Matt Marinich // Venue Manager Stomping Ground Beer Hall, Certified Cicerone // Wearing: a well-worn pair of Nevada Boots
What is a Cicerone?
It’s a bit of an alien word, it’s only been around since 2008 – it’s a certification, it’s like a sommelier but for beer – there are four ranks based on your skills and knowledge. It’s a beer expert really; from storing and keeping beer, to beer styles, flavour and evaluation, and beer and food pairing. It was originally American, it’s now internationally recognised. I am one of 48 certified Cicerones in Australia, and we have five of those here at Stomping Ground which is pretty cool!
How did you come to be at Stomping Ground?
I started working in hospitality venues when I was 18, picking up glasses in Perth and Fremantle, where I grew up. I worked my way up in hospitality there for about 17 years, and that was awesome. During that time, Steve and Guy who are the owners of the Local Taphouse in St Kilda, which is arguably the best beer venue in Australia, were opening a new taphouse in Sydney. I applied for the job, but my wife and I had just had our first child, he was only one, and as much as I wanted to work for them and open one of their venues, it wasn’t the right time to move interstate away from our support network. So I asked them to give me a call if they were ever opening new venues in the future… eight years later I got a message. I flew over immediately to have an interview with them – it lasted about 5 hours, and after many beers it was 99% agreed that I was going to come over. Three months later, I was here, creating the Stomping Ground Beer Hall.
How do you turn a textile warehouse into a hospitality venue?
Mostly we kept it pretty much as it was. We wanted it to be open, industrial, genuine, and honest. We built the deck, installed the wall between the brewery and beer hall, built the bar itself and added a few fireplaces, but other than that we left it as we found it. Creating sociability through environment is one of our big things – the experience of the guest coming here and enjoying him or herself is the number one thing we instill in all our staff.
Do you think that being in Melbourne influences what Stomping Ground has become?
Yeah, I think it does. In comparison to Perth, the population is almost double. That enabled us to open something really quickly and get quicker responses – right down to brewing a beer more, and being able to refine it more, because people are buying it more and drinking more of it. I also think Melbourne has culture around hospitality that is quite alternative, but also homely and comfortable. The laneway culture throughout Melbourne allows Melbourne bars to be a little less pretentious than they might be somewhere else.
What do you wear to work on a normal day?
Pretty much a t-shirt, jeans, and my Rhino boots. This Stomping Ground t-shirt that I’m wearing now is probably my favourite of the designs we’ve had so far. It reminds me of something my Dad would wear in the 70s to go to bowls club or something.
What’s your favourite type of shoe?
I really like a boot that sits somewhere between being a dress boot and a military style boot, which is what drew me towards Wild Rhino Nevadas. I chew through shoes really quickly at work, if I wear sneakers or anything, the soles just wear out so quickly. So in the last couple of years I’ve looked towards boots with a good sole that grips well, is comfy, and doesn’t wear out in six months, that’s why I chose these Nevadas, and they’ve stood the test of time pretty well so far!
What’s next for you?
I’m currently booked to sit my Advanced Cicerone exam in Chicago in August. That’s the third level, of which there are none in Australia at the moment, there are only 40 in the world. So if I could achieve that and be the first in Australia, I’d really like that.
If you could close Stomping Ground for a day or a night and use it to host any event that you could possibly think of, what would you do?
Wow. I would contact the 50 top breweries in the world, invite their brewers and their most sought after beers, and fly them down, and host an unparalleled beer event. I’d have some of the guys in America at the tip of the spear making amazing IPAs, I’d bring some of those crazy German brewers from the 1800s and 1900s back to life, and the rest of the world as well, and have a crazy 24 hour beer spectapular.