Nick O / 01.10.12
In this week’s preview of Sydney Craft Beer Week we head to the place that kick-started Australia’s fondness for a drink…
When British colonists first turned up in Australia in the late 1700s, they set up camp on some sandstone cliffs overlooking a pretty spectacular piece of harbour known as Port Jackson. It was there, on the the edge of the known world, where they lived, toiled and made much merriment with a strong drink in hand. Indeed, the early settlers apparently took to drinking with such gusto that Rum became a semi-official form of currency. Though with such an ‘appreciation’ of hard liquor, widespread drunkenness and social ills were bound to follow.
To help curtail the escalating drinking problem, beer, thanks to its comparatively low alcohol content, was apparently promoted by the authorities as a safer and healthier alternative. It’d be quite a stretch to solely credit beer with turning things around, but the area now known as The Rocks did become a vibrant port community. These days The Rocks is a tourist hotspot, sitting as it does at the southern side of the Harbour Bridge, overlooking Circular Quay and the Opera House. But it has retained its unique place in Sydney’s history and is still home to many of the city’s oldest buildings – some of which are pubs.
So it’s all rather fitting that The Rocks and nearby areas will be playing host to a number of events during Sydney Craft Beer Week, thus helping to further the evolution of the city’s drinking culture, this time the coming of craft beer.
In terms of bring all that history and beer culture together under one roof, few places can match the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel which is, famously, Sydney’s oldest licensed hotel. The brewery in the hotel has been pumping out natural ales since the mid 80s, way before it was cool to do so, and SCBW sees them putting on a special edition of their well-regarded bi-annual Brewers Dinners, this one with a seasonal influence.
Trystam Hayden, one of the current Lords of the business, tells us they’ve been rummaging around in the cellar and found a few special kegs of Nelson’s finest that have been aging for between one and two years which they’ll be cracking open for the dinner. To please the lunchtime crowds they’ve also come up with an American Rye Ale to go with a pie recipe they rather fancy, and they’ll be serving that up all week.
A short walk away is Harts Pub where the notion of a ‘week’ of craft beer has been wholeheartedly embraced. When we asked Mark Fethers, owner of Harts and Rocks Brewing, if they had much planned, he was visibly excited at the range of events they’ve got lined up.
First up, the ladies of Two Birds and Hunter Beer Co will be swooping in with a new way of taking on old traditions when they serve up High Tea. They’ll be busting myths about ‘beer being for blokes’, accompanied by plenty of fine brews and classic snacks, all with a firm focus on flavour. Then there’s a beergustation that’s not for the faint of heart or light of stomach – eight courses served up with eight beers, four each from Scotty Morgan of Rocks Brewing and Craig Wealands of Thirsty Crow.
If you’re looking to boost your beer-geek credentials, there’s less than a month left to brush up on your historical beer styles and hop knowledge as the regular trivia night is all about beer, with the winner receiving the slightly dubious honour of being crowned the Ultimate Beer Wanker. For those craving a little less competition and a lot more combination, there’s a cheese, chocolate and beer evening.
The Meet the Brewer night seems destined to become an instant tradition and, quite possibly, a night that will live in folklore. The premise is simple: three hours of unlimited beer and pizza. So far, Mark says there are 14 brewers coming along, all of whom will no doubt be happy to share a beer with lucky you. The Overflow Festival the following day represents nothing more than unadulterated love for craft beer to cap off a frantic week, with 26 taps of goodness flowing through the day – and a spit roast thrown in for good measure.
A little further up the road, towards the CBD, the serial award-winners at Redoak are serving up an education via beergustation. The plan is for a two and a half hour, five course romp through the wonderful world of beer, learning about everything from beer styles and history through to brewing itself and the importance of glassware.
And depending on whether your preference for vinyl leans towards skin-tight clothing or rotating LPs from decades past, ‘Stone & Wood & Vinyl’ at Mojo Records could be just your thing. Since we’re firm fans of the latter, this free entry event combining quality beer and quality tunes should be a guaranteed winner.
For more details of these events and more, head to the Sydney Craft Beer Week website. We’ll have another preview next week.