There’s a new bar about to open in Melbourne and while that in itself is not unusual, the fact that the bar is non-alcoholic might leave a few drinkers scratching their heads. But for Stephen Lawrence and his team at Brunswick Aces, the opening of a non-alcoholic bar in Australia is long overdue.
“In the US and the UK, no-and-low bars have made quite an impact. Obviously, Australia has different demographics and is a smaller market, so it’s taken a little bit longer to come to prominence here.”
Set to open in late April 2021, the 150-person capacity venue will be located on Weston Street in Brunswick East. Housing the new bar, but also the distillery for sober brand Brunswick Aces, the space will be the first in Australia to provide specially curated drinks and cocktails for non-drinkers.
“Our customers tell us that some premium bars and restaurants have started to put real thought behind their alcohol alternatives, but the wider industry is taking longer to catch up,” explained Lawrence.
“We want to lead the charge by opening The Brunswick Aces Bar and deliver delicious non-alcoholic choices that don’t compromise on taste. Everything we serve will be 0% alcohol, with our contemporary cocktail list designed to thrill any palate, and not a fruit juice mocktail in sight.”
In terms of the bar’s design, Lawrence describes the look as encapsulating a strong ‘industrial baroque’ feel. Taking inspiration from the design of their bottle, he says it will combine deep, warm colours and floral texture that you find in baroque, with the stainless-less steel and glass of the bar and distillery.
“Our aim is to make people feel really at home in this cozy environment where they want to tuck into a delicious cocktail with their friends but then there is this more industrial side with stainless steel equipment that has been designed specifically for our process. We’re just trying to blend those two aspects in together.”
The bar menu is another area that Lawrence wants to be approachable as well. “We don’t want to have a list of drastically complex cocktails that are unreachable. We’ll be starting with a simple gin and tonic, or a Sapiir and tonic in this instance, and then starting to get into more complex drinks.
“One of the cocktails is With Love From Rosemary, which is a three-ingredients drink made with gin, soda and rosemary,” Lawrence said. “We’ve also got a really beautiful drink called the Estate Fizz that gets served in a coupe and frothed up with some egg white. It’s based around a reduction from Earl Grey and also has some Earl Grey leaves just drizzled on top, because that presentation is so important in the cocktail.
Lawrence wants the bar to not only teach people how to make and curate cocktails but also how to dress them up and serve them for themselves or for company. “What we found from being in business for a few years in this category is that people really want to make that change to a non-alcoholic. But there’s a little bit of hesitation.
“For a lot of people, it’s all kind of the unknown,” he continued. “They’re worried about what to do with the drinks or how they’re going to taste. So having not only an area where someone can come and try a drink, try a finished drink, but also see how that’s made.”
We want to lead the charge by opening The Brunswick Aces Bar and deliver delicious non-alcoholic choices that don’t compromise on taste
In addition to the Brunswick Aces range of non-alcoholic spirits, the bar will serve a variety of non-alcoholic spirits from brands as varied as Lyre through to UK brand Seedlip. In addition, other products, like beers from Sobah and the wines from NON will be stocked as well. “We’re certainly not looking at this as being a Brunswick Aces tasting venue. The whole point of the bar is making sure it’s a holistic experience for people,” Lawrence explained.
In addition to the bar itself, the brand will be offering distillery tours and retail, as well as master classes and tasting events. Now while this may all sound standard, for a distillery bar, it has to be remembered that this will be for a non-alcoholic distillery and bar.
Through their approach, Lawrence and his team are looking to truly elevate the understanding and attitude towards the no-alcohol side of the industry. He rightly comments that no-low is still very much in its infancy.
“Alcohol has been around for centuries. So there’s a huge back catalog as it were of drinks and education material. There are hundreds of thousands of people that work in the alcohol industry, whereas a non-alcoholic industry is relatively new.
“So just by virtue of the fact that it is new, we’re constantly creating all of that content that we’re catching up to alcohol. Some of it’s just from the fact that there’s not enough out there, and we’re obviously helping along with all these other providers to curate that content.”
Lawrence, therefore, wants to set up a sort of network between all producers and those bars and venues who are really taking the ideas on board. He wants to create what he is terming, a non-alcoholic cultural exchange.
To facilitate this, the menu at Brunswick will not only include no-alcohol interpretations of classic cocktails and drinks that have been created by their Chief Distiller Dr. Cam Hunt, but also drinks from other like-minded venues.
Lawrence lists Firedoor in Sydney and Wickens in Dunkeld, Victoria as venues that are pioneering the no-alcohol movement and that cross-pollination of ideas, cocktails, education and promotion, will help everyone.
“There’s a tourism industry around alcoholic drinks that’s been slowly evolving. We want to create that same style of destination for non-alcoholic, not only just from a place where you can get that drink, but also where you can have the education in a cocktail class, or learn how we manufacture our products.
“So that’s kind of where I see the next step of non-alcoholic going. Extending out to venues and locations where people want to go to learn more, and taste more. And that’s not just about educating consumers but I hope that we’ll also be able to educate the bartenders as well. “
For more information on Brunswick Aces, go to brunswickaces.com