Stylish cocktail bars, independent breweries, Chicago-style speakeasies, stalwart gastropubs – the Goldfields city of Ballarat punches well above its weight when it comes to inviting pubs and bars.
A storied city with a glut of glorious heritage buildings and a burgeoning cafe culture to boot, Ballarat is often found on Melburnians’ weekend getaway hitlists. But there’s plenty more to this former gold rush town, particularly when it comes to finding a great spot for a tipple. Add these seven bars and pubs to your next Ballarat itinerary.
A cavernous, industrial-chic ode to all things beer, this laneway outfit in fact has the largest range of craft beer and cider in all of Victoria, with more than 220 brews available either on tap or by the bottle. Set in a converted stables and hidden down a laneway adorned with a canopy of umbrellas and string lights, Hop Temple has plenty of personality: bicycles hang from the ceiling, a cluster of antique doors makes for a feature wall, an indoor trellis is draped with greenery, and murals dot its exterior. Order a handful of ‘pot-size eats’ to share (we’re thinking twisty fries, maple-glazed cauliflower salad, Korean fried chicken, and sticky pork belly) and settle in with a tasting paddle of four brews.
Address: 24 Armstrong St N, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
Mitchell Harris Wines
Occupying a beautiful brick building that dates back more than 140 years and has played host to a tentmakers, a motor workshop, and a produce store at one time or another, enter the Mitchell Harris Wine Bar. Here tables spill out onto the pavement and the wine menu is sprinkled liberally with the bar owners’ eponymous, elegant and award-winning wines, which are made using fruit sourced from across the region. But there are plenty of reds, whites, roses, sparklings and fortifieds from across Aus and Europe too, both by the bottle and the glass. Graze on bar snacks while toasting to a great Ballarat getaway with a glass of saline, textural MH sauvignon blanc fumé in hand.
Address: 38 Doveton St N, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
18th Amendment Bar
A Chicago-style speakeasy that caters to discerning drinkers and designated drivers alike, 18th Amendment Bar has got you covered. With its backlit bar and Chesterfield sofas, this snug spot is perfect for an after-dinner tipple or three. And if you’re heading there on an empty stomach, fear not; you can mop up any liquid overindulgence with some of the bar snacks (think house-smoked almonds, warmed olives and bread, halloumi fries, charcuterie platters or cheese boards).
Choose from 10 punchy signature cocktails, plus a number of classics with a twist, or keep it simple with a dram of whisky picked from the extensive listings. Teetotallers and designated drivers can instead opt for a blueberry ‘nojito’ made using non-alcoholic rum, blueberry puree, mint and lime, or perhaps an absinthe colada, concocted from non-alcoholic absinthe, plus pineapple, citrus and coconut.
Address: 14 Camp St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
In the safe hands of overachieving brewmaster Peter Aldred, this Ballarat brewery consistently offers a stellar line-up of unfiltered lagers, pale ales, and IPAs. Curious drinkers thirsty for more knowledge of the brewing process can sign up for Aunty Jacks’ Sunday Beer School or a brewery tour. There’s plenty of indulgent ‘dude food’ on the menu here too: think potato pizzas, fried chicken burgers and triple choc brownies.
Address: 315-317 Mair St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
Opening its doors in mid-2021, this Ballarat newcomer is a super sleek spot that wouldn’t feel out of place in Melbourne’s inner north. Pull up a pew at the terrazzo bar counter with gold trim, or sink into one of the cosy forest-green velvet banquettes, below whitewashed brick walls. A self-proclaimed ‘cocktail bar & social club’, Renard is, quite frankly, a go-to for any occasion, however big or small. Almost every cocktail on the menu features a splash of native ingredients, from davidson plum gin to river mint syrup, wattleseed and macadamia liqueur, or anise myrtle. While you’re there, snack on some continental-inspired small plates (chicken liver parfait with orange and vermouth jelly, Meredith Dairy goat’s cheese doughnuts drizzled with truffled honey) and maybe throw in a larger dish (let’s say the wagyu rump cap with alliums and sauce bordelaise) for good measure.
Address: 209 Mair St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
Though it’s not strictly in Ballarat, but rather a 20-minute drive down the road, The Royal Hotel Snake Valley still more than merits mention. A character-filled old country pub, this roadhouse has a beer garden for hot summer’s days, and a dining room with an open fire for escaping winter’s chill. Sit down for a filling pub meal and gaze around at all the knick-knacks, trophies and photos that line the walls while enjoying a crisp pint of Carlton Draught.
Address: 886 Linton-Carngham Rd, Snake Valley VIC 3351
The Mallow Hotel
When only a good old fashioned pub will do, make a beeline for this great all-rounder and local favourite. The Mallow Hotel has made a name for itself based on the friendly service, solid food options, convivial atmosphere and an ample selection of craft beers on tap.
Address: 18/20 Skipton St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
For more great travel tips and itineraries read our Ultimate guide to Ballarat holidays here.