Craft brewing has grown up a lot since pioneering Young Henrys came along in 2012. Gone are the days when small-batch pale ales were shrouded in mystery and looked upon with suspicion; craft beers have made their way into the mainstream, and we are here for it. The Australian beer landscape is now truly world class, and while we’re pretty darn spoiled for choice when it comes to places to drink craft beer in this city, there’s something special about going straight to the source. Fresh is best, after all, and it doesn’t get any fresher than that. From Sydney’s south to the Northern Beaches, there’s always a brewery close at hand – so leave the car keys at home, set aside an afternoon and make tracks to these excellent establishments pouring the top brews in town.
Prefer the pub? Head to one of Sydney's best pubs instead.
Want to experience more of Sydney's finest? Here are 50 things to do in Sydney at least once in your life.
Sydney's best craft brewery bars
Grifter’s three owners, Matt King, Glenn Wignall and Trent Evans, started off as home brewers. They graduated to brewing in their kitchens and then to gypsy brewing in the Young Henrys facilities when they weren’t in use. Now, they're some of the biggest names on the circuit, and their giant Marrickville brewery is a crucial stop – not just for the pale ale, but for a tasting tray, a game of pool, and something from the epic food trucks they host every weekend. Make sure you pat all the doggos.
Colonial Sydney’s love affair with locally made liquor is a long-standing one, which is why we consider it particularly fitting that Camperdown’s brewery bar is set up inside what was once a winery – the wax-lined walls of the wine tanks now enclose alcoves of cinema seats and little tables. Fridays through Sundays there are food trucks catering to your snack needs, and you can order pizzas to the bar after 5pm. Most of the taps are house brews, but they share the love with a few guest-star beers, not to mention their community kegs initiative where they brew a beer and donate the profits from the sales to local charities and fundraising efforts.
We have to assume that the rest of Sydney is low on sausage dogs, rock’n’roll babies and beardy gents, if the crowd at Young Henrys is anything to go by. This Newtown brewery bar is as popular today as the day it opened, and the curative power of their cloudy cider remains an excellent way to get back on the horse if you’ve overdone things the night before. A revolving line-up of food trucks keeps hunger at bay and sometimes a mobile record shop drops by for extra Inner West cred. If you’ve got your heart set on an afternoon of chat and fresh beers, get in early – tables here fill fast and stay that way until last drinks.
This bare bones brewery down in Marrickville keeps it simple with the equipment out the back of their Sydenham Road warehouse, and a tasting bar in front. Set up by two Americans who began with an American West Coast pale ale, Batch are now serious contenders for some of Sydney’s most daring and creative brewers. Start with something bright and weird like an orange and chilli gose – spicy, salty and fresh – before graduating to a smooth, rich milk stout. Depending on when you visit they might have a comforting chocolatey brown ale, or one of their fruitier sour numbers, juicy with the season's finest.
From little things, big things have grown. James Harvey and Karl Cooney spent years working together at Yulli's, the much-loved vegetarian Surry Hills diner with a craft beer focus. In 2014, they released their first batch of beer. Now, half a decade later, they've got a giant brewery in Alexandria to call home, and a whole cast of crafty characters in their repertoire. Say g'day to Norman, a good, clean Australian ale or shake hands with Slick Rick, whose rampagin' red ale will keep your motor running. Fun is always first on the agenda here, and the vegan eats are killer.
Some breweries like to keep their cellar-door operation small, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a spacious warehouse behind the Mona Vale Hotel as your brewery, you may as well make the most of it, which is what the crew at Modus Operandi have done. You can slake a savage thirst with a six-serve tasting paddle for $30, but visit on Wednesdays for a kilo of wings, Fridays for beer cocktails or live music on weekends. And nothing lays the foundations for a day of craft brews like their house burger.
Fermentation with native yeasts, barrel-ageing and blending are the watchwords at the disarmingly charming and rustic warehouse. For the uninitiated, that means lightly carbonated, funky brews that some might say drink more like wild styles of natural wine. You won't find beers like this anywhere else in this city, and that is reason enough to pay these guys a visit. Hours are limited, so plan ahead and make sure to get the lowdown from the lovely staff who are always more than happy to explain the artisanal processes in depth.
Time your visit with Swiss precision – Willie only opens Thursday through Sunday for limited hours. Grab a stool and order up a tasting paddle in the pared back, coastal vintage warehouse. The playlist is classic rock, and the Black Bunny is a toasty dark ale that’ll banish the winter from your bones. They name all their beers after mates, so you can toast the AFL-loving MP with the Albo American light lager, neck a golden ale named after a local plumber, or a knock back a cider that goes by Rachel.
Beer geeks will get their kicks admiring the brewing gear that's proudly on display up front, while family fun can be had out the back in the Astroturf beer garden surrounded by picket fencing. Hop-forward brewskis are the drawcard here – Hop Sauce, Extra Hop Sauce and Mega Hop Sauce make up the core trio of ales – so kick off that Sunday session with a 500ml pour and get in early if you want to score a picnic table.
This is officially Sydney's oldest continually licensed hotel, and it's also home to Australia's oldest pub brewery. For those who like their beer with a side of history, it doesn't get much better than the Lord Nelson – creaky floorboards, working fireplace, tonnes of sandstone and all. If you're one of a small handful of people left in this city who've never tried the Three Sheets pale ale, make haste and do so where it springs to life.
A lug of seawater might not quench a thirst, but a few buckets of the stuff in Nomad's Salt and Pepper “Freshie” gose give this historic German-style beer a savoury flavour that’s perfect with a bowl of crinkle-cut chips. And you’d better believe it’s the very same water you cough up after going five rounds with the breakers at Freshwater Beach. If you're after something more tropical, make yourself comfy on the pallet furniture in the cark park and order up a finger lime IPA.
The Truck Bar is literally that – a bar built on the back of a 1960 Dodge pickup with 21 taps. The second instalment from the 4 Pines team is a much more industrial affair than their famous Manly brewpub. Here, it’s all about sports on the projector, games of giant Jenga and live bands on Sunday. The creative Keller Door releases (Fernet Branca stout, anyone?) are always changing, but the classics stay put (including the dynamite Brookvale Union Ginger Beer). Burgers and chorizo hot dogs are on call to soak it all up if needed.
A stone's throw from Marrickville institutions like the Bowlo and the Red Rattler is where you'll find Stockade, a refreshingly polished spot compared to its industrial surrounds. The core brews are approachable and familiar, while limited releases like the Mountie Maple Stout are wilder boundary breakers. You can also score cocktails and house wines here, as well as burgers from Baby Rey's food truck, which makes this a solid option for a group outing where pleasing everyone is the main priority.
This is south Sydney's first microbrewery, and it's definitely made a big first impression. Wife-and-husband duo Meg Barbic and Clay Grant quit their jobs, sold their house and opened the roller doors in 2019. It's got everything you know and love about a local brewery bar – a beer garden, milk-crate seating, festoon lights, visiting food trucks – and the flaship Botany Bay Lager is an easy way to get acquainted with the laidback style they're rocking down here by Mill Pond.
You can get started at 9am here on the weekends, which is just about the closest thing you can get to a guaranteed hangover cure. Nab the hair of the dog that bit you with a seat in the 800-square-metre beer garden, a fresh stonefruit-driven golden ale and something from the giant restaurant-sized menu , and you'll be back on top in no time. A three-beer paddle sets you back $15, but if you're on the hunt for a bargain, hit happy hour Monday through Friday from 4-6pm for big pours that clock in at just $8. Glorious.