Nick O / 23.10.12
If you were to base your idea of Sydney on postcard images, it’d be tempting to believe the city is entirely localised within a pretty little harbour cove containing an Opera House and a Harbour Bridge. While it’s difficult to argue against those icons being a part of the city’s beating heart, it would be untrue to call that area the centre. At least in a geographical sense.
Thanks to the constant creeping of suburban development, the true centre of this home to more than four and a half million souls now lies nearly 25km further west, up the Parramatta river. And, for all intents and purposes, in that area you will find a whole other established city with its own increasingly high-rise CBD and a local population of around 170,000 people.
Yet, despite effectively being a city unto itself, there was something very important missing from Parramatta. There was an empty hole in the community. There was no brewery. As far as craft beer goes, Parramatta was an untapped market.
However, where there is a thirst to be quenched there are inevitably noble citizens with the desire to satisfy the needs of the people. To the immense good fortune of the Parramatta populace, Dave Padden and Steve Pan are those people. They are two men who have been prepared to spend a long time planning and an even longer time navigating bureaucratic consent processes in order to set up Riverside Brewing. The brewery has now been open for a couple of months and all the effort is beginning to glean a reward.
Dave is the head brewer and, as such, the one charged with bringing good brews to Sydney’s west. His problem is that he can’t brew fast enough to keep up. Currently there are only around a dozen venues stocking Riverside beer, but even those few are itching for an increase in supply. Part of the problem of being unable to satisfy demand was being restricted to brewing on the 600 litre pilot system until the bigger tanks were given the official ‘all clear’. But, thankfully, the big boys have begun to bubble away recently which should help alleviate any longer term supply problems and allow for wider distribution.
While the capacity may have been limited, it was at least enough to test the market and confirm that greater demand for their products does actually exists. To say ‘greater demand’ is slightly underwhelming because, in truth, demand has been positively voracious. Every day sees more enquiries from stockists. Every day the demand grows.
If you should happen to wonder why there has been such interest, you need only try the beer. Sydney beer aficionados have largely been as high in praise for Riverside’s brews as a new brewery could wish for. To add to that, they won the People’s Choice award at the NSW Winter Beer Festival and were arguably the most well patronised tent at the recent Willoughby Craft Beer Fair. If that’s any indication, you should expect no different at the Australian Hotel Beer Festival next weekend.
The beer range – already consisting of a Golden Ale, American Amber Ale, Summer Ale, Pale Ale, IPA and Porter – generally has an emphasis on bold flavours, as is Dave’s preference, though Steve plays a part in ensuring balance is always maintained. The obvious exception to the ‘big’ flavour is the ‘69’ Summer Ale (yes, that Summer of 69) which Dave describes as being, in a very general way, “a gateway beer for the local market”. It will, in short, be their way of winning drinkers over to the craft side.
The numerical naming references of the beer extends across the range, something which began quite simply with the 55 Pale Ale and 77 India Pale Ale, which are 5.5 per cent and 7.7 per cent ABV respectively. From there, Dave says it “just kind of carried on”, though the others aren’t now necessarily representative of the alcohol content.
In early November the brewery is set to open the roller door for growler fills and tastings. At that point they’ll really get to see how responsive the local market is. Though they’ve already got a fair idea with Dave mentioning that word is out and the locals are already asking for them.
Another indicator is the location – directly opposite the main entrance to Bunning’s Warehouse which is “crazily busy on weekends”. As Steve adds, quite simply and probably correctly: “A lot of the customers at Bunnings are probably guys that drink beer."
Indeed, it’s easy to see how a well-placed sign offering a beer tasting would be taken up with gusto. More immediate confirmation of local interest in the beer comes through the 70 person dinner they’re hosting at Courtney’s Brasserie in Parramatta during Sydney Craft Beer Week. It was one of the earliest events to sell out and few would’ve bet on that a year ago.
As they continue trying to keep the beer flowing, Riverside will be keeping up appearances thanks to their heavy involvement in SCBW events, most notably at Danks St Depot where Dave has collaborated with HopDog BeerWorks on a new beer called ‘Assaisonner Tri Canus Flumen’, or ‘3 Dog River Saison’.
Having gone through an exhaustive process to get the brewery up and running, perhaps the best news for Riverside is that there only seems to be good news on the horizon. So much so that Dave recently quit his day job so he could spend more time brewing.
Even for him then, the pull of the river is irresistible.