Arriving at The Australian Hotel & Brewery you can't help but be struck with the impression that it isn't a place that does things by halves. This brewery complex in Sydney's northwestern suburb of Rouse Hill is, put simply, vast. Yet once you step inside it becomes quite clear why such scale is required, for it houses much more than just a brewery: restaurant, cafe and occasional coffee roaster, sports bar, kid's activity centre, beer garden, nightclub... the Aussie Brewery is an all-in-one food, drink and entertainment experience aimed at the modern suburbanite.
If you didn't guess from the name, a desire for Australian-ness is prominent here, a literal manifesto plastered on the wall in huge letters: "Fresh, Pure, Australian". It's essentially their way of stating they like supporting local things.
What you get from a local focus are plenty of locals as customers, particularly when the venue is so deliberately family-friendly; a giant water tank houses a children's adventure playground and the long kids menu is a guaranteed winner. And when the kids are happy, the adults invariably are too – more so when they can kick back and relax with a beer that is as fresh as it gets, and as of October 2022 goes by the name Esker Beer Co after the team decided to give the brand a name that better reflected their local Hills Shire community.
And it's that which is the main draw here. For all the variety this complex offers, it's things like the stainless steel fermenters behind the bar and the enormous copper-coloured pipes snaking their way through the dining area which provide a constant reminder that this is a living, breathing brewery. Though if you do need further proof, you can simply perch at the brewery bar and, through the large glass panels, watch the brewers at work. From there you'll have a front row seat of the mechanised magic of the first beer canning machine to be operated by a small Australian brewery, installed at the end of 2012. As of 2021, diners can also look up to see a catwalk with a small batch brew kit, where limited releases come to life.
If you want to get even closer to the action, jump on a half hour tour where the team guides you through the inner workings of the brewery and a taste of their beers. The Esker core range tends towards drinkability rather than outrageous experimentation, consisting of a Pacific Ale, West Coast IPA and Citrus Gose, and with plans to bring popular Australian Brewery brands under the Esker banner too, including the Old Cattle Dog dark ale and Seis Hermanos Mexican-style lager. That said, they'll often collaborate with other brewers and venues on more eclectic one-off beers and their seasonals are always worth hunting down.
When it launched in mid 2010 under the stewardship of founding brewer Neal Cameron, the brewery immediately began collecting an impressive list of accolades at well regarded beer shows. Now under head brewer Dan Shaw, a young and talented team – which includes everyone from Cicerones to a German brewer from the iconic Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University in Bavaria – has been picking up more medals than ever and across a broader range of styles. That's helped as the brewery continues to expand an export footprint which sees their beer carried in countries as far flung as China, Japan and Canada.
But, back at home, as Sydney's suburban sprawl continues towards the west and northwest, The Australian Hotel and Brewery (the venue is retaining its original name even with the beers now under the Esker banner) provides a significant focal point for locals seeking a beer they can call their own. It's a kind of temple to good beer, built for modern times and in tune with the community in which it resides.