If you want an example of the passion that drives the craft beer industry in Australia, look no further than Erina's Six String Brewery. This brewery, set up by longtime friends Chris Benson and Adam Klasterka on the New South Wales Central Coast, is a lesson in following your dream no matter what gets in your way.
When they first attempted to bring better beer to the Central Coast in 2010 by opening their own brewery, little did they know that what followed would be three years of struggle spanning four different sites, battles with planning permission, bureaucracy, council by-laws and even public opposition from figures in the community. But where many would have crumbled at such obstacles, Chris and Adam dug in, kept up the good fight and listened not to the knockers, but to their growing number of supporters who signed petitions for, and not against, the presence of a brewery in their community. Their persistence eventually, finally, wonderfully, paid off in early 2013 as they were able to roll up the brewery doors to the public for the first time. And since then they've been going gangbusters.
When you walk in, you won't see any evidence of the difficult times. If you know the story, all you'll think is: "Why would people try to stop this?" Set up inside a large warehouse on an industrial estate, the space is open but split neatly in two. Along one side is the domain of the brewers: a big row of shiny tanks and brewing equipment. The other side is for the punter: tables and couches lined up all the way along the wall until you reach the bar.
The bar takes centre stage because, well, it pretty much is a stage - the name Six String comes from Chris' penchant for playing the six string bass guitar and the brewery rocks and rolls to a music theme. However, the spotlights above the bar aren't pouring light on musicians, instead illuminating a row of taps delivering beer that's brewed only a few steps from where it reaches your glass. Conversely, when live music does strike up in the brewery - which it typically does from Friday through Sunday - it takes place in the shadow of the tanks. Here then, you have two of the essential pillars of life, beer and music, served up in whatever order you prefer (both at the same time recommended).
As for the beer, taking a trip through the Six String range is a natural progression for the palate via the Coastie Lager, Golden Ale, Pale Ale and the flagship (very) Dark Red IPA. This core range is supplemented by a vastly more adventurous set of limited releases ranging from ESB to marzen, saison to chai porter and the ever-changing but always strong Anniversary Ale. As a fairly early Aussie adopter of canned beer, all their mainstays are available for takeaway – as are a cider and non-alcoholic lemonade – plus they usually do a small canning run of their limited releases too, the brewery being the only place in the country where you can get them.
If your reason for travelling here is to try what's on tap, it's well worth grabbing a tasting paddle (or two, depending on how many beers they have pouring) to get started, as well as a bite to eat: they've got a permanent pop-up kitchen which features a different set of chefs each week, meaning there's generally always something new on the menu. If you've got the time and are interested in finding out how the magic happens, you can sign up for a brewery tour or just park up at the bar opposite the tanks and have a chat to the brewers while they do their thing. There's a suitably relaxed vibe to the whole place that's a far cry from the drunken raucousness objectors had originally feared. In fact, it's a place so laid back that families can, and do, spend the afternoon.
Since opening, Adam has moved on to pastures greener while another of Chris' school friends, Ryan Harris - an avid home brewer and local fire fighter - has stepped in to take his place, ensuring it's still a brewery run by locals, for locals. Despite their canned beers now being available in plenty of good beer venues across the country, the Central Coast population is the main focus and the obvious place to go for the freshest and most variety.
In a region blessed with boundless surf, sun and beaches, the boys and girls at Six String have generated a nice little wave of interest in local beer and they're getting plenty of people along for the ride. They've even gone so far as to open a second venue, Sounds On West at Umina Beach which serves up smokehouse food alongside Six String beer, all Aussie wines and all Aussie spirits.