"Keeping it local" is something of a motto in the Inner West – and beers are no exception. There’s an ever-growing bevy of microbreweries in town and the locals are drinking them up.
The latest to hit the ‘burbs is Batch Brewing Co. (with Willie the Boatman hot on its heels to be the youngest kid on the block). Along with other microbreweries within walking distance, Batch is a boutique brewery that hand crafts its beers, brews limited edition batches, invites the locals to the tap and knocks them back while chatting about the craft.
The guns behind the meads are often a young and modest contingent of bearded mates (we’re not plugging a stereotype, we’ve met them and they are). The brewers offer tastings throughout the day, constantly updating the fans via social media on what’s brewing and when to pop by and try – and are heavily involved with the local bar scene, often partaking in events to educate drinkers about brewing culture. And of course, they’re selective where they distribute their concoctions – Young Henry’s takes this snobbery to the point where it refuses to allow its "Newtowner", which was brewed to celebrate 150 years of Newtown, to leave the boundaries of 2042 (Newtown’s postcode).
Whether you’re in for a tasting, a chat, to buy a branded cap, t-shirt (yes, they exist) or refillable growler, or you just love beer, these are the microbreweries you should be supporting. Not just because they’re local, but because they make damn fine beers, too.
Brewing since: April 2012
YH has developed something of a cult following over the years and we’re not talking about all the bands they collaborate with to make beers, either. Yes, bands and brewers COLLABORATING to make BEER. In the works is one with ‘90s punk-rockers Frenzal Rhomb (who by the by often drop by). The way it goes down is: the band tells YH what notes, aromas, flavours and feel they’d like the beer to have and the boys, well, make it.
It’s not the only collaboration YH is working on. Earlier this year, its head brewer Richard Adamson teamed up with Banks Brewery to make Young Henrys Real Ale, which won gold as the best beer in the JD Wetherspoons’ Spring 2014 International Real Ale Festival. Not bad for an Aussie in UK territory. They've also just teamed up with Batch Brewing Co. (see below) to make a bit of corn-based ale.
Currently, these guys brew three batches a day out of 6000 litre vats. And while their five main beers (plus one cider) are here to stay, they always have two or three limited editions running around the taps. With winter coming, they tend to work the heavier meads and in a couple of weeks will release a salted caramel ale.
Whatever you decide, you’ll sample the latest (with a six-shot tasting flight, naturally), buy a growler, take it home and bring it back to refill on your next trip down the cellar door. And your next trip. And your next.
Stuff it – you’re keeping the growler.
In Short: Young Henry's
- Who: Rich Adamson, Dan Hampton and Oscar McMahon
- Where: 76 Wilford St, Newtown
- Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am-7pm
- Address: Basement 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney
- Find them on Facebook: Young Henrys
- Find them @ these bars: Corridor, Newtown Hotel, Kitchen by Mike, Kingston Bar, Cornerstone & Mojo Record Bar and more.
Batch Brewing Co.
Brewing since: December 2013
They might be the newest kids on the block, but they’re brewing a fair number of ales and stouts already. There’s usually about four vats brewing away and six beers on tap – only two of which are permanent.
The first is Alice, a summer wheat which will most likely move out for winter, then return next summer. The other stayer is the Pale Ale, a smooth downer and a real crowd-pleaser. Everything else "evolves" from this.
On that evolutionary line when we arrive is a Ludwig. It’s rich, aromatic and has a perfect pitch sharpness, which makes us hope it’ll stand the test of the tap – although more likely than not it’ll disappear in approximately two weeks, as after a batch of the non-permanent brews are finished, BBC tends to make something completely different. Only by popular demand will they keep one on.
The men behind the outfit, American ex-pats Andrew and Chris, have been in Australia for 11 and five years respectively, and while they draw from the American style of brewing, they refuse to let it dictate their output. They brew what they enjoy. We can’t fault them there.
They also refuse to be anything but a brewery, opening up their roller door to locals (up to three-quarters of visitors are from the area) wishing to taste-test or throw back a good beer, while offering nothing in the way of stomach fillers. If food is on the cards, you’ll have to wait for Lucia to roll in. She’s a roving pizzeria who serves her woodfire pizzas out of the back of a black cab in Batch’s driveway on Fridays and Saturdays.
Pizza and beer on a Saturday night? Is that even a question?
In Short: Batch Brewing Co.
- Who: Chris Sidwa and Andrew Fineran
- Where: 44 Sydenham Rd, Marrickville
- Opening Hours: Thursday 4pm-7pm, Friday 2pm-7pm, Saturday 12pm-7pm
- Find them on Facebook: Batch Brewing Co.
- Find them @ these bars: Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, Shady Pines Saloon, Union Hotel & Strawberry Fields Patisserie
Brewing since: 2012
Brewing beverages that don’t always fit with traditional styles, Wayward is about making adventurous and inventive craft beers without tipping into "undrinkable" territory. They are still working on securing a proper brewing space, but for now contract vats whenever available, one of which is at Batch Brewery Co.
We’re confident though that it’ll only be a matter of time until its owner Pete is fermenting in a warehouse of his own. He’s already pushing out highly commendables such as Wayward’s Charmer India Red Ale, a drink that sports an amazing watercolour graphic and also casually won silver at the 2013 Australian International Beer Awards.The beer itself is a “wayward” version of an IPA with aromas from US, Kiwi and Aussie hops.
Definitely one to look out for.
In Short: Wayward Brewing
- Who: Pete Philip
- Where: Somewhere in the Inner West
- Find them on Facebook: Wayward Brewing
- Find them @ these bars: SEDE Wine Bar, The Vinery, The Little Guy, The Record Crate Bar
Willie the Boatman
Brewing since: 2012
Meet the newest addition to the Inner West microbrewery family: Willie the Boatman. Named after a convict who used to row people across The Cook’s River in Tempe (back in the day), Willie will be opening his doors soon out of what used to be an old paint factory in St Peters. When he does, expect to be greeted by an industrial space complete with beautiful floors and corrugated roofing. Oh and did we mention the beer?
As always, there will be a tasting room for all the beers these boys will be brewing. They’re big on ales and currently have an IPA English Special, Golden Ale, Pale Ale and Black Ale (which is actually a porter) in their pockets. They’re also keen on brewing some seasonal beers and ciders as things progress and will likely have two to three beers on rotation, too.
Watch this space for more info as it comes.
In Short: Willie The Boatman
- Who: Nick Newey and Pat McInerney
- Where: Mary St, St Peters
- Find them on Facebook: Willie the Boatman
- Find them @ these bars: Golden Barley Hotel, Dove and Olive, The Henson, Tempe Hotel, Bee Jays Cafe
Grifter Brewing Co.
Brewing since: April 2012
Here’s another one that’s on the hunt for a home but in the meantime, has a vat at Young Henry’s with its name on it. The Grifter Brewing Co. has been at it for close to two years and was crafted by three mates over a collective love for a good ale.
The trio take pride in their use of high quality ingredients, limited small batches and unique yet drinkable flavours. They may not have their own dedicated space yet, but they’ve built quite a rep for themselves around Sydney’s bar scene and have recently leaked into Brisbane’s. Nationwide domination is next.
Their signature batch is a pale ale made from Australian hops. It’s completely unfiltered and brimming with character. All others are on seasonal rotation. Their Acid Drop Berliner just dropped in March, but perhaps the most interesting is the generation/culture clash Cold War beer, which pairs old-world German brewing techniques with new-world Kiwi hops.
Of note, one to look out for is Marnie’s Majority Ale. It comes out every April in celebration of the birth of The Grifters’ head brewer’s first child in April 2013. It’s citrusy and fruity, with a biscuity malt backing and a hint of burnt coffee. Brings a whole new meaning to celebrating your birthday with a beer.
In Short: Willie the Boatman
- Who: Trent Evans, Glenn Wignall and Matt King
- Where: Brewing out of Young Henrys
- Find them on Facebook: The Grifter Brewing Co.
- Find them @ these bars: The Old Fitz, The Woolpack, Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, The Baxter Inn, Rainford Street Social, Golden Age Cinema, Hartsyard, Midnight Social, Gasoline Pony, Angry Pirate
Pixel Brewing Co.
Brewing since: May 2013
It’s all on the 480P American Pale Ale (APA) with Pixel. It does the rounds through Frankie’s Pizza By the Slice when it can. Our suggestion? If you see it behind the bar, order it straight away as this American Pale Ale never lasts long – not least because its batches are small. Like, seriously small.
Not surprisingly, their outfit comes under the banner of "gypsy", which means they meander between breweries hustling vats to stew and brew their batches. Their craft beer style is American, which according to Batch Brewing Co.’s Andrew, is trending in Australia. “There are some cues that the Australian craft segment has taken from the US Craft segment,” he says. “For example, there’s a growing popularity for IPA. A few years ago, you hardly saw anyone in Australia drinking it and now we have this craze happening when we release one.”
Pixel also brews under contract at Batch Brewery Co when a vat is free, though like others, is also in the market for a brewing facility of their own. If all goes well, soon we can head into Frankie’s soon knowing full well that a lovely lass named Pixel will be waiting for us whenever we need her.
In Short: Pixel Brewing
- Who: Kieran Allen
- Where: Brewing out of HopDog BeerWorks, South Nowra & Batch Brewing Co., Marrickville
- Find them on Facebook: Pixel Brewing Company
- Find them @ these bars: Empire Hotel, Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice and The SG.
Brewing since: February 2014
Shenanigans’ first baby Grisette a.k.a. “Griz” made its official launch in February. He’s a badass pale, sessionable farmhouse ale that’s been inching his way into pubs throughout Sydney since.
Shenanigans might be newborns, but they’re garnering a following pretty quickly (and it’s not their obsessive sticker bombing through the streets that’s doing it). They’re already onto their second batch of Griz and are about to start pouring at The Duke Hotel in Enmore.
In Short: Shenanigans
- Who: Dan Beers and Sam Haldane
- Where: Brewing out of Batch Brewing Co.
- Find them on Facebook: Shenanigans
- Find them @ these bars: The Little Guy, The Duke Hotel, Flodge, The Royal Albert Hotel, Hive Bar, Union Hotel & Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice
Brewing since: 2009
In the winter of 2009, Secret Squirrel peeked out of its hidey hole and Doctor’s Orders has never looked back. Secret Squirrel was a chocolate hazelnut porter and the start of something beautiful.
Every season these medics inject us with the latest prescription for curing a lack of beer ingenuity. Their brewing style is anything but typical, drawing from rare, historical and emerging styles to craft minimal batches of thought-provoking beers.
The mid-seasonal (2014’s mid-summer is called Transfusion and is a red/rhubarb Berliner Weisse) and smaller batch brews are ever more limited. When they run dry, they run dry forever and they’ll let you know this by crossing each pub off their list on their website as it ends its tap-life.
So the good doctor says "drink up" while the medicine’s in stock. And lucky for you, this is one shot of medicine you won’t need to push down with a spoonful of sugar.
Doctor's Orders Brewing
- Who: Darren Robinson
- Where: Brewing out of Australian Brewery, Rouse Hill, Young Henry’s, Newtown and Rocks Brewing Co, Alexandria
- Find them on Facebook: Doctor’s Orders Brewing
- Find them @ these bars: Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, Flodge, Local Taphouse, Harts Pub, Union, Flat Rock Beer Cafe
Rocks Brewing Co.
Brewing since: 2008
Although Rocks Brewing Co. has only been in Alexandria since the beginning of 2014, these boys have been gypsying around since 2008. (At one time, they were even brewing their stuff at Young Henrys.)
Its founders are fifth and sixth generation convict descendents and its ales are the sort your great-great-great-great-grandfathers drank – and they name their beers to follow suit. Time to meet your new drinking buddies: The Boxer, The Hanger and The Convict, to name a few.
They’ve also claimed bragging rights as the first craft brewery in Australia to purchase and use a High Efficiency Brewing System, which – as the boys put it – has a mash filter that acts as the “bastard child of a piano accordion and a tea bag” squeezing the liquid from the malt, which means a higher extract of sugars, less water usage and higher energy efficiency. Fancy.
These guys stock their good stuff throughout Sydney and Brissy, but the best thing is that Rocks is a bar and restaurant. So you can have your beer and some tucker too. Sure, Alexandria’s not exactlyInner West, but when you’ve got a good bar going nearby, you’ll make any excuse to make it your next watering hole.
In Short: Rocks Brewing Co.
- Who: Scotty Morgan and Mark Fethers
- Where: 160 Bourke St, Alexandria
- Opening hours: Daily 7:30am-10pm
- Find them on Facebook: Rocks Brewing Co.
- Find them @ these bars: Rocks Brewing Bar, Harts Pub, Lord Raglan
The Hop + Grain Brew Store
Brewing since: February 2014
The only brewing hole that’s newer than Batch Brewing Co. is this humble store: The Hop + Grain. To be honest, it’s not so much a serve-the-masses brewery, but a teach-the-masses-how-to-brew store, but it’s really the only one in the area, so why shouldn’t we include it in our guide?
Born out of a love for brewing, Sam and his wife opened Hop + Grain seven weeks ago to fill that void in the Inner West’s home-brewing culture. FYI it’s not an "old man’s" hobby anymore, young’uns in their mid-late 20s and early 30s are coming in to purchase fermentable hops, grain infusions and malts and learn how to brew batches that aren’t your cheap and nasty university brand. They’re actually quality.
Most of the ingredients for sale are Australian-grown and -made. There are even easy-to-use starter kits – one of which is owner Sam’s own brew called BrewTime. It’s a Pale Ale and a step up from your usual starter, teaching you the ins, outs and whys of homebrewing. “You’ll get your bragging rights out of this one,” says Sam.
For those who don’t believe they’re quite up for that yet, H+G also sells more beginner kits for budding microbrewers (go on, join the revolution) and hosts brewers classes and Bring A Brew nights for those seeking to share their creations with fellow lovers and makers. It’s a good community we’ve got here.
In Short: The Hop + Grain Brew Store
- Who: Sam Mealing
- Where: Shop 1, 263 Enmore Rd, Enmore
- Opening hours: Thursday 9.30am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 9.30am-5pm, Sunday 10am-2pm
- Find them on Facebook: The Hop + Grain Brew Store
- Find them @ these bars: The Hop + Grain brews can be found fermenting in your home.
Best Aussie beer buys online
There are those who drink beer at the brewery and there are those who drink beer at the pub. For those who prefer that the drinks (and the mates) come to them, you have the option to order a brewskie online, have it delivered to your doorstep and roll straight into bed when the case runs dry.
Use our special deals and codes at finder.com.au/deal to save even more on that well deserved drink.
Keen? Of course you are. So, here for your drinking pleasure, are the best beers you can buy online. And because this article’s about keeping it local, they’re all true blue Aussie beers as well.