As Australia’s local beer scene continues to spread its wings and encroach ever more into the mainstream, breweries are beginning to be found everywhere. Once an industrial warehouse or characterful building in a regional town seemed to be the most likely spot to find a local brewery, but that’s changed.
Melbourne’s Urban Alley Brewery shows just how craft beer can find a home in all manner of places, with their brewery opening the doors to their District Docklands home in 2018. Located in the heart of the tourist-friendly retail district and a short walk from Marvel Stadium and Melbourne’s CBD, Urban Alley’s arrival in Docklands has seen them bring local beer to a substantial community right on the city’s doorstep.
Owners Dean Grant and Bruce Davey have a long history in the hospitality industry, with Dean’s name best connected with the likes of the Ireland-inspired Bridie O'Reilly's and the classic English-style pub, Elephant & Wheelbarrow. So having spent some years bringing international beer experiences to Australia, Urban Alley feels like a fitting evolution where those owners are bringing local beer to new craft beer drinkers.
Often, it’s a space that swells with Melbourne’s tourists, although with plenty of offices in the area and an increasing number calling Docklands home, you’re just as likely to find someone heading in for a knock-off drink or a sneaky beer on the way home. On weekends in particular it’s become a popular spot for families, with parents keen to end a day’s shopping in the adjacent malls with a freshly tapped beer and modern pub fare.
The venue itself is an expansive one with two outdoor areas and an industrial but welcoming interior that can host close to 700 people. Despite its size, the fact it’s a working brewery is impossible to miss given the stainless steel is visible from almost any seat inside the bar.
The brewhouse is a 25-hectolitre system that keeps the Urban Alley taps full and produces the cans that you’ll find in bottleshops and bars across Melbourne and further afield too. The core range includes Urban Ale, Slapshot Aussie Pale Ale, Urban Lager, the session ale All Nighter and an alcohol-free pale ale, Urban Myth. The brewery also frequently brews a range of limited releases, from hazy IPAs, to stouts, sours and big barleywines, with both those core beers and limiteds having found success at beer awards over the years.
Like many breweries large and small, old and new, Urban Alley isn’t just looking to produce beer for the local market, but is aiming to do so sustainably. Its green credentials are bolstered by the ability to treat water onsite and by being the first brewing company in Australia to use E6PR six-pack holder rings made of recycled material that can be composted once you’ve finished your beer too.
Given Urban Alley is built on a goal to bring local beer to new people and neighbourhoods, when you drink a fresh pint of their beer in the heart of Docklands, you can’t help but feel it’s mission accomplished. But on the other hand, with a second Urban Alley brewpub opening in Knox Ozone in Melbourne’s outer east in 2022, it feels like the brewery has big plans ahead.