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Blink again and you'll find that Hoyts are opening an 8 screen cinema complex entertainment with an 8Eight Street Asian hawker-style restaurant and Archie Brothers Electric Circus, in a new $45m entertainment precinct opening in October 2018. But the first and most exciting new kid off the block has to be Urban Alley Brewery, which has gone forth like a scout–a forerunner to all this change.
The name says it all. This outfit is urban (as close to the city as you can get), it's edgy like Melbourne's iconic alleyways but it's a brewery. But one that takes its ethical responsibilities to the environment seriously as well as being locally owned and fiercely independent.
You won't have trouble finding it as long as you remember it is pretty much smack under the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel and looking up is your best bet in terms of navigation.
So it's not on a road but rather in the circular area known as Star Circus Docklands. Best to get the tram to Docklands and then walk the short distance in.
The fit out is both incredibly sleek and cosy and welcoming. There are rows of golden lights as if you were heading into a German Biergarten (beer garden) at night
And there is plenty of outside seating which will be perfect for hot summer nights. Lots of nooks and crannies for a cool ale. But even in winter, this will be a great space with large inset log style fires. And pet lovers can rejoice as you can bring your pooch into this outside area as well.
The inside area reminded me of being inside the big top. There is a large circular bar like a ring in the centre of the room with more rows of lights. I liked that the design gave the bartenders an eagle-eye view of anyone who might be waiting for a drink and it also allows them to cover the bar in a few steps cutting down any wasted time in getting your drinks.
As a customer, it also means you can interact with the people either side of you. When this place really gets going it can hold 550 which is going to make it a mecca for a great night out. Yet, because of the design, there are heaps of intimate seating areas and cosey fireplaces for small groups of friends.
The space not only has an air or sociability but its slickly polished with shiny floors, recycled brickwork and timber fixtures.
At one end are huge panes of glass giving you visual access to the brewing process. The huge steel holding tanks and apparatus are so polished you could see yourself in them. And they look sensational lit up at night.
And being within eyesight of the vats, you couldn't be sipping your beer any closer to the source.
They are a dedicated group of beer makers at this microbrewery. Mention was made at the launch of how they had been sleeping there overnight as they were doing checks on the equipment at 3 am and starting back at 7am in the morning.
Urban Alley (formerly known as Once Bitte) is the brainchild of Ze'ev Meltzer, who spent the first couple of years of his working life as a Collins Street finance worker but his after work hours were spent perfecting what is now known as Urban Alley's Urban Ale.
A fact let loose at the launch was that he has been making beer since he was 14. Don't tell the kids.
You can sample the entire Urban core range including Urban Alley Brewery's signature Urban Ale (4.5%). There's Urban Lager with one malt and one hop (4.7%), Urban Dark (a creamy classic English Nut Brown Ale 5.4%) and Urban APA a hard-hitting aromatic malty American Pale Ale (5.5%).
I found a thoughtfulness about everything here including the food. There are the kind of dishes that go well with beer such as steaks, pizza, burgers, schnitzels (300g with real chicken). But Urban Alley Brewery is dedicated to catering for dietary needs and prides itself on having vegan, gluten and dairy-free food choices. They also offer Kosher dishes.
If the opening VIP night is any indication you can expect the food to be sensational. And they have a great functions menu as well. Click here.
Saving the Environment One Beer at a Time
There are a number of ways this new brewery is working towards a better world and a sustainable future.
They have developed an on-site bio-waste plant where all spent grain can be broken down and repurposed as fertilizer. The process also creates natural gas, which will be used to power the brewery.
They are working closely with the soon-to-be-opened distillery next door to reduce their carbon footprint. If the Urban Alley creates heated water through a cooling process then the distillery can use it to save gas on a heating process, and this process can be reversed between the two
Urban Alley Brewery is the first brewery in Australia (and only the 5th in the world) to use a biodegradable six-pack holder. Called E6PR, the holder is made from spent grain. It is edible should marine life come into contact with it. And if you know the misery plastic six-pack can holders can do to animals such as turtles who accidentally swallow them, you'll understand why this is such a breakthrough.
As Meltzer said, "...we've looking at every opportunity we can to make ourselves more environmentally friendly and responsible. We've done a lot ... that has never been done before."
Make sure you get to one of their happy hours between 5-7pm for:
$5 pots of UA Beers
$10 Pints of UA Beers
$5 House Spirits
$5 House Wines
As well as drinking onsite, you can also purchase cans of Urban Alley brew in.6-packs and cases across Victoria. For a list of stockists, click here. They can also be found at Liqourland.