All Hands Brewing House

It’s easy to overlook the number of years beer has been made here on The Promenade. Once, when it opened in 2004, it was ahead of its time. Back then it was a James Squire brewpub and there was precious little else like it in the whole of Sydney, let alone in such a quintessential location as glittering Darling Harbour.

That arrangement lasted a few good years before things got tied up with the Bluetongue Brewery. After the lizard met an untimely demise the place found its feet again as the King Street Brewhouse, eventually becoming home to the Red Tape Brewing Company. But, save for a gold medal their stout picked up at the 2014 AIBA awards, the place more or less just kept on keeping on while making few headlines. By 2017 it had just become part of the fabric in the city’s beer scene. The only thing is, over time, fabric starts to fade.

Sure, the old wood-clad brewery still made good stuff and sold every drop it could squeeze out, but it was a right pain in the ass to brew on: awkward, inefficient and excessively wet. And, yes, the meals were still good value, but they no longer stood out on a strip where swarming tourists are seeking out something special. Even the wooden furniture, built so solid it could last for eternity, looked ragged after years breathing in salt spray and baking in the Sydney sun. Honestly, the place just felt like it was getting a bit tired.

The owners knew this. They’d looked in the mirror and seen the grey hairs, so they plotted rejuvenation. Nothing would happen quickly but when it did there would be little to remind you about how this place was before. In a transformative sense, it was caterpillar to butterfly.

As the builders’ boards went up, the old brewhouse was ripped out and shipped off to a new life in the country. Then the place was constructed again from the ground up – lower than that, with the pipes and the traps and the bones of the building all made anew. It took eight months but they shed everything in pursuit of a new and better life, including the name; the King Street Brewhouse went into the chrysalis and the All Hands Brewing House emerged, a more nautically themed title to better suit the surroundings.

The doors reopened to the public at the end of 2017, revealing something quite beautiful; warm woods and soft lighting; glass doors that disappear, allowing the outdoors indoors; copper and chrome to add a little shine while you dine. It felt – it feels – comfortable and cool, casual but classy.

You’ll be drawn to sit outside because that’s where the energy is, in the sun and nearer the sea, but the thing about All Hands versus King Street is that it actually makes you want to sit inside too. It’s more communal and convivial. Instead of haphazardly spread tables there are booths that take on different functions; one is like a scene straight from a stock image with a city worker sipping coffee and slapping away on a MacBook, the next stars six tourists necking pints.

It feels like a versatile venue that’s nice rather than niche, where the upmarket veneer doesn’t mean they sacrificed the screens showing sports; one quirk of this address is that it’s long been one of the busiest in the city come Super Bowl time when it gets flooded with American ex-pats. Fortunately it’s a big place, quite comfortable catering for hundreds of revellers in oversized football jerseys.

Given the proximity to the water, a seafood focused menu makes sense. While Darling Harbour itself isn’t exactly a bountiful fishery from which to drop a line and load up with fresh catch, the nearby fish market does the job. So you’ll order a crab roll or a trout salad, a classic prawn cocktail or the even-more-classic fish & chips battered in the IPA made on site – had we mentioned yet they brew their own beer?

In the grand scheme of the venue’s revival, head brewer Sam Clayman and able assistant Brayden Lew should be recognisable as the ones wearing the biggest smiles. No longer are they required to squeeze and swear in the hot box of the old brewery. They have a gleaming new piece of kit with enough vessels to make whatever they need. Their beer is served as fresh as it can be, straight from the bright tanks. They even have a dedicated place at the bar for cask ale – not degassed kegs, but proper cask conditioned ales sitting in their own temperature controlled incubator.

The brewers’ mandate is simply to ensure there’s plenty of All Hands beer for people to choose from. Five taps are mainstays that will always be pouring, with about the same again theirs to play with. With the exception of Red Tape’s old Wood Duck cream ale, whose almost inexplicable popularity demanded it kept being made, every other beer recipe is new. Not even the gold medal stout retained its place, but these are the hard calls you make when you’re building a brand new business.

Besides, if they had to make a choice between continuing to make their old beers in the old brewery or playing free in a brewery that has portholes where they have a view of the ships and the sea, it’s not really a decision that demands much thought. And that gets to the heart of the matter: this place had some good times in the past, but it’s never been as good as it is now.

Nick Oscilowski

Name
All Hands Brewing House
Address

22 The Promenade
King Street Wharf
NSW 2000

Phone
(02) 8270 7901
Website
Hours

Mon to Sun: 11am to late

All Hands Brewing House Regulars

All Hands Wood Duck Cream Ale

When the King Street Brewhouse closed its doors in 2017, got wrapped in a plywood chrysalis for months and eventually emerged as the beautiful All Hands brewpub, it had shed all of its old beer recipes. Well, almost all. One of the very few stipulations from management (and you’d dare say a heck of a lot of punters, given its popularity) to the brewers was that they had to keep the old Wood Duck. So it is that this cream ale remains the go-to beer on The Promenade, with its mild biscuity malt character,… Read more
Style
Cream Ale
ABV
4.7%
Bitterness
18 IBU

All Hands Bunny Hop Lager

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about the Bunny Hop lager is that it’s a nod to the classic lagers of the world. And once you do know that you’ll know just what to expect from a beer made with Vienna malts, noble hops and ample time spent conditioning: a bona fide quencher. With subtle hop character and a pleasant little bitter bite, this isn’t the kind of beer that needs a novella written about it. In other words: less thinking, more drinking. … Read more
Style
Lager
ABV
5.0%
Bitterness
30 IBU

All Hands Longneck Best Bitter

Longneck is something of a beer with two faces. Most times you’ll find it served through regular draught lines where the English hops and yeast combine in a pleasing mix of mellow fruits and citrus with just a touch of rye spiciness. But this is also a beer built for the hand pumps where, served in the traditional way, it displays more berry notes and becomes a smoother affair that shaves off any sharp edges. Either way, it’s a beer that offers more flavour than its relatively low ABV would suggest,… Read more
Style
Best Bitter
ABV
4.1%
Bitterness
22 IBU

All Hands Hump Day IPA

If some of the All Hands core range has been designed to appeal to those with a preference for lighter and more approachable beers, Hump Day is the weighty bookend for those who like their flavour fuller. Granted, at 6.2 percent ABV it’s not knock-your-socks-off big but it’s certainly big enough, hitting you with a tri-nation tropical hop fruit melange and a piney kick that leans into a robust bitterness. If you’ve got a thirst for hops, follow the camel. … Read more
Style
IPA
ABV
6.2%
Bitterness
45 IBU

All Hands Acorn Eater Red Ale

With much of All Hands’ regular range erring towards the lighter or straight up hoppy end of the spectrum, the Acorn Eater red ale is the core beer that shines brightest in the pursuit of maltiness. Sure, its an American red ale style so you can expect plenty of citrus hop character, but the underlying sensation is of chewy, caramel malt and a pleasantly sweet sensation that’ll go nicely with some of the pub’s richer dishes. … Read more
Style
Red Ale
ABV
5.5%
Bitterness
25 IBU

All Hands Irish Sport Stout

Back in the days when this place was the King Street Brewhouse, their house stout, Cannonball, won a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards and picked up a loyal following with drinkers. It must therefore have been more than a little tempting, following the renovation and rebrand, to keep that beer going and perhaps just give it a new name. But, no, All Hands would be all new – and the new stout would be quite different. Yes, it’s full of the classic chocolate and coffee characters… Read more
Style
Stout
ABV
5.1%
Bitterness
51 IBU

All Hands Traveller Saison

You could make an argument that this saison is the most interesting beer in the All Hands range. That’s because its name, Traveller, represents a genuine journey and a beer that will change over time and with the seasons. Each version will be brewed with the same simple base recipe – an even split of Pilsner and Wheat malts, plus a dash of Ella hops – but the brewers will pitch a different yeast into each variant. How that will affect the end beer depends entirely on the character of the yeast;… Read more
Style
Saison
ABV
5.3%
Bitterness
20 IBU

All Hands Brewing House Specials

All Hands Hedgerow English IPA

Tapped November 2nd, 2018
The Australian beer world has become increasingly Americanised in recent years, from the hops we use to the trends we follow to the number of US brewers who have shifted south to ply their trade Down Under. One of them, Sam Clayman, heads the brewing team at All Hands and, somewhat unusually, he has a soft spot for British style beers. That’s partly the reason why the Darling Harbour brewpub is one of a small handful of breweries in Sydney to always serve up cask ale and it’s also why they tend… Read more
Style
English IPA
ABV
6.2%

All Hands Friend In Hand Strawberry Berliner Weisse

Tapped November 2nd, 2018
A couple of months ago, some asshole, or assholes, somewhere in Australia decided it would be a fabulous idea to start sticking sewing needles in strawberries for some cheap laughs and in the process crippled an industry and prevented the rest of us from indulging in one of life’s simplest pleasures: gobbing a perfectly ripe strawberry whole without fear of getting a piece of sharp metal lodged in your throat. Fuck youse. Anyway, wanting to show a little solidarity with the strawberry farmers,… Read more
Style
Strawberry Berliner Weisse
ABV
3.5%

All Hands Imperial Scorcher Summer Ale

Tapped September 14th, 2018
Every now and then you look along the taps at All Hands and one beer catches your eye in the way the new Barangaroo development stands out above the Darling Harbour skyline outside the brewery. It’s just much bigger. That, in this case, is Scorcher. It’s been labelled, for reasons of familiarity more than anything else, an Imperial Summer Ale, the idea being that it gives regular drinkers of their Summer Ale an indication that this is a similar beer, but more substantial. In another brewery… Read more
Style
Double IPA
ABV
9.0%
Bitterness
25 IBU

All Hands King’s Tipple Kolsch & Foggy Nights Steam Lager

Tapped August 30th, 2018
The brewers at All Hands have delivered two new beers that are much like non-identical twins; thrust into the world together and an endearing pairing but ultimately worlds apart. The first is the King’s Tipple Kolsch, their homage to the classic Kölsch beers of Köln. As such, it uses a German yeast as one of its main character building components and that, along with noble hops, has helped deliver aromas and flavours of pear and apple that round out to a crisp finish marked by a fine bitterness.… Read more
Style
Kolsch & Steam Lager
ABV
4.5% & 4.6%

All Hands Beer Of Skulls & Skinny DIPA

Tapped June 22nd, 2018
The All Hands brewers have reached for the pep-up powder for Beer Of Skulls, a brown ale made in collaboration with Victoria’s Cartel Coffee Roasters. The name is a play on the origins of the coffee component; beans were sourced from a grower in Burundi called Gitwe Hill, which apparently translates in the native tongue as the rather ominous Place Of Skulls. Coffee is often added to stouts and porters, where the rich and deep flavours integrate seamlessly with the natural characters of the malts.… Read more
Style
Coffee Brown Ale & Double IPA
ABV
5.3% & 8.9%

All Hands Dunkel In The Rye

Tapped June 1st, 2018
Beers like this don’t seem to come around too often. Firstly, it’s a dunkel – a dark lager – which is a style few Aussie brewers choose to tackle with any regularity. Second, it’s made using three varieties of rye malt, two of which were limited releases from the Kiwi maltsters over at Gladfield that evidently aren’t yet readily available (Crystal and Chocolate varieties, plus some standard Rye, if you’re interested in the details). Thirdly, it’s been lagering for a long time –… Read more
Style
Rye Dunkel
ABV
4.6%

All Hands Wee Heavy

Tapped March 21st, 2018
Very shortly after they’d (re)opened the doors to their Darling Harbour venue, the All Hands brewers decided to flex their muscles and see what their new kit could do by way of big beers. The way they chose to travel down this road was parti-gyle style, using the same batch of grain to create a barleywine and a Scottish-influenced Wee Heavy. Just the one keg of barleywine got tapped at the time (with the rest awaiting an opportune occasion to reemerge) while the Wee Heavy has now concluded its… Read more
Style
Wee Heavy
ABV
8.5%
Bitterness
40 IBU

All Hands Dirty Root Ginger Beer

Tapped March 9th, 2018
While a lot of brewers are busy playing with fruit these days, All Hands has looked to its roots for its first ever autumn release: a ginger beer. To do so they scrubbed and sliced a few big boxes of fresh and still dirty ginger root before getting busy with the citrus juicer, squeezing several hundred lemons to procure a few litres of juice which was duly tipped into the brew. The result is rather tasty and refreshing. They’ve billed it, very generally, as a kind of beer alternative for cider… Read more
Style
Ginger Beer
ABV
4.3%
Bitterness
15 IBU

All Hands Traveller Saison (Summer 2017/18)

Tapped November 30th, 2017
The first ever iteration of the Traveller is also the first ever limited release to come from the All Hands brewhouse. This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of saisons made from the same base beer but a different yeast, the idea being that you get to follow the Traveller, and the brewers, as they go on a journey exploring yeast. For this particular beer, the brewers used the Lallemand Belle Saison yeast strain and planned for a fairly high fermentation temperature to bring out the most… Read more
Style
Saison
ABV
5.3%
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