Small bar vibes with a welcoming atmosphere – it’s time to discover The Woolhouse (if you haven’t already)
The Woolhouse at 600 Dean Street has a rustic, handmade feel, with every element of the fit-out thoughtfully designed by owner Gavin. It’s a warm and welcoming place with a touch of Melbourne bar scene edge, serving a wide variety of local brews on tap and a nibbles menu that includes sliders, onion rings, crispy squid, deliciously crunchy hot chips and much more.
Opening just one month before COVID-19 hit in February 2020, Gavin and his team had only two weeks of normal trading before restrictions began. Taking it all in stride, Gavin relied heavily on his extensive background in hospitality, strong relationship with the landlord and can-do attitude to steer The Woolhouse through its first two years to come out the other side.
After 12 months in an engineering role, Gavin realised he wasn’t cut out for desk work. Relying on his hospitality background from working at bars and restaurants while studying, Gavin jumped from working at a desk to working on the slopes. He spent seven ski seasons across three years working in Canada and Mt Hotham before turning his sights to Albury.
It took almost two years of research and planning to bring The Woolhouse to life. Not one to shy away from hard work, almost everything you see when you enter The Woolhouse was built and installed by Gavin. The space was a blank canvas, giving Gavin free reign to make it his own in a truly DIY fashion.
“I’d much rather work 70, 80, usually over 100 hours a week, than 40 or 50 sitting behind a desk. I just can’t do it. Engineering gave me the skills to do the fit-out myself – the table we’re sitting at, and the actual bar and putting the beer system in,” he said.
Gavin’s experience and hands-on approach aren’t the only things that have shaped The Wollhouse’s vibe and atmosphere. Albury is surrounded by some of the best independent and craft breweries, distilleries and wineries you’ll find anywhere in Australia, so the taps and bottles behind the bar reflect the plethora of choices available.
“I’ve always enjoyed craft beer. I’ve found the culture of craft breweries to be very enjoyable to be around. The craft brewery world is very welcoming and encouraging, which is fantastic. It’s nice to be able to have this sort of Melbourne-style small bar in Albury,” he said.
The small-bar style is exactly what you get when sitting at one of the handcrafted tables at The Woolhouse. More than just looks, though, it’s a welcoming place where you can feel comfortable stopping in for a drink or two with friends or on your own after work. The beer garden at the back of the bar is cosy, and there is nothing pretentious about the place. There is usually a dog or two looking for pats, which is always a bonus.
“While we can have a bit of fun when it’s busy on a Saturday night, there’s still room for us to sit down and have a chat, which is really important. [We’re for] anybody who wants to come sit down, relax, enjoy a drink and some nice nibbles or sit in this sort of environment.”
Being a small bar means that whether there are two people or fifty, there’s a nice atmosphere without feeling too overwhelming.
“It’s really important to be welcoming, and that’s what I drive with the staff. We’re not pushy, and we’re not over the top. Just come up to the bar when you’re ready to order. There’s no judging here.”
It’s easy to see how much pride Gavin has in the space he’s created when speaking with him. The tough times during the height of the pandemic have given way to clearer skies ahead, even with cost of living pressures mounting, which Gavin recognises will be a challenge.
“I’m stoked that the bar is still here. There have been a couple of nights where we’ve had live music, and people are up and dancing, and it’s like, ‘Yes! This is what I wanted the bar to be. It’s really rewarding to see people having fun is what the bar was meant to be.”
For anyone unsure if craft beer is for them, there are 16 taps behind the bar and knowledgeable staff who can suggest something based on what you typically drink. Gavin also points out that they also have an extensive range of spirits.
Fun fact: The Woolhouse is named after Gavin’s grandmother, whose last name was Woolhouse.
The Woolhouse is part of the AlburyCBD Gift Card program.
Produced by Rhiannon Veness in partnership with AlburyCBD