Craft beer in Sydney is big and it’s big for a reason – we’re damn good at it. Locals are slowly but surely realising that there’s more to beer than what we’ve guzzled for the last few decades and it’s not just the young people talking, it’s not just the guys talking – Sydney craft beer is for everyone. Now you may be thinking “I don’t understand all this, I’m sticking with my beer, craft beer’s too complicated, it’s not my thing” and that’s where Dave’s Brewery Tours come in. It’s the fastest and most fun way to visit the craft beer world. You’ll experience and understand the flavours, the language, the culture, the art and the famously welcoming people involved in this new side to Sydney. Here’s what to expect..
In the beginning:
Beau and I sat in the Keg & Brew anxiously awaiting our 11am start like it was the last day of school. Bang on the hour our ruggedly handsome tour guide, Jamie walks in decked out in the Dave’s hat and shirt - there was no missing him. After making sure everyone was present he walked us and our 8 soon-to-be-friends to one of the famous (and thankfully air-conditioned) Dave’s tour buses. We hopped in, discussed the plan for the day and off we went to the first brewery – Wayward. On the way Jamie explained his own affection for beer, some of his favourites and how he became a beer nerd himself. Everyone on the tour then did the same, like a AA meeting without the grief but all of the support. It quickly became clear that everyone’s experience with beer was slightly different – for example all the baby-boomers present seemed to first encounter beer by swigging half empty bottles the night after their parents’ parties. However, what united us all was the desire to discover new flavours to enjoy back home.
We arrived at very recently opened (November last year) Wayward brewery and Jamie gave us all some sound advice: drink water. After sampling around a litre of beer only one brewery in, the advice seemed incredibly prudent. Something undeniable about the look of all brewery bars is that they are quite hipster - they have a rustic feel with a bit of eclectic decoration. And why wouldn’t they be? Breweries are usually located in industrial areas and you’ve got to dress them up for not much money – Sydney’s expensive dude. That being said they are usually dressed with a keen eye and a focus on comfort, Wayward was no exception. It’s low lights and well ventilated bar create a great atmosphere on a hot day. We were seated in the brewery bar (and given a beer to sample of course) for a very valuable part of the tour – being shown the 4 individual ingredients found in all beers. Smelling hops and tasting different grains really helps to appreciate the tastes of the final product. Jamie then walked us around the boiling and fermenting tanks, he very clearly explained to us all the steps involved in brewing and how different brewers create their own signature tastes and styles while answering our many questions.
Around midday we were driven to lunch at the Henson in Marrickville where we were also given some more beer – Stone & Wood Pacific Ale (good call Jamie). Really nice venue, great burgers, friendly staff and a beautiful beer garden outside. By then everyone on the tour was feeling comfortable and chatty; discussing which beer was the favourite from Wayward.
Up next was the Grifter, most of the group agreed this was the favourite brewery bar we visited. It has a light, open, simple and airy feel to it, easy to lose track of time there. While sampling a couple of the full time brews the Grifter offer, Jamie was able to get us a few minutes to talk with the head brewer, Matt. He gave us a brief rundown of their history and connections with Young Henrys whose old smaller brewing set up they now use. We were also incredibly lucky to try (straight out of the tank) their limited release Australian old ale, Landlord which the Grifter brewed specifically for sale in the new pop up restaurant NOMA (dinner for two at NOMA will set you back around $1100, sweet Jesus). We collectively agreed Landlord was the beer of the day and we pray a few bottles make it back to the brewery next month. After a few more samples it was on to the next one!
Last but not least Batch Brewing, famous for their American style of brewing with big bold hoppy flavours – Jamie almost leapt through the door with excitement. Batch has just undergone some recent renovations to increase the size of the brewery bar and fit more tanks into the brewing line because they are so. damn. popular. Even with the increase in space the bar was still packed. If it weren’t for our table reservation, we wouldn’t have seen a seat once. The Batch pale ales and IPAs did not disappoint; they are packed with fruity flavour. A beer that definitely deserves a mention is their Milk Stout which (Jamie explained) is poured from the taps using nitrogen rather than CO2 which turns it into the smoothest, creamiest beer you’ve ever tried.
Needless to say it was a great day and a great experience that we would recommend to anyone that had even heard of beer. Believe it or not when you try 15 different kinds of craft beer you might just find something you like, be it an oatmeal stout from the Grifter, a big IPA from Batch or even a sweet raspberry sour from Wayward. Sydney craft beer is for everyone, and if you’re keen we recommend letting Dave & co. show you around.
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thoughts & feelings - extended edition
This is where we at Sydney On Tap post all the things that couldn't fit into the paragraphs on each bar page, or the comments under each beer.