Winner: Netherworld, Fortitude Valley
It doesn’t take a genius to figure that the combination of craft beer, plant-based bar food and retro arcade games would be a winning combo, but even the savviest of prognosticators couldn’t have predicted just how big a deal Fortitude Valley boozer Netherworld would become when it opened. Since launching in the early days of 2017, there’s rarely been a day where the bar is quiet. At any one time you’ll find punters aiming for high scores on the bar’s bevy of arcade games and consoles, chatting up a storm over a a feast of phenomenal fare, sipping on a curated range of craft beers or animatedly competing in a hotly contested board game. Netherworld took out ‘Best New Bar’ honours not long after it opened, so it was only a matter of time before it ascended the ranks of Brisbane’s finest watering holes. We asked and you responded en masse – Netherworld is the best of the best.
Runner-up: Savile Row, Fortitude Valley
The art of cocktail making is easy to learn, but hard to master. Believe us when we say the crew at Ann Street hideaway Savile Row is comprised exclusively of cocktail masters. Behind the venue’s orange door is a lush space that brings a tailored approach to drinking. If there’s a specific drink that you’re after, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to get it here (upon opening, Savile Row stocked 450 whiskies, 52 gins, 50 rums and 50 tequilas – who knows where the count at is now). Since Savile Row’s arrival, the cocktail savvy brains behind the operation have opened two more bars (not to mention keeping its first venue Cobbler in high regard). It’s not outside the realm of possibility to see all four venues on this list in a few year’s time.
Runner-up: Newstead Brewing Co., Milton
When it comes to our home-grown craft-beer operators, few names demand as much respect as Newstead Brewing Co. As one of the outfits responsible for championing the microbrewery cause in the early days, Newstead’s status as a sudsy elder statesman can’t be ignored. After building its fanbase from its original Doggett Street home, Newstead Brewing Co. opened a second brew bar in Milton, expanding its production capabilities and giving locals of Brisbane’s western suburbs a spot to experience the frothy goodness from the source. From brewery line to bar taps, Newstead’s commitment to perfecting beer and its delivery is one of the reasons it’s featured on this list.
Fitz + Potts, Nundah
No stranger to EAT/drink success, Fitz + Potts has worn in a nice groove for itself at the top of the Brisbane bar heap. What’s the secret? Perhaps its success can be credited to its stellar selection of craft beers. Or, maybe, it’s because of its unbeatable location overlooking Nundah’s Sandgate Road strip. Perhaps it’s because the bar specialises in local sips – all of its beers, wines and spirits are Australian. You can’t ignore its eclectic retro aesthetic and moreish selection of (vegan-friendly) snacks, either. Maybe it’s because Fitz + Potts is the whole package. It would certainly explain the bar’s sustained success!
Maker, South Brisbane
What Fish Lane’s hideaway cocktail oasis lacks in space, it more than makes up for in quality. Boutique laneway bar Maker marries disparate flavours into distinctive and enticing combinations, pushing the boundaries when it comes to cocktail composition. We encourage anyone unfamiliar with Maker to settle in for a memorable experience – if you can score yourself a seat, that is!
The Gresham, Brisbane City
Another familiar face on this list is The Gresham – Brisbane City’s heritage-listed home of top-flight cocktails and atmosphere. If you’re seeking a cosy space in which to sip on top-shelf rum, whiskey and wine, you’ve come to the right place. Since 2013, this bar has been taking a progressive approach to hospitality, with a cocktail list that warrants multiple visits. The Gresham is welcoming to all walks of life – there’s no dress policy, only an attitude policy. If you’ve got an open mind, the skilled (and friendly) bartenders here will promptly blow it away with skill and ingenuity.
The Scratch Bar, Milton
Before the Netherworld crew was taking over Fortitude Valley’s bar scene, they were operating The Scratch Bar, one of Brisbane’s first dedicated craft-beer saloons. Located in the heart of Milton, this boozer eschews pretension and artifice in favour of honest service, quality product and a welcoming atmosphere. Here you’ll find a constantly rotating draught and bottled beer menu, where guests are encouraged to ditch the brand loyalty and expand their beery horizons. From sessionable brews to complex and experimental ales, there’s bound to be something you like – and that’s the sign of a quality bar!
Cobbler, West End
Step inside the mood-lit surrounds of West End watering hole Cobbler and you’ll be transported to an oasis of cocktails, spirits and personable service. It’ll only take a quick scan of the cocktail menu for you to realise this crew means business, but if you’re searching for more proof, check out the shelves of bottles adorning the back bar. This impressive array of spirits (including more than 400 whiskies) is filtered into a seasonal cocktail menu that absolutely slays. If you can’t find something you like (or are keen to see what the crew here is capable of), the folks behind the bar will be able to make something that’ll tantalise your tastebuds.
The Junk Bar, Ashgrove
It’s only fair that the bar that was voted as the Best Spot for Cocktails features on this list. Ashgrove’s The Junk Bar kicked off Brisbane’s suburban bar wave, sublimely mixing vintage aesthetics with incredible booze. Sink into a comfy couch and sip on mulled wine, espresso martinis or a full-bodied glass of red, or check out the killer musical acts in the Skukum Lounge and party until the wee hours. The Junk Bar claims that you don’t have to be based in the inner city to draw a crowd, and it seems you all agree.
Brooklyn Standard, Brisbane City
We dare you to find a venue busier than Brooklyn Standard on a Friday or Saturday night. Every time 5:00 pm rolls around, folks flock to Brooklyn Standard’s chic subterranean surrounds to get their groove on. Self-described as ‘the best live music and party bar that Brisbane’s CBD has to offer’, Brooklyn Standard is perfect for partiers that like to get loud. The venue hosts live music every night, with a rotating calendar of funk, soul, RnB and rockabilly performances pairing perfectly with a curated drinks list and an American-inspired food menu. A killer combo by our standards!
Best Institution Bars: Before many of the above locales even opened, there was a bevy of incredible bars keeping Brisbane punters watered. We also asked our readers to pick their favourite institution bars (venues that have been operating for a decade or more), and you didn’t disappoint. Taking top honours this year is phenomenal wine bar and eatery Cru Bar, while narrowly missing out on top honours were legendary riverside icon The Regatta Hotel and Hamilton’s own Byblos.
The EAT/drink fun doesn’t stop here – be sure to check out our list of Brisbane’s ten best restaurants and ten best cafes to help complete your weekend itinerary! All the winners of 2019’s EAT/drink Awards can be found here.