As the year draws to a close, once again we embark on a tour of the nation to see what our writers around the country make of the past 12 months. You can read our thoughts on some of the major trends on a national scale here, with the best new beers, standout moments, and exciting new openings from New South Wales brought to you below, courtesy of Judd Owen.
Batch Buy Bucket Boys Then Join Wayward
Marrickville’s Batch Brewing Co have had quite a year. They started 2022 as a business with two small brewpubs and are ending it in a collective partnership with Camperdown-based Wayward Brewing after acquiring beer retailers Bucket Boys and their two venues only nine months earlier.
It’s way too early to tell what this means (if anything) for the Sydney beer scene, but with talk of consolidation everywhere in the beer industry at the moment, there’s no doubt legions of eyes are keeping a close watch.
The Rise Of The Gong
Back in February, we shone a spotlight on the growth of the craft beer scene along the New South Wales South Coast. Arguably the most notable development is taking place around Wollongong, however, where there are both new businesses launching and existing ones expanding. Joining the likes of Five Barrel, Illawarra Brewing Company and Reub Goldberg in recent times you've got Seeker (formerly Grassy Knoll and located in the former site of Bulli Brewing), Resin (who we'll have listed on the site in early 2023), Principle, Dusty Lizard and The Barrel Shepherd, who we'll be writing about early in 2023.
Add in the launch of Mogwai Yeast a few months back and you've got quite the scene.
The Beer-Soaked Northern Beaches
With the opening of Freshwater Brewing Co (pictured above), the little industrial area just off the main drag in Brookvale is now home to more breweries in a square kilometre than probably anywhere else in the country. There's not even a single square kilometre section of the supposed home of Sydney craft beer, Marrickville, that can lay claim to more than five breweries, and Brookvale has six. Smack bang in the middle of the lot is Bucketty’s, who picked up a bronze at the World Beer Cup for their Pale Ale No.2 and rightly has queues to get in on weekends.
To be fair, with Newcastle welcoming newcomers in 2022 and more on the way, a nice little scene developing in the Central Tablelands, and breweries dotted along the coast pretty much all the way to the Queensland border, it might become easier in years to come to acknowledge there's an appetite for local beer in NSW wherever someone decides to open a brewery.
Wet & Wild
As the state endures the unpredictable weather of a third consecutive La Niña, everyone will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the worst of the past 12 months. The consistent downpour of the 2021/22 summer reached its height in late February in the Northern Rivers region as Lismore was all but lost under flood waters.
For Two Mates Brewing in their 150 year old railway shed in South Lismore, this meant close to a complete loss of their brand new brewery. As the waters receded, founders Andrew Newtown and Grant Smith received enormous support from the beer community to get back on their feet. Such is the pair’s resilience, not only were they able to once again open their brewpub in October, they also opened an outpost on the Gold Coast in September.
Young Henrys Turn Ten and Redoak Bow Out For Now
The Inner West OGs celebrated their tenth birthday this year and added a very fine hazy pale ale to their core range with a mammoth marketing push featuring comedian and cooking YouTube star Nat’s What I Reckon. It’s hard to overstate just how important Young Henrys have been in blazing a trail for good beer in Sydney so it’s encouraging to see they’re still going strong.
On the flipside, after 18 years spent slinging beers and food in the Sydney CBD, local pioneers Redoak sadly succumbed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Although founders Janet and David Hollyoak have vowed to keep the Redoak name alive in a different venue, the closure of their Clarence Street institution is a bitter blow for many.
Oztoberfests For All!
With events back on the cards across the whole country this year, brewers seemingly everywhere turned their hands to creating their interpretation of Bavarian Festbier and dusted off the lederhosen and dirndl. Despite the ludicrous claim by Oktoberfest Brisbane to be the only authentic celebration in Australia, you could scarcely walk down the road without stumbling across an Oktoberfest event in September/October, with the brewers of the nascent South Sydney scene even combining to hold a festival of their own.
Why a Bavarian beer festival has been so widely embraced in Australia is a difficult question to answer. Is it linked to the resurgence of craft lager? Shared Germanic heritage? A love of snags? Or is it just an easy excuse to try and get punters through the door? Whatever the explanation, Oztoberfest has become a fixture in the events calendar and everyone’s invited.
Beers Of The Year
Bracket Test Print DIPA
Our 2021 breakthrough brewery maintained their momentum throughout 2022 by releasing a plethora of beers drawn from a wide catalogue of styles to cement themselves as one of the most beloved breweries in the state. In October they managed to get their lupulin-caked mitts on an experimental hop variety called Peacharine from NZ hop purveyors Freestyle Hops and created a stellar single hop DIPA. As good as any big IPA you’re likely to have come across this year.
Grifter Old Panther
In Autumn, one of Sydney’s most elderly dogs showed off a new trick in the form of a schwarzbier named Old Panther. Like Young Henrys, who gave them brewery space to get started, Grifter celebrated their tenth birthday this year and it feels like they’ve never been more on top of their game. The Marrickville stalwarts – named Champion NSW Brewery at the 2022 Indies – are experts at dialling in a perfectly delicious, no nonsense beer, and the Old Panther is one of the best they’ve ever done. Roasty chocolate malts, spicy noble hops and as crisp and clean as freshly-washed sheets.
Mountain Culture & Friends Jeffrey
As in previous years, choosing a single Mountain Culture beer for this list is, quite frankly, a right pain in the arse. The Katoomba (and now Emu Plains) wizards always manage to find fans for at least ten different beers. However, this year, one stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Brewed as a collaboration between Mountain Culture and the ten invitees to their incredibly silly Rauchbier festival (of which more later in this series), Jeffrey was a hodgepodge amalgam of ingredients that resulted in an 11 percent ABV NEIPA that proved so popular it earned a rare same year rebrew.
One Drop Cake Walk
Triple fruited imperial pastry gose. One Drop are now regarded as possibly the finest traffickers of adjunct-laden frivolity in the country, so who are we to deny them a place on this list? Although the Faded DIPA is arguably their best release of the year, this collaboration with Duncan’s from Aotearoa somehow managed to take a beer that tastes like salty breakfast juice and cake batter and make it thoroughly enjoyable. The expertise involved in brewing something like this and making it balanced cannot be understated.
Slow Lane Morning Light
Morning Light is a golden sour ale that spent 18 months in barrels ageing with a Belgian saison strain, Brettanomyces and lactobacillus. It didn’t garner a huge amount of attention when it was released back in March, but this absolutely gorgeous beer deserves to be put in front of as many mouths as possible [Maybe even inside them too – Editor].
As beautiful in the glass as it is to drink, Morning Light is the perfect introduction into the Slow Lane ethos.
Sunday Road Spectrum of Light
After Sunday Road landed two cold IPAs on this list last year - and topped our cold IPA blind tasting with one of them - you may have expected to see their AIBA gold medal-winning 24Hr Disco here. But no, this spot goes to a hazy IPA that just squeezed into 2022 after arriving earlier this month. Spectrum of Light contains enough oats to put Uncle Toby to shame and features Mosaic hops in a range of flashy formats (LUPOMAX, Incognito, and Spectrum) with just a splash of Citra. Somehow Sunday Road have managed to make a hazy IPA with Mosaic and Citra – which, believe it or not, has been done before – and make the category feel new.
This beer is thick and sweet as Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy, and the kaleidoscopic can design is a masterpiece as well. Mick Wüst
White Bay Gantry Crane
We’ve talked about lager finally finding its proper place in the craft beer world elsewhere this year, and if there was one brewery that exemplified this more than any other it’s White Bay. Gantry Crane, a Czech style pils, was the first for the year and set an impossibly high bar for any who came afterwards. For many, Gantry Crane felt like rediscovering just how bloody good lager can be. The Pilsner Urquell-inspired cans were terrific but served fresh at the brewery, via a side pull tap, the beer is a genuine delight.
While Village 2021 and Hive: Post Brood were early favourites to make the list, in the end the elegant and unassuming House could not be denied. Somewhat of a bigger brother to its canned stablemate, Organic Table Beer, House is the kind of beer you wish you could take with you everywhere. A simple and vibrant take on a Belgian classic but with hops from Bemboka and grain from Coleambally.
The Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre
Cold beer, a succulent Chinese meal, a memorabilia-filled pool room and the don't-knock-it-til-you've-tried-it delights of Richie Benaud describing clean bowling Mark Taylor on debut while having a slash... Even the most hardened sceptic would be hard pressed to not have a nice time at this orgy of Australiana, especially once the prawn toast arrives.
(The pool room is featured in the montage at the top of this article; photo credit James Adams.)
Reckless Land In Bathurst
The longtime contract brewers finally found a forever home in the heritage-listed Crago Mill site in Bathurst, vacated by Two Heads brewing in 2018.
Barrel Room by Akasha
Few could have predicted the hop fiends’ move into barrel-ageing with the opening of the Barrel Room on the former site of Creek & Cella in Leichhardt.
In June, Novacastrians welcome their newest brewery in the form of Method Brewing in Islington. Owners and mates Gavin, Matt and Sean have taken experience gained at local breweries Murray’s and Hope Estate and opened something of their own. In the past month, they've been joined by Good Folk Brewing, while Lachlan MacBean is finally on the verge of opening a home for Grainfed Brewing many moons after releasing the first Grainfed beers.
Mountain Culture Emu Plains
Mountain Culture always seemed destined for bigger things, but a 7,000 square metre, 25 hectolitre brewery at the foot of the mountains that's now open to the public? Good lord!
Brookvale’s newest kid on the block opened in September with a dazzling array of easy-drinking lagers and an absolute killer fish finger sandwich.
Sydney’s east finally has a brewery to call its own! In August, Curly Lewis opened their brewpub in the heart of Bondi providing a spot for locals (and the 2.7 million tourists who visit Bondi Beach each year) to enjoy fresh and supremely approachable local beer at source.
The tight-knit community of Bangalow sits among some stunning county in the Byron Hinterland and it’s in this setting that Common People Brewing Co have welcomed one and all into their lovely little venue resplendent with a copper brewhouse.
The Beer Bar
According to Douglas Adams, the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything is 42. Is it mere coincidence that this is also the number of taps at The Beer Bar in Alexandria?
The new spiritual home of the dearly-departed Spooning Goats, Mixtape has joined the Marrickville coterie with a tiny brewing kit yet boasting 18 taps made up of their own beers, collaborations with local brewers, and interstate guests.
The enigmatic new Botany brewers have quietly opened their doors with a range of barrel-aged European style ales in bottles and plenty of aluminium clad, hop forward pales.
BREAKTHROUGH BREWERY: White Bay
There’s always been an air of inevitability surrounding White Bay. Opening amid the early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, they rapidly built a loyal following on the Balmain peninsula and beyond. Their initial core range beers Sunny and Lager won a spot in our 2020 NSW wrap while they quietly spent the next 18 months releasing a barrage of IPAs of increasing quality.
Given their pre-White Bay experience, the partners-in-life-and-on-the-brewdeck that are Jess Walker and Dennis De Boer were always going to be able to brew some of the best IPAs in the country but it was the release of Gantry Crane in January 2022 that felt like a significant shift. For such deceptively simple beers, lagers require precision, skill and, most importantly, time, to reach their full potential. In the months these beers have spent lagering in fermenting vessels and brite tanks, they could have been filled with and emptied of other beers multiple times over. A beer like Gantry Crane might not be expensive to brew in terms of raw materials compared to a double dry-hopped IPA, but all that time is money.
Releasing a one-off, true-to-style Czech pils smells a lot like the brewers doing a little something for themselves; brewing another six different lagers in the following ten months smells like a new paradigm. Although Gantry Crane has garnered the most love, each of the lagers were as delightful and masterfully created as the last. This doesn’t even take into account that White Bay’s core range Lager was also named Champion Beer at the 2022 Independent Beer Awards, casually beating almost 1,500 other beers to claim the top spot as Dennis opened their acceptance speech with: "In your face, Moffat Beach" in reference to the Sunny Coast brewer's trophy haul before Jess embarked on a spot of crowd-surfing.
We could devote just as much time talking about the 20 different IPAs, or the handful of outstanding imperial stouts Dennis and Jess have put together in the last 12 months too, but whichever way you want to slice it, White Bay have had a watershed year, and the beer-drinking public are all the better for it.
How Was 2022 For you?
Way back in the mists of time, one feature of these end-of-year reviews saw us invite people who'd enjoyed a notable 12 months to reflect on their year. Now, for 2022, we've decided to bring the feature back, starting with Stu Whytcross, one of the two lifelong mates behind Voyager Craft Malt.
Earlier in the year, they enjoyed success at the World Malt Cup while the past 12 months have seen their hugely impressive new maltings take shape – complete with the tourist destination that is Whitton Malt House (pictured below) brought about through their partnership with Southern Cotton.
We traced their story to date earlier in the year; here's Stu with more on their year in beer.
Stu Whytcross – Voyager Craft Malt
How's 2022 been for you and Voyager?
It's been another eventful and busy year of ups and downs, beginning the year by being awarded Best Ale malt at the Malt Cup in Michigan – a notable high, and finishing with widespread flooding I think best encapsulates the swings and roundabouts of 2022 for us.
Like most of our clients, we’ve also been dealing with struggles of staff shortages, rising energy/fuel prices and logistics, not the mention farming in a very unpredictable environment; it's certainly been another challenging year.
What started out as fantastic season for much of the growing season deteriorated fairly quickly after record rainfall and widespread flooding impacted a lot of the key growing regions. Whilst not only affecting our grain intake for next seasons maltings, it also created quite a few logistical and supply issues in being able to access grain at farms due to lengthy inundation at properties. With the floodwater finally receding, we’re now full steam into harvest, and hoping we’re able to get it all safely stored in silos before any more rain events.
Aside from this, we’ve been busy helping keep the mash tuns full for our clients, especially with products such as oats, chit malt, rolled wheat and so on for low alcohol and hazy trends, and continuing to see an increase in organic and regenerative farmed grains.
Which beers from NSW have you enjoyed most in 2022?
This is a tough one, so many great beers… can I choose a region? The South Coast of NSW has seen an explosion in breweries the past few years, all of which are producing some cracking beers. Difficult to list any in particular but special mention to Barrel Shepherd's first releases earlier this year (see below), and Jervis Bay Brewing Co’s Pale.
Outside of this I’ve found myself really enjoying some of the originals, Batch’s American Pale, Jindabyne Brewing’s Pilsner and Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale.
What can people expect from Voyager in 2023?
A continued focus on regenerative agriculture, and supporting farmers moving to this style of farming which will mean a larger offering of certified organic and regenerative malts for brewers, and significantly reduced CO2 emissions.
Also, with a lot of our new site's expansion now completed, we’re looking forward to hosting many more of our clients out here for farm and malthouse tours in the new year.
And what's your one wish for Aussie beer in 2023?
That we all make it safely through 2023… After the past three years I’ve given up predicting that the new year "can’t possibly be any worse"… And that we start to see a lot more consumers appreciating and drinking hefeweizens.
You can check out the rest of the articles in this series here. Thanks to the wider Crafty Pint team and the industry gurus who have helped in the compilation of this series.