Not so long ago the bar in the centre of the Bank Hotel was little more than a holding pen with unusually high ceilings. Thanks to some clever pub feng shui, they’ve transformed the space into a cosy craft beer bar in its own right. They’ve lowered the roof with a false ceiling of timber beams, warmed things up with copper-lined lightshades and dedicated the 12 taps at the bar to boutique brews.
If you dismiss King Street Wharf as a tourist trap you’ll only be denying yourself all the harbourfront beers and good times on offer at the Sydney outlet of Beer DeLuxe. In yet another case of good Melbourne things coming to Sydney (Belle’s Hot Chicken, we’re looking at you), the craft beer fanatics behind Beer DeLuxe have taken over a space right at the north end of King Street wharf, just before Barangaroo begins, and have set up a two-level temple to fermented fun. How much fun, you ask? Between what’s in the fridges and the 20 taps they’ve got 150 brews available. TL;DR? It’s a lot.
This tiny craft beer attic sits up above Oxford Street, two doors up from Ching-a-lings. 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.
We’re not saying that the old ways are always better, mostly because we’re not octogenarians yelling at the kids on our lawn, but there’s no denying that many of the best elements of a local pub were perfected long ago, like cold beers in clean glasses. At the Botany View you can get a frosty brew – either an old flames from Cascade, Carlton and Reschs, or a new love from the craft catalogue like an Akasha, Shark Island, 4 Pines, Batch, Willie the Boatman, Shenanigans or Merchant Brewing Co beer. Better yet grab a $16 tasting paddle.
Unlike the Dove and Olive and the Keg and Brew, the Dog Hotel in Randwick is huge. Seriously, you could probably fit both of the original Good Beer Company pubs inside their third venue with room to spare. And maybe it’s the sheer size of the place that means they haven’t gone as hard on the theming here. This is a pub pared back to essentials. They’ve given the interiors a gentle refresh and sent the indoor barbecue to the big cookout in the sky, but it’s on the beer front where the big changes have happened. On our visit there’re 42 taps listed above the public bar on the ground floor, and they’re hiding a few more at the satellite bars scattered around the building.
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. changing, but it is tasty, fast and fun. Where they really flex their hospitality muscles is in that beer list. On any given day you’ll have to make hard choices between double hop ales, American pale wheat ales, kellerbiers, IPAs and imperial pilsners.
A lot of the tables at this pub in the back corner of Chippendale are now table serviced for diners, which is A-OK because the kitchen is pumping out some really impressive stuff – put us down for a plate of meltingly tender sausages with mash and a properly generous amount of gravy. And they haven’t neglected the drinks menu either. They’ve got 12 taps, including a hand pump for real ale enthusiasts, and they feature local brews from the likes of Akasha, Rocks, Wayward, Hawthorn and Murray’s.
This cosy establishment is starting to feel properly lived in by now and the staff are super friendly. They’ve also got very good recommendations when it comes to their craft beer range. Maybe they’ll steer you towards a hoppy Panhead APA or, for something rich and malty, take their advice on the Fullers ESB that has a hint of maple syrup about it. Of course the list changes all the time, but they are careful to curate it so that it pleases and challenges in equal measure.
There’s a little bit of the country hiding in the backstreets of Forest Lodge, but this pub doesn’t compromise on the quality of their beer list. These guys are tapping anything that is delicious, so that means brews from the bigger local operations like Young Henrys and Murray’s plus domestic gold like Tassie’s Moo Brew and Western Australia’s Feral Brewing Co. You can still get a Coopers or a Reschs, the stats are pretty good on them having your favourite local brew. If you’re new to the scene start out easy with a pale ale, a golden ale for something a little sweeter, or an amber ale for a beer with a malty backbone. If this is not your first rodeo go to town on whatever freaky grose, fruity saisons, extra-hoppy ales or Frankenbeers they’ve got.
The rooftop of this pub right by Town Hall is a treasured secret for CBD workers, although there are a lot of stairs involved, which dissuades some people. Because they are good at sharing you can eat up there from noon until 2.30pm, and from 5.30-9.30pm – at other times smokers can claim a table. Plus, they’ve added a rotating collection of craft beers to the eight taps on the top floor, and everyone knows local brews taste even better alfresco.
Sydney’s original craft-beer castle is still at the top of its game. Those 20 gleaming taps are guaranteed to be the gatekeepers for a collection of local and imported craft brews that’ll knock your socks off. If you can score a seat on the rooftop terrace, even better. And if your visit coincides with the ten-dollar paddle special on Thursdays, it’s the universe telling you it wants you to be happy. If you need something salty and satisfying notes with a concise and exciting craft beer roll call that starts with pale ales and pilsners and covers off the whole brewing rainbow until you get to stouts and porters. Sometimes you might visit when they’re hosting a tap takeover; other times they’ll have brews from across the country to go with your cheese-stuffed kransky hot dogs.
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.
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. It's all about local craft brews out in the beer garden here, especially if you can convince the pub’s cat Gizmo to hang out with you while you bend the elbow and chew the fat. They keep changing up the kegs, so you can't predict what's on offer, but we're sure you'll like it.