They told everyone they’d have a place like this one day. Not everyone believed them. After all, the founders Andy, Ben and Dan had been hawking Endeavour Beer, the brand they launched in 2010, for more than six years, patiently searching for the right site, in the right location and they were prepared to wait in order to find it.
They’d decided on this path even before they launched, figuring whatever money they could scrape together from friends and family to invest in a new business would be better spent building a brand than immediately building a brewery. So they’d turned to contract brewing, employing a production brewery to make and package their beer for them. Today, the lines with gypsy brewing increasingly blurred, it’s an accepted way to join the beer world but when Endeavour began “contract brewing” were dirty words, to be spoken in a hushed tone with a finger pressed to pursed lips.
For their part, Endeavour didn't hide where their beer came from as they set about designing recipes that stemmed from the founders’ curiosity in building a beer business around one of wine’s most fundamental concepts: the annual vintage or harvest. Their reasoning was that a beer, like a wine, is not simply about who makes it but the variances in the agricultural crops underpinning it, specifically barley and hops. Their interpretation of a “vintage beer” was therefore not necessarily wed to the year the beer was made, but the year in which the ingredients were harvested.
Over the years the emphasis has changed – from “vintage” to “harvest” to just brewing based upon the same fundamentals: getting the best ingredients from the best sources to make the best beer possible, beers that have seen them picking up medals at respected beer competitions – including two at the prestigious World Beer Cup in the US.
But back to the hunt for a brewery…
It was in late 2016 that the doors to the Endeavour Tap Rooms opened, leading visitors into a quite beautiful little brewpub in the heart of The Rocks. In terms of where you would want a brewery to be – perhaps any business to be – it is an enviable location: a few steps from the front door and you're staring at the Opera House; a short stroll up the hill and you're on the Harbour Bridge; and you’re almost close enough to the Museum of Contemporary Art to tickle it with a paintbrush.
Despite being one of the smaller breweries in the country – taller that it is wide and stacked within the nooks and crannies of a heritage building – you do wonder how on earth they got the equipment inside. In this space, with an ability to literally touch the tanks and the taps at the same time, brewer Scott O'Brien has the freedom to make small batches of whatever he wants.
There are eight taps in total, half pouring Endeavour's core range, the remainder Scott's creations, although he’s almost dealing with one less as the first IPA to ever have come from the Tap Rooms went down so well they’re loathe to let it run out (this was, incidentally, one of Endeavour’s initial two house-brewed beers to win competition medals, at the 2017 Craft Beer Awards).
If the immediate popularity of the IPA took them by surprise, they soon discovered the cause. Given its location, the Tap Rooms is a bona fide tourist magnet and it turned out it was travelling Americans, pouring off the cruise ships docked at the end of the street, who were keen to wrap their lips around some Aussie hops. They’re making sure to cater for all countries now, with styles as diverse as chocolate stout, India red ale, rauchbier and lighter wheat ales infused with native ingredients foraged from the nearby Botanical Gardens.
On the other side of the wall, you’ll find the pub. The old layout of the building means it’s made up of many small rooms, upstairs and down, which adds an automatic cosiness. Add some ornate decoration to give a touch of class and it’s a particularly pleasant pub in which to sit and enjoy a meal – perhaps little surprise given the whole venture is a partnership between Endeavour and the Applejack Hospitality group responsible for several other well regarded Sydney venues. The food errs towards a modern American style, with an emphasis on smoked meats from the smoker housed out back, and a menu that’s regularly updated with a fresh focus. In general it’s food that goes well with beer although there’s plenty else, from the pickled to the freshly picked, to keep you happy regardless of what’s in your glass.
If you can’t make it to The Rocks, their beers can be found nationwide, and word is there will be more venues bearing the Endeavour name appearing in the early part of the 2020s.