Pubs in Sydney that aren't pouring at least one craft beer are behind the times in 2015. Craft is everywhere and even bowling clubs, the spiritual home of mainstream beer like VB and Tooheys, are coming around to deliciousness offered by local craft brews.
Some venues do have more individual taps than the ones listed here, but a good beer offering should be about quality not quantity. You also want a place where you can relax and take a load off, and all these boozers tick that very important box.
The Welcome Hotel
This Rozelle local was given a revamp in 2013 and, instead of reinventing the wheel, publican Liam O'Keefe decided to celebrate the humble character of this 1878 beauty by preserving the lifeblood of any good pub – its front bar. A discerning spit polish accentuates raw brick walls and dark, wooden features, while new carpet keeps the volume in check. Flourishes such as fishing club trophies, cricket on the telly and an easy-going soundtrack make you feel right at home.
The big change at the Welcome has been its food and drink offerings. Stepping out of the main bar and crossing the hall reveals an elegant, light-filled dining space, where chef Dan Mulligan serves up Italian fare that earned him a hat in The Good Food Guide 2016. Note that the bar food is still great if you want something more casual.
The Welcome has 14 rotating craft taps and a hefty bottled selection. Play it safe with local favourites from Batch and Modus Operandi or go out on limb and order a Mornington Peninsula Brett IPA – a funky floral beast with plenty of late addition Aussie hops, fermented using the rogue yeast Brettanomyces, a rare treat in these parts.
91 Evans Street Rozelle, 9810 1323, thewelcomehotel.com.au
Petersham Bowling Club
There's a lot to love about Petersham Bowling Club, where the original doors have been swinging since 1896. A focus on craft beer and community engagement has enabled this little gem to stay relevant, while maintaining the charm it has effortlessly procured in the last century.
Dozing away in Petersham's leafy backstreets, the club is proudly pokie-free, offering a vibrant blend of live music, dance classes, barefoot bowls and trivia nights. Pennants boards and bowling paraphernalia still adorn the walls, although these days it's children of local families who lay claim to the greens.
With 12 continually rotating taps and no generic offerings, the beer focus here leans towards seasonality and sessionability, with lower-alcohol brews often resulting in traditional bowlo pricing. Grab a frosty schooner of The Rocks Hangman Pale Ale, flick your shoes off and find a sunny spot by the green. The perfect weekend afternoon.
77 Brighton Street Petersham, 9569 4639, thepbc.org.au
The Union Hotel
Located just a hop, skip and a stumble from local beer heroes Young Henrys, Willie the Boatman and Batch, the Union Hotel has been flying the flag for craft beer in the inner west since its third-generation handover in 2012.
Despite a history of renovation, the front bar of this south King Street favourite retains its bones and has a spacious pool table arrangement that won't leave you accidentally assaulting punters with the end of your cue. The rear of the venue is under the knife again and the new look will be an intimate mix of wood, leather and steel, explains an enthusiastic young bartender. Kitchen duties are being reclaimed by the house and the Returned and Services League carpet banished to the skip.
With more than 20 taps, the craft beer selection is vast, accommodating a strong line-up of local and interstate names with the occasional international guest. When in Newtown, support the neighbours and grab yourself a glass of Young Henrys' Burnout, a dark, luscious concoction of hand-smoked malt, chocolate wheat and rye.
576 King Street Newtown, 9557 2989, unionnewtown.com.au
Royal Albert Hotel
Craft beer venues are on almost every corner in Surry Hills, and thus a pub has to work hard to make its mark in the suburb. This is exactly what the folk at the Royal Albert have been doing since it changed hands in 2011. It is regarded as a forerunner of the popular tap takeover, and it's not uncommon to find all 14 taps and two hand-pumps showcasing a single brewery's goods. In fact, the Albert averages 24 takeovers a year, with efforts heightened to meet the demands of Sydney's craft beer festivities.
The front bar is small and bursting with character via worn-out red carpet, Rabbitohs memorabilia and a `70s soul soundtrack. Pull up a bar stool if you can snag one (this place buzzes at knock-off time), and watch the seasoned bartender pour you a Feral Smoked Porter with panache from the hand pump.
You can also take home a freshly canned litre of your favourite tipple. The "CANimal" machine, developed by Mona Vale brewery Modus Operandi, allows bar staff to fill and seal 946-millilitre cans straight from the tap – surely the ultimate roadie.
Corner of Commonwealth and Reservoir streets, Surry Hills, 9281 2522, royalalberthotel.com.au
Campbelltown Catholic Club
The CCC isn't a tiny bingo hall in south-west Sydney, but a sprawling precinct with a food court, sports bar, entertainment venue, conference rooms, gym and a Rydges hotel. The hotel part is where things get interesting for beer fans.
Rydges has an onsite microbrewery and bar. The bar underwent a recent refurbishment that involved a snazzy new fitout, a name change from Infusion to Otis Bar and Grill, and updating the beer recipes across its five house taps. There's pale ale, pilsner, amber ale and lager and, although one could easily write off the brewery as a marketing gimmick, the beers are totally drinkable and have taken home medals at the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show. If every club in the state had its own brewery, NSW would be an even better place to live.
15 Old Menangle Road Campbelltown, 4645 0500, otisbar.com.au