Felons Brewing Co. expands with a brand-new barrel hall at Howard Smith Wharves
On Friday October 9, Brisbane’s beer-loving community woke up to the news that sudsy riverside hub Felons Brewing Co. – a staple of Howard Smith Wharves’ popular dining strip – had expanded, opening a massive new venue called Felons Barrel Hall right next door. Putting a modern-Australian spin on a classic German beer-hall concept, Felons Barrel Hall is delivering a fresh experience with the same adventurous spirit inspired by its namesake felons. Think unique barrel-aged beers, a selection of offbeat wines, a punchy new menu of eats and live music every weekend. This arrival is a whopper and a half – here’s a look inside …
If you pop down to Howard Smith Wharves on any given weekend, you’ll notice the precinct is teeming with locals soaking up the sunshine and revelling in the fact that we can dine out again. Since the lifting of restrictions, the hub has been quick to activate its outdoor spaces to accomodate the rapid influx of returning clientele while still adhering to social-distancing requirements. Over the past couple of months the Howard Smith Wharves organisation has been secretly working on an expansion of Felons Brewing Co. to further bolster the precinct’s hospitality capabilities, transforming on-site function space Howard’s Hall (which has stood under-utilised as Brisbane’s events market dwindled in the wake of COVID-19) into a standalone venue in its own right. Last week saw the grand reveal of Felons Barrel Hall – the next step in the craft-beer brewery’s evolution. Central to the venue’s identity are two foundational concepts – on one hand the hub is designed to be an Australian interpretation of a Bavarian-style beer hall boasting a distinct focus on barrel conditioning and beer blending, while on the other it hopes to act as a cultural hub by hosting live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, bolstering Howard Smith Wharves’ entertainment portfolio.
In its previous iteration, the cavernous events space was primarily utilised to cater to large-scale functions. A two-month fit-out period saw the HSW team working to transform the blank canvas into something that had its own identity, redefining the contemporary brewery experience in the process. A lengthy bar at the Felons Barrel Hall’s New Farm end caters to a swathe of outdoor tables as well as a portion of the interior, while also shielding the kitchen behind it. Lining the venue’s river-facing glass facade are numerous racks holding a collection of French and American oak barrels, all of which are being put to use for the venue’s range of limited-edition barrel-aged beers. Dominating the centre of the space is the main bar, where four gleaming beer tanks (collectively holding 24,000 litres of beer) feed directly into the venue’s 80-odd taps (underground pipes can also bring extra beer over from the main brewery). A brand-new stage has been set up at one end of the venue (complete with its own disco ball), while at the opposite end sits the barrel hall’s cellar-door section – merch racks, takeaway beer sales and a tasting bar. Spread throughout are plenty of tables suitable for groups, as well as ping-pong tables and a fenced-off play area for kiddies.
The food and drink
While this foray into barrel-aged beers isn’t an entirely new concept for the Felons team (the crew racked up accolades for its recent limited-edition bourbon- and rum-barrel stouts), it’s still largely uncharted territory for the crew, especially at this scale. The barrels, which in a previous life were used to hold chardonnay and pinot, have recently been filled with Felons’ first batch of Barrel Hall brews – enthusiasts are encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for progress reports on these drops. In the meantime, Felons’ core range of brews (Australian pale ale, natural ale, crisp lager, IPA, low-carb ale and Sonny apple cider) are available, as is a special launch beer – a bohemian pilsner, brewed as an homage to the beer halls of Germany. Speaking of Felons Barrel Hall’s Bavarian inspirations, sippers can blow the froth off their preferred brew in half- and one-litre steins. In addition to the beer, the Felons team has added a collection of lo-fi and natural wines to the drinks list (including a selection of Big Boys aka magnums), as well as cocktails such as the Sonny Spritz, Boozy Booch (Good Happy’s adaptogenic kombucha spiked with gin or vodka) and a take on the Tommy’s margarita. The kitchen team has been given creative licence to take an unpredictable and rock’n’roll approach to Felons Barrel Hall’s nosh offering. Here the venue’s beer-hall inspirations once again come into play, but they’ve been given a punchy Southeast-Asian spin. The fun starts with snacks like Sydney rock oysters, prawn-and-mushroom spring rolls, crispy Moreton Bay bugs on curry leaves and electric honey king prawns, before segueing into zesty salads and wholesome vegetable dishes. Carnivores can sink their incisors into tamarind and ginger crispy chicken wings and kecap manis-glazed pork ribs, or opt for Felons Barrel Hall’s selection of luxe loaded fries. These indulgent and generous servings see crispy chippies lathered in seafood gravy and topped with your choice of Moreton Bay bug, spanner crab or painted crayfish – pure heaven. The culinary headliner is without a doubt the serves of crispy pork knuckle, spicy marinated wagyu skirt steak, red emperor grilled in banana leaf and wagyu short rib, which can be diced up and consumed as roll-your-own lettuce wraps. Line-caught coral trout, free-range lemongrass pork chops and tom yum barbecue free-range chicken are just a sample of the standalone mains – be sure to bring a crew as these dishes are hard to conquer solo.
Felons Barrel Hall is now open to the public. For operating hours and contact details, click over to the Stumble Guide.
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