The highly anticipated double-storey microbrewery, Bentspoke Brewing Company, had its opening yesterday at 11am. Co-owned by former head brewer at the Wig and Pen, Richard Watkins, a crowd of Canberra beer lovers were there for opening day/night. Located in the Habitat apartment complex in Braddon, I could see a queue outside at 5.30pm as I tried to find a parking spot. The place was packed out! Outdoor heaters provide some warmth to those waiting in the queue that cold night. I understand that an outdoor area is meant to be developed shortly. A door-woman stands in front of the thick wooden double doors keeping watch with a strict person capacity in the brewery – e.g. two people come out, only two people go in etc. While waiting, I peeked in to see Canberrans enjoying an after-work beer with the massive beer tanks in the background.

A menu of the six new beers created by Bentspoke Brewery was passed around the queue.

After about 20 minutes, we were inside. The brewery has a slight industrial look with high ceilings, spacious unobstructed areas (when it’s not packed with people), cement and timber floors, the use of wooden panels (the ceiling upstairs is covered in wooden decking), plenty of downlights and exposed piping to add to the decor. You may have guessed that the love of cycling plays a large part at this brewery, contributing to the brewery’s name and with bicycle parts such as Shimano wheels hung up around the place.

Wheels and vertical garden on one wall.

The feature wall on the ground floor contains a large drawing of beer tanks with steam, pipes and a brewer pictured.

An entire row of shiny stainless steel fermenters stand proud and tall along the back wall.

Beers, wines and ciders can be ordered at the counter

Most of you will know that I don’t drink, but I was here for the food. I’d read that beer-matching food would be on offer and with some beer-loving friends, we head upstairs to the dining area and another bar. An article by OutinCanberra states that the handrail of the staircase has been specially designed with tubes inside carrying the beer being brewed upstairs and transferring it downstairs.

Looking back down, you can really notice the beautiful timber floorboards.

Upstairs is just as packed. The long cold pipe at the bar, covered in condensation, has several taps on it serving different beers and ciders. Apparently there’s room for 18 beers on tap.

However, it is ‘The Eatery’ that interested me the most.

The menu contains your traditional pub food with items such as a steak sandwich, beef burger, pigs in a blanket, spud spokes (chips), steaks with various sides and two Bentspoke Boards. Both Boards are $19, where you can choose either the ‘Ploughmans’ or the cheese board, served with cider-pickled onions and fruits and crusty bread.

Most of the steaks are $28 and come with 2 sides. I decided to go with the sirloin topped with B’spoke beer sauce and sides of spud spokes with BBQ sauce and Barley Griffin (Bentspoke’s own brew) smoked cheddar cauliflower mac n cheese. This looked great when it came out and I was pleased with the portion sizes. The first thing that I couldn’t wait to try was the smoked cheddar mac and cheese. Sadly, I was really disappointed with it. There was no flavour what so ever, let alone any smoky cheese. It was more of a bland creamy pasta. The spud spokes on the other hand were fantastic. Soft fluffy potato covered in a thick crunchy batter with seasoning on top. These are different to your normal chips due to a thicker and (darker?) batter. Worth a try! But there was no accompanying BBQ sauce as stated in the menu. I’d asked for a medium cooked sirloin. Cutting through the steak (no steak knife provided), it turned out to be more of a medium to well-done steak. Definitely not pink enough for my liking, but it was a good cut of beef with hardly any fat. I might just have to ask for medium-rare next time.

My partner wasn’t overly hungry and ordered the small serve of grain crusted hot wings ($12) with a malted blue cheese sauce. The large serve is $18. My partner enjoys his spicy food and found the wings weren’t spicy enough. Sprinkled with herbs on top, I thought they were tasty wings with a thin crispy skin and just enough spice to give it a bit of oomph. But I agree that they’re not really what you’d call ‘hot’ wings. The winner of this plate goes to the malted blue cheese sauce. Wow! If you like blue cheese, you must try this sauce. There’s quite a strong blue cheese flavour but it’s creamy and goes well with the wings. I was even putting a dollop of it onto the mac and cheese!

A friend ordered the Ploughmans Board which came with cheddar and blue cheese, two types of cured meats, a pork pie from Cornucopia (down the street), and a large chunk of crusty bread. I really liked the cider-pickled fruit – sweet, tangy and delicious. For only $19, I think this is pretty good value for a light lunch or dinner and gives you a bit of everything. I was getting food envy.

The pork pie was filled with tender pulled pork and the pastry was nice and flaky. I’ll be choosing this Board next time for sure!

Another friend ordered the heritage breed beef burger ($19) with beer braised onion, BBQ sauce, salad, cheese and a side of spokes. The burger itself is a little small but the beef pattie is thick and juicy.

A few of us wondered how long the wooden table numbers would last. The numbers are painted on both sides of short wooden poles. Though very cute, the numbers are difficult to read if it’s on an angle. Sitting by the back wall with our numbers placed on the very edge of the table directly facing outwards, our waitress admitted she had trouble finding us. It doesn’t help that the table numbers are short and not clearly visible when its a full house.We noticed lots of staff members having difficulty finding the table numbers, let alone the correct numbers.

The upstairs feature wall is quirky, covered in a patchwork of various malt bags. I like it!

A lot of thought and love has gone into the fit out of Bentspoke Brewery and I think it really suits the place. It felt like every single Canberra beer lover was there that night. The place is LOUD both downstairs and upstairs. It has a great upbeat pub vibe with groups of friends, co-workers and families huddled together enjoying some locally brewed boutique beer and cider.

Though not overly impressed with my sirloin, I’ll be going back to have the Ploughmans Board and sample a few other items from the menu.

If you haven’t already checked the place out, Bentspoke Brewery is located on the corner of Elouera and Mort Street in Braddon in the large Habitat apartment building. Just look for the giant beer tanks.

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Foodgasm 6/10 (sorry I can’t comment on the beer!)

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