Few breweries have burst onto the craft beer scene quite as triumphantly as Philter. A mere four months into existence, with only two beers to their name, the brewing company took home one of the most coveted titles in Australian beer – Champion Pale Ale at the 2017 Craft Beer Awards. It turned out the fun, retro-style cans that had just begun appearing on bottleshop shelves (and which saw Philter collect a second, tongue-in-cheek, award on the night) actually had some serious stuff going on inside of them.
Perhaps that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering the brewer behind the beers when they launched was Samara “Sam” Füss. Over more than a decade and a half in the industry as one of Australia’s first female head brewers – and one of its most colourful characters, she held brewing positions across the country, including stints at Little Creatures in Fremantle and Young Henrys in Sydney, a couple of roles in Melbourne too, and is now found heading up a brewery in Bali.
It was Sam’s mates Michael Neil and Stefan Constantoulas who first proposed the idea of Philter over a few beers in a Marrickville backyard. Both men happened to be neighbours with a wealth of business and marketing knowledge accrued at large companies – Mick at surf lifestyle brand O’Neill and Stef at liquor giants Lion and Beam Suntory. They just needed a brewer to complete the story and, conveniently enough, they knew one.
Wanting to hit the ground running, the beer Sam pitched first was a sessionable, easy-drinking XPA. With the idea of the end product in mind, recipe development took place in Tasmania, shared equally between days in a mate’s 300 litre brewhouse and those spent fishing (beer needs time to ferment, after all). The trio was after something quaffable for a lazy afternoon, but also something of high enough quality that it could be professionally critiqued. In other words, they wanted a beer that could be deeply thought about, but didn’t have to be.
That ethos has held true through the rest of the beers in the Philter brand, which, although the name may suggest otherwise, are and always will be unfiltered. Rather, the name comes from an archaic name for a medieval elixir, like a love potion or aphrodisiac. Hence the brewery’s tagline that adorns every can: “Seductively Beer.”
The biggest step taken since launching occurred in August 2020 when they shone a little light into what's been a rough year for the beer world and opened their Public Bar in Marrickville, the suburb that's the heart and soul of the brand.
The former yoghurt factory is also home to their own brewery – you can read about their search for it here – and comes with a fit-out was designed with a nod to the building’s mid-60s design and heritage as well as the 80s Australiana that has driven Philter’s can designs.
The space uses some of Sydney’s colourful hotel history to evoke suburban pub nostalgia: hand-painted signage and handmade tiles inspired by the iconic inner west bars of days gone by; a bar top rescued from a pub that was redecorating. There's a deck area connecting the Public Bar to the state-of-the-art brewery where you can view brewers at work.
"This is our home," Michael says. "It’s where the heart of the brand has always been, and now where the bricks and mortar can showcase a great immersive encounter with Philter."
In October 2021, Philter Brewing decided to start a new chapter in the book of good vibes by opening their upstairs storage space to the public (sans pallet crates). The Miami Vice-reminiscent upstairs area dubbed Marrickville Springs takes inspiration from 80s kitsch culture, offering an exciting new food and drinks menu all in the warmth of the Sydney sun.
All Philter beers are available either on tap or in cans in Marrickville Springs, alongside a range of cocktails by Jacoby’s and flashback foodie favourites such as prawn cocktail and a cheddar and cabanossi cheese board (both locally sourced, this is still the inner west here).
Crafty adventurers might also get a kick out of the watermelon sour slushies which, like the cocktails and menu, are exclusive to the white cinderblock bar of Marrickville Springs.
There’s seating for about 30 with no bookings taken, so get in quick if you happen to be in Marrickville on an absolute day for it.