Creating a stylish beer precinct
When White Rabbit Brewery announced last year that it would be closing its Healesville operation there was considerable concern and grief. After all, in its seven years of operation, the little warehouse with a cellar door had become a regular haunt for Yarra Valley locals and day-trippers from Melbourne.
The problem, however, was that ‘little space’ – it was too little. The demand for White Rabbit beers had grown so significantly that the boys could barely keep up with demand, let alone indulge in their famous experimental brews.
The solution was some two hours away in Geelong where Little Creatures – White Rabbit’s big brother – had taken over an enormous space just up from the Barwon River. Little Creatures had undertaken significant work on a former wool mill, creating a magnificent complex that blended industrial charm with modern cool; pumping out good food, great drinks and hundreds of thousands of bottles of beer.
The space in Geelong was so big that White Rabbit was able to combine all of its existing supplies with some of original equipment from the Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle, and still have a fantastic public space for drinking. It amounts to increased production and increased seating, in a trendy environment where everyone feels welcome.
The result is something quite spectacular. Little Creatures and White Rabbit have effectively created a ‘beer precinct’ that is sure to become a hub for the people of Geelong, and well worth a day trip from Melbourne.
While the two breweries will undoubtedly support each other in many ways, it’s important to note that White Rabbit has its own identity. For starters, it has its own building with a separate entrance and the brewery apparatus is on display (like it was in Healesville). A walkway between large brewing vats and stacks of old wine barrels immediately tells you that this is a place where the process of making beer is just as important as enjoying the final product. And, before you get a bit confused, the barrels are used in the making of various White Rabbit brews so they are functional.
The industrial cool look continues through to a mid-sized drinking area offering quality charcuterie-based platters and a little shop with complimentary produce. It’s a relaxed feel, somewhere between a bar and a pub, where everyone feels welcome and quality is on display.
The old fans of Healesville will be pleased to know that the fundamentals remain. The three staple brews of Dark Ale, White Ale and Belgian Style Pale Ale are in good supply, while the additional equipment, including open fermenters and old wine barrels, ensures that experimentation is alive and well and that there will always be something new to try.
In short, this is a venue where the beer is the star of the show, and all the other elements of space, décor, atmosphere and functionality work around it. White Rabbit may be expanding, but it’s staying true to its origins – it’s a clever and classy operation.
By Jonathan Green
White Rabbit Brewery
t: (03) 5202 4009