt for those working in the surrounding industrial buildings and for Kensington locals, locking their bikes up in front of the roller doors and enjoying the beers accompanied by food from visiting trucks or tacos from the perennially popular La Tortilleria.
And as Bonehead’s reputation has grown, you’re just as likely to find visitors from further afield at the bar as they look to understand what being a bonehead is all about. After all, we all make the odd bonehead decision; if the worst one you make for the day is grabbing a four-pack of IPAs or enjoying a beer alongside the tank in which it came to life, well, that doesn’t feel like too boneheaded a move at all.