I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published April 4th 2017
Kelly Era Country Pub
For me nothing makes a beer taste better than enjoying it surrounded by some local history or accompanied by a story to be told, and if it's a beer with history you're after there aren't too many better places to find one than The Vine Hotel in North Wangaratta.
The Vine Hotel has stood on this spot in one form or another since 1861. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The original license for a hotel on this site dates back to 1861 and the current building to 1895, constructed using bricks made on site from clay quarried on the same spot.
Check your handguns in with the Publican on arrival. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
It's a classic old-time country pub and legend has it that Ned Kelly and his gang, including Joe Byrne who lived at nearby El Dorado, were regulars here in the 1880's.
Then the pubs cellar, which is today a museum of sorts, included a tunnel that led to the opposite side of the road outside the pub to allow the gangs escape in case of a raid by Police.
Step inside and you're immediately transported back to the mid-19th Century. The subdued lighting, period furniture and a swag of collectibles all add to the impression that you're back in the Kelly era.
The Dining Room is circa mid-19th Century .....
..... with plenty of period memorabilia to browse through. Photos: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Head on down the steep staircase to the cellar and The Vine's rustic 'museum' is home to a couple of unique pieces and, if we're being honest, a fair collection of junk. But don't miss the opportunity to go and check it out.
The cellar, dug out by hand, retains its dirt floor, brick walls & pillars and is home to a collection of interesting and historic black & white photo's, an impressive blacksmith's bellows & implements and a 'Magic Lantern' projector Circa 1900 or thereabouts.
There are also a couple of excavated areas that might just be the remains of the Kelly Gangs escape tunnel.
The Vine's rustic cellar museum has a fabulous collection of historic photographs ......
..... and an old organ that's definitely seen better days. Photos: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Certainly, The Vine is a pub with a story to tell but it also boasts a classic pub menu, a great cold beer and friendly, country style service.
And yes, the beer certainly does taste better when it comes with a good yarn.