In Sydney’s CBD, halfway between Darling Harbour and sprawling Hyde Park, Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe stands as a kind of gallery of good beer, with an exhibition of beer styles, flavours and food pairings. It’s the kind of venue where you come to try the beer, and end up staying long enough to taste your way through as much beer and food as you can comfortably fit in.
It takes many years for an oak tree to grow, and Redoak is no exception. It began as a seed (or acorn, probably) when David Hollyoak first made ginger beer as a teenager. This grew into homebrewing during his university days, and then traveling to Europe and USA with his sister Janet to research brewing methods and different beer styles. In 2004, the siblings started Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe together, with David focusing on the brewing and Janet running the café.
While the offsite brewery is cloaked in mystery – David hasn’t let anyone visit his secret laboratory for more than a decade – the venue is welcoming to all. City workers and visitors to Sydney alike find Redoak to be a place that feels like home, with the staff offering some of the warmest hospitality around.
But while the service has a sense of the familiar, one of the goals of Redoak is to introduce people to new flavours and experiences. To this end, the atmosphere and the drink options work together to give an international feel to the venue. Timber tables and wood-clad brewing tanks give off a classy European vibe, which makes a German wheat beer or Belgian strong ale seem suitable. If you’re sipping on a bitter American IPA, revel in an entire room dedicated to humulus lupus, the humble hop. Or if you’re happiest staying where you are, you can hang around near the corrugated iron bar front necking schooners of Aussie Lager with your mates.
Happy hour drink specials make Redoak a fine spot for post-work drinks; while the Redoak beers on tap are the focus, there are also 30-odd guest beers in the fridge, a sizeable range of wine and spirits, and a snappy cocktail list.
But to get the full Redoak experience, make the most of the venue’s love of food and beer pairing. Redoak’s signature item is a curated selection of four canapés with matched beers; as well as being supremely Instagrammable, it’s a great way to sample and chat about the variety of beer flavours on tap at the time.
Or, for a do-it-yourself adventure, you can choose from the à la carte menu - it changes seasonally, but there are always a few dishes containing beer in some form, making for an easy match.
If you want to go a step further, book in to one of Redoak’s beer classes, run on the first Saturday of every month. It’s a five-course beergustation, with dishes paired with beer styles from around the globe, and some beer education to grow your knowledge of the best drink in the world. If school had been this enjoyable, we all would have paid more attention.
Redoak beers have won acclaim at competitions around the globe – just check out the awards and plaques hung on the walls – but you don’t need someone else to tell whether you the beers are good. You can decide that for yourself.
Whether you’re at a special event, you’ve booked a room for a function, or you’ve just dropped in for a feed and a pint, you might find you want something more when it’s time to leave. Grab a four-pack of Organic Pale Ale on your way out the door, mix and match a four-pack of beers from the fridge, or, even better, take home a growler of your favourite Redoak beer from the taps.
They might have been around longer than most, but Redoak’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Next time you come in, there’ll be a fresh lineup of beers on tap just as there has been for more than fifteen years and counting.