Chris Nicholls is the co-owner of Hack Brewing Co, a small craft beer brewery in Melbourne. In Mid-December, Nicholls and his partners opened the craft beer pub, The Hack, in Port Melbourne. He discussed the venue with Australian Hotelier.
What made you want to open a pub, and how did you choose the venue in Port Melbourne?
We were looking for a warehouse to build a small brewpub. I got called out to an address in Port Melbourne and we all instantly fell in love with the building. The plans for the brewpub were put on hold and we instead focused on restoring the old pub to its former glory after operating sporadically as a function venue for the past few years. We purchased the leasehold in November and after a quick three-week renovation, we opened in mid-December 2017. The building is in a pretty iconic position and the massive interior gave us a lot of options for the fitout. The upstairs function space is basically a bonus venue and we’ve got a lot of fun ideas to run up there.
What does the pub offering entail?
We think we’ve ended up with a modern take on a pub. We don’t sell parmas and Carlton Draught (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but we wanted a point of difference from the other pubs in the area (and there are quite a few!). We have 17 beer taps downstairs and they are all used for local, independent beers plus a few different options – Espresso Martini, Pimms and Prosecco on tap.
In the kitchen, we have Limp Brisket smoking up a storm. We offer American-style BBQ smoked meats. It’s incredible. And in trying not to pigeonhole ourselves, we have some amazing smoked vegan/vegetarian options.
What is the aesthetic of the venue?
Clint and Malin from Pocketbeagles were engaged for the design and my background is in pub/hospitality fitouts. The venue has some stunning internal features, so we wanted a very simple fitout that didn’t detract from the character. The front section is flooded with light from the large windows. We’ve got high tables and stools to enjoy that view and then low tables and some lounges in the rear dining room – which is a little more bold to brighten up a dark area (a massive neon HACK sign and apricot coloured walls did the trick).
Do you expect the pub to help you sell more Hack Brewing beer? And are you happy to promote other small brewers?
Getting tap space is really tough. The big boys own most of the taps and the rest of us have to fight to get the opportunity to be offered in most pubs. The goal two years ago was to one day see someone buy our beer in an actual pub, so we still get a kick seeing people buy our beer in our own pub. We love being able to offer another dedicated craft venue and don’t see any other brands as competition. It’s a very inclusive community with a lot of great people.
We’ve just brewed a new beer called ‘Normal Beer’ as there is still a huge market for simple beers. We wanted to show people you don’t have to drink a crazy, hoppy beer and have a majestic beard to enjoy craft beer. It’s about supporting local brewers and we hope to win over a few traditional beer drinkers and then expose them to the amazing world of craft beer.
This interview was first published in the April issue of Australian Hotelier.