With the Australian craft beer industry’s rapid growth since the Noughties, its propensity for attracting interesting individuals, and the fact that you get to spend a lot of time drinking beer, it’s easy to understand why so many people have ditched successful careers in other, often more lucrative, fields to pursue a dream of becoming part of the scene. Mike Clarke is one of them.
Having spent two decades working in IT and telecommunications he called time on that career and began sniffing around for a new challenge, something he could launch himself into with fresh energy and build from the ground up. The search led him as far as his garage where, having graduated from a simple stovetop setup, a growing obsession with home brewing had ballooned out to something incorporating multiple vessels, a four tap keg system and nine fridges.
So sprawling would this setup become that he and his wife Katie would soon be forced to move house to accommodate it – possibly not something envisioned when she introduced him to her own brewing hobby when they first began dating. With that kind of trajectory, opening a commercial brewery almost became a given and a plan was duly hatched.
There’s a school of thought that the best way to succeed as a brewer in the modern Australian beer market is either by opening a small brewpub and catering to locals, or by going down the path of a larger production brewery that distributes more widely. Mike effectively chose both.
Having launched the Sauce brand (the name being a slice of slang he took a liking to one night over a few beers) as a gypsy brewer at the end of 2016, he locked in a large warehouse site in Sydney’s busy beer hub of Marrickville and began an arduous process of converting the infrastructure into something capable of housing a full production brewery. It took a lot of tradies and the best part of a year, but in October 2017 the roller door opened to the public for the first time.
Visitors were greeted by a state of the art setup featuring all the mod cons a brewer could want, from a highly automated brewhouse to a pilot system for experimentation, a canning line to a roof covered in solar panels – even so far as a lighting system that automatically adjusts to the ambient conditions.
Opposite the mountain of high spec tech stuff is a bar pouring 12 taps of Sauce, serving tasting paddles and selling fresh takeaways. Beyond that, at the rear of the warehouse, is the piece de resistance in the form of an enormous urban beer garden. From the front you’d never guess such a space existed, but as soon as you set foot on the (fake) grass you’re glad it does; for the array of experiences on offer across the Inner West breweries, there’s something special about simply enjoying a beer with greenness beneath your feet and bright blue skies above.
As for the beer you’ll be drinking, the core range – which was given a makeover in early 2023 – is made up of six beers, well hopped according to Mike’s personal tastes. Road trip the USA with their raw and bold West Coast IPA and smooth and juicy New England IPA, or chill out with the fruity, quenching Hazy Pale Ale. On the lighter end, there’s the crisp Premium Lager, the chunky Pale Ale and a really kicking Pacific Ale that's the perfect summer beer garden quencher at a sly 3.5 percent ABV.
Expect the unexpected on the remaining six taps, a rotating lineup of whatever creation the Sauce brewers have dreamt up on a whim. Roasted pineapple XPAs, single hop IPAs and all manner of cocktail beers such as Mimosa Gose, Pornstar IPA, Bloody Mary Gose and more, popping up to surprise and delight you. Generally, there's always one rotating sour and one rotating dark beer so you’re sure to find a fleeting love on the Sauce taps.
With a beer range this diverse you are well prepared to match your schooner with something from the rotation of independent food tents that set up out the front; they've previously featured the like of cheese steaks, jerked chicken and American BBQ.
With a grand home of their own firmly established in the heart of one of the country's busiest beer trails, a taproom that bustles, and beer that's picked up a few trophies over the years, there are plenty of reasons to get on the Sauce.