2- How Sydney Hearts Craft
The New South Wales state capital and it’s malty delights have somehow eluded my closer attention for far too long. So I rectified this by taking on one of the tougher duties in the course of writing an alcohol-dedicated blog as I subjected myself and my companions to two consecutive days of traversing Australia’s biggest city to cover all of the craft beer haunts that time allowed (purely in the name of scientific analysis of course).
Despite the swirling crush of the surrounding inner-urban Newtown, where fashionable places to eat, shop and loiter burst from every seam, the Young Henrys brewery is surprisingly working class. The building, the beers and the patrons are all blissfully utilitarian. From the outside, this place is an unassuming commercial unit and once inside, the warehouse space feels enormous which is some feat considering it is also a working brewery. Our visit was on a Saturday afternoon and their taproom focus was their core range, all of which offered a suitable accompaniment to the wafting odours from the BBQ tent stationed in the delivery doorway. It must be a wicked temptation for every Newtowner to permanently set-up camp on any and every weekend for a few fresh lagers or pales. The highlight for me was the Real Ale – a best bitter with a really smooth mouthfeel and a delicious crisp malty, toffee flavour. Due to this venue’s great offerings and easy proximity to any city accommodation in Sydney – we will definitely be back. Very consumable summer session beers for the most part and guaranteed that most conventional, civilian drinkers could find something here that they will enjoy immensely.
Batch is another site with a core range focus flowing from their bar (albeit in a much smaller public space). The warehouse brewery and bar (complete with a chicken wings caravan outside) gave the entire establishment a very pumping cellar door feeling. Their penchant for a specialist dark beer and some non-standard items in the fridge was more suitable to my particular tastes. Over a sea of bodies, I headed for the toasty caramel, tobacco and cream flavours of the Elsie the Milk Stout. The furniture and fittings in the bar area seem to be completely DIY or at least do a perfect job of mimicking that effect. If they are indeed self made on a zero budget – mad respect – that takes the handmade-craft ethos to a whole new level. Their philosophy of brewing for the drinker is pretty evident in both the products and the space – there’s a diversity in their products and willingness to experiment a little bit with styles that really blends well with their cosmopolitan punters. In this venue I really liked walking through the brewhouse to access the bathroom. It’s a great chance to get an intimate look at the different stages of their production process and to enjoy some brewporn in the form of their stainless fittings. I also tried the Summer Farmhouse Ale which I didn’t quite enjoy as much as the Elsie, but as I mentioned, they seem to explore a little bit with styles and I would definitely head back to try their Addison Rye Ale and Apricot/Mango Sour. As an actual drinking venue, it’s a little cramped due to their popularity among dedicated locals, but they do also offer takeaways. Overall this would be an outstanding watering hole if you had it as a local and could drop in for takeaways or on the way home from work on a given afternoon. Also, their logo is pretty great.
Wayward was the venue I enjoyed most on this visit. The design of their overall fit out is uber trendy and comes off as stylish from what I could see (it was hard to see it in detail as the place is huge and it was packed). It was a really pumping Saturday evening vibe that somehow didn’t really feel crowded. The beers on tap here were again a little bit more adventurous than both Batch & Young Henrys. If you’re in Sydney for only a short amount of time and you like something outside of the popularist Australian craft mainstream, then Wayward is a must. In general, the range of beers here is a serviceable jumping-off point for anyone who is trying to expand their taste portfolio beyond IPA’s, pales and lagers. Their Raspberry Berliner Weisse, IRA, Midnight Barley Porter and Marzen were all beers I was excited to be choosing from. The Berliner Weisse I enjoyed greatly. I think this is a style that is really well suited to the Australian summer as it’s normally a super refreshing, low ABV beer that manages to generate a lot of action for the taste buds. I just wish the raspberry in this one had been a little more pronounced. Maybe double the quantity of compote in the mash. I didn’t have a bad beer during my time at this place and one of my other favourites was the Keller Instinct a landbier (or hazy lager). Trying this beer for the first time was a really pleasant surprise as It’s not a style that I would normally automatically choose – but I’m grateful I did. It was fantastically sessionable and it’s a flavour I’ll miss until I taste it again.
If you’re in Sydney for a longer amount of time – say a weekend, then 4 Pines is also a must. One of the best bars in one of the best locations in the country – probably the galaxy. The view out of the windows is the catalyst for the casual, feel-good audience and staff in this bar. On the timeline of good beer/craft beer in this country, 4 Pines have been around forever and I don’t think there’s too many cervezaphiles in the South-Eastern hemisphere that haven’t had their Hefe, Pale, Kolsch or Stout. But that doesn’t mean they’ve been standing still for the last 8 years, their evolution since their inception and expansion now includes the excellent Keller Door range. The Lemon-Melon Wit was out of this world and not the sort of thing I’ve looked for from 4 Pines in the past. The belgian witbier is much like the berliner weisse from Wayward in that it’s a really accessible, refreshing summer-friendly beer with a lot of flavour which really delivered on the melony goodness with a tart lemon tang – all flavours that marry extremely well with grain on days where the sun feels like it might melt the footpath. The other great beer here that I hadn’t had before was the ESB. This extra special bitter is no shrinking violet, with a big flavour and a great balance – leather and tobacco that gives way to a malty sweetness at the end.
Going to Flat Rock was an anomaly – that fortunately turned into a happy accident. We hadn’t planned to visit this joint, but it was on the way back from Manly and when some other venues were closed, this was a solution that came via now tapped (I often use this as my compass when I’m away from home). There were a few things I really loved about this nano-brewery – it’s in a great old building spread over a few levels, it’s very low-key and unassuming inside and they make their own soft drinks as well as beer. As well as their own beers, they serve draught drinks from other vendors. My pick of the drops was the English Bitter, a mellow tobacco and burnt toffee flavour which would be killer in more autumny weather as a comfort beer. Now that I know about this little gem, I’ll definitely make a point of going back next time I’m in Sydney and attempt to work my way through some of their other fermented treats – including the soft drinks.
If you think we missed any great locations in Sydney, let me know and I’ll get there on my next trip. See you soon for more delicious destinations for drinks, more brews and more reviews.