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Beer at Sauce Brewery
Photograph: Katje Ford

The best craft brewery bars in Sydney

Name a better place to spend an afternoon with a bunch of good mates. We'll wait

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait
&
Elizabeth McDonald
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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. Yearning for water views? Check out the best waterfront bars in Sydney.

Sydney's best craft brewery bars

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Marrickville
  • price 1 of 4

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 contract 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.

Must try: The Watermelon Serpent's Kiss

  • Bars
  • Annandale

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.

Having carved a comfortable niche in the Aussie craft scene, Wayward beers cater to the masses a range that goes from easy-on to deliberately absurd. For non-beer drinkers there is a housemade selection of seltzers, wine and soft drinks. The Wayward food truck serves up classic brewery burgers and share plates with quirky twists like the cheeseburger spring rolls with special sauce. For the truly adventurous, there is even a
salad.

Must try: Raspberry Berliner Weisse

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  • Bars
  • Craft beer
  • Redfern

When you can't get across the impressive girth of this country, the West Australian craft beers will come to you, care of the Atomic Beer Project, an airy industrial brewery bar in Redfern. Atomic beers are brewed by Gage Roads Brewing, but soon their Atomic Pale Ale, XPA and IPA will be brewed in small batches inside their Sydney microbrewery, alongside seasonal and experimental brews. Wine might not pair well with spicy food, but beer sure does – which is why the kitchen here, led by Jordan McLeod (ex-Longrain Tokyo) is taking inspiration from across South East Asia for its bar menu.

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  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Prospect

Sydney can't get enough of rooftop bars. And we can't get enough of breweries. So it was only a matter of time before one of Marrickville's most beloved craft beer purveyors bit the bullet and brought this love affair full circle. Enter: Marrickville Springs, the '80s tropicana resort-style bar atop Philter Brewing in Sydney's inner west. Opening on Friday October 22, the airy sky-high bar is pretty in pink, with warm wooden bench seating and tropical plants galore.

Must try: Sour Beer Slushie, preferably on a hot day.

Young Henrys
  • Bars
  • Newtown
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Must try: Newtowner Pale Ale 

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  • Bars
  • Marrickville

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 the dazzlingly pink Pash the Magic Dragon before graduating to the smooth, rich Elsie the 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 seasons finest.
Want to go even weirder? Batch has spawned Small Batch, a little brewery tucked away behind the Public House in Petersham with innovative bevvies that would rattle Willy Wonka.

Must try: Pash the Magic Dragon

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Alexandria

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.

Must try: Slick Rick Red Ale

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Modus Operandi
  • Bars
  • Mona Vale

A pet stop on the Northern Beaches brewery circuit, Modus Operandi pours a scintillating stream of brews that will refresh, soothe and amuse. The original Mona Vale brewery is where the Modus journey started in 2014 and remains the best place to enjoy the house made beers of which there are usually up to 16 on tap. Sample the beach bred core range on a $20 tasting paddle or have their staff select some of their wild seasonal releases.

Wine, cider and cocktails will service non-beer drinkers while those out for a long one (not a big one) will enjoy Nort beers, a range of four low-alcohol beers brewed in-house. The laughing
gear approved rotation of burgers and pizzas includes the Wednesday beer and wings special; $30 for a jug of beer and half a kilo of wings.

Must try: Sonic Prayer IPA

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Marrickville
  • price 1 of 4

Fermentation with native yeasts, barrel-ageing and blending are the watchwords at this 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. 

Must try: Something that scares you

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  • Bars
  • Craft beer
  • Marrickville
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Must try: Bubble & Squeak New England IPA

Willie the Boatman
  • Bars
  • St Peters

Beware planning your stop at Willie the Boatman on the inner west ale trail; once you’ve entered you may find it very difficult to leave. Named for the Scottish highwayman turned convict turned river boat operator, Willie serves up a locally loved core range alongside Unusual Edition limited releases which have previously been yuzu hazies, cherry sours and even once a lamb souvlaki ale.

The paired back warehouse has two airy and relaxed seating
areas with comfy couches and booths suitable for big groups. Be sure to make a booking or be ready to sip while standing until a space opens.

Must try: Ablo Corn Ale

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Millers Point

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.

Must try: Victory Bitter

Nomad Brewing Co
  • Bars
  • Brookvale

36 taps dedicated to craft beer is all the convincing a brewery lover needs to visit Nomad Brewing Co in Brookvale. The dog and family friendly beer garden, live DJ sets and pinball machines may twist the arm of anyone not yet craving some of the beaches finest.

100 per cent family owned, Nomad is dedicated to showcasing the best of independent bevvies with a
range of craft spirits, ciders, cocktails and guest beers. The sizzling meat storm that is the Argentinian banquet menus feature titillating crowd pleasers that compliment the beer just as well as the laughter and sunshine that frequent the beer garden.

Must try: Budgie Smuggler Pale Ale

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  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Brookvale
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Must try: Any of the whacky Keller Door limited releases

  • Bars
  • Craft beer
  • Marrickville
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Must try: XPA Splice

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A warm and glowing brew bar never went astray and here in the Brookvale industrial area having been nailing craft beers and great burgers since day one. The laid back beaches vibes are strong too, reflected in the light and easy drinking lagers, IPAs and even the occasional porter.

Must try: 5 Day XPA

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Botany
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Must try: Any of the limited release nitro or milkshake beers 

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  • Bars
  • Alexandria

You can get started at 11am 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.

Must try: The Allrounder Pilsner Lager

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Rosebery
  • price 1 of 4

Frenchies was started by homesick French people and it shows. Inside the Cannery, Frenchies Bistro and Brewery is an unpretentious take on the classic French brasserie. Unlike their Parisian counterparts, beer is the beverage of choice at Frenchies, stealing the spotlight from wine with an effortless and tasty flourish.

Brewed with imported ingredients, Frenchies beers are crisp, balanced and perfectly fulfil their destiny of being served up alongside the sumptuous bar and brasserie menu, which
includes French classics like confit duck leg, smoked cheeses and cured meats sliced to order.

Start with the Draught Pilsner Lager with a side of bresaola before moving up to the wine-like Black Ale paired with a blue cheese funkier than a ‘70s bass line. Go all out and pair the golden Laperouse with the Mixed Board ($38) featuring the best meat, cheese and produce of the season. Keep an eye out for the weekend bottomless lunches, perfect for when that French holiday is too far away and you need a tasty cure for ennui.

Must try: Laperouse Golden Biere de Garde

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At the time of writing, Mixtape is the newest brewery in Marrickville’s brewery district AKA The Golden Triangle. Although the area is already spoiled with breweries, locals are already calling this new kid-on-the-block home. The chic and green warehouse space is designed to reflect the Inner West neighbourly love from the hanging plants to the succulents nesting in cans from other nearby breweries.

Just like the mixtapes of times gone by, Mixtape Brewing
and Bar has a bit of this and a bit of that. Across 16 taps there is an ever-changing lineup of Mixtape’s house-brewed beers alongside a grand selection of taps from breweries such as
One Drop, Hawkers and Sunday Road. Currently, Mixtape brews only three to five beers at any given time with a focus on seasonality and freshness. Pack your growler if you think
you’ll fancy taking home some of their very limited brews. For $2 you can soak up the beer with Nutri Grain heavy nuts-and-bolts mix or order a more substantial pizza or curry from the
attached kitchen. There is trivia every Wednesday from 7pm and although it doesn’t quite need to be said, dogs are welcome.

Must try: Beers are ever changing, go with your gut.

  • Bars
  • Glebe

Tucked away behind Broadway shopping centre, Staves is a beer oasis in the bustling city serving a fresh and fabulous range of brews. In this charming little beer den, the brews are described on individual chalkboards which can number up to 16 at any given time. When you first visit Staves it’s common to feel overwhelmed. Thankfully the bar staff are made exclusively of legends who want nothing more than to steer you in the right beer direction.

Just don’t take too long to choose; the small batch beers are always changing, with kegs often running out in between rounds. You can’t go wrong with a bold Staves IPA, a salty and
sweet fruity gose or the classic Gold and Champion award winning Pale Ale. Despite being a hole-in-the-wall, Staves boasts a sun catching beer garden that is the undeniably finest
place a Staves beer can be savoured. Pizzas, burgers and more can be ordered from outside vendors at the counter (last orders at 7:45pm). Live music is frequent and there is a stand up comedy show every Saturday night.

Must try: Pale Ale

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Unless you’re in the market for a human statue with a dog’s head, there’s not a lot of reasons to visit this remote corner of Botany. That is until Slow Lane Brewing opened their tap room in January 2021. As their name suggests, Slow Lane brews using methods that put tradition and flavour above time efficiency. Despite the time invested in each batch, Slow
Lane are aggressively prolific with an ever changing menu that can feature up to 37 beers, all brewed on site.

From an astute German kölsch to decadent Belgian tripels, Slow Lane is a masterclass in traditional beer styles (even if their not-at-all-traditional hazy pale ale is one of best going).

A tasting flight is the best way to experience the Slow Lane spectrum that goes from crisp and clean to sweet and funky. Pair it with a hot gooey three cheese toastie and you’ve got the most delightful way to trigger an afternoon nap.

Must try: Refreshing Belgian Blonde Ale

  • Restaurants
  • Dulwich Hill

Born off the back off sausage queen Chrissy Flanagan, the Sausage Factory is a Dulwich Hill institution of house-spun sausages and those who like to do things differently. The sleek
and nostalgic wooden interior is home to Queens of Chaos brewing, small batch beers that punch above their weight. The house brews include Pash Rash, a puckeringly sweet
rhubarb, pineapple and hibiscus sour and the sharp and clean Boss Ale Paleish brewed to ride shotgun with a sausage smorgasbord.

Designated drivers might also enjoy the Paleish Unboozy Beer that comes in at just half a standard drink. While the restaurant element of the Sausage Factory is unfortunately a thing of the past, the classes and brewery live on. 

Must try: Boss Ale Paleish

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  • Bars
  • Craft beer
  • Redfern

When you can't get across the impressive girth of this country, the West Australian craft beers will come to you, care of the Atomic Beer Project, an airy industrial brewery bar in
Redfern. Started by Gage Roads Brewing, Atomic brews their small batch releases in their green tiled warehouse. Sample six of them for $20 on a tasting paddle and pair them with
spicy food from the South East Asian inspired kitchen which features the legendary Indochina; dark beer braised beef cheeks with fermented chilli on a croissant.

Must try: Mando Sour

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