“You start with the staff. You have to,” says Sean Golding, owner of Golding’s Free Dive. “For some people, [drinking craft beer] is taking a risk, so good staff is the conduit for changing their life!”
This is one of the many reasons why people like Golding’s – its owner’s ideas on beer drinking are infectious. Take the smoking area, or lack thereof, at the bar. Golding says that he doesn’t hate smokers, but why should non-smokers have to sit indoors. There are places to smoke around Golding’s; you just can’t drink there.
A few punters have taken issue with this policy, but Golding maintains that the best thing to go with beer is company. He wants everyone drinking together, happy and comfortable.
Comfortable is a good description of the bar itself. The tables are lined with seats that Golding picked up from a sale from an old casino. They are so accommodating because they are designed to keep you sitting in front of a pokie machine all day, or in this case, drinking beer and chatting to friends. Golding’s friendly “dive bar” vibe is popular, sitting between the “serious” craft beer bar scene at Hashigo Zake and the very laid-back feeling of bars such as Rogue and Vagabond.
Of course, it wasn’t easy getting into the space. The bar is located off the main Dixon Street drag on Eva Street (near Pizza Pomodoro). It’s also in the bottom of an apartment building: suffice it to say that the body corporate wasn’t behind the idea at all.
“I built the bar for the neighbourhood, and now we have people from the apartments coming in here to drink,” says Golding. “I made them no promises; instead, I needed to show them that it would work.” There was the obvious worry that the new bar would attract the wrong crowd: this is also the reason why the outdoor seating area is closed after 9pm and why the bar shuts at midnight.
While I was chatting to Golding, two of the apartment body corporate wandered in to report that someone had dumped rubbish outside the bar. At first I thought it was a complaint, but instead they were just looking for a bin to put it in and a place to wash their hands. Very nice to see. Golding’s other neighbours are getting in on the act, too: the bar sells Six Barrel sodas and Pomodoro pizzas. But if Golding’s has become famous for anything, it might just be their sandwiches.
“I wanted to do toasties because we don’t have a huge kitchen and they are something quick and simple that you can do and make it sort of special.” Golding recalls that the first time he asked his bartender Steve to make their signature Reuben Schluman Goldbürgenstein (a typical Reuben sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese, then toasted and served with a pickle and crisps), Golding told him to “supernova the prick!” When you get one you’ll see why – there’s so much beef in there it’s crazy.
Golding punctuates his conversation with lines that sound like pop philosophy. “Beer is love” is a great one that is written across the mural at one end of the bar. Another is “Beer is complimentary; it likes its friends around it”. The bar lends itself well to Instagram and Twitter, and the use of these apps is encouraged. Golding’s wants you to be comfortable while you do your thing: no one will judge. And on Fridays the place is packed.
If beer is love, then Golding’s is beer’s warm embrace.