Common Ground Brewing isn’t the first brewery to talk about bringing people together and making people feel welcome. But founder Jimmy Young has a straight-down-the-line approach to keeping this at the centre of his business, starting with the name: Common Ground. It captures this idea that people are more similar than they are different, and yet diversity is to be celebrated.
Right from its beginning, Common Ground has been inviting other local businesses to join them in making beer together. At time of writing, Jimmy and head brewer Ben Lugg had already welcomed 27 South Brewing to brew a summery passionfruit pale ale, the gang from The Woods Bar to make a piña colada sour, and the Hop On Brewery Tours crew to collaborate on a brown IPA.
And it’s not just on the production side of things where everybody’s welcome. Common Ground’s spiritual home is Milton Common, a multi-faceted venue designed to appeal to a range of tastes. It’s made up of three separate spaces that customers can book for functions, events, and quality hangs.
Walk in the front door and you find yourself in The Brewery Bar. This is the space that holds Common Ground Brewing up for all to see. On the right, the shining brewhouse boasts how close the beer is made; on the left, 12 taps serve up Common Ground’s core beers and limited releases, with a cast of surreal animal-headed characters watching you from the decals. From The Commoner pilsner, to The Green Back American pale ale, to Dark Days dark lager, to Rebellion Irish red ale, most of the beers are designed with sessionability in mind.
As Jimmy puts it: “Stay for a long time and a good time!”
There are usually a few guest taps to champion local beer from outside these four walls, too.
The vibe in The Brewery Bar is laid-back industrial, with polished concrete floors, stools at high tables and a black folded-steel bar top making things sleek and simple. Beer is definitely the hero here – the stainless steel fermenters loom large, some of the taps pour straight from tank, and the tasting paddles are shaped like hop cones – but a well-stocked back bar and a selection of Aussie wines is available as well. The food is Asian fusion pub grub (think share platters, burgers and pizzas with a spicy Korean twist) and the tunes are always pumping. Try your hand at trivia nights, lighten up at comedy nights, psyche up at the footy game on the TV.
Upstairs, there’s The Mezzanine. This is where you come to relax with softer lighting, comfy bench seats, and greenery everywhere. You can still get Common Ground beer on tap, but the bar up here mainly focuses on slinging cocktails and showing off a slick range of spirits, with plenty of local gins, whiskies and rums on offer. (One of the spirits, Milton Rum, is distilled less than a kilometre away. It doesn’t get much more local than that.)
Head out the back and you’ll find your way to The Gallery, a room lined with local artworks that rotate every month. Since traditional art galleries charge commissions and high setup fees, many artists can’t afford to host their own solo shows. For Jimmy, this made The Gallery a no-brainer way to give back to the community.
“We get awesome art on the wall, and they get to exhibit,” he says.
Hang out under the twinkle of fairy lights, rest your drink on a wooden barrel, and enjoy the company of good people while you practise your art lingo. This is also the space where regular events like beer yoga and Paint’n’Pints are hosted, so there are plenty of ways to pair your beer with a side of culture.
Maybe you’re booking out a space for your own event. Maybe you’re just showing up for a beer. But Common Ground is all about beer that builds community. For now, that’s mostly community at Milton Common. But Common Ground is working on an expansion so that, by the end of 2021, a new custom-designed brewhouse and a canning line will put more beer out into the world, allowing Jimmy and the team to ask more drinkers: "Have you found your Common Ground"