How Marrickville became the craft beer capital of Australia

Hawke's beer and leisure centre head brewer Brodie French and owner Nathan Lennon.
Hawke's beer and leisure centre head brewer Brodie French and owner Nathan Lennon.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Since Batch Brewing opened Marrickville's first craft brewery on Sydenham Road in 2013, the inner west suburb's craft beer scene has exploded.

"It's become a destination in its own right," says Mike Clarke, president of the Inner West Brewery Association and founder of Mitchell Street brewery Sauce.

"Marrickville attracts breweries because it's the closest suburb to the city that still has industrial land available, and the population is very receptive to what we're doing."

Hawke's beer and leisure centre is a homage to the late Prime Minister and 1980s Australiana.
Hawke's beer and leisure centre is a homage to the late Prime Minister and 1980s Australiana.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

The suburb's latest drawcard is the 1200 square-metre Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre on Sydney Street, a spectacular homage to the late Prime Minister and 1980s Australiana.

Hawke's Brewing co-founder Nathan Lennon says choosing Marrickville was "a given".

"It's a one-stop-shop. People know they can come to Marrickville, walk no further than a kilometre, and hit six or seven breweries," he says.

The rooftop bar at Philter Brewing, Marrickville.
The rooftop bar at Philter Brewing, Marrickville.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Meanwhile, Mixtape Brewing & Bar opened its lush indoor beer garden – featuring 28 skylights and dozens of plants – on Victoria Road in late February. Co-founder Jason Newton says the location gave the brewery an immediate boost in visitor numbers.

"Self-guided brewery tours are a big thing here, so there are lots of groups just flowing from one brewery to the next," he says.

"We haven't done a lot of advertising, but we've been busy. It's just word of mouth."

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US-born co-founder of Wildflower Brewing & Blending Topher Boehm says the brewing community in Marrickville is unlike anywhere else in the world.

"I've travelled extensively for beer and what we have as Sydneysiders and brewers in Marrickville is totally unique," says Boehm.

"There's strength in numbers. Having a lot of breweries located really close to one another allows us to develop our own spaces and our own brands a little bit more, rather than needing to cater for everyone."

Wildflower brewer Topher Boehm at his brewery in Marrickville.
Wildflower brewer Topher Boehm at his brewery in Marrickville. Photo: James Brickwood

The close proximity has fostered a sense of community between brewers, as they help each other with technical questions, stock shortages, and the ever-important beer tasting.

"I've heard it described as 'co-opetition'," says Clarke.

"What's good for one is good for all. It's kind of like a wine region in that everyone is working together to encourage more people to visit."

Wildflower Brewing's range of beers made with smoke-tainted grapes from Ravensworth vineyard near Canberra.
Wildflower Brewing's range of beers made with smoke-tainted grapes from Ravensworth vineyard near Canberra.  Photo: James Brickwood

Those considering a brewery crawl are spoiled for choice. Where abandoned Marrickville factory walls once reverberated with the bass of underground rave parties, they're now pumping with some of the most unique beers in the country.

Last week, punters were welcomed back to the refurbished cellar doors of Wildflower's converted 1890's metal foundry. The walls are lined with French oak barrels, where beer fermented with yeasts foraged from nature are aged for up to two years, creating a "very different flavour profile", says Boehm.

"So many people come into our brewery saying they don't drink beer and end up leaving with something in their hands, maybe because the archetype of beer they have in their head is so different to what we're offering," says the brewer.

Sausage Queen Brewing founder Chrissy Flanagan at her Dulwich Hill brewery and "snaggery".
Sausage Queen Brewing founder Chrissy Flanagan at her Dulwich Hill brewery and "snaggery". Photo: Dylan Coker

"And if that's not what someone is looking for, we can recommend other breweries to visit."

For the less adventurous quaffer, Hawke's head brewer says he makes "beer for beer drinkers".

"We're a good introduction for people who might otherwise be intimidated by the idea of going to a brewery," says Lennon.

"We wanted to create a positive experience so people can then go to other breweries in the area with confidence and share the love."

Back on Victoria Road, Newton plans to "have a bit of fun" brewing experimental, small-batch beers at Mixtape, but says his brewery deliberately caters to all tastes, with a full bar also stocking spirits and wine.

"I find going to a brewery can be quite alienating for people who don't drink beer, so I wanted to have something for everyone," he says.

Craft beer enthusiast and Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne says the more people who get on board with the breweries, the better off the suburb will be.

"It's a big part of our local identity and our cultural life," Cr Byrne says.

"The fact that the density of breweries in the inner west continues to grow gives me a lot of optimism as to what's to come over the next decade. There are big opportunities for us to attract more people as tourism opens back up.

"This has the potential to be an ongoing boon to the inner west economy as a whole."

Inner west breweries for a craft beer crawl

Marrickville

Sauce Brewing Co

1a Mitchell Street, Marrickville, 02 8580 3555, sauce.beer

The Grifter Brewing Co

1/391-397 Enmore Road, Marrickville, 02 9550 5742, thegrifter.com.au

Batch Brewing Company

44 Sydenham Road, Marrickville, 02 9550 5432, batchbrewingco.com.au

Wildflower Brewing & Blending

11-13 Brompton Street, Marrickville, wildflowerbeer.com

Philter Brewing

92-98 Sydenham Road, Marrickville, 02 9199 9655, philterbrewing.com

The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre

8-12 Sydney Street, Marrickville, 02 9199 9655, hawkesbrewing.com

Mixtape Brewing and Bar

142A Victoria Road, Marrickville, 0402 813 035, mixtapebrewing.com.au

Stockade Brew Co

25 Cadogan Street, Marrickville, stockadebrewco.com.au

Petersham

Batch Brewing Company Nanobrewery

292 Stanmore Road, Petersham, 02 9518 1398, batchbrewingco.com.au

Enmore

Hopsters Cooperative Brewery

198 Enmore Road, Enmore, hopsters.coop

Rozelle

White Bay Beer Co.

26C Mansfield Street, Rozelle, whitebay.beer

Newtown

Young Henrys Craft Brewery and Tasting Bar

76 Wilford Street, Newtown, younghenrys.com

St Peters

Brickworks Brewing

15 May Street, St Peters, brickworksbrewing.com.au

Willie the Boatman

Precinct 75 Suite 601, 75 Mary Street, St Peters, 02 8556 7528, willietheboatman.com.au

Dulwich Hill

Sausage Queen

The Sausage Factory, 380 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, 0405 274 867, thesausagefactory.com.au

Camperdown

Wayward Brewing Co

1 Gehrig Lane, Camperdown, 02 7903 2445, wayward.com.au

Malt Shovel Brewery

99 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown, maltshovel.com.au