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Sydney craft beer guide

Everything you need to know about craft beer: where to get it, who's brewing the best and what you should be drinking at any occasion

Thanks to the boutique brewing boom, local watering holes are boasting seasonal brews on tap, craft breweries are opening up all over Sydney, and we have two annual festivals dedicated to all things craft beer. Here's where to get in on the sudsy fun.

The best craft beer Sydney has to offer

Bars

The best brewery bars in Sydney

We're spoiled for choice when it comes to venues serving craft beer in this city, but there's something extra special about drinking a beer in the place it was made, which is why you should make tracks to these excellent breweries serving the best craft beer Sydney has to offer.

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Shopping

Craft beer subscriptions

You know what's a great present idea? A drinkable subscription. But wine is a tricky thing to pick for other people – beer is an entirely different beast. If someone is a craft beer fan then they'll know what they like, but if a box arrives full of freaky ferments they'll also dive right in and see if a strawberry saison is for them. It's literally the gift that keeps on giving, and each delivery brings with it the promise of a trip to flavour town, every time.

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Brewery Bars pouring crazy fresh beers

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4 Pines Brewing Company

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Batch Brewing Co

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Flat Rock Brew Cafe

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The Grifter Brewing Co

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The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

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Modus Operandi

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Restaurants

Nomad

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Redoak Boutique Beer Café

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Rocks Brewery and Bar

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Young Henrys

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Wayward Brewing Co

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Willie the Boatman

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Where to get the good stuff

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Where to buy a growler

Some things in bulk are disgusting, like margarine or any kind of dairy product. But beer in big serves is a thing a beauty, which is why the 1.89L growler makes for the perfect vessel. It's enough fresh ale to share around a group of friends, or to keep one very thirsty person out of trouble for a couple of days. And you also feel a bit like an old-timey pirate lugging a hug glass bottle of beer around, which only adds to the appeal.

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Bars

Where to get a tasting paddle

Being faced with a huge selection of craft beers is a nice problem to have. But what if you order that Belgian sour and it turns out it's not for you? What is you fill up on that pale ale and leave no room for the smoked proter you've been eyeing off? The solution to all your problems is the tasting paddle, allowing you to sample the best beers on offer until you find the one you want to drink a second, and maybe third time.

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Best craft beer pubs

Bars

Bitter Phew

There’s something pretty wonderful about a bar stripped back to the bare essentials. Turns out that if you can get your hands on a cold room, kegs, basic furniture, glasses, beef jerky and a string of fairy lights, you’ve got the key ingredients to make a small bar in Sydney. Opened in the early days of 2014, this tiny craft beer attic sits up above Oxford Street, two doors up from Ching-a-lings. But unlike its neighbour, Bitter Phew has eschewed any appearance of catering to the cool kids. Those exposed beams aren’t decorative - they’re holding the roof up. And there’s no turntable, but the stereo is getting two thumbs up for its Kurt Vile-heavy playlist – mood and music match nicely for a Wednesday evening. If you’re hungry, right now they only have jerky or you can order Mr Crackles to the bar until the kitchen gets new tenants. The sturdy wooden bar is built around the cold room and the taps feed straight out of the wall of the fridge. And they take their pour seriously. Each tap has two valves so that you can adjust the pressure to suit the carbonation of each beer. What’s coming out of those deliciously chilled spigots is twelve brews that span the full craft spectrum from cherry lambics and pepper steak porters through to crowd-pleasing pints of cider and pale ale. They post the current list on their Facebook page but we say go in blind and see what speaks to you. On our visit there’s a toasty, autumnal tobacco porter from Birra del Borgo that gets our attention, an

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Botany View Hotel

A Newtown pub with a kids play area is a rare and wonderful thing. The Darly Street Bistro is conveniently upstairs, which is a very good thing indeed.

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Dove and Olive

A lot of Sydney’s pubs play a single trump – tender steak, good times trivia, clean beer, golden schnitzel – but it’s a truly special boozer that can show a full and winning hand. Dove and Olive is that place. It’s been a couple of years since it set up inside the shell of the old Clarendon on Devonshire Street and tapped the biggest craft beer collection in Surry Hills. Suddenly we had a pub for all occasions where the beers, food and vibe are were ace and the mounted deer horns came with googly eyes. Need a quick meal before a Belvoir production? The hefty parmigiana could see you through a performance of Cloudstreet without needing a snack at interval. A thick chicken breast cloaked in a crunchy, crumbed armour comes topped with tomato puree, eggplant, double smoked ham and mozzarella, plus they chuck some grated parmesan on for good measure. The board – it would never all fit on a single plate – is then laden with fries and a hillock of coleslaw. If you’ve eaten your fill of steak and pepper sauce, order the tender rump with blue cheese and asparagus on top. As the cheese melts you get a bitey, savoury sauce that can be mopped up with another generous pile of fries. Gigiddy! Sure, the Shakey up the road is cheaper, but this is the place for something you didn’t overdo in your student days, and they do budget-friendly $9.90 specials from Monday to Thursday. Their pub food may not be what you'd call game-changing, but it is tasty, fast and fun. Where they re

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars

East Village Hotel, Balmain

This old neighbourhood watering hole went through something of an awkward adolescence, going from a crusty local joint to a Belgian Beer Café for a five-year continental break. But now it has been restored to a sensible old pub with a penchant for craft beer and it’s a look that suits it. The crowd here is made up of families, young professionals and well dressed older couples who look like they probably sail on weekends. They split themselves pretty evenly between the shady beer garden, dining room and the front bar where the heavy timber tables and fireplace have an old-fashioned, gentlemanly feel. They have Coopers and Carlton on tap if your old habits just won’t die, but we’ll be dropping our hard earned on tall frosty glasses of Trumer pils, Balmain pale ale and Feral Brewing’s Hop Hog instead. New beers can appear as often as weekly so you could be lucky enough to find the fresh, full-bodied Mountain Goat Fancy Pants amber ale on tap, or something equally as delicious. The kitchen treads a familiar, up market path with pizzas, parmas and pulled pork burgers, but to really get the most out of your dinner dollars head here on Wednesday nights when they offer half-price mussels pots. They come with a cream, tomato or Cajun sauce with sourdough for essential dipping. Balmain has more pubs than any one suburb needs, but for craft beers and cheerful barkeeps the East Village is the pick of the bunch.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars

The Empire Hotel

Once, not so long ago, the Empire Hotel on the corner of Parramatta Road was the sort of place you’d hurry past in case trouble came stumbling out of one of the doorways and found you. But it’s amazing the effect a lick of paint, some fancy chairs and a smattering of silk flowers can have on a place. A formerly dank interior has been transformed into the mother of all parlours. There’s a working fireplace, a vast collection of frosted-glass, Art Deco light fixtures, velvet chaises longues and high-backed leather armchairs. And boy do they love a feature wall. There’s cream wallpaper decorated with black flowers, leaf prints, and some that are painted blood-red with an ornate silver decals. All this candle-lit splendour and gentrified comfort gives the place significant visual appeal, but it’s the craft beers that are really pulling the new crowd. The taps change weekly but on our visit we have the pick of the Riverside 55 summer ale, Dalgetty pale ale, Rocket Science’s Japanese-inspired Belgian witbier, Coopers extra strong vintage, Murray’s golden ale and Holgate porter – where to start? The cheapest full-strength schooner is VB for $5.40; you can drop $10.20 on the vintage Coopers; or order four tasting glasses for $12. Around in the public bar they tone down the opulence and add more familiar bar furnishings like plasma screens, sports memorabilia and historic photos. And if the beers aren’t calling your name, the bistro does two-for-one specials on Sunday and Monday night

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Forest Lodge Hotel

The Forest Lodge is a diamond in the rough. From the outside this brown brick local doesn’t look like much, but inside there’s a decent feed, plenty of space, a warm welcome and a surprisingly excellent craft beer collection. They focus on local brews like Modus Operandi, Wayward, Gang of Four, Murray’s and Badlands, while Coopers, New and Reschs keep the lager dream alive. The Sydney Uni crew and Inner West locals love the Flodge equally, and it’s a family-friendly joint if you have little ones in tow. The menu is massive - it starts at wings, fried and squid, moves through pizzas to burgers/hot sambos, steaks, pasta and salads, and on a Wednesday you can feed yourself for a fiver with a meatball roll. Keep restless hands busy with Street Fighter, pinball and pool, or just pull up a stool for some craft beer capers is comfy surrounds. Anything goes here.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Harts Pub

It’s a steep hike up Essex Street to Harts Pub but if craft beer is your poison then we suggest you don those walking shoes. There are 12 taps here and what they offer is more crafty entertainment than a packet of pipe cleaners and a hot glue gun. As the original home of the Rocks Brewing Co, Harts Pub has six Rocks’ brew recipes on tap. There’s the Convict lager, Governor golden ale, the Butcher porter, the Boxer red ale and the Hangman pale ale. But a little preferential treatment doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a roster of domestic treasures like the Prickly Moses Otway stout, an Indian pale lager from McLaren Vale or the fresh and hoppy black IPA from new Sydney residents, Batch Brewing in Marrickville. Depending on the brews on offer prices can vary but if you head here between 4pm and 6pm you’ll get happy hour prices, which means $7.50 pints of the five staple Rocks brews. Mondays through Wednesdays they offer $15 meals and Thursdays means five-buck baskets of wings or (onion) rings. But if you’ve had enough of pub steaks you can also order a two-person chocolate-chip cookie in a skillet that comes with chocolate topping and vanilla ice cream. The pub itself is a stripped-back historic terrace with wood-panelled walls and a well-worn timber floor. There’s not much in the way of decoration beyond some framed photos of old Sydney, but the after-work crowd who keep the taps running fresh and cold like it that way.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Keg and Brew

There’s not much we like more at Time Out than a well-worn boozer that still remembers the frenzy of the six o’clock swill. But sometimes the smell is so ingrained in the beer-soaked carpet that there’s nothing left to do but rip it out and start again. While you’re there you may as well throw 30 craft beer taps behind the bar, a whole shelf dedicated to bourbon and as many taxidermy beasts as you can lay your hands on. This is pretty much what’s happened at the old KB Hotel. We know a lot of hearts sunk at news of a renovation. For pre-train drinks and late night tomfoolery you couldn’t beat this vestige of inner Sydney’s working class past. But we’re here to tell you that the new edition – the Keg and Brew – is still a bloody good spot to bend your elbow. They’ve added cowhide panels to the heavy, three-sided timber bar, along with cowboy print crimson wallpaper, old time rock and roll on the stereo and baseball on the TV. There’s life in an American-themed refit yet. Simon Kraegen, the heavily bearded craft beer fan who earned his stripes as a bar manager at the Dove and Olive, is party master here, and he has managed to pull a whole new crowd to the Keg and Brew without turfing the old one. On a Friday arvo you’ll still find slouching music students from AIM and clocked-off council workers filling up the tables out on the footpath. Inside it’s rammed to the gills, with a post-work crowd downing $4 Reschs at happy hour. After a seat? The rush tapers off to a gentle hubb

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Kirribilli Hotel

The Kirribilli Hotel is not an ostentatious pub. Its rounded, Art Deco, red-brick façade tucks neatly in among the shopfronts lining Broughton Street without drawing too much attention to itself. But we’re always told it’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside this amiable local just north of the Bridge is an impressive craft beer selection. The Inner West may be rife with craft beer-heavy establishments, but the offerings are thinner on the ground north of the Bridge. Luckily the Kirribilli Hotel is pulling more than its weight on that score, spruiking flavoursome wares from Two Birds, Monteiths, Stone and Wood, 4 Pines, Mountain Goat, Murray’s and Endeavour. They elect a brewery of the month and showcase multiple beers to really get to know what a brew house is capable of. They even keep your frothy curiosity wallet-friendly on Tuesdays and Fridays when there’s $6 schooner from 5-7pm. All the codes are on the big screens but this is pretty firm AFL territory, and if you don’t care what the score is the terrace out the back is a popular spot for a tipple when people clock off for the day. It may be a humble, red brick hotel in a quiet corner of the Lower North Shore, but if our Nicole deems it a good shout for two-up on Anzac Day, it’s definitely doing a bunch of things right.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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The Local Taphouse

The timber floors of the Local Taphouse have been worn smooth by the continuous foot traffic of the parched and the curious over the last five years. The number of licensed establishments spruiking local, boutique and limited-run brews continues to rise, but this corner hotel in Darlinghurst is an old hand at the craft beer game. The gleaming bank of twenty taps behind the ground floor bar still promises some of the frothiest fun to be had in Sydney; a tasting paddle is both an education and a damn good way to spend $17 and an hour or two of your time. We could taunt you with descriptions of the gentle caress of nutmeg and cinnamon in the spiced harvest ale from Bridgeport, or suggest that if the last thing you tasted as you left this mortal coil was the fruity, bitter blast from Fuller’s Wild River American pale ale, you’d die happy. But it’s likely those brews will rarely, if ever be seen on the taphouse line-up again. What we can do is promise that on your visit the breadth of brews on offer will cater to novices and the knowledgeable alike. There will be malty pints to warm the cockles of your heart and double hopped brews that’ll take your bitter receptors to great new heights and half the fun is not knowing what to expect each time you visit. In fact, come often enough and you might get your name on a brass plaque on the bar –every regulars secret dream. The Local has always been a good shout for a pub meal. Now they've cornered the market for comically large and b

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Public House Petersham

This old Petersham boozer has undergone yet another round of upgrades, but we’re pretty sure these ones are going to stick. The former Newington Inn is now the Public House Petersham, and we have to admit, they seem to have had the people’s best interests at heart when they spruced up the beer garden, turfed the TAB and reworked their food offering to be a lot more friendly to families, little humans and people making better life choices. Broke students are the only ones who didn’t luck out. Aside from the unnecessary name change that is only going to confuse taxi-drivers and Google Maps, all the updates here have been for the better. They’ve added a whole lot more furniture so everyone can bung in together for a pub dinner; replaced the gambling facilities with a dedicated games corner (the fooshockey is still there); and strung the upstairs verandah with festoon lights so that smokers have a nice spot to sit and muse on the state of the nation. This also means the spacious beer garden down on the ground floor is blissfully smoke free – everybody wins. They aren’t kidding around with the hot nduja salami on the Feeling Hot Hot Hot pizza – it builds to a serious burn for sensitive palates – and they’re not really trying to play by Naples’ rules here. Want creamed corn on a pizza? They’re doing it. Those devilled sardines speaking to you? Yep, they also fall under the vast subheading of things that can physically be put on top of a pizza base. We take the road more travelle

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Royal Albert Hotel

When a hot dog and a craft brew is all your heart desires then it’s time to cannonball down the slopes of Surry Hills to the Royal Albert Hotel. You will not be the only one making a beeline for this compact taphouse so expect to squeeze inside the front bar to get amongst the good-natured carousing that happens here every evening at quitting time. When you’re not feeling the sardine vibes out the front mosey on through to the middle pod where things get roomier and you can sit rather than lean. Head even further back and you hit the dumpling house for Asian-style bar snacks, but for our money it’s all about the burgers and hot dogs here. Our bartender admits that the kitchen won’t even tell him where they source their amazing cheese kranskies. The sausage is super-juicy with the cheese incorporated inside to rich up the meat, rather than the stuffed-crust situation you’re imagining. Approach with caution if you don’t want to spray your date with the first bite. The chilli ‘Fat Albert’ dog comes dressed in spiced tomato sauce and mustard with slices of pickled onion across the ridge and a serve of crinkle-cut fries on the side for only $10. We’re ’dawg devotees but you won’t regret giving the burger your time either. There’s probably some old-school soul or rock’n’roll playing but you’ll be hard pressed to hear over the excitable hubbub. Collars are loose and shirt sleeves are rolled up and the eight taps and two hand pumps are getting a workout. There’s no predicting the

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The Lord Raglan

It’s almost a shame beer gets you drunk. We consider this while poring over the beer list at the this freshly renovated pub in Alexandria, reckoning that if it didn’t we’d down every last brew, from the sweet, malty Hunter Beer Co. witbier through to the palate-cleansing bite of the Feral Hop Hog IPA. Being spoiled for choice is a nice problem to have, and with the rise of dedicated craft beer bars around Sydney, it’s becoming endemic. We’re big fans of the Rocks Brewing gang here. In fact, we like their beers so much we got a keg to welcome our new editor to the building. And to make accessing the good stuff even easier the Rocks Brewing Co have opened their very own pub. Unlike their brewery bar further down in Alexandria, the Lord Raglan plays well with others. Home ground advantage is given to the Rocks brews, naturally, and you don’t hear us complaining about more places to get the Boxer red ale on tap, but the other six taps are a rolling showcase of the best craft beers on the market. They only order a keg or two of each, so this is the place to seize the day and drink till it’s gone – it moves so quickly they don’t even bother putting labels on the taps. You’ll have to keep an eye on the slate labels suspended over the bar to see what’s on offer. They run a tight operation here. They took a derelict pub, gutted it and let only the bare essentials back through the heavy wooden doors. There is a bar constructed from old doors with 12 taps; fridges for the fancy bottl

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Quarrymans Hotel

In spite of its proximity to the CBD, Pyrmont has never boasted the same expansive boozing scene that you’ll find in other areas of inner Sydney. There are high class cocktails to be had at Sokyo Lounge and Black Bar at the Star, but good places for a pint of craft beer and some pub food were light on the ground until the Quarrymans Hotel got a serious makeover. The macrobrewed lagers have gone to that big megapub in the sky. In their place are 24 craft beer taps and one handpump for real-ale enthusiasts. Those coppery valves are now supplying Pyrmont with anything from Ekim’s super-refreshing After Battle pale ale through to a strawberry wheat beer, a blueberry hefeweizen or an alcoholic ginger beer for people yet to acquire the taste for hops and barley. Inside, they’ve gone for an artisan workshop look with bare floorboards, a sandstone bar with a timber top, brown leather benches under the shabby-chic window frames and brass-pipe footrests under the bolted-down tables. On one wall is a neon sign declaring that ‘in hops we trust’ and with a double-hopped IPA in hand, so will you. Paralysed by all the options? They do a tasting paddle for $15 so you can try 170mL of the four most intriguing brews. You’ll have to fight the after-work crowds to get a seat in the triangular, chipped brick courtyard lit by garlands of lights. But the best seats in the house are actually the ones at their semi-regular rooftop keg parties. Grab a ticket and drink in the view over Darling H

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The Union Hotel - Newtown

Down on South King Street the Union goes hard on craft beer. Way before it was the cool, or even fiscally sensible thing to do to have over twenty taps providing frothy thrills of the boutique variety, this spacious Newtown boozer was pouring something way more interesting than lager. Keeping it real for the locals you can expect Willie the Boatman, Wayward, Nomad, Yulli’s, Riverside and Australian Brewery to crop up regularly; Two Birds, Bridge Road, and Feral might represent brews from the greater southern land and there’s even the odd international guest like Sierra Nevada, Anchor and Tuatara to look forward to. Go on a craft beer adventure on a Tuesday when there’s also free pool, or a Wednesday to coincide with trivia, or just mosey in of an evening for a bistro meal in the beer garden out the back.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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The Welcome Hotel

It’s a truly great pub that manages to strike an easy balance between being a familiar, cosy watering hole and raising the bar where it counts – the food and drink. We don’t much mind what old timey art sits on the walls, or if the playlist forgoes Chisel for the Natalie Imbruglia on occasion, but we do care quite a lot about what’s on our plates and in our glasses. At the Welcome a degree of extra care has been given to the menus so that the craft beers on tap reflect the evolving boutique brewing scene in Sydney, and also match the season. In summer you can expect a high rotation of tropical pales and sessionable golden ales, but come the wintry months you’ll want to wrap you laughing gear around the toasty, bitter dark ale from Tassie’s Moo Brew, or treat yourself to the resinous, fruity aromas in Mornington’s imperial IPA. If you don’t know what you like or don’t recognise the line-up on your visit grab a tasting paddle for $20 and work it out the fun way. Now that you’ve slaked that thirst it’s dinnertime. Over in the adjoining restaurant chef Daniel Mulligan flexes his kitchen muscle with a modern Italian menu, but in the public bar the menu finds a middle ground between higher end dining and bistro stalwarts. Yes, they do a pub pie, but here it’s a little pot of comforting chicken and mushrooms stew with a caramel coloured pastry crown. Do not fear the pub pasta here. Mulligan’s former posting was at Pilu at Freshwater and his Italian pedigree shows in a plate of ten

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping

Independent bottle shops in Sydney

We're not talking mega liquor barns here, but rather the best independent places to buy booze in Sydney - whether it's Penfolds Grange you're after, a craft beer selection, some natural wines or just some longies.

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Meet the brewers

We have an ace collection of people brewing amazing beers in Sydney, so Time Out headed down to the brewery floors to get the skinny on what it takes to brew in this city.

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