The Petersham Bowling Club isn't the only one in the country to explore a new direction to find a new lease on life. But this classic bowlo in Sydney's inner west is certainly the first to embrace craft beer so wholeheartedly. Judged from outside, where it sits surrounded by suburban homes, it could pass as one of hundreds of similar clubs; inside, however, while it retains its period charm, you're met by banks of taps pouring some of the finest drops available in Australia today.
It's a change that began towards the end of the last decade when the club was facing a deeply uncertain future and one that has proven so successful that there others considering following suit. Property developers were eyeing up the lawns as the ideal spot for erecting townhouses when members of the local community stepped in, took over the board of the club that had been in existence since 1896, and set about reclaiming it for the locals.
Drawing on the various skills of the surrounding community that battle was won and the new committee set about making the PBC a place that locals would want to come. The pokies were removed and live music was brought back. Then came the turnaround on the beer front staff describe as "amazing". Out went Carlton Draught and Pure Blonde, initially for the now-defunct Barons, then for several taps from Rocks Brewing before transforming into the array of rotating taps and pair of handpumps.
The transformation was aided in no small part by the community too. The first new bank of six taps to be installed was paid for by a fundraising drive that included a "Bowl with the Brewers" day, the second was sold to them at a knock down price by a nearby RSL that was closing down and wanted to keep the system within the community. Young Henrys then came forward and offered to put in the handpumps.
Today, The PBC s a community hub popular with families whose kids love to make use of the lawns, a hive of live music every Thursday to Sunday (generally in shades of acoustic, alt country, blues and roots) and one of the finest spots in the inner west to enjoy great beer, whether indulging in a spot of barefoot bowls or not. There are film nights and swing dancing, while the local ALP, Greens and unions meet there too.
But, for all the changes in offerings and ethos, much has remained the same. The hall of fame boards still hang on the walls overhead, there are regular meat raffles and membership draws, the carpet (itself saved after a call for help with desperately needed repair work went out on social media) will take you back a generation or three and the furniture would grace any rural RSL with honour. In other words, it's still everything you could want from an old school bowlo. Just better. And to think it could have been a bunch of townhouses...