Some venues surprise you with what they've got hidden away. Hotel Sweeney's is one of those.
On first appearance, everything points towards this being a good ol' fashioned, rough and ready Aussie boozer. In fact, on second appearance things still point that way. But this old Sydney CBD pub has a shining jewel in its crown in the form of a rooftop craft beer bar tucked several storeys above the bustle below. To get there, you pass through three other floors, each offering something different, so let's start at street level...
The main bar is about as typical a setup as you could expect from an Aussie pub: dark wooden interior, slightly worn around the edges, footy on the TV, all the mechanisms in place for a wee flutter, and enough mainstream lager to keep its guests well lubricated. That said, these days you'll find a few treats amongst the taps: the odd IPA or dark ale that has escaped from the upper floors, and two hand pull taps for that old pub feel.
Next stop is Lola's, the level named for the daughter of original hotelier CJ Sweeney, who lived her entire life at the Clarence Street venue and was, at the time, the only female hotel owner in Sydney. With her more debauched days long behind her, the eponymous Lola has been immortalised in stained glass where she watches over a bustling restaurant and small bar. The kitchen here turns out cheap and cheerful pub classics which are especially popular with the lunchtime crowds. There's also a full Thai menu which is more than worth checking out - line up a Pad Ki Mao / IPA combo in the sun and you're halfway towards lying on the beaches of Koh Samui.
Continuing the upwards journey you come to Clarence's on level two. Here you’ll be greeted with a cocktail bar (open Tuesday to Saturday) and fridges boasting a rotating menu of craft tinnies from overseas. Don’t be surprised to see some of the best and brightest international breweries featured - Deschutes, Stone, Tiny Rebel, Sixpoint, Boon and La Trappe among others. Just pick something special, sink into a leather armchair and live like the elite, if only for an hour or two. BYO monocle and top hat.
Once you've paused and caught your breath, it's time to climb the final few stairs that lead to Dot's, better known as Sweeney's Rooftop.
Here, in the Sydney skyline and amid the fresh air and sunshine, twelve taps pour a rotating lineup of Aussie and international craft beers, from light and fruity quaffers to hoppy and bitter heavy-hitters. The tune has changed so much from what was previously on offer that, head up to the roof on any given weekday, and you're more likely to see suited city types buying jugs of double dry-hopped pale ales than Superdry. On the back of all that, the rooftop is one of the city's most reliable destinations for finding a tap takeover or meet the brewer session of some kind - pretty much every Friday, in fact.
And yet, despite being in such a prominent location, directly opposite both the Town Hall and QVB, Hotel Sweeney's still manages to remain one of Sydney's hidden gems.