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Sydney’s backstreet culture of craft beer

Most Australians enjoy a beer or two, but in Sydney’s inner west, craft brewers have taken their passion to the next level, opening a slew of hip microbreweries in this cool and quirky part of the city.

By Katrina Lobley
Published: 10 July, 2017

Dive into the backstreets of Sydney’s inner west – and beer lovers will discover a delicious surprise. There’s a craft-beer revolution going on, with inventive microbreweries turning out tasty, award-winning brews. These places have also become vibrant community hubs where everyone – from hipsters to hounds – is welcome.

Heady times

Young Henrys, Sydney, New South Wales

Over the past five years, the number of craft breweries in Australia has doubled from around 200 to 400, creating an industry worth approximately $400 million a year. One of the hotspots of this craft-beer revolution is Sydney’s inner west – an area that includes the suburbs of Newtown, Marrickville and Camperdown (all of which are easily reachable via train or bus). It’s a heady revolution that might not be obvious to the casual visitor, as many of the craft breweries are tucked away in obscure back alleys and laneways. However, as you stroll ever closer to venues such as Young Henrys in Newtown, you’ll detect a happy buzz in the surrounding suburban streets. That’s the sound of drinkers taste-testing their way through distinctive beers such as the Real Ale – an Aussie twist on an English classic that’s so good it took out the gold medal at the UK’s 2014 International Real Ale Festival. The brewery also turns out seasonal specials such as a Winter Hop Ale and Mulberia (a cheeky take on a sour fruit beer).  And while Young Henrys might be squirrelled away from the busy thoroughfares of Enmore Road and King Street, it didn’t stop the American band Hanson from dropping in recently. MMMbeer!

Craft brewers unite

Wayward Brewing Company, Sydney, New South Wales

In June, five of the inner west’s most popular microbreweries – Young Henrys, Wayward Brewing Company, Batch Brewing Company, Grifter Brewing Company and Willie the Boatman – joined forces to form a new alliance. The Inner West Brewery Association (IWBA) plans to stage a brand-new event, the Inner West Beer Fest, in early 2018. It’s also promoting beer tourism in a bid to cement Sydney’s inner west as Australia’s craft-beer capital. IWBA president Peter Philip, of Wayward Brewing Company, says the founding members believe that Sydney is well on its way to joining Portland, San Diego and Munich as one of the world’s great beer cities. Cheers to that!

Drop in for beers, burgers and banter

Akasha Brewing Company, Sydney, New South Wales

So what’s it like to visit one of these neighbourhood microbreweries? They’re popular because of their welcoming, casual vibe. At Wayward, which recently extended its trading days to include Mondays, there’s a wall dedicated to photos of the dogs that regularly visit the brewery with their owners, and vintage furniture that makes the community hub feel like an extension of your lounge room. The taps might be pouring exotic creations such as a passionfruit and yuzu sour beer (Passion of the Puss), while patrons happily play games of giant Jenga and munch on the free popcorn handed out at the bar.  

Some of the breweries have joined forces with food trucks to offer patrons an ever-changing menu of beer-friendly food such as burgers, fries and more exotic creations such as mac’n’cheese spring rolls. At Akasha Brewing Company in Five Dock, as well as the cider and hop-forward beers on tap in the tasting room that’s open three days a week, customers can entertain themselves with a pool table and dartboard.

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