Food and Drink


Milk Bar’s Guide to Beer Gardens

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It’s never difficult to find a place to drink in Melbourne, but sometimes it’s hard finding the right place. There aren’t that many areas in bars or pubs where you can have a chat and a drink (and actually hear the other person), unless the venue features a beer garden.

With summer coming up, and with it our willingness to start drinking earlier in the day, here are few Melbourne pubs and other places that offer a more relaxed environment. But first, the criteria that any beer garden that is worth its salt should be measured against:

  • Must be relatively quiet and free of loud, overbearing music.
  • Must be at least partially free from cover in order to let both fresh air and the afternoon sun in.
  • Must have at least a hint of greenery or nature, i.e. the garden part.
  • The place in question must sell beer (or beer must be readily available close by).
  • Beer must be relatively cheap (this is my rule, and not applicable to all places with beer gardens, but merely the ones on this list).

Here we go:

The Town Hall Hotel – 33 Errol St, North Melbourne
A narrow and unassuming pub, The North Melbourne Town Hall harbours one of the best beer gardens around. Though located a little ways away from the bar, it’s secluded as hell and perfect for a quiet drink. With heaps of out-in-the-open seating for summer time (and some undercover tables with heaters for the colder nights) the Townie is a great place to spend an afternoon in the sun and the bar staff are some of my favourites.

The Standard – 293 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy
A pub tucked away on Fitzroy Street (between Nicholson and Brunswick Streets), The Standard’s name really doesn’t do it justice. With more table-space outside than there is inside, the beer garden is actually undercover most of the year, but the owners had the good foresight to make the roof retractable.

The Retreat – 280 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
With undercover and open-air seating, affordable meals, and sturdy wooden benches, The Retreat makes the grade regardless of the Astroturf. Though they do have music piped out the back, in the afternoons it is set to a reasonable volume and is usually tastefully chosen.

Riverland – Vaults 1 – 9, Federation Wharf (under Princes Bridge)
A strange entry in that it isn’t really a garden (though there are some patches of grass close by) and rather than being out the back of the bar, it’s right out front. Riverland is a near perfect place to head for a beer on a warm afternoon. Located right by the river, it is one of the more busy places on this list to head to — rarely have I seen it empty — but the atmosphere is always sociable and friendly and there is never any blaring music. Though the beers are a little more expensive here, they have brilliant gourmet sausages that kind of make up for it.

Edinburgh Gardens – St. Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
Though not strictly a ‘beer garden’, I have enjoyed too many beers here (and it certainly qualifies in the garden department) so let’s cut the BS and call a spade a spade.

A sprawling park that is always buzzing with local life, there are few things better than sitting on the grass in the shade of one of the many beautiful trees watching energetic dogs chase tennis balls and sinking a beer between throws of the frisbee.

What are your favourite beer gardens?


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