End of an era – Caxton Street craft-beer pioneer Brewski is set to close
End of an era – Caxton Street craft-beer pioneer Brewski is set to close

End of an era – Caxton Street craft-beer pioneer Brewski is set to close

In bad news for beer lovers, long-running Petrie Terrace boozer Brewski has announced its imminent closure. The Caxton Street staple, which has been slinging suds since 2013, is set to shut in August alongside its bottle shop offshoot My Beer Dealer. Though heavy news for Brisbane’s hop-loving populace, there’s hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of the Brewski crew. We caught up with the brains behind the operation to chat about Brewski’s legacy, its closing festivities and potential existence beyond Caxton Street.

It seems as if closure announcements are becoming a depressingly common sight in our social feeds in 2024. A spate of shutterings have cast a pall on the hospitality scene of late, as increasing operating costs and a decrease in consumer spending leads to dicey conditions for cafe, bar and restaurant operators city wide. Last week, Brisbane beer lovers were crushed to hear that cherished Caxton Street craft-beer bar Brewski had announced its forthcoming closure, joining a growing list of venues that have shut in recent months.

The bar, founded by marketing and communications professionals Antoinette Pollock and Matt Emmerson in 2013, joined the likes of The Scratch, Tippler’s Tap, Archive Beer Boutique and The Mill on Constance as some of Brisbane’s earliest advocates of craft ales. With a firm focus on serving interesting and independently made frothies from Australia and abroad, the Petrie Terrace pint pourer has accumulated a die-hard following of loyal hop heads over the past decade.

Brewski even paved pathways into other realms of beery endeavour. In 2018, the team renovated and expanded its Caxton Street HQ to include My Beer Dealer – a drink-in bottle shop amply stocked with a curated selection of stellar sips, which has since opened satellite locations of its own in Clayfield and Morningside.

Alas, rising rent rates has made continued operations on Caxton Street untenable, as Ant and Matt were unable to come to an agreement with their landlord before the lease’s looming end.

“It really comes down to economics,” Antoinette tells us. “We renewed the lease when we did the renovation, and in doing that it jumped our rent quite high. We’ve been battling ever since 2022 to keep up with it.

“In the landlord’s defence, he’s been an awesome landlord – we’ve always gotten on very well with him. He did drop his rent a little bit, but it just wasn’t low enough for us to renew in the current market. It was too risky for our whole business model.”

And so, Brewski will close next month. But it won’t be doing so quietly – a suite of events are still on the agenda between now and last drinks.

“We’re looking at late August,” says Ant of the official closing date. “Matt’s got a bucket load of kegs from The Bruery, which we’re going to have a big event for. We’re also working with Garage Project on the Queensland release of their Hapi Festival beers, which will be a big day. We’re also obviously planning the last days at Brewski, so that will also be rather large, I suspect.”

All that said, there’s still hope for the continuation of Brewski in some form, as well as My Beer Dealer’s three locations – all of which will shut once Brewski’s hotel licence becomes inactive. Ant and Matt are currently investigating avenues to transition the business towards a more sustainable operations model, with bottle shops likely to become a central focus moving forward.

“We do want to continue, absolutely,” says Ant. “We really love what we do with beer and independent suppliers of any kind. I think now, more than ever, there needs to be a representation of that. We want to continue in that vein, definitely with a stronger emphasis on bottle shops.

“We’re currently looking at options and one of them is definitely a new venue. We’re still trying to work out what that looks like, but it needs to be within that 10-km radius of our two bottle shops.”

While the future of Brewski remains open ended, there’s still a sense of finality inherent in the venue’s closure. The outpouring of support in the wake of the announcement is testament to Brewski’s status as a beloved boozer – something that Ant and Matt aren’t taking for granted.

“We’ve just been absolutely overwhelmed with people’s responses and love,” says Ant. “It’s been really quite emotional for us.”

Though the team’s attention remains firmly fixed on making the most of the bar’s final weeks, Ant can’t help feel reflective when we ask for her thoughts on Brewski’s impact on the Brisbane bar scene after a decade-plus of operations.

“I think the big focus for us at the start was creating a space that, first of all, we wanted to drink in,” Ant recalls. “We were pretty disappointed with the state of beers and what you could buy. Brisbane was the poor cousin to Sydney and Melbourne – we struggled to get kegs that they could get really easily. Matt had to build so many relationships with international distributors and even just interstate ones, because there were barely any breweries in Queensland at the time.”

This dogged determination to obtain beers that were, up until that point, unseen in Brisbane helped Brewski forge an early rep as one of the city’s best bars. Soon, the suds slinger’s standing on a national scale grew as brewers from all corners recognised the passion with that Ant and Matt poured into Brewski’s ever-changing on-tap offering, which matured and grew in tandem with brewing trends and the tastes of its clientele. Big hoppy IPAs gave way to sours, which in turn moved over to make room for hazies and East Coast IPAs before lagers started to enjoy a recent renaissance.

But beyond the beers, Brewski’s dependability as a community hub is what many punters will mourn in the wake of its closure.

“Community was always a massive part of what we did – building these little networks of humans with a common interest in craft beer,” Ant adds. “I think [Brewski] brought together people who were really creative, loved different things and liked to be challenged and provoked.”

This year has been shaky for many hospitality operators, though it seems as if the independent brew scene has taken more than its fair share of hits. And there’s still more choppy water to navigate. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, Ant is steadfast in her belief in supporting local – even if the price point is a smidge higher than the brews that bigger brands mask as craft beer.

“I think one of the toughest things for the craft-beer scene is that it’s a market that’s matured and that just happens anywhere – it is what it is to a certain extent,” says Ant. “But there’s also a lot going on with the big guys, who are masking their beers as being craft. That makes it tough because then, because people, on a surface level, think they’re buying craft but they’re actually not. They’re not buying independent.

“My encouragement would be that people think more about where they do spend their money and consider maybe drinking a couple of really nice beers from a independent brewery. I understand people can’t always do that and that money’s tough, but one of our missions was always that we wanted people to drink better, not more.”

As crushing it is to see another bar close, especially one as beloved as Brewski, Antoinette and Matt are proud of what they have accomplished and are hopeful for the future.

“I think it is a happy story,” says Ant. “We’ve been part of something so beautiful. It’s been a wonderful journey and it’s not over – we’re definitely moving on to other things, so we look forward to sharing that.”

Keep your eyes peeled for more news on Brewski’s closing festivities, as well as word of the bar’s future.

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.


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