Saying you love Sydney’s Northern Beaches is sort of like saying you love Europe. Yes, when you look from the outside, you can see it as a whole, and enjoy its collective culture. But once you get there, you’ve got decisions to make. London, Paris or Berlin? Majorca, Santorini or Amalfi? Fjords of Norway, alps of Switzerland or national parks of Croatia?
There’s plenty of variation within the thirty or so kilometres of coastal communities that make up the Northern Beaches. I could tell you where you should go for the best swell, and where to surround yourself with people for whom all of life revolves around surf.
I could point out where you can rub shoulders with the suave and glammed up people who made a seachange with seven figure bank accounts. I could let slip the areas where the locals keep to themselves because they appreciate the slower lifestyle and natural beauty that the Northern Beaches affords them.
But when I head to the Northern Beaches, I plan the beer first and let everything else fall in around that. So I’ll assume you’re going to do the same.
Since it’s a such a spread out area, you can’t expect to just trip over the best watering holes – you do need to aim specifically for them. But here’s where the B-Line bus is your friend. Leaving from Wynyard in the CBD, these double-decker horseless chariots will take you to where you need to go, stopping within a short walk of each of the spots on this list.
This Crawl is perhaps better suited to a beery weekend away than a one-day crawl too. But hey, if you’ve got a designated driver and a big thirst, don’t let me get in the way.
Stop One: Nomad Brewing
Brookvale is the southernmost suburb on this crawl – that is, the least distance from Sydney CBD. It’s a whopping three kilometres away from the beach, but that’s forgivable since it’s home to a trio of breweries within strolling distance from each other. For the purposes of this Crawl, the first of these is Nomad Brewing.
When you rock up to Nomad to have a few drinks, there are two things you’ll notice about the tap list. One is innovation: the novel and interesting ingredients in some of the beers. The other is variety: the sheer breadth of styles and flavours across the range.
The brewers at Nomad find it hard to keep still, and as a result they excel in both of these aspects. Native Australian ingredients, hybrid styles, modern twists on traditional European beers, and session beers made into something more with fun additions – none of this is out of the ordinary for Nomad. Throw in vivid decal artwork, books about beer, comfy indoor and outdoor seating, and you’ll find it an easy place to spend a couple of hours.
Nomad’s cellar door bar is called the Transit Lounge, and one look in the fridge will tell you why. While it’s both normal and understandable for most breweries to only sell their own beer, Nomad also have options from much further afield. While you’re knocking back schooies by Nomad, you can deliberate about which imported beers from their associated distribution business Experienceit you’ll take away: the likes of Lervig, Buxton, Deschutes and Deep Creek make it difficult to only pick a few. Then turn to the merch wall and be faced with t-shirts, caps, and a range of Hawaiian shirt designs.
It’s a dangerous place. Bring a full wallet and an empty bag.
Nomad Brewing are at 5 Sydenham Road, Brookvale, which is just a hop, skip and a jump to…
Stop Two: 7th Day Brewery
7th Day Brewery is named for the day of rest, and the brewery’s taproom makes it easy to pull up a stool and chill out. Most of the decor is made from upcycled materials that have found new life at 7th Day, which work together to make an inviting environment. The living plant wall made of pallets and a huge resin chandelier salvaged from the set of a commercial shoot are just the beginning – chat to owner and head brewer Mike if you’re interested in hearing the stories of the various elements.
Of course, Mike’s also happy to talk all things beer and brewing with anyone who’ll listen. The story of 7th Day is different to those of many craft breweries, which often begin with the chase for big flavours and a variety of styles. While Mike loves working with hops, and knows what he's doing with them – his XPA goes down a treat, and the ruby red IPA is a belter – the central pillar of the brewery right from the start has been the Pilsner.
A few mates who just wanted to drink a fresh, local Pilsner made with quality ingredients led to the inception of 7th Day in Mike’s garage in 2015. Other styles have since risen up around it in the years since that first brew, but the Pilsner remains the flagship. Having said that, the tradie and surfie culture of the area has ensured that all the sessionable styles to hit the taps get their kegs drained quickly.
If you’ve worked up an appetite already (or if, like me, your stomach is some sort of unfillable TARDIS), pop next door to Sale Pepe, an authentic woodfired pizza place where they’ll serve up 7th Day beers with your meal.
At 14/9 Powells Road, Brookvale, 7th Day is just the place to fuel up before you roll on over to…
Stop Three: 4 Pines Truck Bar
First things first: why is it called the Truck Bar, you ask? Simple: because the bar’s made from a red 1960 Dodge pickup truck. What did you expect?
When it comes to the taps behind the bar, some more pleasant surprises await you. Don’t think you’re only going to see the core range you’re used to: expect Keller Door releases, as well as extra IPAs, sours, and always something on nitro. There are enough taps that the brewers get the chance to play around as much as they like, which works for those of us who have the pleasure of tasting the results.
While 4 Pines have a number of brewpubs and other venues scattered up and down the East Coast, the Brookvale site is their main production brewery. The bar sits alongside the huge brewhouse so you can peer down the rows of towering stainless tanks while you drink. Get yourself on a brewery tour if you want to explore this magic factory – the bottling line is particularly mesmerising.
There’s also an array of rustic timber beams overhead, a wooden longhorn skull on the wall, and a host of staff who are clearly exactly where they want to be.
The 4 Pines Truck Bar is at 4g, 9-13 Winbourne Road, Brookvale. After a few beers you can pop around the corner to the Manly Spirits Co Distillery Tasting Bar for a nightcap.
Stop Four: Wings and Tins Dee Why
You’d think their slogan says it all: A DIVE BAR WITH HOTWINGS, TINNIES, LOUD MUSIC AND NO SALAD.
But it fails to get across the options. So many options.
You’d be a fool to come here without eating. When it comes to the food menu, you could go for house Buffalo wings, or Alfie’s hot sauce, or the deep-fried cauliflower “vege wings”; or you could turn to the BBQ wings for smokey chipotle, or whisky maple, or mango habanero; or perhaps dry-rub is more your thing, and the Tennessee Smokehouse or spicy Portuguese rubs are grabbing your attentions. Add some truffle parmesan fries or dynamite totts, or just go with a tasting platter if you can’t decide. Of course, if you’re equal parts brave and stupid, you can order the Doom Juice wings – they’re marked with “Just don’t order this” and “Not recommended” and require you to sign a waiver upon purchase...
As for beers, there’s a fridge with more than 50 kinds of tinnies to wrap your disgustingly sticky and greasy fingers around. Try some uber-local colour from Nomad or Modus, or some Hop Nation or KAIJU! or Moon Dog from down south, or Green Beacon or Stone & Wood from up north… or, if it’s your thing, you could go full Yank and have a PBR, or show your patriotism with a Foster's. Like I said, it’s all about options here.
So take your pick, then sit in a booth and admire the garish eclectica: skate decks and paintings of ships, Australiana landscapes and an electric guitar, weird dolls and a Civic Video sign. Every single piece of decor is terrible, but the combination is sublime.
Look for the dodgy sign saying Wings x Tins at 3/866 Pittwater Road, Dee Why. So many wings. So many beers. So much kitsch. So little time.
Stop Five: The Beach Club Collaroy
You know the saying: “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink?” That’s not true at the The Beach Club Collaroy. There’s water as far as the eye can see… but there’s also plenty to drink.
The above photo was taken from the balcony of said venue. This balcony is so close to the water than in the massive storms of 2017, gigantic waves pulled parts of it down. But it was rebuilt – larger and stronger than before – and you can once again sit looking out over the endless ocean, the rhythmic crashing of the waves bringing a sense of calm over you, with the golden haze of an IPA in your glass and the golden curve of the beach stretched out before you.
Unlike many beach clubs, there’s a big push for craft at The Beach Club, so you have a pick of about ten independent craft taps and another 60 beers in fridge: beers from down the road, across the country, and around the world. There aren’t many places you can get a fruited sour while you’re getting a sun tan, or watch a nitro stout settle while you’re watching for whales playing in the sea. But at The Beach Club you can do just that.
When you arrive at The Beach Club at 1058 Pittwater Road, Collaroy, you’ll have to make a decision: walk on the beach, or walk to the bar. The smartest among you will do both.
Stop Six: Modus Operandi
As far as coastal suburbs go, Mona Vale isn’t a bustling holiday destination. Don’t get me wrong, it has gorgeous beaches, a handful of great restaurants and some cozy coffee places. But, as with some dreamy beach towns, it’s a little sleepy. And yet somehow, it’s home to one of the country’s most iconic and successful breweries.
Modus Operandi have punched above their weight from the beginning. If you’ve enjoyed Modus’ beers from afar for a while, you might be surprised when you show up to the source and find that this multi-award-winning brewery is kind of small. But every square inch has been put to good use. As well as the brewery itself, there’s a comfortable courtyard area, a full kitchen that puts out above-average pub grub, and enough taps at the bar to keep you tasting all afternoon. And, most days, a black Labrador named Stout roaming around making friends with customers.
Since the day they opened, the team at Modus have taken an extravagant approach to hops, and opened the eyes of many of us to the bold and beautiful possibilities of IPAs. While some breweries were being cautious so as to not offend our palates, Modus were adding hops to brews like salt bae adds seasoning to a steak – and we thank them for it.
If hoppy beers are your thing, drinking fresh schooners of IPA at Modus is the next best thing to being hooked up to an IV full of lupulin.
Mosey on into Modus Operandi at 14 Harkeith Street, Mona Vale. It’ll make you jealous that your local supermarket doesn’t have a brewery right next door.
If you're still in need for more, or are staying over and need something for the fridge at home, there is indeed more:
- Cromer Cellars, 61 Carawa Rd, Cromer – One of the first places to bring a serious range of quality beer to the Northern Beaches, Sean and Melanie Cogan continue to source the newest, freshest beers for their loyal following of fans.
- North Curl Curl Cellars – 148 Pitt Rd, North Curl Curl – At one stage, the second venue for the Cogans, at which stage it was given a crafty overhaul. Now under new owners but with plenty to satisfy beer lovers.
- 4 Pines Public House Newport – 313 Barrenjoey Rd, Newport – One of the first 4 Pines venues to open after their OG home in Manly and the Brookvale brewery, it's also where they installed oak foeders and began exploring oak-ageing in earnest. Expect heaps of their beers on tap and the usual warm 4 Pines welcome.
And, if you're after more locally brewed beer, Dad & Dave's have been providing just that for years. Their venue – Dad & Dave's Burger & Beers – is in Manly but you shouldn't have to try too hard to find their beers, in can or on tap, around the Northern Beaches either.
If there's anything we've missed from the above Crawl, get in touch so we can fix it!