2019 is the postcode for Botany, in Sydney. It’s fitting it’s also the year Botany landed its first brewery: One Drop Brewing Co.
Until then, Botany locals - such as owners Clay and Meg - had often needed to look outside of the sleepy suburb for a good time.
“There wasn't much to do in Botany,” says Meg with a laugh. She’d know, having grown up just a few blocks from where their brewery now sits.
So, after years spent watching the good beer scene grow around them in Sydney, Clay and Meg decided Botany needed its own watering hole. It needed a chilled out community hangout. It needed its own brewery bar. And it needed its own beers, which arrived with flagship Botany Bay Lager leading the way.
One Drop is unassuming from the front - all that distinguishes it from other warehouses is the One Drop logo on the doors and a small neon sign that reads “BEER”. But passing through the entrance hallway into the brewery is like stepping into a beer lover’s paradise. Instead of a dark warehouse, the space is open and airy, with gleaming stainless steel tanks and smiling staff inviting you to grab a beer and take a seat.
Botany Bay Lager was the first release and pours as clear as the expanse of glass on the far wall, designed to let sunlight shine into the brewery. It picked up gold at the prestigious Australian International Beer Awards within months of the brewery opening too, evidence that, for all the chilled out vibes, this is an operation that's serious about quality too.
The rotating IPAs are fresh and lively as the potted palm trees scattered throughout the bar. The fruited sours stun people with their vivid colours, matched only by the purple and orange mural of a Caribbean sunset.
Between the sunlight, the artistic ocean view and indoor greenery - not to mention the beer garden out the back - the whole place has an island atmosphere. And the undercurrent of reggae providing the soundtrack for every sip shows this is no accident.
“I’ve been a massive reggae head forever,” says Clay. “Sitting around listening to it. Chilled vibes. Our brand is part of that reggae feel. The beers are awesome… but the vibe completes it.”
As well as influencing the background music, the decor and the general vibe, reggae provided the inspiration for the brewery’s name - “one drop” is the drum beat that lays the foundation of reggae music. But the name One Drop also points to the idea of creating a positive vibration that reaches those around you, in the way a single drop can cause ripples. It's manifested in their efforts to design environmentally-friendly cartons for their beers, which you can read about in our Going Green series here
The owners see the brewery as a way for them to give something back to Botany.
“We wanted to create something by the community, for the community. A local product you can be proud of.”
The community has indeed jumped on board from day one, with locals quickly becoming regulars, dogs sniffing around the beer garden, and kids playing Street Fighter or giant Jenga.
One Drop isn’t a neighbourhood secret, though. Their beers quickly gained a reputation further afield with early awards - as well as the AIBA success for Botany Bay Lager, there were golds for their XPA and a Blueberry Sour too.
Despite this, their target audience isn’t beer judges - One Drop brews beers to please themselves and their community.
Brewer Nick Calder-Scholes loves delicate lagers. Since he already builds the water profile for every beer, he replicates those of different cities in Europe for different styles of lager. He tries to have two lagers on tap at all times, and is happy to educate punters about the difference.
Meg loves sour beers, and One Drop are arguably already best known for their brightly-hued, fruited sours, which contain up to 200g of fruit per litre. (Yes, that is a ridiculously large amount of fruit. Yes, the sours are always bursting with flavour.)
Clay loves hoppy beers, so the core range XPA is punchy but sessionable, and the IPAs are constantly being tweaked and rotated, with customer feedback influencing the hop bill of each brew.
One Drop is certainly a place where beer nerds can fawn over the technical details. But, with that rhythmic reggae bass in your ears and a beer in your hand, it’s mighty tempting to just sit back and let the chilled out ambience wash over you. With a little imagination, the mural of a purple and orange sunset can take you from Botany to the Caribbean in an instant.
“You can sit at the bar and look off the island, over the ocean,” says Clay. “It’s like having a brewery with you on a deserted island.”
And isn’t that the dream?