Sydney craft beers have been caricatured as something for beardy folks in the Inner West wearing some sort of practical but unfashionable trouser. But anyone with a working palate should simply know it as a delicious fermented beverage that comes in more flavours than a Messina specials board – and it’s clearly not restricted to one area of the city.
Craft beer has long had a stronghold north of the Bridge thanks to early adopters like 4 Pines Brewing Company in Manly, but the scene is expanding. Nomad Brewing recently opened in Brookvale, and now here's Mona Vale's Modus Operandi Brewery. This enclave may not be well known for its after-hours adventures, but it's looking like Modus Operandi might change that. It’s been set up in a double-storey warehouse behind the Mona Vale Hotel’s drive through bottle-o, and the vibe is excellent.
There’s a mezzanine level inside if you like to spy from on high, but the best seats in the house are two squashy leather armchairs. Failing that grab one of the stools made from wooden crates or head to the outside tables. They’ve managed to wedge a stage in amongst the brewing equipment so local bands can thrash it out next to the fermentation tanks on Fridays and Saturday nights – perhaps rock’n’roll makes the beer taste better.
You can commit to a big pour of one brew, but why not taste the rainbow and get the seven-serve tasting paddle? It costs $25 and ends up just shy of four standard drinks so it’s worth checking the bus timetable, too. You’ll start off easy with the light caress of the cream ale, but our favourite is number three on the dance card – the Lola summer ale. Your nose is headed straight for Kokomo after a hit of the mango and passionfruit aromas and for a 4.5% it’s a surprisingly full-flavoured beer. Top marks also go to the gentler passionfruit aromas and strong bitter finish in the pale ale. The fruit flavours and the bitterness get amped up even further in the Former Tenant red IPA. The American brown ale isn’t on the paddle, but it’s definitely worth a go because the chocolate and toasted coconut flavours make it taste like a coconut rough.
Now is probably a good time to consider eating something. There’s good heat to the mango and habanero hot sauce on the wings but it’s not a weighty snack – if you’re hungry, order the Ernest burger. It comes with a double dose of bacon in the form of a sweet and smoky bacon jam, plus a rasher of bacon on top of a nubbly beef patty, luminous American cheddar, pickles, lettuce and mustard mayo. This is a burger worth travelling for.
There’s no question you’re near the beach. There’s surf films being projected on the wall, John Butler Trio makes an appearance on the playlist and everyone has sun-bleached hair and a tan. But after dark the coastal crew need a place to kick back like everyone else. And Modus Operandi is a great place to do just that.