Coming up on two decades ago, I moved from Canberra to Melbourne.
For something like a dozen years after the move, whenever I returned to Canberra I’d pull up a table at The Wig and Pen for an afternoon, tell everyone I was there, and wait to see who rolled in. Those visits were short, a few days at most, and it was the only way to ensure I’d get a chance to catch up with all of my friends who felt like catching up with me.
Three years ago, when I was in Canberra for the Queen’s Birthday weekend, I was faced with a bit of an obstacle. The Wig and Pen were closed to move from their traditional home in the Canberra Building to their new venue in Llewellyn Hall at the ANU.
I wasn’t really sure where else I could meet people for good local beers. Then, the very best of my Canberra mates mentioned that a bunch of the brewers from the Wig and Pen had opened a new venue called BentSpoke.
My love affair with BentSpoke started later that afternoon.
A year later, Suzanne experienced BentSpoke for the first time, albeit remotely. We were just becoming friends, and had established our shared love of great beers. So, on that year’s pilgrimage to Canberra I sent her photos of the beers from BentSpoke along with tasting notes written in the margin of their beer menu. My commentary progressed from careful and considered to scrawled and exuberant as I worked my way down the list that afternoon.
Half a year later, we were sharing many of those same beers on a scorching January day.
So, it’s fair to say that BentSpoke is a venue that’s close to both of our hearts. However, it’d be a mistake to think that we’re in any way biased – because even if I hated the place, I’d be forced to acknowledge that BentSpoke is one of the finest, if not the finest, brewpubs in the country.
There’s usually something like twenty brews on tap ranging from cider and ginger beer, through lager and bitters to a big boozy Belgian quadruple IPA. Despite the wide range of styles, each and every one is an absolute banger, you’ll even occasionally see me drinking their ginger beer, even if it is a little sweet for my taste.
I’m a bit shattered that they didn’t have the Stratus (a double NEIPA) on tap when I visited over the holidays, because I am literally dying to try it out.
For anyone eager to taste every beer on the list, as I often am, BentSpoke offers sample bars with four beers of your choice from the sub 8% ABV section of the list. Servings are a generous 200ml which makes them perfect to share with a friend. The recumbent bar is also available for those keen to try the big boozy beers above 8% ABV, although you’ll only receive 100ml of those beers above 16% ABV.
The menu is short, and I often find myself wishing they had a couple more pub classics amongst the mains, but it’s all very good. If you’re looking for a full meal I’d unreservedly recommend the chicken burger or the big nut chilli, they’re both exceptionally good.
Still, whenever we’re there we inevitably find ourselves ordering round after round of wings, hop potatoes, and ploughman’s boards to share at the table.
Which is, perhaps, the point of BentSpoke, it’s a place where you can share the best that beer has to offer with your chosen people.
For those keen to play games, as we usually are, tables are large, and the lighting is good, although you’re probably best to book ahead if you want a table on the weekend.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that BentSpoke has a station where they fill travellers, in case you’re in the mood to take some of their brewery fresh beer home. With beer this good, it’d be practically a crime not to.