The whisky chaser, a pint of beer followed by a dram of the water of life, used to be the sole reserve of old men propping up the end of the bar. These days it’s more likely to be cool, clued up young guns pairing the old friends together.
Greg Sanderson, co-owner of one of Melbourne’s best cocktail bars, Eau de Vie, has always seen the wisdom in their union. While the shelves of that particular excellent joint sag under the weight of around 400 malt whiskies, the main focus has always been their extensive and experimental cocktail list. “I’m a cocktail bar tender, but when I finish work, I drink beer and whiskey,” Sanderson says.
A boilermaker is the art of drinking the whisky and beer simultaneously. For the last eight months or so, Eau de Vie has been running a boilermaker tasting menu that suggests craft beer that perfectly complements their top-notch whiskies. Boilermaker House will roll with that idea, stocking 700-plus bottles of malt whisky sourced from all over the globe. There will also be 12 revolving beer taps with around another 70 boutique bottles in fridge.
Sanderson worked for a whisky company for eight years before opening Eau de Vie, so there’s not much he doesn’t know about the subject. “My job was pretty much flying around Australia training people on whiskey,” he says. “I’m a huge fan.”
Boilermaker House, open until 3am seven days a week, will accommodate 200 drinkers, with separate bar and dining areas, streetside seats and even a dedicated meat and cheese bar (hello!). A custom-made fridge bolted to the wall will display around 25 each of cured meats and flavoursome cheeses, sold by the weight. They will be served right through to closing time, with booth seats opposite perfect to settle in for the night.
Lunches Thursday through Sunday will include gourmet sandwiches and a ploughman’s platter. Hearty dinners will focus on meat feasts, like steaks, ribs, lamb shanks and a venison and blue cheese burger. There will be a veggie option and seafood choices, too.
The 8.5 metre long main bar plays host to the beer taps and is looked over by a raised private dining area reserved for special occasions. There’s also a great big communal table suspended from the ceiling.
Beer-wise, Sanderson loves two Australian breweries in particular—WA’s Feral Brewing Company and Victoria’s Boatrocker Brewery. In true boilermaker fashion, Boatrocker produce beers that have been aged in old whisky casks. “Feral have a couple of sour beers, which are really cool and interesting, and their Hop Hog IPA is hands down my single favourite beer,” he says.
The whisky menu at Boilermaker House will be divvied up by flavour profiles, rather than the traditional regional approach, reflecting the increasing diversity of distilleries’ offerings in the last decade.
“Ten years ago, you could say quite confidently if you liked fruit-driven whiskies, choose something from Speyside; if you like smoked whiskeys, go for something from Isla; if you like salty, go for Campbelltown or the coastal highlands,” Sanderson says. “Now you’ve got smoky whiskies coming out of Speyside and salty from Isla. It’s totally mashed up.”
Punters at the new Melbourne bar will therefore see Scottish whiskies sit side-by-side with Australian or Japanese malts when they leaf through the list. Sanderson’s particularly excited by some of the independent producers, but if he was stranded on a desert island and could only take one bottle with him, he has absolutely no hesitations over which it would be. “Lagavulin 16-year-old Scotch,” he says. “I love that whisky.”
Image Credit: Simon Shiff for The Urban List