Photography by amy weavell
Just a stone’s throw away from the number 6 tram and the corner of Lygon Street and Brunswick Road, Thunder Road Brewery on Barkly Street might just be Melbourne’s most underrated brewery-come-bar.
Licensed for up to 130 patrons with seating options inside and out, the venue can hold plenty without ever feeling over crowded. Set amongst a real working brewery, you really feel right in the middle of things. So much so, that every Sunday night after closure, the couches, chairs and tables get packed up, and during the week the couch you may have been enjoying a delicious cold pint of Brunswick Bitter on will be replaced by forklifts and pallets. The tables, chairs and ‘70s style sunken couches compliment the music. Normally reflective of the mood of co-owner Matt Evans, you can expect blues and rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s through to a Black Keys track from a couple of years ago. The music is great if you’re paying attention to it, but doesn’t steal focus either. You never feel as if you have to strain over your schooner to hear your friends.
While the brewery was established in 2010, the space was introduced as a place for food and drink around 18 months ago, with current co-owners Sarah Russell and Matt Evans taking over last September. The couple have made unique events a focus, in order to set themselves apart from the increasingly saturated brewery-turned-bar market in Melbourne. On Friday July 27 they’re holding a Goldeneye tournament on Nintendo 64 to celebrate the launch of their Golden Ale. Any other time, the 64 has Mario Kart 64 and four controllers ready for you, should your evening take a competitive turn. Speaking of competitive, the first Sunday of every month there’s trivia in the brewhouse. But if you’re not into retro gaming or trivia, then the silent disco on Friday August 10 might appeal. DJs also take to the decks on most Friday and Saturday nights, playing exclusively on vinyl.
While the brewery has been in operation for close to a decade, the space looks like it was opened yesterday, with everything, including machinery, looking immaculate. Being surrounded by genuine brewing equipment makes the space feel intimate, which is why it’s so popular for birthdays and functions. Although the venue takes small bookings for tables as well.
Opening from 4pm on Fridays, with happy hour until 6pm, $7 pints no less, and from midday on the weekend, it’s perfect for afternoon beers, lunch, a night out or a casual Sunday sesh. Most people will know Thunder Road for its Brunswick Bitter, which makes up 60% of the brewery’s output, or the popular Collingwood Draught, yet there’s plenty more to try. Coming in pots, schooners or pints, they’re all reasonably priced when compared to the price of beer around Melbourne these days. A pint of Brunswick or Collingwood or indeed their fantastic additive-free Kitz’s Apple Cider will cost you just a tenner, while all other beers on tap are just $11. If want to try everything without getting a little messy by having a pint of everything, then a tasting paddle might be your thing. You can sample three 110mL beers for $9 or six for $18.
While beer is the calling card of Thunder Road and indeed any brewery/bar combo, saying it’s all about the beer is a disservice to the food on offer here. Chef Harry Stephens’ offerings have a little something for everyone, as he somehow manages to be a meat eaters dream while also boasting a menu that features a melting pot of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. The aptly-titled thunder nuts and the eggplant parma are highlights for those following a plant-based diet, however the carrot salad is a must-try for anyone, with roasted carrots combined beautifully with toasted quinoa, goat’s cheese and almonds topped with a sherry vinegar glaze.
If you’re embracing your inner carnivore then the beef brisket bun is a popular choice; it combines slaw, American cheese and soft bun alongside the surprise ingredient of beetroot making for a memorable burger. The chicken and pork dimmies are also excellent, while there’s even their homemade potato crisps, which are perfect if you’re after something smaller.
As for drinks, if you’re not a beer drinker, then don’t worry as Thunder Road offer plenty of wine and basic spirits too. Whatever your drink flavour, there’s something for you to wash down their fantastically curated menu with.