Ah Sydney, Australia’s most lovely and liveable city by that name. It’s a place I can’t yet call home, but I live here now nevertheless. I initially thought that by the time I’d been here for a bit, I’d have a pretty good handle on everything. However 3 months have passed and I can’t even find a decent barber that isn’t full of men in Bulldogs jerseys, let alone a decent pub within walking distance. Sydney is just so fucking big it makes me want to spew.
The sheer size of this city is proving to be both a blessing and a curse. There are so many great looking breweries, pubs and bars, that I’m adding venues to my must-do list exponentially faster than I can visit them. I’m trying dammit! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is frail and financially limited.
While I’ve made it to some fantastic pubs, including the Dove and Olive, The Royal Albert Hotel and Harts Pub, I’m an absolute sucker for brewpubs. I love stainless steel like bad writers love similes. There is something very reassuring in drinking beer that was brewed metres away from where you are sitting. It’s just like drinking homebrew except the beer is actually good and I’m not drinking alone in the dark at 10:30pm on a Thursday night trying to figure out a way to stop my fantasy football team from being perennially terrible and injured.
The three brewpubs on the top of my list were 4 Pines, The Lord Nelson and Young Henrys. And as of a couple of weekends ago, I finally got around to visiting them all.
After Stone and Wood, 4 Pines has played the largest role in my transition to full blown beer beast. It was actually over a schooner of 4 Pines Stout at The Scratch that Brad and I decided to start this very blog. The excellent availability and quality of their core range coupled with the reliably excellent seasonals has entrenched them firmly in my favourite Australian breweries.
I was a little hesitant to jump on the ferry to Manly to be honest, just in case I’d be disappointed when the brewpub didn’t live up to the impossibly high standards I’d placed on them. It’s like getting a chance to go to the gym with Arnold Schwarzenegger and he blows cigar smoke in your face while making you do burpees for 3 hours. In reality, spending a few hours at 4 Pines was like Arnold high fiving your new deadlift PB and then inviting you to be his new best friend and heir.
It was everything I had hoped for and more. Staff that looked like they’ve just walked in from a surf, a seasonal summer ale straight from the bright tank, a fresh as fuck IPA kegged the day before, and excellent pub food with the option of about 7 different kinds of potato. They’d even gone to the trouble of brewing a black IPA for me! To top it off, it’s about as conveniently located as possible.
I’m crushing so hard on 4 Pines right now that I’ll even admit to being a massive fanboy, even though they appear to be financially successful.
The Lord Nelson
I’ll start this off by saying I’m no virgin to The Lord. I’ve been enveloped by his loving embrace a few times now, and every single time I end up staying twice as long as I intended.
On my most recent visit I went there with my wife and a couple of friends from Brisbane. What was supposed to be our first stop on a Rocks/CBD pub crawl turned into the first and only stop. We arrived at 3:00pm, stayed for approximately 7 hours, and somehow made our way home. Officially the world’s shittest pub crawl.
The problem (if you can call it that, really) is that The Lord is just a very pleasant place to be but it barely even makes any sense why it should be that way. For starters, the place is about 700 years old, the beer range is limited almost exclusively to English style ales with nary an American hop to be found, it’s full of tourists and it’s hard to get a table. Usually any one of these things would be likely to put the average good beer punter off, but there is some sort of dark magic in those convict quarried stones that makes it impossible to leave. The Lord knows what he’s doing and he does it very well.
Also just as an aside, not content with having the oldest pub in Sydney, the Lord Nelson installed the brewery in the pub in 1986. Nineteen eighty motherflipping six. Horatio’s boys have been doing their duty and pumping out craft beer for literally as long as I’ve been alive. Is there another Australian craft brewer with a claim to being in operation longer?
Young Henrys was the first place I wanted to go to, on my first night out in Sydney. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that they close at 7:00pm so my visit was significantly shorter than I thought it would be.
The first thing you notice as you walk in is the number of tanks jammed into what little room they have left. Seriously, someone at Young Henrys is some kind of Tetris wizard.
The second thing that is patently obvious is that Young Henrys is Newtown. The people at and behind the bar are the exact people walking around the streets. The location, the artwork, the furniture, everything screams Newtown. You can feel yourself swinging to the left the longer you stay.
Seemingly every single pub within Newtown and its surrounds are very proud to boast about their Young Henrys taps. Even if the other 10 taps are Lion/CUB lagers. It’s truly incredible. They seem to have a footprint and following in Sydney that all other craft brewers could only dream of. It helps that the beers are top notch too, I suppose.
Young Henrys might even be the reason why I’m going through an English ale type phase at the moment. I had such a love affair with their Hop Ale that I did my best to brew a toned down version of it for our going away party at the Hoo Ha Bar earlier this year.
With the top three now crossed off, I will now begin the enviable task of disgracing myself in every single other brewpub in Sydney. Or more likely, I'll probably just end up at the Lord Nelson making fun of tourists with stupid belts.