The Case for Sydney’s Small-Batch Breweries

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Aug 02, 2017

by ALEX GREIG, Online Writer

Craft, artisanal, small-batch, independent, alt-malt (OK, we made that last one up). Whatever you want to call it, small local breweries and their wares are having a major moment. In Sydney, breweries housed in former industrial warehouses, factories and brand-new state-of-the-art premises are proliferating in the suburbs. They all do wildly different styles of beer, have excellent bars, beer gardens or tasting rooms and some offer great, beer-friendly food. It’s a scene dominated by passion, beards, hop puns and a genuine commitment to sustainability and the local community that’s going down very well with Sydney beer-drinkers. The best bit is so many of them are clustered around the Inner West, you can embark on a Choose Your Own Adventure brewery tour on foot. 

Batch Brewing Co.

Two lacrosse-playing Americans are responsible for this no-frills brewery and neighbourhood alehouse. Chris Sidwa and Andrew Fineran met in Sydney, bonded over home brewing and, in 2013, Batch Brewing Co. was born. The initial output was American Pale Ale; things are much more experimental now. Enter through the roller door to nab a growler (1.89 litres) of In A Pickle! with cucumber and Sorachi Ace hops (which imbue beer with citrus and dill aromas) or hang out at the warehouse-turned-bar to sample some of the latest batches of on-tap goodness: pouring right now there’s India Pale Ale (IPA), rye amber ale and American pale ale, among others. There’s a roster of food trucks to sate the hungry from Thursday to Sunday, or you can always order a pizza delivery from Nom down the road. Sydney has so taken Batch to its beer-loving heart that the little-brewery-that-could is churning out the goods for bars, restaurants and shops around the city including the CBD’s Restaurant Hubert, Camperdown Cellars and The East Village Hotel in Balmain. 

The Huge Kahuna and Hoppsy Mozy on Nitro in cans available at the brewery! #supportyourlocalbrewery #craftbeer

A post shared by Batch Brewing Company (@batchbrewingcompany) on May 8, 2017 at 9:51pm PDT

Must-try: The Big Kahuna: toasted coconut is added to the mash, the boil and the fermenter to give this sweet winter brown ale a tropical coconut-y flavour – a concept conceived on the beach in Waikiki and executed in urban Sydney.

Open: 10am-8pm, seven days.

44 Sydenham Road, Marrickville

The Grifter Brewing Co., Marrickville

Here’s the story of how three dedicated home-brewers went from a kitchen-and-esky operation to creating a bespoke beer for one of the best restaurants in the world. Matt King, Trent Evans and Glenn Wignall begged some space from established small brewers Young Henrys and began, while still working full-time, making beer on a larger scale. Finding success with their pale ale and IPA, they eventually moved into their current premises in – you guessed it – Marrickville, where there’s an enormous taproom complete with pool table. This is where the sommelier, Mads Kleppe, from Copenhagen’s two-Michelin-starred Noma tracked them down. The Grifter created an exclusive macadamia-infused beer for the restaurant’s Sydney pop-up, and they’ve also collaborated with local legends such as Mary’s (The Brainstorm IPA) and LP’s Quality Meats (Demon Lungs Smoked Porter).

Matt King, Trent Evans and Glenn Wignall. 

Must-try: The Grifter’s Serpents Kiss Watermelon Pilsner began life as a one-off, created for Sydney’s Craft Beer Week with the guys from Frankie’s Pizza in the CBD. It’s light and refreshing thanks to copious amounts of fresh watermelon added during the fermentation. 

Open: Wednesday and Thursday 4-9pm, Friday and Saturday 12-10pm, Sunday 12-8pm.

1/391 Enmore Road, Marrickville

Willie the Boatman

One of the things that’s so appealing about the Inner West brewery scene: kids, dogs and eating are accepted – nay, encouraged – and there’s a pleasantly relaxed, anything-goes atmosphere. Take Willie the Boatman, for example. Inner Westies Pat McInerney and Nick Newey met on the school run, bonded over boats and beer and began brewing. That’s a canned history, of course, but the important thing to know is that a local ethos infuses everything the guys do here (McInerney is even a former Marrickville Citizen of the Year) – and the community, with kids and dogs in tow, approves. The brewery and tasting room, open Thursday to Sunday, is located in a light-filled, white-washed former Taubmans factory where the beers – named after friends and local characters – are accompanied by various food providers dishing out burgers, fried chicken and dumplings.

Must-try: An Albo Corn Ale, named for local Member of Parliament Anthony Albanese. The Albo is a corn and pilsner malt and it’s a slightly corny on the nose – just like our man Albo?

Open: Thursday 4-7pm, Friday 3-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 12-7pm.

202/75 Mary Street, St Peters

SEE ALSO: Sydney's Wine Bar Revolution

Young Henrys, Newtown

In terms of small-time craft brewers, these guys are giants. Young Henrys is steadfastly independent but such is its sweeping takeover of the beer taps of Sydney pubs, it’s become the beer of choice even among the type of drinker whose beer vocabulary doesn’t generally extend beyond VB or Coopers. Headquarters is a part-gallery, part-bar and part-brewery right in the middle of artsy Newtown and Young Henrys regularly collaborates with local small businesses on dinners, lunches, art shows, exhibitions and gigs. With the success of YH beer, the crew has expanded into cider and distilling – Young Henrys’ Noble Cut Gin has won a gold medal at the World Spirit Awards. And not only are they killing it, they’re very cool about helping other passionate would-be brewers get their own ale dreams off the ground (see The Grifter, above). At the bar, Young Henrys has four regular beers on-tap: Real Ale, Natural Lager, Cloudy Cider and Newtowner as well as various other limited releases and experimental brews. Food trucks roll up to Young Henrys each weekend – The Nighthawk Diner has served up Cubans and Madame Truffles has dished out cheese toasties – check out Facebook for upcoming trucks. 

Must-try: The Newtowner is a summer ale, designed for street-side sipping. 

Open: Monday to Friday 12-7pm, Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 11am-7pm.

76 Wilford Street, Newtown

SEE ALSO: The 6 Sandwiches Sydneysiders Should Be Eating Right Now

Wildflower Brewing & Blending

The flower crown atop Marrickville’s small-brewing culture, Wildflower is a throwback, crafting beer in a way that harks back to a simpler time – even as it creates ever more complex flavours. Wildflower brewer Topher Boehm forages for wild yeast from around NSW (he’s found some of his best on native wattle and dandelions) and ages his beer not in steel vats but repurposed oak wine barrels. “Using mixed cultures to make beers takes a certain amount of submissiveness to mother nature and her curious ways. Opposite to single-strain pure yeast fermentations, mixed cultures are prone to behave unpredictably and take a great deal of patience from the brewer,” explains Boehm. His labour-intensive methods mean the fruits of his toil are hard to get your mitts on, but one sure-fire way is to visit the brewery, open on Saturdays. There you’ll find French oak barrels that in former lives served to ripen the wines of vignerons in Orange, now fermenting Boehm’s Amber Blend #3, Gold Blend #4 and Amber Blend #2.

Must-try: Wildflower Amber Blend #3 is Wildflower’s latest creation. The blended, barrel-aged “Australian wild ale” was brewed in January 2017 using entirely New South Wales-grown cereals such as Riverina chocolate malt and LaTrobe Vienna malt from Binya and Sydney filtered water. Fermentation was with brewer’s yeast, foraged wild yeast and naturally occurring souring bacteria.

Open: Saturdays. There’s a ticketed Tour & Tasting session from 12pm to 1.30pm ($25) or you can visit between 2pm and 7pm to purchase and sample. 

11-13 Brompton Street, Marrickville

4 Pines Brewing Company

The Inner West doesn’t have a monopoly on the craft beer market, at least, not quite. The 4 Pines Brewing Co. over in super-chilled beachside Manly has been quietly and successfully creating a beer movement on the Northern Beaches. The family-run enterprise began with a father-and-son post-surf thirst more than a decade ago and now, in addition to the original Manly Brew Pub, they’ve opened the Truck Bar in Brookvale, the Public House in Newport and the soon-to-come Beer and Bread in Belrose. The 4 Pines ethos, like so many of the craft breweries seeking to create their own little slice of beer-making nirvana, is about community, social and environmental responsibility and, of course, really excellent beer. The original microbrewery is still upstairs at the Manly Brew Pub, where visitors can take a tour of the facilities, or just hang out downstairs at the Keller Door with a pint and something from the menu: slow-cooked lamb with polenta and salsa verde really goes down well in winter. The entire core range of eight beers is available on tap as well as the Keller Door specials that at the moment include the Lemon-Melon Wit Boxer wheat beer and Kölsch.

Must-try: The Hop Hash XPA. Released in June 2017, it was made using aromatic lupulin powder, a substance found on the female hop plant that’s harvested only once a year. It has the effect of making the drinker feel a sense of contented, relaxed wellbeing.

Open: 11am-late, seven days.

29/43-45 East Esplanade, Manly

Flat Rock Brew Café and Nano Brewery

Representing for Sydney’s well-to-do Lower North Shore is Flat Rock Brew Cafe and Nano Brewery, where there’s a small-scale brewery that supplies the family-friendly café. The business belongs to beer-loving locals Karl and Jenny Riseborough who, as parents of young kids, recognised a gap in the market for a space serving excellent fermented beverages and great food that was also a cool place to hang out for others similarly afflicted. The brewery’s wares are sold only in the café - think hand-pumped real English bitter, keg beer and some barrel-aged (six oak former whisky barrels and a chardonnay barrel from the Hunter Valley) projects. The Riseboroughs also seek to be as sustainable as possible, even operating a recycling program for spent grain, which is picked up by locals to use for their chooks, compost or baking.

Must try: Flat Rock brews traditional “real ale” English Bitter, served from the cask by hand pump. The recipe was developed after much consultation of old English brewery records and the beer is one of the few always available from the large variety of beer styles Flat Rock brews.

Open: Monday to Wednesday 5-11pm, Thursday and Friday, 3-11pm, Saturday 12-11pm, Sunday 12-10pm.

290 Willoughby Road, Naremburn

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Nomad Brewing Co.

The co-founders of Nomad Brewing Co., Kerrie Abba and Johnny Latta, found what they were looking for in Italy. It wasn’t a decaying Tuscan villa or a truly transporting plate of spaghetti – it was beer brewer Leonardo di Vincenzo, founder of Italy’s leading craft brewery Birra del Borgo in Lazio. He joined them in the venture along with his brewing protégé Brooks Caretta, flying all the way from Rome to Sydney’s Northern Beaches to create Australian beers using European techniques. Caretta, a nomad himself, has spent time as head brewer at Eataly in New York before heading to Italy. Next stop, Brookvale. The Transit Lounge, Nomad’s tasting bar, is a small space with a timber-and-corrugated iron bar, a few tables and Nomad’s signature brews. Outside, there’s a diminutive beer garden and once a month, the whole place is transformed into a Roman-style osteria for a long lunch with accompanying beers.

 

Johnny Latta and Kerrie Abba.

Must try: There may be an Italian at the helm but things couldn’t get much more Aussie than the Freshie Salt and Pepper which incorporates Tasmanian pepper berry and actual local seawater. 

Open: Wednesday 12-6pm for takeaway only, Thursday 12-6pm, Friday 12-8pm, Saturday and Sunday 12-6pm.

5 Sydenham Road, Brookvale

Wayward Brewing Co.

Back in the Inner West and down an unremarkable Camperdown laneway inside a century-old former winery is Wayward. The Cellar taproom is made cosy with vintage furniture and upcycled decor (including beer-keg lamps and a gorgeous Royal Enfield motorbike turned wall-art), juxtaposed nicely with the industrial feel of the gleaming stainless steel tanks and glossy yellow floors of the brewery, visible from the back of the bar. A beer pilgrimage through Europe inspired founder Peter Philip to establish Wayward (and also inspired its name) with head brewer Shaun Blissett. Sustainability is part of what they guys do here: all spent grain goes to farmers for compost and animal feed. There are 12 taps that are constantly changing their contents as well as guest taps showing the work of other local craft breweries. Excellent local food trucks are parked from Fridays to Sundays; the local pizzeria will also deliver to Wayward. 

Must-try: On tap now is the Sour Puss Raspberry Berliner Weisse, a light, tart wheat beer made with raspberries in lieu of hops.

Open: Monday 4-9pm, Thursday and Friday 2-10pm, Saturday 12-10pm, Sunday 12-8pm.

1 Gehrig Lane, Camperdown