Accent stereotypes aside, I can confirm I do actually have Aussie friends, and they all talk exactly like that. Says he with the most bastardized twang of Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi and Canadian.
Anyhow, enough jibber jabber, and on with a much delayed post that I was promising to write months ago. A small foray into some beers and bites over a short weekend trip to Sydney back in May.
I can remember some moons ago, 2008 potentially, 2009 possibly…I was piping at an excellent event in Adelaide, and ventured down O’Connell street of an eve in search of some refreshment, and enjoying very much a Little Creatures Pale Ale on tap. Where? No idea. But to this day the beer holds a special place as I always remember that moment I tried it for the first time. Out with mates at decent pub early in my Craft Beer adventure and just loving it. Biscuity, full bodied and just damn tasty!
It was a total contrast to the standard Aussie fare that I was used too, Tooheys New, Carlton Draught or VB. Vast quantities of said flavourless fizzy stuff was certainly washed down the gullet during my year in Sydney in 2006. Minimal amounts since. And dare I say it, minimal amounts of Little Creatures sadly. Now owned by Lion of course since 2012. My preference is always to support, as best I can, independent breweries.
Fast Forward to Sydney, May 2019 – I was excited. I had some spare time on the day of my arrival to head downtown for a bit. Was there a Craft Scene here? I was certainly impressed by Melbourne from a few years prior and was eager to see if the fast paced Auckland-esque city would rival its laid back, boutique Wellington-esque counterpart.
Now, a bit of a disclaimer:
1. I had a plan all set in my mind of seeing the Opera House, the Bridge and my old busking spot on Circular Quay for sheer nostalgia as it had been about 10 years since my last visit. 2. I had been up since 4 am and didnt really fancy straying too far off the beaten track, and 3. I had to be in some sort of form later on. So I entrusted Google, took this list as gospel, and homed in on what looked to be a decent spot downtown to aim for after my blatant touristing. This being the Redoak Boutique Bar and Brewery on Clarence Street.
The blurb was promising, many styles, family owned, supports the small craft brewers etc….but, I left pretty disappointed. Everything just felt underdone. The lunch special was a burger and a beer (a piddly Aussie sized ‘half’) for twenty something buck I think….and I went for the classic Aussie Burger. The menu was hardly inspiring but the deal seemed good on paper, but for what you got it was a touch over priced. It was just a burger, perfectly ok, but in no way was I dancing on the rooftops about how juicy the patty was or how delectably moreish the caremelised onions were. It was just a burger ‘n fries.
Along with it I had the “Mother Brucker” Pale Ale, an ale promising fruity, spicy and floral characteristics, and was brewed using Hersbrucker hops. One that was certainly new to me. Of the 5 I sampled it was certainly the stand out, light and refreshing and hop was certainly distinctive. Quite dank I thought.
I tried four more on a tasting flight; the Stouty McStoutface, The Trap Belgian Blonde, A West Coast Pale Ale and the Organic Pale Ale. All were, again, ok. Just needed a bit of an increase in volume. The West Coast Ale had a decent hop finish but everything else was slightly timid. It must be tough I would imagine – expensive real estate downtown, and I would assume a more stiff business clientele who might not be keen on a mad Double IPA with their lunch. Pity. Those board meetings would be way more productive.
Perhaps the most deflating aspect though was the atmosphere and service. It felt like any other standard downtown bar. I have always loved the willingness and enthusiasm of staff in a Crafty place, open to discuss their beers or just have a sociable chat. Nothing of that nature here unfortunately.
Would I go back?? Arrrrggh, I dunno. Maybe after a decent kip and a fresh mind I would think a bit differently. So perhaps I’m being overly harsh here..
If / when I go back to Sydney I think this list shall see some exploration. It looks genuinely exciting but requires a bit of decent Ubering and Metro’ing. And I see that Marrickville, near the Airport is housing many a good stop. Two of these were given a good nudge on my second night, being Batch Brewing and Grifter Brewing.
Much much much much much better! Actual atmosphere, flavoursome beers, and very importantly Proper NZ chips at Grifter. Sorry crisps! Seriously the Onion and Green Chive flavour – basically crack in a bag.
Batch Hazy Sour – Loved it
Batch Elsie Milk Stout
Grifter Big Sur – West Coast IPA
After imbibing a good few (many?) ales and sharing many a tale with good folks we made the short walk into the eclectic and chaotic Newtown. A hotpot of worldwide culinary delights that I would love to spend a few weeks or months exploring. Only one place was on our list tonight though and that was Faheems in the heart of Enmore Road, a Halal Pakistani Tandoori joint which I first (and last) visited 13 years prior. I also happened to be with my old mate who introduced me to Faheems all those years ago, and he used to vist this place as a ritual , most weeks I believe when he lived around the corner. I will never, ever forget the creamy spicy Lambs Brains and I was overjoyed to still see them on the menu.
Old mate was entrusted with the order and i think we got in most of the menu. It was absolutely unbelievable and goes down as one of the best meals I have had. No doubt having a fantastic night, surrounded by great people played a part, but seriously the Tandoori Chicken!! Outrageous.
My apologies for the lack of photos, I was too wrapped up in the moment and devouring the glory in front of me. But there was fish curry, lambs brains, tandoori chicken, dips, pickles and absolutely huge naans. Delightful.
Then a random pub for G & Ts to finish and that was that. An epic night.
And that was really that. I did hit up the Strand Cellars the next night, very quiet times indeed but it was a great store with a decent choice for this quiet part of town.
Two particular highlights I picked up were the Murrays Brewing Gardenia Double IPA. A beautiful big 8.5% hop hit! Awesome.
Followed by Prancing Pony – The Piper West Coast American IPA, another big hoppy hit, but smooth and easy to drink.
And, finally Wayward Brewing Red IPA – excellent, hoppy, malty goodness.
Just a final note – we had a few drinks at the Summer Hill Hotel, a totally classic Aussie Pub, close to our location and with the standard very poor beer options. But, hold the phone caller…the Young Henrys Newtowner caught my eye and this little blighter certainly wasn’t Tooheys New. It was instead pretty decent Aussie pale ale, medium bodied, light but flavourful..yes you read correctly, flavourful! A welcome addition to the taps.
A little digging seems to show this Young Henrys brewery as becoming pretty big in Sydney and their beers are quite widely available in the city….I suspected some sort of Lion or Carlton involvement but it seems not. Rather Dan Murphy’s, the massive liquor outlet, appeared to get involved early on in stocking their beer and they grew from there. So cheers to that!
And so my wee Aussie adventure came to an end. I was very fortunate to get some exploration time and I am very keen to get do some more digging one day as I think there are many hidden delights here. I will leave you with this totally unrelated picture of my Margarita from the Koru Lounge! Why not?