Much like the Oriental rat flea and pestilence, good beer and gentrification go hand in hand. While this analogy is perfect in almost every way, a bubonic plague epidemic is unlikely to push local house prices north of one and a half million bucks, which is how it goes in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern. Named after colonial surgeon William Suburb, it's an area with a rich and colourful history.
Situated on the lands of the Cadigal people, Redfern became the unofficial capital of Aboriginal Australia. And, while the population of first Australians has steadily declined over the last few decades, it remains an epicentre of Aboriginal culture, activism and community.
In its own way emblematic of the rapidly changing face of Redfern, our Crafty Crawl has a few old suburban pubs sprinkled in amongst the sleek, new bars and restaurants that have started to define Redfern over the last few years. All in all, she’s just over a kilometre from go to whoa with the train station right in the guts, so with no further ado…
Stop One: The Woolpack Hotel & Lounge
The first of two heritage listed pubs on this crawl is located just off the main drag on Chalmers Street. The Woolie has eight taps rotating through predominantly local craft, so expect the likes of Batch, Akasha and Stone & Wood staring back at you. If the weather is fine, the footpath dining area is the pick for some premium people watching, however there’s also a few dank little corners inside if that’s more your thang.
The Woolie is well known for huge servings of pub tucker so it’s probably an ideal place to get a feed in before what is to come. On Thursdays, they hold one of the most popular trivia nights in Sydney so you’d be best off exploiting a hole in the space-time continuum and asking your infant self to book a table.
The Woolpack is at 229 Chalmers Street, Redfern.
The Tudor Hotel
If there’s one thing The Crafty Pint is famous for, it’s a deep love of 16th century English architecture. The Tudor isn't quite Hampton Court Palace but the faux half-timbering façade is so on the money it hurts.
Since changing ownership in 2015, the Tudor has undergone a number of low key updates to make it more welcoming to the average punter. In doing so they’ve retained plenty of room for the big brewers, but there’s a range of taps dedicated to local beer from the likes of Frenchies, Akasha and Willie The Boatman.
There’s five or six different areas within the pub and about 400 TVs so it’s an ideal venue for watching Souths on game days. The Tudor also runs probably the best selection of takeaway beer for several suburbs, which is well worth keeping in mind for the journey home.
You'll find The Tudor at 90 Pitt Street, Redfern.
Stop Three: Bart Jr.
Directly across the road, we have one of the newest additions to the Redfern scene in Bart Jr. – supposedly named after Bart, a local cat who fathered enough kittens in Redfern to eliminate all of the pesky native wildlife in the greater Sydney area.
It's bright, modern and extremely passionate about good food and booze and possesses a small but well curated bottle list along with three constantly changing taps. If you’re looking for something a bit different or you’re dragging along a couple of cobbers who aren’t that keen on hours of non-stop beer, there’s plenty of killer cocktails, local wines and spirits on offer too.
The food is made for sharing and the menu is ever changing depending on what’s in season, so there’s a good chance you’ll be greeted with something new on subsequent visits.
Bart Jr. sits at 92 Pitt St, Redfern.
Stop Four: The Noble Hops
A little further down on Redfern Street is not only the best beer venue in the area, but a place that's high on the list of best beer joints in the state; since opening in mid-2016, The Noble Hops has firmly cemented itself as one of the premier beer destinations in Sydney.
Its ten taps pour a dazzling array of local, national and international brews with regular tap takeovers showcasing some of the most highly regarded breweries in the world. The staff are dedicated, knowledgeable and always willing to give advice on all things beer.
Unfortunately, the 60 person capacity means that during peak times finding somewhere to pull up a pew can be difficult, especially as no one ever seems to want to leave. However, any slight inconvenience is worth it if only for the popcorn alone, which appears to have been dusted in meth, MSG and powdered unicorn blood. Honestly, it’s not uncommon to receive a hot bowl of Noble Hops popcorn and wake up two days later, covered in kernel crumbs with the vague feeling that you’ve had the best weekend of your life.
You can try it for yourself at 125 Redfern Street, Redfern.
Stop Five: The Lord Raglan
A short walk around a couple of corners – conveniently downhill all the way – gets you to the final stop, the Lord Raglan Hotel. Rebuilt in the 1920s by the Tooth & Co brewery, it was taken over by Rocks Brewing in 2014, whose first order was to rip out the pokies and mouldy carpets and bung in some pinball machines, 16 taps and a kitchen banging out excellent Mexican style grub.
Half the taps pour Rocks beers but, like their other pub Harts, there’s always a decent selection of guest taps from all over. She’s big, friendly and capable of making room for a decent sized group to settle in for a chimichanga and a few pints – and has a tidy range to takeaway too.
But, more importantly, it’s one of the few decent pubs that still run meat and veggie tray raffles, which are the best form of gambling that humans have ever invented (and it’s not even close). Just imagine how much better every casino would be if it was just a place with trays of snags and rump or veggies being raffled every ten minutes...
It's a vision you can conjure at 12 Henderson Road, Redfern.
Should you still be in need of more sustenance, you may like to pop your head into one of these venues:
- Mjølner – If you feel the one thing missing from your crawl is a Viking themed bar dripping in meat with nine taps of craft beer, set sail immediately for 267 Cleveland St.
- Arcadia Liquors – Before small bars really became a thing, there was Arcadia. This local legend remains a perennial favourite for good booze – and for good reason.
- The Dock – With about six seats, permanently low lighting, an eclectic soundtrack (woe betide you if you miss sea shanty night) and every single one of the two taps pouring the latest beers from New England Brewing, it's simply not possible to go wrong here.
- The Bearded Tit – This bar/gallery at 183 Regent Street is perhaps best summarised by its founders: "it’s as if colour-blind carnies and traveling salesmen have taken over a zoo and started pouring drinks." And then some.
You can check out other Crafty Crawls from around the country here, with past Sydney based features covering Manly & The Rocks, Surry Hills, the breweries of the Inner West (no doubt in need of a part two soon...) and Newtown.
About the author: Judd Owen is a former zygote and Brisbanite who spends entirely too much time thinking about beer. He also runs the 14th best MS Paint based beer blog in the country: Brewed, Crude and Bitter.