The closing weekend of this year's Sydney Beer Week kicked off with the festival's annual awards, created to shine a spotlight on some of the harbour city’s top beer venues, personalities and breweries. This time around, the public vote led to two double winners as one Sydney bar and one brewery landed a pair of awards.
Akasha was declared the city’s best cellar door and its Hopsmith IPA was named best beer; Bitter Phew was named best beer venue, with the bar’s Dylan Hayes named Sydney's best industry personality. We got in touch with the winners to get their thoughts on their local scene.
For Dave Padden, who started Akasha in 2015, the cellar door award reflects the hard work he and his team have put in turning their brewery into a must-visit venue.
“We want it to be a real destination for our local brewery because we really are the only brewery in this little area we call the midwest,” he says.
“We’ve really been embraced by the community and they love their local brewery and they are committed to us. If you’re going for a beer in [Sydney’s] Inner West you’re probably going to three or four different breweries; the difference is our locals are coming here for the whole afternoon.”
With so many new breweries having opened across the city, Dave says there are challenges.
“I don’t think the taps are growing anywhere near the rate that new beers and breweries are coming onto the market,” he says. “I hold high hopes that the market penetration of independent beer will continue to rise [and] we are seeing less and less tied taps.
“But I think it has to be based on consumer demand. That’s what we say to our regulars who say they can’t get good beer at their locals; you have to go in there and ask for it because it’s the only way things will change.”
One bar where regulars can always get their hand on quality beer – fresh Akasha Korben D included – is Bitter Phew. Dylan Hayes, who’s worked at the Darlinghurst venue for more than two years, says his individual award and the one given to the venue itself was a humbling experience.
“It’s nice because, at the end of the day, being a bartender is not about you, it’s about making other people feel welcome in the venue,” he says.
Dylan points out that the Australia Liquor Industry Awards (ALIAS) were held in Sydney during the beer week. Bitter Phew was a finalist in the Bar Of The Year category, which he believes shows a renewed focused in the wider industry on good beer venues.
“It was the first time a beer venue had been up against places like Eau de Vie and Bulletin Place and Baxter Inn,” he says.
“To have a beer venue where we are just passionate about what we are selling and to be recognised by a part of the liquor industry that doesn’t always recognise beer in that kind of stead, that was really huge.”
Bitter Phew has long been a beer destination and Dylan believes the growth in local breweries, particularly brewing hubs like the Inner West, has changed the way beer fans drink, something that has caused bars to alter their approach.
“You do find that, on a Saturday, it can become a lot more difficult to get customers out of Marrickville or out of the Northern Beaches and into the city to drink beer,” he says. “On weekends, we tend to focus on the more international tap lists to offer something as a point of difference.
“We do offer something different to breweries, we’re not the place where it’s being done. I hope all of us as bartenders are representing Batch, Wildflower or Mikkeller in a way that we can explain everyone’s story and get people on a path where they end up going to a bottleshop and trying some more beers and then coming back here to learn more.”
When it comes to where all that new beer can find a home beyond its existing haunts, Dylan points to the rising number of restaurants and cocktail bars making good beer part of their offering.
“Going into a restaurant or a bar and having sour beer or something with some crazy adjuncts isn’t getting too unusual now,” he says, adding that the Sydney Beer Week program is evolving too.
“What really excited me was that it wasn’t just pubs doing tap showcases,” he says. “Seeing restaurants and other bars who are focusing on improving their beer menu – I think that’s a really exciting trend that’s happening right now – and, from this year’s Sydney Beer Week schedule, those are the kind of events I wish I could have gone to.”
Sydney Beer Week 2018 Award Winners
Best Sydney Beer – Presented by Hopco
Winner: Akasha Brewing Company Hopsmith IPA
Best Sydney Beer Retailer – Presented by Multi-Colour Aust + NZ
Winner: Beer Cartel
Best Brewery Cellar Door – Presented by Kegstar
Winner: Akasha Brewing Company
Best Sydney Beer Venue – Presented by Triple M
Winner: Bitter Phew
Best New Sydney Brewery – Presented by Bintani
Winner: Yulli's Brews
Best Sydney Sales Rep – Presented by Four Points by Sheraton
Winner: Jackson Davey, Wayward Brewing Co
Best Industry Beer Personality – Presented by Cryer Malt
Winner: Dylan Hayes, Bitter Phew
Best SBW Beer Ambassador – Presented by Goose Island
Winner: Tim Hodge, Sydney Beer
SBW Legend Award – Presented by Sahm/JM Style
Winner: Richard Adamson, Young Henrys