Melbourne’s inner north is awash with specialty bottle shops. The south is a little less so. So when a place like Milkhead Beer Store comes along, it stands out. And not just because of the bright yellow neon sign – which states its name – occupying the front window.
The bar (normally) and bottle-o offer independent beer exclusively – a distinction owner Alex Webster takes seriously. “I just want to be a specialist,” he said Large format. “The most important rule was only independent actions, no CUB disguised as Green Beacon or Balter.” (In recent years, several leading independent breweries have been sold to large multinationals.)
The second most important rule concerns the concentration on predominantly local beers. Although Milkhead stocks some imports, mainly from UK, US and Europe, Australian brewers are the priority. “After Covid, it’s good to take care of the local community,” says Webster. “And in a way, the beer is fresher.”
With hundreds of independent brewers across Oz, the store has no shortage of stock. In wall-to-wall refrigerators, left behind when it was a Blackhearts & Sparrows outpost, you’ll find everything from the earthy farmhouse beers of La Sirene to the syrupy stouts of Mr Banks and IPAs. Range jumps. There are also six wall-mounted faucets – with each keg identified on the theater-style sign above – as well as a small selection of wines and spirits.
But Webster is careful not to overwhelm with too wide a range. “Sometimes you can have the Netflix effect – where if you have too much stuff people go back to what they know,” he says. “So if you limit it, it’s better for everyone.”
A rotating selection of staff favorites is displayed on the shop’s chalkboard counter. Surrounded by tasting notes and handwritten illustrations, it’s a way for Webster to inject personality into the space and deliver a more polished retail experience.
Webster also wants to encourage persistence after lockdown. Pay $ 3 cap and you can drink on site. But for now, everything – including the growlers freshly filled with draft beer – is available to take out. There are no hot dishes sold at Milkhead, but there are Chappy crisps.
Once things open up, Webster plans to start hosting parties that combine beer, food and associated music – a nod to his background in DJing and event management.
“I think it’s about making beer sexy,” he says. “It really is the aspiration.”
Milkhead Beer Store is take out only during Melbourne lockdown.
Milkhead beer store
186 Carlisle Street, St Kilda
Tue and Wed 2 pm-7pm
Thursday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
sat 1 pm-8pm
Sun 2 p.m.-6 p.m.