September 16, 2014 by 250 Beers
Almost a year after it was confirmed that a James Squire brew pub was heading to Brisbane’s South Bank, The Charming Squire opened to the public for the very first time late last month – 28th August to be precise. Managed and run by the folk at successful hospitality outfit Mantle Group in conjunction with Lion Co, The Charming Squire played host to a belated opening party last Tuesday, 9th September. I was fortunate to be on the guest list which gave me the perfect opportunity to check the place out as I hadn’t managed to get there within the two weeks prior.
Despite the presence of the venue receiving frowns of disapproval from certain corners of certain circles that I mix with, I’m of the opinion that the Squires range of beers are still very important to the market – cue terms such as ‘gateway craft beer’ or ‘beginner beer’. Drunken Speculation recently nailed the significance of James Squire beers.
I’m also well aware that circles do not have corners.
Armed with the knowledge that every Charming tap was going to feature a beer from the Squires stable my inquisitiveness was predominantly aimed at the venue itself. Like many beer drinkers, I’ve tried, tested and revisited these beers on a number of occasions. My attendance was purely to check out the building and its contents; I wanted to see if it was worthy of all the hype and media coverage. For the record, the bar fridges contain other Lion beers such as Little Creatures, White Rabbit, Kosciuszko etc – it’s just the taps that are solely Squires.
After a few early evening warm-up beers down the road at Tomahawk Bar, I headed along Grey Street towards West End before eventually being greeted by Brisbane’s new palatial home to James Squire.
I knew in advance that The Charming Squire was going to be huge – it had been well documented before the opening that it was Australia’s largest Squires brew pub yet nothing quite prepared me for just how enormous it actually is!
The length of the entire building is equivalent to 18,971 bottles of James Squire beer laid on their sides top to base¹.
Once inside, it was plain to see that no expense had been spared. To my untrained, spectacle wearing eye the fittings are all rather lavish compared to a ‘normal’ Brisbane brew pub…is there such a thing? With cash injections from Lion it is little surprise. I noticed small, insignificant things such as removable signage up on the wall behind the bar detailing each beer. In smaller, less cash-rich bars these would be chalk dust-covered black boards. If you’ve got it, flaunt it I suppose.
The high ceilings and exposed concrete give an industrial edge but the soft amber lighting smooths away any harshness. The brewing kit is situated on a mezzanine level alongside a large seated area that overlooks the main bar. It was only when I ventured up there and gazed out at fellow guests below that I noticed the lack of in-your-face branding. There’s a whopper of a logo behind the bar as well as branded glasses and staff uniforms but that’s about it. You know that you’re in a Squires venue but it isn’t shoved down your throat.
Oh, and there’s a small stage too that has a branded back-drop. The stage was playing host to a few local bands throughout the evening.
As well as the grandiose bar area and upper brewing level, the building also contains a spacious, open dining/restaurant and a café.
I managed to snare a brief chat with a few important revellers during my stay. They were all very happy with how the place has turned out. Founder of the Hahn Brewery, Brewmaster at the Malt Shovel Brewery and all round nice chap Dr Chuck Hahn couldn’t praise the architects and staff any higher stating that they had “excelled themselves beyond expectation.”
The beer geek in me is happy that beer will be brewed on site. This fact might go some way in alleviating a portion of those frowns that I mention above. There’s a brewer brewing beer on the premises for goodness sake! To be honest, it was head brewer Anthony Clem that caused me my biggest gripe of the evening. He subconsciously ruined the ambient lighting. His beaming grin – no doubt fuelled by landing an exciting new role – illuminated every area that he mingled in.
Does The Charming Squire have a future here in Brisbane? Yes, it does and I think locals and tourists alike will embrace it. The location – adjacent to South Brisbane station – is perfect. Personally, I’m keen to pay a return visit to check out the food menu in greater depth. Light food and appropriately matched beers were served during the launch but I’d like to explore further.
It’s also family friendly and will no doubt tick a box for many – including me – during visits to South Bank with the kids. “What’s that? You need a wee before we get back on the train to go home? OK, we’ll duck in here and Mummy can take you while Daddy goes and, um, speaks to that man pouring beer.”