Beer Fontaine

Botany is a strange place. Named for the much more famous bay just to the south, bordered by Sydney airport to the west and Port Botany to the southeast, it’s a chaotic amalgam of land use.

A ring of residential streets surrounds a hub of light industrial units with warehouses and heavy industry congregating around the edges. On the southern edge of the inner circle, flanked on both sides by joinery businesses and directly across Botany Road from residential housing, sits Beer Fontaine, quite remarkably the third fascinating brewery to call the area home.

There aren’t many origin stories in the beer industry that begin in the world of film lighting. Fortunately for Beer Fontaine, they aren’t particularly interested in doing what everyone else is doing anyway. And that’s just as fortunate for lovers of less-than-common beer styles too.

Designing and installing lighting systems for film and TV doesn’t appear to have a great deal in common with fermentation but Fontaine founder Marshall Harrington’s earlier life in food product development and a degree in chemistry has obviously put him in good stead.

“I’d actually been homebrewing for around five years before we started here,” he says. "I’d started making some really good beer and always saw myself as doing it professionally, but just couldn’t make the leap.”

In the end, it was less a leap than a push that saw him make the transition: with film productions shut down amid the drama of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, he finally had the impetus he’d been waiting for to become a professional brewer.

With a 250L brewing system in place as a sort of proof of concept, Beer Fontaine were quickly selling out of everything they brewed. After a brief foray into the world of contract brewing, they realised almost immediately that with the types of beer they wanted to brew and the amount of experimentation it was going to take to brew them, using someone else’s kit was an impossibility. So, an upgrade and expansion was required, and in 2021, with their own 10 hectolitre brewhouse installed, they really got to work.

For Marshall, carving out his own little slice of the Sydney beer market by mimicking the others was never an option. If they weren’t going to make beer that wasn’t already out there, what’s the point?

While living in Europe, he's always felt drawn to Belgian beer, and it was a trip to Bruges that would basically alter his entire trajectory in life.

Marshall recalls: “I was trying all these different Belgian beers I’d never even heard of before and they were all so alive and so bright. It completely inspired me. Belgian beer has such a vibrancy and playfulness that the other beer cultures in Europe don’t seem to have.”

Lagers aside, for whatever reason, European beer styles in general have proven to be a hard sell in Australia. Despite a few notable exceptions, not least like fellow Botany locals Slow Lane, brewers regularly releasing Belgian inspired beers are few and far between. Most brewers will claim they only brew beer they want to drink, but what does it mean if the beer you want to drink isn’t exactly popular?

You can approach that problem in a number of ways; in the case of Beer Fontaine, their ethos is that you always make sure you’ve got something for everyone and have an unwavering belief your beer is good enough to convert even the most sceptical drinker.

“My favourite thing in the world is when someone says to me they don’t like beer,” Marshall says, adding: “There’s such a tremendous range of different flavour profiles, and if you can just sit down in front of someone and give them something they’ve never had before, you’re going to find a winner.”

And given Beer Fontaine are never short when it comes to new and interesting beers to show off, they’re well placed to have something on hand that someone has never had before.

Chief among their offerings is the wonderful Sparkling Forest pétillant bier, which is inspired by the pét-nat winemaking technique and clean, effervescent Belgian ales. Among a swag of medals Beer Fontaine picked up at the 2022 AIBA awards, Sparkling Forest nabbed gold in the Belgian/French style ale category and serves as a perfect introduction to their oeuvre.

Among the other medal winners are a slew of barrel-aged sours and stouts that always make up a fair chunk of the Beer Fontaine bottled offerings. However, just because Marshall’s heart lies in Belgium, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be partial to an icy cold can of DDH IPA.

Thus, complementing the bottled offerings, Beer Fontaine regularly can various IPAs, pale ales, stouts and a Kolsch style draught. Sure, every now and then the aluminium range might feature some Belgian yeast, malt or candi sugar but, on the whole, the punters will be able to find far more familiar-sounding brews encased in aluminium.

The beers are freely available on their webstore and through local retailers, however the main goal has always been to open a tasting room at the Botany brewery. Unfortunately, in an all too familiar story, ongoing delays in regulatory approvals have seen any potential opening date continually pushed back. The team even brewed a Champagne IPA with Kiwi hops, Belgian malt and Duvel and Champagne yeasts to celebrate the moment that’s yet to arrive.

It took no time at all for Beer Fontaine to prove themselves excellent brewers of a range of potentially very tricky styles of beer and, as history has shown, they’re only going to get better at it. Their commitment to finding something for everyone has already won plenty of fans around Sydney and, open tasting room notwithstanding, they’re a very exciting addition to the Australian beer scene.

Judd Owen

Beer Fontaine

1575b Botany Road
NSW 2019

(02) 7208 4486
Open Hours

Taproom opening soon...
Takeaways: 4pm to 5pm

This is a directory listing. To find out more, head here

Beer Fontaine Regulars

Beer Fontaine The Freschness Sunset Session Ale

In the case of most Aussie breweries, if they called a beer Sunset* or Session your mind is likely to drift straight towards Pacific ale styles. But Beer Fontaine aren't most Aussie breweries so, while there are elements familiar from such beers here, The Freschness is also a showcase for some of their favourite Northern European characteristics. In the former camp sit lively citrus zest top notes but these are soon subsumed by the yeast’s impact on the sweet pilsner malts: saison-esque fruity… Read more
Hoppy Farmhouse Ale

Beer Fontaine Eight Zero Eight Eight Belgian Pale Ale

In the early years of The Crafty Pint, while they weren't exactly common, it wasn't unusual to find local brewers releasing English and Belgian pale ales. Roll forward to 2023 and while you can argue there's never been greater diversity in the offering for Aussie beer drinkers, you can easily jot down many styles that have all but disappeared here. Beer Fontaine are one of a small number of breweries aiming to reclaim some of the marketplace for such old world classics via beers such as Eight Zero… Read more
Belgian Pale Ale

Beer Fontaine The All Hops (Megamix) NZ IPA

While The All Hops is rather larger on the booze front than the Galaxy IPA Beer Fontaine released around the same time, it shares much on common appearance-wise: golden with a lovely head. That said, it does hint at the higher ABV courtesy of the liquid looking more dense, something one assumes is down to more booze, or perhaps more hop oils. If it's the latter, they've been drawn from New Zealand varieties Motueka, Wai-Iti, Nelson Sauvin and Kohatu and come across on the nose as citrusy but with… Read more

Beer Fontaine Our House Saison

Originally part of the brewery's seasonal range, this saison has graduated to a more permanent position in their lineup, as indicated by the name, Our House. Their take on one of the world's classic farmhouse styles is given a bit of a new world twist courtesy or Riwaka and Motueka hops from New Zealand. Pouring with a bronze hue and a light haze, it stops short of funky but I'd place it well within the realms of rustic. There's shades of herbal tablet and boiled honey lollies on the nose, while… Read more

Beer Fontaine Sparkling Forest 2.0

When Judd Owen sent over copy for the Beer Fontaine listing on this site, this beer garnered a special mention; he was pretty darn certain I'd find enjoyment in an offering that even by today's kitchen sink standards stands apart as a genuine rarity from Aussie brewers. Sparkling Forest is a "pétillant bier" inspired by the techniques more commonly found in pet-nat wines: it was capped mid-fermentation to, in their words, "create a super sparkling refreshing Belgian beer". My… Read more
Pétillant Beer

Beer Fontaine Specials

Beer Fontaine Candromeda 2023 Galaxy IPA

Scan most brewery's lineups and if you spot anything influenced by the traditional brewers of Europe – lagers aside – it tends to stick out like a sore thumb. With Fontaine, it's pretty much the opposite: saison, Belgian pale ale, pétillant beer, Belgian IPA... and then a modern style like Galaxy IPA. It pours the gold of a polished ingot with a fluffy as head. You'll pick up passionfruit creme and citrus rind (potentially courtesy of the addition of Ryefield Hop's Centennial) all the way on… Read more
West Coast IPA