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Revealed: Tony Leonard’s 2015 DeBortoli Pub of the Year winner

Today marks the 20th time I’ve announce the DeBortoli Pub of the year and by estimation the 25th time since the segment started with Neil Mitchell.

To everyone that contacted me via email and gave suggestions/comments, many thanks again. Having said this before, people seem to love their pubs more passionately than 20 years ago in my opinion.

Forums, reviewers, bloggers are in abundance and with the explosion of units/smaller home blocks everywhere, then pubs more than ever provide a vital extension to the (once held)  great Australian dream.

Before announcing this year’s DeBortoli Best Pub, some comments:

  • A total of 38 pubs were reviewed this year of which 24 were reviewed for the first time by me or had been sufficiently made over in fixtures/fittings or food/drink options .  By and large, the standards set by the pubs seemed higher, be it big or small pubs. Of those pubs who have gone new offer /same building, the offer from The Gem, Collingwood and Coppersmith, Sth Melbourne really appealed to me.
  • Again Fitzroy/Abbotsford lead the way as pubs, mainly driven by enterprising owner/operators, that are at the forefront of pub life in Melbourne so I won’t bore you with that again. But two things in the wider landscape;
  • A number (not all) of big suburban pubs are starting (slowly) to be a little more adventurous in food and drink. This is a point I will re-iterate; the degree of difference in offer here from one part of Melbourne to another is negligible and that isn’t changing soon. But, there appears to be some positive movement. The Hampton Park Tavern is a good example of what can be offered in the ‘burbs.
  • The amount of owner/operators away from the city having a crack is fantastic, and where possible, should be supported. I thoroughly enjoyed going to the Royal George, Kyneton, Wallace Hotel and Tinamba this year. There is a stack more like this and you only have to go to any decent forum and the love is there.

Some observations about food and drink in pubs:

  • The seismic shift to a wider offer of beer is now unstoppable. In years past, having Carlton D and Light Ale as the sole options are a faded memory with other big boys, Lion (Boags Squires) and Coopers being front and centre now expected by patrons rather than surprised.
  • Parlay that into craft ‘giants’ like Mountain Goat, Stone and Wood and Brunswick/Thunder Road and more than anything, food included, this is where pubs have matured. (In my opinion, I don’t get why there wouldn’t be at least one tap of CD at each pub, but if that’s the rules, then so be it).
  • As for wine prices, I recently wrote about the loss of good, interesting bottles in the mid $30 dollar range to the point that it is low $40s/$10/glass. For sure all costs (except the product itself) have risen so the unproven formula of adding 100% to full retail may no longer apply but when Pepperjack appears on menus closer to $50 than $40 then I think the Pubs can have a little look and shave a few bucks.
  • As for food, the battle of Burgers v Parmas as the #1 dish is never closer.  It is still the Parma but more adventure is being tried with the burger.  American/Tex/Mex//BBQ/Smoking meats have gathered enormous popularity this year.  Expect more.
  • Croquettes? Everywhere. Get 2 ingredients, add spud and voila!!

BEST TAP BEER – 2015

Craft beer: The Aviary, Abbotsford. Stone and Wood Pacific Ale.  Demand for this is insatiable. Glasses chilled and properly treated; taste great.  Honorary mention to Pumphouse, Fitzroy.  Hop Star Pale Ale. Great taste and very fairly priced in Melbourne’s neatest pub.

Commercial beer: James Squires 150 Lashes, Tinamba. Just perfect.  Honorable mention to Yorkshire Hotel Abbotsford. Carlton Draught, 200 ml glasses, chilled and wonderful.

AND THE WINNER IS…

The Tinamba Hotel.

For consecutive years, the best pub in my opinion comes from outside Melbourne metropolitan.

There is a difference to this pub which,  with its sprawling homestead like facade and comfortable inside bar and dining room, is genuinely off the beaten track, but everything you could want from a pub, food/drink/service/community is here. The set course lunch/dinner, (Sunday lunch) with a glass of wine is $39. The food is pub superior. Go to the pubs fantastic website.

The risk here is enormous.  Tinamba is a small town, north of Traralgon/Sale, and the business partners must have had some nervous times. They gambled big in getting it .

The Tinamba Hotel is the living proof of the Risk = Reward quotient.

DeBortoli Pub of the Year Honor Roll

2015   The Tinamba                    Tinamba

2014   The Plough                        Trentham

2013   The Royal                          Clifton Hill

2012   The Wayside Inn                Sth Melbourne

2011    Lincoln Hotel               Carlton

2010    Terminus Hotel            Clifton Hill

2009    Grand Hotel –              Richmond

2008    Station Hotel               Footscray
            Carringbush Hotel       Abbotsford

2007    Bouzy Rouge              Richmond

2006    The Albion                   Port Melbourne

2005    Metropolitan Hotel       North Melbourne

            The Brandon Hotel      Carlton

 

2004    The Beach Hotel          Albert Park

2003    Court House Hotel       North Melbourne

2002    London Tavern            Richmond

2001    Doyle’s                        Mentone
            Vine                             Abbotsford

 

2000    Royal Park                  North Melbourne

1999    Emerald                       Sth Melbourne

1998    Clare Castle                Carlton
            O’Connell’s                 South Melbourne

 

1997    Spencer                       West Melbourne

1996    All Nations                   Richmond

 

 

 

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