Melbourne ‘gastro-brewpub’ Republic Tavern opens

Republic Tavern 5

A Melbourne hotelier has launched a new venue with a brewery and distillery in the Northern suburb of Epping.

Ian Wilson, founder of Melbourne-based hotel development group Too Build, launched the latest brewpub addition to the suburb, 40 minutes from Melbourne CBD, at the beginning of September.

Currently the venue, home of Beer Republic Brewery and Twist Brewing, can fit up to 350 people, and includes accommodation on site. The distillery has been installed and will produce whiskey using barrels straight off the truck from the Clare Valley region. Whilst the whiskey is aging, the distillery will be used for gin production – but the beer is the focus first.

Wilson, an experienced hospitality executive, has worked across Asia and the Middle East providing HR support and food and beverage training. He said that the brewpub model was proven to work which is why it was something he and the Republic Tavern team wanted to invest in.

“From a culinary perspective, whether it’s food, coffee or beer, nothing beats having it fresh – especially fresh beer – and it’s a point of difference in a venue to be able to provide that,” Wilson explained.

“That was the main driver in wanting to dive in and learn about beer and be able to create our own.

“I was really keen to put a brewery in the hotel and approached James [Cowperthwaite] when it came to understanding what it takes to build a brewery.”

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Cowperthwaite was working for SmartBrew installing brewing systems across the country, as far away as Darwin, having originally met Wilson when they were learning about the hospitality business.

He has a background in IT, but several years ago joined SmartBrew and started learning about the technical side of installing brewkits, and was mentored by Brian Watson of New Zealand’s Good George Brewing.

“On site we have six 10-barrel fermenters, each of those produces around 11-12,000 litres of beer per brewing cycle. We’re the first venue to have a SmartBrew system in Victoria.”

With his new kit, Cowperthwaite is brewing an array of beers for the local community.

“We’re trying to bridge that gap between mainstream and craft beer. We have a crisp clean lager for example, that anyone who drinks a Carlton will recognise.

“We’re really trying to offer something for everyone, from the beer geek like me to people who walk in the door asking about [mainstream brands].

“The craft market has really developed in the last few years here. We don’t want to not engage with homebrewers and craft drinkers who want to come out and be blown away with hop mashes and fruit infusions.”

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With fruity and hazy IPAs, sours and a Pacific-style pale ale using Galaxy hops on tap, they have a diverse range which will hopefully suit all tastes, Cowperthwaite said.

Of the 20 taps on offer, 10 are own-brewed whilst the other half come from other local breweries. Currently they have beers like Dainton Brewery’s Blood Orange New England Rye IPA, Bonehead Brewing’s Sweet Pea Melbourne Dark Lager and CoConspirators’ Beancounter Coffee Porter.

“On tap we just rotate through the beers we’ve found and we love, and we’re only three weeks old, so we’re figuring out what the local market wants to drink and if there are any gaps in our lineup.”

Venue manager Adrian De Silva said that the aim with the complementary food offering was to keep it simple.

“We’re focusing on those fresh ingredients to make sure we can deliver the best offering in the area. We also have a focus on the shared dishes, and they’re the things we want to champion,” he said.

Republic Tavern

While Melbourne and its suburbs are well known as hotbeds for breweries and brewpubs, Epping itself is a little lacking in the craft beer sector, according to Wilson.

“Melbourne is a Mecca in regards to breweries and food and beverage, but it’s quite interesting to note as far as this location is concerned, there’s a catchment of 750,000 people and it’s still very limited in terms of places to go.

“There are venues in shopping centres, and pubs but they have strong gaming influences.

“If you’re looking for this type of experience you’ll be looking at going to Collingwood, but there’s limited places in this neck of the woods.”

Spotting the gap in the market was key to setting up Republic Tavern in the suburb, which is close to the relocated Melbourne Market, near a major hospital and a main arterial road.

“It’s a high growth area, it’s in the top three growth corridors in Australia and 80 per cent of the population is aged 25-45. There’s definitely a lot of young families – when we opened on Father’s Day we opened to a full house.”

Republic Tavern is located at 250 Cooper St, Epping, VIC 3067.

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