Thursday, 25 September 2014

Beer Deluxe (Federation Square, Melbourne)

The name says it all: Beer Deluxe.

With more than 20 taps, a fantastic bottled selection, an unrivaled location, a great rewards program, awesome beer food and friendly staff, what other name would be appropriate?

The main bar is dimly lit; an inviting affair replete with wooden tables and stools.  The bar itself is minimal in almost every aspect (except for the quality and quantity of beer, wine and spirits offered) - pot plants punctuate either side of it and there are plenty of menus and coasters for everyone.  Upstairs from the main bar there is a burger bar and a wee café marks the side of the venue (flanking the Federation Sqaure atrium).  Take it from me; the best place to be is out front, in the alfresco area.   Does a view and atmosphere get much better than sitting right upon Melbourne's first aorta?  I think not.  And there are choices.  One one side heaps of seating, ample shelter from the elements and a small bar that does well in catering for the overflow crowd.  Let it be known that competition for seating, no matter how plentiful, is fierce during the evening peak hours, especially if a function is taking place within the wood-floored area that can be found to the Swanston St side of the venue.
But enough of the fit-out, decor and livery.  Here, an already sound knowledge of beer is an advantage.  During peak times servers are understandably overwhelmed by demand to offer full-fledged guidance to the uninitiated.  This is not to say that they are unfriendly, uninformed or curt to the point that they will do nothing to accommodate you; it simply means that they might not have the time to give you a detailed account of the subtle differences between German and Belgian wheat beers.  After all Beer Deluxe is a big place.

If, however, you know your British/Irish style reds from your American-style red IPAs and your smoked porters from your oyster stouts, staff members will happily provide a sample of what is available.  Should indecision get the better of you, you can always go in for a tasting paddle.

My own personal experiences of the venue and its staff have been nothing short of great.  During off-peak times servers are more than happy to withdraw bottles from their frigid glass enclosures so I may take a closer look, yet I am not in the least bit smothered with heavy handed assistance that might render me feeling dependent.  Perhaps the best part is that vision impairment and sobriety testing obstacles are minimal; there is only a beefy bricked foundation in the beer garden and most of the few steps about the place are clearly highlighted with tactile edging.

The tap list rotates regularly here.  Once a brew is gone, it is generally gone for good; a prime example being Magic Rock’s earth-shatteringly phenomenal imperial stout: Bearded Lady.  I pratically drank this keg dry of its lusciously sticky and sweet-as-sorcery contents by myself.  Classics and classics-in-the-making, such as Budvar (served in tankards with handles – everything here is served in the most appropriate glassware) and Little Creatures’ IPA lead from the front.  Also offered is Carlton Draught for the less adventurous and thrifty types who might otherwise have felt left out from the fun.

The bottled selection is among the city's best.  Where else in the city centre could one possibly find a list of barley wines and Scotch ales?  Moreover, the beer menu itself is adorned by well-known beer quotes.  You know the ones: the sort of quotes as shared time and time again by Facebook friends (those who are worth knowing, at least).

When the tummy commences its somersaults, heed my advice: without delay  go straight in for the pork belly.  You know you don't want for anything else.  Served with lime caramel, this cubed, twice-fried delight is a symphony of texture and flavour.  A single serve should be sufficient unless you are travelling in a party of two or more.  That being the case, you and your posse might want to order the lemon school prawns to accompany Beer Deluxe’s porcine delight.  By themselves the prawns are oily in flavour (in a good way), gloriously crunchy and charred with their shells left in tact; perfect for anyone who is bored of prawns being served in the same old fashion.  I would have preferred them doused in chilli for an extra dimension of flavour however this is purely personal preference.

Beer Deluxe do a mean burger and pizzas as well (see specials below) for those wanting something that is bigger than a trance DJ's head.  Pizza and beer are of course made for one another however if you ask me the grazing "beer bites" menu lends itself to far more adventurous beer and food pairings.  The aforementioned pork belly paired with a bottle of BrewDog Dogma (a full on heather honey-infused wee heavy-style Scotch ale) provides a real sensation: deeply earthy and sweet flavours collide in an emphatic taste experience that must be experienced to be believed.

Understandably, given the location, it gets busy during the evenings.  The suited and booted set tends to invade immediately after work, however these folks generally prefer to use Beer Deluxe as a launching post for the rest of the night, rather than a late night venue.  Come eight or nine o’clock, the crowd has contracted to an infinitely more eclectic bunch consisting of curious visitors, real ale diehards, friendly and loquacious middle-aged ladies and even wannabe soccer hooligans who will proclaim that the witbier they are consuming is the most horrible beer they have ever tasted.  Notice a conspicuous absentee?  You will find only a concentrated number of hipsters here.  If you are drinking solo as I so often do, the outside tables lend themselves very well to striking up conversations with strangers.

Half a block away is that “treasured” and well-documented tourist trap of a pub.  You know the one.  The one that is impossible to miss when crossing Flinders Street en route to or from the railway station.  It too serves craft beer but trust me….  Give this corporocratic and outright overstated den of swank a wide berth and make a beeline for Beer Deluxe.  You will not find a better place at which to enjoy craft beer within the Melbourne city centre.

Address:  Federation Square/Flinders St, Melbourne

Directions:  The main entrance to Beer Deluxe can be accessed easily from Federation Square's north-side (situated along Flinders Street).  If arriving by train, exit the station at its Swanston Street end.  The reason being is that at the Southern side of the Flinders St / Swanston St crossing one cannot cross in an east-west direction.  Access to Federation Square is instead made at a dedicated pedestrian traffic crossing.  Large numbers of inconsiderate and at times aggressive pedestrians attempting to enter Flinders Street station at its main entrance are also avoided.  Cross at the pedestrian lights where a shortcut can be taken.  Bear left back towards the road and keep heading east for 100m or so, thereby passing the ACMI building.  The main entrance to Beer Deluxe cannot be missed.

If arriving by tram into the city, Swanston St/St. Kilda Road services will get you there, as will services running along Flinders St.  Melbourne's streets are arranged in a grid system hence any tram arriving into the city will run parallel to either of these.  A so easy-to-follow even-a-legally-blind-person could follow it PDF can be found here.  

Opening Hours
Mon-Thurs and Sun:  Midday-10pm.
Fri-Sat:  Midday-1am.
Nearest Station:  Flinders Street
Nearest Tram:  Flinders St and Swanston St services will get you there
Ph:  +61 3 9663 0166

Monday:  $5 schooners of selected tap beers
Tuesdays:  $10 pizzas all day
Thursdays:  $15 burger meal deal 
Anytime:  If you have moved to Melbourne or visiting for an extended stay (three months or more) and plan to visit Beer Deluxe regularly, download their loyalty app from the iTunes  or Google Play store.  Four points are awarded for each check-in (one allowed per 24 hours) and two points are awarded for photos made with the app shot at the venue once they are added to Beer Deluxe Fed Square's Facebook page.  100 points earns a $50 bar tab!

Beer DeLuxe on Urbanspoon

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