The rise of Sydney's craft beer scene
A pint of Three Sheets at the Lord Nelson Hotel in The Rocks. Photo: Dean Sewell
Craft beer is definitely on the rise in Sydney, with local breweries leading the charge.
From Campbelltown to Mt Kuring-gai, here's a selection of this city's top craft breweries.
In just a two-and-a-bit years, Young Henry's has become as common to inner west pubs as Chomsky-quoting dilettantes and drummers from You Am I (there's actually a Young Henry's “Brew Am I” ).
The brewery was a local pioneer of the swap-and-go growler system: pick up a full two litre growler, take it home, drink said growler, and swap the “empty” for a “fully” on the next visit. There's a tasting bar, plush couches, and alternate-country soundtracks. Brewery tours are available by appointment.
Young Henry's is all about the local community. There's often weekend barbecues in its carpark and the guys are always lending a hoppy-hand at local festivals. Want to grab a schooner of the “Newtowner” in Paddington? No such luck: the English-style summer ale is only sold from hotels with a 2042 postcode.
Top Drop: Hop Ale, English-style IPA, 6.0 per cent
Availability: Direct from the brewery and bars and pubs all over Sydney - particularly ones in the inner west with a love of rock'n'roll.
76 Wilford Street Newtown, 9519 0048, younghenrys.com
4 Pines Brewing Company
4 Pines came about after a conversation with founder Jaron Mitchell and his old-man about why is was so dang hard to get a good beer in Manly. Now, with these guys right by the water, quality ale is much easier to come by in Sea-Eagles-country.
4 Pines celebrated its sixth birthday in June. It has expanded to do the bulk of its brewing at a larger Brookvale site, however the original brewpub is still going strong. In the colder months, rugging up on the verandah suits a smooth, chocolatey stout. In summer, slip on some thongs and board the ferry for an afternoon of Keller Door sampling.
Top Drop: Extra Special Bitter, English Ale, 5.6 per cent
Availability: Direct from the venue and pubs, bars and bottle shops all over Australia.
29/43-45 East Esplanade Manly, 9976 2300, 4pinesbeer.com.au
Riverside Brewing Company
For the last two years Parramatta's Riverside Brewing has been specialising in beer free of additives and preservatives, but full of natural flavour and big, hoppy character. “The locals love it” says Riverside's co-founder and head brewer Dave Padden.
Riverside has a tasting bar with its six standard beers and any seasonal brews on tap. Takeaways are available by the bottle and the growler. “We accept anybody's growler, too,” says Padden. “For us it's not about selling glassware, its about selling beer.”
Top Drop: Seventy Seven, American IPA, 7.7 per cent
Availability: From the brewery, independent bottle shops, and pubs across Sydney.
Unit 3, 2 Norths Rock Road North Parramatta, 9890 7007, riversidebrewing.com.au
The Lord Nelson
The Lord is an icon of The Rocks and is Australia's oldest continually licensed hotel. There's few better ways to spend a winter afternoon in Sydney than by its fireplace with mushy peas, a pie, and a pint.
The brewery was only added in 1987. The Lord has a number of other tipples in addition to the famous Three Sheets pale ale, including the malty Victory Bitter and the Quayle Ale which tastes like the kind of thing Wordsworth might drink on a the way home from a surf.
Top Drop: Trafalgar Pale Ale, English Bitter, 4.2 per cent
Availability: Bottles of Three Sheets Australian Pale Ale and Old Admiral Old Ale are available county-wide. Head to the The Lord itself for the other ales.
19 Kent Street The Rocks, 9251 4044, lordnelsonbrewery.com
Batch Brewing C o
Located in Marrickville's industrial heart, Batch Brewing Co was founded by all-round American nice-guys Chris Sidwa and Andrew Fineran in late 2013.Be careful not to become attached to a specific brew. The only permanent beer is their American Pale Ale. The other, more experimental batches might have a life of a couple of months, never to be seen again (hence the name Batch Brewing).
“It keeps things fun and interesting for us, but its also what consumers want," says Fineran . "It's just about making exciting new beers that are great to drink.”
Thursday to Saturday you can pull up a stool here and sample the knock-out range of fresh beer on offer. Live music is semi-regular and weather permitting, the guys from Nighthawk Diner might show up to provide some food action. The Batch guys are also welding a barbecue together to start slow cooking brisket.
Top Drop: Elsie the Milk Stout, 4.9 per cent
Availability: Jars (yes, jars) of fresh beer from the brewery in addition to take-home growlers and longnecks. Independent bottle shops, bars, pubs, and restaurants around Sydney.
44 Sydenham Road Marrickville, 0419 348 958, batchbrewingco.com.au
The sign for Happy Goblin Brewery reads 'Hornsby Budget Trailers'. “I keep meaning to do something about that," says Happy Goblin owner Colin Larter, “But I suppose has been about eight years since I started brewing here.”
Larter's shed in the Mt Kuring-gai industrial estate might not be offering food trucks and tasting sessions but it does produce some brilliant drops. Happy Goblin produces a dark, strong and pale ales over winter and in warmer months brews the occasional ginger beer.
Ekim, another producer of great craft beer, shares the site and its equipment with Happy Goblin. Ekim specialises in small batches of unfiltered and unpasteurised beer. If you can get your hands on its Viking IPA, consume with vigour immediately.
Top Drop: Pale Ale, Australian Pale Ale, 4.0 per cent
Availability: Yulli's in Surry Hills is the only place with a permanent Goblin tap, however bottles and kegs do pop up at pubs and independent bottle shops around Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Rocks Brewing Co
Originally located at Harts Pub in the The Rocks, Rocks Brewing company is a family-owned company that has relocated to Alexandria's industrial area where they also have a bar menu with plenty of beer friendly food and a huge kid-friendly outdoor area.
“The Sunday sessions are beoming packed in the afternoon when we have live music outside” says Rocks Brewing communications manager Stefanie Collins. “The courtyard is gorgeous when the sun comes in and warms everything up.”
Rocks Brewing Co is the first brewery in Australia to introduce PET plastic growlers. This means no deposit fee or having to recall whose party you left you empty growler at.
Top Drop: The Boxer Red Ale, Irish Red Ale, 4.2 per cent
Availability: Fresh from the brewery, and many privately-owned bottle shops and hotels around town. The other top places for Rocks beer are Harts Pub in the Rocks or The Lord Raglan in Alexandria.
160 Bourke Road Alexandria, 9669 3600, rocksbrewing.com
Campbelltown Catholic Club
This isn't some church group for knitting bingo cards. In amongst the pokies and members-only schnitzel specials, is an unexpected find: the Rydges Infusion Microbrewery and Bar. The brewery has four permanent brews and a couple of seasonal drops. Besides possessing a disturbing logo of an alien spirit from the X-Files, the 'Fisher's Ghost Lager' also has a fantastically complex malt and citrus flavours.
Top Drop: Fisher's Ghost Lager, 4.8 per cent
Availability: Only at the Infusion bar.
20-22 Camden Road Campbelltown, 4645 0500, kingofclubs.com.au
Here's a secret: one of the most elegant, well balanced ciders you're likely drink this year isn't brewed out the back of Batlow. It's made directly below World Square in the city. It's a beauty, using champagne yeast and freshly crushed apples from the Adelaide Hills. Sydney Brewing (known until 2012 as Schwartz Brewery) used to brew all its beer underneath the Macquarie Hotel, a couple of blocks south of Hyde Park. All beers are now brewed at Lovedale in the Hunter Valley, although still bottled in Sydney at the same location as the cider is made - beneath World Square. The beers pop-up all over town, especially in their namesake suburbs - we're talking brews like the Paddo Pale, Potts Point Porter and very tasty Darlo Dark.
Top Drop: Sydney Cider, 4.5 per cent
Availability: On and off-licensed premises across NSW. The Macquarie Hotel still has a great Sydney Brewing tap selection.
Do you have a favourite local brewer? Jump on the comments and share your suggestions.