Yorkshire Brewery


Melbourne has a conundrum on its hands. Year-on-year, more people flock to our city. Their reasons are multiple: employment, bearded hipster men, education, souvlaki. These are all good reasons to come to our town, and the more the merrier. But merrier is not what we will be should there be no accommodation to house our new citizens.

This was the point that Martin from SMA Developments made at a launch event for his new project at the Yorkshire Brewery in Collingwood. Located on a historically rich footprint crowned with a brewtower, the Yorkshire Brewery development will add another 350-odd properties to the inner-city market. In today’s Home Truths, we share with you our evening tasting beers at this promotional event to give greater context to the Yorkshire Brewery.


The Yorkshire Brewery (inset, above) was (until recently) a darkly looming, Dickensian tower off Wellington Street. You’ll recognise its gables, and probably recall the graffiti that has graced its face for years. Heritage listed, such towers (bigger or smaller versions of them) populated Melbourne’s inner suburbs, providing fresh ale for the working communities that surrounded them, much like a bakehouse. Developing such a site into a useful, modern space  is always a conundrum, with heritage, council, community and developers’ voices often conflicting. Where do you stand on inner-urban development? Should some prestigious or leafy suburbs be exempt from high-rise development? Or do we need to change our expectation of the urban environment to provide housing for our ever-growing population? If we hope to contain our urban sprawl, a happy medium will surely need to be met.


The scene is set: a very swank display suite launched the Yorkshire Brewery’s sales this weekend. It also hosted our beer tasting, which was genuinely educational and wonderful to enjoy in such a historically-loaded space.


Led by craft beer impresario Costa Nikias, our group of media were told about the history of beer and the trope of our local craft-beer market. Beers were matched with rich fare from Tommy Collins. They were variously fruity, malty, aniseed-y and champagne like.


The Yorkshire Brewery site itself will have several modern building surrounding the heritage tower – this will include a large piazza where it is hoped a sense of communality will be developed with a cafe and weekend market to come. Other points of differentiation for the Yorkshire Brewery will be two body corporate-owned apartments which will be ‘guest apartments’ for visitors. Developers increasingly need to up-the-anti to differentiate their projects, and this guest-suite is certainly a new offering. A communal dining space, yoga room and library will also feature as amenities.


Costa talking about the import of water in brewing, and the relative flexibility to create when imagining a new beer. Costa won a prestigious award at Good Beer Week for his La Sirene belgian praline ale. You read right! Vanilla pods, cocoa nibs and more were used to create a uniquely fragrant product.


 Hops (which are fragrant flowers, compressed into pellets) and wheat (toasted to various darknesses) give each ale its distinctive color, odour and taste.


Costa’s craft beer was last on the tasting menu, and definitely my favourite! Not only for its dreamy graphic design (as we all judge a book by its cover occasionally…) but for its honeysuckle taste and fragrance, and light, bubbly appearance. Fresh!


What do you think of repurposing heritage architecture into modern developments? Does presenting an off-the-plan project in context make you more or less likely to purchase property of this nature? I’d love your feedback on this contentious topic.


2 thoughts on “Yorkshire Brewery

  1. Hi Iolanthe!

    My name is Dimitri Russo. I am a graduate Landscape Architect that grew up in Fitzroy North.
    The Yorkshire Brewery was a place that every teenager (and far beyond) from the inner northern suburbs, including myself, visited on a regular basis. It was a place that was scary, falling apart, full of graffiti and very exiting. I started to research this place (particularly the invasive flora) just before it was being considered for redevelopment. As an architecture student, I started to see so many interesting ideas that this historic but abandoned place showed me. The way the light crept in through crevices, the lack of light, distorted factory equipment, the sense of edge and history combined, material combinations etc etc. Certain plants had created a new wilderness there, inhabiting the abandoned spaces, even the cracks high up in the walls. I feel that so much potential was not uncovered by the developers and architects in this respect. I doubt any of them stayed inside there long enough with an open mind to see the creative potential. It was a intimidating place, so I can understand.

    I feel that the new design is a bit excessive, but we do need houses in Melbourne, even if they are unaffordable by the majority. I am afraid that this place that only the brave adventurers, researchers, artists and photographers visited, will be dominated by the complete opposite. That only the wealthy that are attracted to the inner north will be able to be a part of it. I hope that at least some of the focus here will be history, brewing local craft beers and markets for the community, and not just the millionaires. It is also a shame, probably only to me, that the little wild pockets of urban forest will no longer exist, even though they would have been there for many decades, and that they have great importance in the urban environment.

    I would love to hear back from you.

    Dimitri Russo.

    • Hi Dimitri,
      Thanks for your careful reading of Hometruths and your insight into what we now call the Yorkshire Brewery site. You are really brave to have gone on urban exploration of the Yorkshire site when it was derelict – I find disused sites really fascinating and there’s many UK website of urban explorers who ramble through the remains of old hospitals before their demolition or re-development which I enjoy scrolling through. You must have some wonderful memories of this site – and I agree with you: what is now the Yorkshire Brewery will be the home of the wealthy, of those able to get loans and afford the lifestyle of the inner-city. From my small understanding of the new iteration of the Brewery – they will have a piazza area with coffee shops and markets, and there is some attention to building sympathetically within the main brew tower. I have some knowledge of nearby Tribeca in East Melbourne, and expect it to be a similar (if slightly more functional) kind of development. Although I too love the living history of our heritage building, the commercial imperative is one that I am certain will continue to dominate. As our population swells and we continue to enjoy employment in Melbourne, the inner-city will creep ever upwards in value. I can only see a ‘European-style’ culture of renting in future, with less focus on ownership and more on simply getting by. We are probably one of the last generations to have the opportunity to buy property in urban areas.

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