Flat Rock Brew Cafe

A cafe in Naremburn doesn’t seem like the most obvious place to go looking for good beer, but this is no ordinary cafe. Here, instead of the smell of coffee, you’re greeted with the smell of boiling wort. Instead of single origin beans they serve single hop IPAs. Instead of pounding a tamper, the staff are pulling on handpumps. This is the Flat Rock Brew Cafe.

Opened at the end of 2012, Flat Rock is the baby of Karl and Jenny Riseborough, longtime residents of the North Sydney area in which the Brew Cafe resides. Based largely on Karl’s decade-long love of home brewing, their aim was to create a community-oriented venue where people could come and have their eyes opened to the world of beer. The best way to do that, they figured, was to follow a brewpub model and they’ve created a brewpub like few others.

With a wood-clad interior that feels more like a home than a brewery, Flat Rock welcomes you warmly then begins to reveal its surprises. The most significant of those is the brewery itself - a 200 litre Braumeister system (effectively a home brew system on steroids) - which is hidden away in the bowels of the building. You could happily while away hours in the cafe and never know there’s beer literally bubbling away beneath your feet. But if you’re interested, the staff are more than happy to guide you downstairs for a quick tour.

As for the beers produced here, there are generally three core brews on tap - the Henry Lawson Pale Ale, Fatty Dawson IPA and a traditional English Bitter served on handpump - alongside frequently changing limited release beers. Those alone make any trip to Flat Rock worthwhile, but your visit can quickly escalate into a serious beer adventure. In 2014 they cleared some space in the cellar, rolled in some Lark Distillery barrels and embarked on a barrel-aging program. Whatever taps remain are dedicated to other small Aussie brewers like Riverside Brewing, Feral, Red Hill and Doctor’s Orders. Flat Rock also happens to be one of the very few purveyors of genuine real ale in Sydney and you’ll find these famously British-style beers getting pulled through the venue’s two handpumps.

Then there’s the bottled list which is as comprehensive as any other on-premise venue in the city, filled with standard-bearers such as Brasserie Du Pont, Chimay and Sierra Nevada through to the new wave of innovative international brewers like Garage Project, BrewDog and Birra Del Borgo. One of the best ways to explore these is to ask about a customised beer tasting where the knowledgeable staff will create an occasion suited to your tastes.

In keeping with the Riseboroughs’ idea of creating a venue that encourages beer discovery, the food menu is designed to complement the brews and many dishes have beer as an ingredient. Sharing is encouraged to maximise the mixing and matching of flavours. This could include anything from cromesquis and lamb navarin, cured meats and cheeses through to pig trotters and the ever popular mussels in beer sauce. Thursdays at Flat Rock have become legendary as Curry Night, a weekly opportunity for the guest chef, Singh, to pull one of his Northern Indian specialties from the Tandoor oven. The menu boldly claims it’s “the best curry you have ever tasted” and, considering it’s a full house every week with bookings almost essential, they’ve probably got a case.

The cafe also runs regular special events, including beer and cheese and/or whiskey matching nights, beer dinners hosted by the chef and brewer and meetings for the local homebrew club - proof, as if any more was needed, that this is a community-minded venue doing good things to promote good beer. As a consequence they’ve built a very loyal local following, though it’s only a matter of time until the rest of Sydney catches on. And you can’t blame them, because a place this good deserves to be shared. Nick O

Name
Flat Rock Brew Cafe
Address

290 Willoughby Rd
Naremburn
NSW 2065

Phone
(02) 9460 6696
Website
Regular events

Meet the Brewer/Chef dinners
Beer & cheese nights
Beer & whiskey nights
Customised beer tastings
Home brew club meet-ups

Hours

Wed to Sat: 3pm to 11pm
Sunday: 3pm to 10pm

Tours

On request

On tap at Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Regulars

Flat Rock Brew Cafe English Bitter

Tapped January 1st, 2014
The Flat Rock Brew Cafe is one of the very few venues in Sydney - even Australia - to regularly produce real ale in the classic British style. That makes their English Bitter heaven for those from the old country seeking a proper pint. “What’s the difference?”, you might ask. Essentially what separates this from most tap beers is in the way the beer is conditioned and served. After fermentation, the English Bitter is put into casks rather than kegs and left to condition and develop natural… Read more
Style
Cask-conditioned English Bitter
Strength
4.2%

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Fatty Dawson IPA

Tapped January 1st, 2014
One of the quirks - and indeed the perks - of being a small brewery is that you’re able to change things as you please. Case in point is Flat Rock’s Fatty Dawson IPA (named for an apparently reclusive pig farmer who lived in the area in the 1800s and whose home can still be seen in the nearby Dawson Track). This is a beer you’ll very rarely have twice because the brewers are always tweaking the recipe just a little. But it does follow a general recipe built, as good IPAs should be, on plenty… Read more
Style
American IPA
Strength
6.1%

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Henry Lawson Pale Ale

Tapped January 1st, 2014
Flat Rock’s house pale ale is named after the esteemed Australian poet, Henry Lawson, who lived in the area near the cafe some 100 years ago. Lawson was, apparently, rather prone to overindulgence. He would write poems, recite them in local pubs and, in return, be showered with drinks by grateful locals. On the downside, his regular punishment was refusal to be allowed back in the house, meaning he’d be forced to spent the night sleeping off his shame in a small cave in the Flat Rock gully. Unlike… Read more
Style
American Pale Ale
Strength
4.5%

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Specials

Flat Rock / Spooning Goats Mando Calrission IPA

Tapped December 16th, 2015
It sure must be an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. After dining out on the most teasing of teasers for months, the promise of a new film to help ease the pain of the prequels is about to be delivered as The Force Awakens hits cinemas. Jason Newton, the proprietor of Sydney small bar Spooning Goats, is one such fan, something that wouldn't have gone amiss to anyone that’s wandered past his semi-underground premises. Once referred to us as “a teenage boy’s bedroom, but with great beer”,… Read more
Style
Mandarin IPA
Strength
6.4%
Bitterness
65 IBU
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Spooning Goats

Flat Rock & Pixel Brewing Strong Belgian Dark Ale

Tapped October 26th, 2015
When we stopped by the Flat Rock Brew Cafe back in December 2014, it happened to be at the time when Flat Rock’s head brewer Vince de Soyres was collaborating on a brew with Kieran Allen of Pixel Brewing. In the sweaty summer heat the pair were thinking ahead, conjuring up a Belgian dark ale to age and release the following winter. Alas, winter duly came and went but the beer apparently slept through its alarm clock and failed to emerge. Now, as we approach the following summer, it’s here. The… Read more
Style
Strong Belgian Dark Ale
Strength
10.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Pilsner / Belgian Blonde / Flynn’s IPA

Tapped October 22nd, 2015
Warm weather has brought with it a refreshing change to the Flat Rock Brew Cafe as they roll out an array of appropriately quenching beers. First up is a rather lovely update of a Pilsner that had been brewed at the cafe once before. With a malt-dominant profile offering up bready and biscuity notes and generous hop character from classic German (Hallertauer Mittelfrüh) and Czech (Saaz) hop varieties, this is a balanced but interesting local pils. Due to a few hiccups in the transfer, it’s not… Read more
Style
Various
Strength
Various
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Red Rye IPA

Tapped July 8th, 2015
As long as you’re happy with the beer you’re making and your customers are happy to keep coming back and drink the beer you’re making, it would hardly seem to matter what anyone else thinks. However, it’s surely an extra thrill when a group of beer judges decide your beer’s worthy of an award. That was the case for the Flat Rock Brew Cafe’s Red Rye IPA when it was given a silver medal at the 2015 Australian International Beer Awards, the brewpub’s first ever beer medal. And you can… Read more
Style
Rye IPA
Strength
6.7%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Devil's Pond Imperial Stout

Tapped July 8th, 2015
They like to tip their hat towards a bit of local history do the folks at the Flat Rock Brew Cafe. After all, their business is effectively named for a flat rock which itself named the Flat Rock Creek, their pale ale and IPAs are named for local poets and pig farmers Henry Lawson and Fatty Dawson, and the latest beer to hit their taps, The Devil’s Pond, has similar roots. Apparently, so we’re led to believe, there was once a spectacular waterfall in Naremburn which fell into one Devil’s Hole.… Read more
Style
Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Strength
8.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Limited bottles available too

Flat Rock Belgian Pale Ale

Tapped July 6th, 2015
One of the perks of working in a very small brewery is the ability to experiment with a large number of different beers; a few kegs here, a few kegs there and – unless it’s being aged intentionally – nothing is left sitting around unsold. Flat Rock brewer Vince de Soyres makes the most of this by putting out a huge range of beers and trying out styles he’s never brewed before, meaning that almost every time you visit the venue you’re likely to be greeted by a different beer of some kind… Read more
Style
Belgian Pale Ale
Strength
5.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe 1890 Pale Ale

Tapped July 1st, 2015
A few months ago, Karl Riseborough of the Flat Rock Brew Cafe was approached by the North Sydney Council with the idea of brewing a beer to celebrate the municipality’s 125th anniversary. Being the Lower North Shore’s only brewery and a keen community-focused business, he was only too happy to oblige. Thus, around 20 people from various parts of the council, along with some local residents, got together at the brewpub and went through a wide range of beers to decide what they should brew for… Read more
Style
Pale Ale
Strength
5.0%
Bitterness
32 IBU
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Kirribilli Hotel

Rag & Famish

The Oaks

More stockists...

Flat Rock Summer Citra

Tapped June 16th, 2015
The endless summer in Naremburn is assured with the return of the Summer Citra pale ale. Hopped entirely with Citra hops, there are plenty of citrus fruit aromas here which make it enticing enough before you’ve tasted it. In keeping with the easier-drinking summer style, those fruity elements show through in the mouth too and, although they’ve backed off on the bitterness there’s still a bit of punch. Well, perhaps not a punch, but a well aimed jab; 30 IBUs feels about right for this to keep… Read more
Style
Summer Ale
Strength
4.6%
Bitterness
30 IBU
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

And, maybe, elsewhere...

Flat Rock Sour Cherry Stout

Tapped June 16th, 2015
There can’t be too many sour cherry stouts knocking about in Australia. Truth be told, this mightn’t have been one either but evolved there somewhat naturally. The original idea was for a chocolate milk porter, but then they decided that it would be fun to tweak it and pop it in a barrel and see what happened. As it turns out, the barrel that would have the most impact on this beer wasn’t the whiskey barrel it was housed in. A chardonnay barrel at one end of the cellar had been infected with… Read more
Style
Barrel-Aged Stout
Strength
5.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Barley Wine

Tapped June 16th, 2015
With their high alcohol content, barley wines can be quite challenging beasts for drinkers to tackle: the booze, the hops and the sweetness are often ramped right up and can make it hard to handle a whole pint [not sure they were ever intended for 'by the pint' consumption! – Ed.]. Flat Rock’s version isn’t like that at all. At a comparatively low 8.5 percent ABV it’s more along the lines of a traditional English style barley wine rather than the more aggressive American style. To be sure,… Read more
Style
Barley Wine
Strength
8.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Wet Hop Ale

Tapped June 16th, 2015
It’s a little microcosm of the beer world is the Flat Rock Brew Cafe: on top of the diverse range of tap beers, they make genuine cask ale, play around with barrel-aging and beers with various forms of wild infections. They also grow hops in their back garden and, this year, they threw them into a fresh hop beer. However, their yield wasn’t enormous and their homegrown Hallertau Mittelfrüh - a German noble hop variety - was just one of three varieties of fresh hops used, the others being Enigma… Read more
Style
Harvest Ale
Strength
5.4%
Bitterness
50 IBU
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock / Beer Cartel Black Hops Down Dark IPA

Tapped June 13th, 2015
Following on from their Easter 2014 collaboration, Hoppy Bunny Massacre, the Flat Rock Brew Cafe invited its beer-loving neighbours at Beer Cartel in for another cooperative brew, resulting in the Cartel’s Jarrod Partington joining brewer Vince de Soyres in creating a Dark IPA. Having tasted the beer out of the tank a few days before it was due to be tapped, the name ‘Dark IPA’ seemed an apt one. Most would opt for labelling it a Black IPA, though that wasn’t ever the aim for this beer. In… Read more
Style
Dark IPA
Strength
6.7%
Bitterness
60 IBU

Flat Rock / Beer Cartel Black Hops Down Dark IPA

Following on from their Easter 2014 collaboration, Hoppy Bunny Massacre, the Flat Rock Brew Cafe invited its beer-loving neighbours at Beer Cartel in for another cooperative brew, resulting in the Cartel’s Jarrod Partington joining brewer Vince de Soyres in creating a Dark IPA. Having tasted the beer out of the tank a few days before it was due to be tapped, the name ‘Dark IPA’ seemed an apt one. Most would opt for labelling it a Black IPA, though that wasn’t ever the aim for this beer. In… Read more
Style
Dark IPA
Strength
6.7%
Bitterness
60 IBU
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock / Nomad / Birra del Borgo Biere de Mars

Tapped April 15th, 2015
Back in February, Leonardo di Vincenzo from Birra Del Borgo and Brooks Caretta from Nomad Brewing joined the Flat Rock Brew Cafe’s Vince de Soyres at the Naremburn brewpub for a three way collaboration. The beer they chose to brew was an uncommon one in Australia: a Biere de Mars, where the ‘Mars’ part is French for ‘March’. With Vince being French, it all makes perfect sense. Typically this style sits in the area between Biere de Garde and saison but unfortunately they couldn’t source… Read more
Style
Biere de Mars
Strength
6.0%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Topher's Legacy

Tapped February 25th, 2015
When the Flat Rock Brew Cafe took ownership of a bunch of old wine and whiskey barrels in preparation for a barrel-ageing program, the brewer at the helm of the brewpub was Topher Boehm. Shortly after filling a few of those barrels, he set off to brew with Marrickville’s Batch Brewing while Vince de Soyres stepped in to nurture the barrels to maturity. Thus we have the release of Topher’s Legacy, a Belgian golden sour ale aged for a year in Hunter Valley Chardonnay barrels and inoculated with… Read more
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe White Ale

Tapped February 25th, 2015
The name ‘white ale’ could hardly be more generic, nor could it do this beer more injustice. Despite having a pale and hazy appearance that would likely do little to excite the eyes of a hardened beer lover, in truth the Flat Rock white ale is a wonderfully fruity and fragrant wheat beer. As with the saison released around the same time, this beer is built for warm weather and, appropriately, it weighs in at a paltry 4.5 percent ABV. Two yeast strains were used in a mixed fermentation which… Read more
Style
Witbier
Strength
4.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Saison

Tapped February 25th, 2015
The brief – if you can call a suggestion from the bar manager such a thing – for this beer was essentially to brew something reasonably easy-drinking for the summer crowd. So Flat Rock brewer Vince de Soyres settled on a saison and, when it comes to saisons, there are few better places to look for inspiration than Saison Dupont. Now, he never aimed to produce a Dupont clone, but rather took inspiration from the higher fermentation temperatures the Belgian brewer uses as that’s something a Sydney… Read more
Style
Saison
Strength
4.7%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Atlantic Brown Ale

Tapped December 7th, 2014
Like mocha? Then you’ll like this. The Flat Rock Atlantic Brown Ale is, as its name hints, a cross between UK and US brown ales. The beer is a rich mahogany colour while the nose greets you with strong aromas of cocoa and some fruity esters, courtesy of an English yeast. At first sip the beer has a certain lightness but then the malt does its work and covers your palate with a roasty coffee flavour similar to that of a mocha. Then it all fades away quite gently to leave you with a dry finish and… Read more
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Barrel Aged Scotch

Tapped November 27th, 2014
We wouldn’t want to set your expectations too high, but Flat Rock brewer Vince de Soyres reckons this is one of the best beers he’s brewed. And, although we’ve not tried every beer he’s ever made, we’re certainly not going to argue because this is indeed a rather lovely drop. To start with, it looks the business: a rich and dark copper colour with a red hue that, thanks to two weeks’ lagering, is clean and clear when held up to the light. Having spent four weeks in barrels too (being… Read more
Style
Barrel Aged Scotch Ale
Strength
6.6%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

Flat Rock Brew Cafe Kriek

Tapped December 8th, 2014
Just like Wham!, this is a beer with one eye permanently cast towards what happened last Christmas. Back in December 2013, the brewers at the Flat Rock Brew Cafe took a bunch of cherries, added them to a brew and popped the resulting beer into barrels. A full year later, the result has been released. The first thing you’ll notice is the colour: a bright rosy pink that’s thick, cloudy and hints at a fruity sweetness before you’ve even gotten close enough for a taste. And in that regard it delivers,… Read more
Style
Kriek
Strength
3.5%
Stockists

Flat Rock Brew Cafe

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