Ale and Hearty: Nick Newey (front) and Pat McInerney at their craft beer unit in St Peters. Photo: Nick Moir
Pat McInerney and Nick Newey are not your average craft beer brewers, by their own admission. They are not hipsters, they do not sport fashionable beards and their 20s are a distant memory.
"We're both portly middle-aged men and both going bald," says Mr McInerney, 45. "I think people are pleasantly surprised that we don't fit the bill of other brewers."
They are, however, from the inner west. Even the brewery's name, Willie the Boatman, pays homage to a local hero, William Kerr, a Scottish convict who rowed A.B. Sparks and his visitors across the Cooks River in Tempe in the 1830s.
This weekend the duo will migrate ever so slightly northward to Carriageworks in Eveleigh for the Sip and Savour festival, part of Sydney Craft Beer Week. Enthusiasts can taste and interrogate more than 250 craft beers and ciders, including Willie the Boatman's five boutique offerings: a signature golden ale (the Foo Brew), an IPA and a seasonal East German Gose, finished with "a salty mineral taste".
"We love malty beers," Mr McInerney says, in contrast to "hopped out" brews that have been trendy in recent years. Hops are flowers of the hop plant, a member of the hemp family, used in brewing to vary bitterness and aroma.
Mr McInerney, a television producer, and Mr Newey, an events manager who worked on the London Olympics, were habitual home brewers when they quit their day jobs in May to move into full-time production. The pair set up at the Australian Brewery in Rouse Hill before moving to their own premises at the former Taubmans paint factory in St Peters earlier this month.
Their equipment is mostly second-hand and sourced from other brewers or dairy farms. The mash tun, which extracts sugar from grains, is an old milk vat, while their 1200 litre kettle started life as a pasteuriser.
"We call it the eBay brewery," Mr McInerney says.
In Sydney for the festival are Danielle Allen and Jayne Lewis of Melbourne's Two Birds brewery. Both 35, the women have been making beer together for more than three years and say the industry is starting to diversify beyond its "boys' club" image.
"Particularly in the last 12 to 18 months there is definitely a lot more women ... whether it's in sales or marketing or opening craft beer bars themselves," Ms Allen says.
Innovation is the flavour of the month in craft beer, she says, as brewers go out of their way to push boundaries. Her latest effort is a "taco" beer, brewed with coriander, corn and lime. And drinkers are becoming more receptive as the market for boutique beer grows and diversifies.
"We're not just talking to the same craft beer enthusiasts any more," she says. "There are a lot of people out there who are interested and want to understand more about beer."
Sip and Savour is part of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month, presented by Citi. See goodfoodmonth.com.au for details