Get on your dancing shoes Melbourne: Forester's is open
“I remember running towards the toilet, vomiting on someone, and then keeping on running right down the street.” Such are the sweet memories being bandied about by patrons of the nightclub that once stood in Forester’s place. Things have changed since the craft beer champions behind Clifton Hill’s Terminus Hotel took charge.
Earlier this year, they did an industrial scale Febreeze job on the joint, added 54 craft beer taps and a pizza oven, and buffed up the giant clam shell/stage ready to take on rockabilly performers a few times a week. It sounds like Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s much-loved beery rock’n’roll bar Frankie’s Pizza. They stay open till 4am on the weekends, and those pizze keep on coming till 2. What’s not to love about deliciously refreshing sour beer available until dawn? To the bin with you, Big Brand beer!
This is a big, ambitious project, reflected by the space. It’s an enormous open hall dotted with high tables and banquettes, overlooked by the glowing clam at one end and a mezzanine with a ping pong table at the other.
Approach the bar and get yourself an education, mouth first. Ordering is basically a process of elimination. The crew know their IPAs, sours and dunkels even if you don’t, so you can easily just choose how light, dark or boozy you want to go and let them guide you with samples.
It’s a brilliantly curated list. There’s enough on the weird and limited release front to score you major points on Untapped (the beer rating app that rewards adventurous drinkers with badges – like scouts, for boozers) but it’s balanced out with easy drinking classics like Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. We taste the rainbow, from the slighty smoky but smashable Paw Paw Blowtorch by Yeastie Boys and work up to a 12.8 percent imperial stout from Copenhagen – it’s like you’re wading though delicious malty tar. Double down on the fun and pair you beer with one of the Japanese whiskies or bourbons on the back bar. Or just stick to the straight stuff. They’re taking their spirits just as seriously and are about to open the upstairs area as a whisky-focused dive bar Woody’s.
Speaking of, it’s easy to knock yourself sideways unless you keep an eye on those ABVs and summon yourself a crust. There’s a nice balance of puff and crunch to the pizza bases, and they heap on the toppings like crisp shreds of pork belly with a bitter scattering of radicchio, although the tomato base could stand to be brighter, especially when it’s lightly adorned as with the Margherita.
Really, the key to having the best time possible here is choosing when to go. If you’re an ardent beer fan, the quieter weeknights and early evening just mean all the more face time with the bar team tasting samples. If you're less fussed by brews and have an agenda set to fun,come when the likes of Jesse Valach is bringing some soul and filling up the room. Or, make it part of the ultimate Collingwood craft beer adventure: start at Catfish, drop in and play till 4am, then close off with a casual dozen oysters and absinthe at Le Bon Ton around the corner. Game, set, match Collingwood.