The Local Taphouse: A True Indie Supporter Since 2008


What does it take to be awarded the True Indie Supporter Trophy at the Indies?

For The Local Taphouse, founded in 2008 by Guy Greenstone and Steve Jeffares, it took 12 years of pushing boundaries with tap lists, education, and events. The St Kilda-based venue has given us the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) and associated Hottest 100 poll (both have now been sold to a new owner), plus Stomping Ground Brewing with its three brewpubs. That’s not including the number of staff and regulars that have gone on to other prominent roles, venues, and breweries around the country.

Justin Joiner, original venue manager and now co-owner of the Local Taphouse and Stomping Ground, says when it opened in 2008, they wanted to change how people looked and approached beer in pubs. At the time there wasn’t a lot of choice for drinkers wanting something outside of a big-brewery lager. The hope was that people would start to come in looking for a particular style, rather than a brand. Something common now, but alien back then.

“The ethos right at the beginning was to share our love of great beer with as many people as possible, and we wanted to do that by showcasing the best example of every beer style that we could think of and keep the list turning over,” he says. “We were literally having to go and seek out breweries and beers and bring a pallet of stuff over from Western Australia, or South Australia… That has evolved to a situation where people are banging the door down to get the beers on now.”

Right from the start, education and knowledge building has been a core part of the Local Taphouse. Staff training took place in the form of an in-house Beer 101 training module and has since grown into the venue being a big part of the local Cicerone (beer sommelier) program while giving staff space and opportunity to take part in it. That translates into menu tasting notes and descriptors broken down into key flavours and colour indicators to help guide drinkers into a beer that suits them.

“Staff training is absolutely crucial, and kind of a no brainer when you think about it. It keeps the team engaged, they love learning and expanding their knowledge, but at the same time you’ve given them the tools to have the conversations with punters who are interested in learning more, so it’s kind of win-win,” he says.

It’s not just staff that the venue has worked on engaging over the years. In its first year of operation it launched “Ale Stars”. The monthly beer tasting, quiz, and brewer chat event still operates and has built a hardcore following over the years.

“It’s such a great little community,” Joiner says. “[It] has spawned marriages, babies, road trips, international travel, and trips to Beervana. It’s also been a direct link between a group of really interested punters and the absolute cream of the crop of industry people and brewers. “

So much has changed in the last 13 years. The idea of a tap list of esoteric beers, focussing on ales more than lagers, and hosting brewers for tastings and talks is commonplace now. To find a great beer in 2021 is as easy as popping into your local bottle shop or pub. Venues in major cities continue to push boundaries by air-freighting fresh stock from the US, or featuring esoteric takeovers and parties focussing on the rarest beer. And after all these years the Local Taphouse is still considered one of the best. It polled top four in last year’s Beer & Brewer Magazine’s Best Beer Venue industry survey, and was voted in as the third favourite Victorian venue in the Beer Cartel Survey. That’s something Joiner and the team are still so proud of.

“13 years later it hasn’t faded out or changed into something else. It’s remained true to its roots and still doing essentially the same thing. In a time when so many other amazing venues have opened up, and the fact you can now get independent beer in almost every corner pub, which is a very different landscape from when we opened, is very pleasing for us.”

Nominations for this years’ True Indie Supporter award, as well as our other Peer Nominated Awards, are open now. It’s your chance to nominate a person or organisation that is going above and beyond to help our industry and communities. Click here for all the details. Nominations close August 30.

Justin Joiner (centre) with Stomping Ground/Local Taphouse team member Cassie O'neill and cofounder Guy Greenstone.