Sometimes I think there are two kinds of people in this world, those that drink beer and those that drink wine. But then I’d like to think in an ideal world we wouldn’t discriminate and instead be lovers of both. On a cold, wet Sunday afternoon in Canberra, craft brewery company Sydney Brewery, set out to educate some ‘101local human‘ wine lovers about the delicate art of brewing beer and matching it to food.
Now me? I’m already a beer convert. I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of Australia’s best craft breweries already, Moo Brew and Wicked Elf are by far my favourites. But while I might be a lover of all things beer (beer as a drink, beer battered fish, Guinness baked ham…) I hadn’t tried any of the beers from Sydney Brewery. The irony that I, formerly from Sydney, would be trying Sydney Brewery beer in Canberra, was not lost on me either. What I love most about visiting craft breweries and sampling their beer, is hearing the people story behind the beer. See, apart from the actual drink, I think that separates craft breweries from wineries – their point of difference if you will. Wineries like to be all fancy, five course meals and expensive prices. Beer is more about sitting back and keeping it real. Most wineries I’ve visited, you are shown around by marketing managers and other people with fancy titles. When you go to a craft brewery, you generally chat to the owner or the brewer themselves (and often they are the same person). The guys at Moo Brew and The Little Brewing Company (a.k.a Wicked Elf) are exactly that. When you visit them, you talk to the brewers. No fancy title required.
So it was lovey to meet Andrew on Sunday. Andrew is one of the brewers at the Sydney Brewery. He started pouring beers at the bar, before working his way to becoming one of their brewers. Andrew was laid back, chatty and all about the beer. He had a genuine interest in educating these wine lovers about the delicate science of beer brewing. Because, don’t be fooled, brewing beer is a science, especially if you want to produce it commercially. It was nice to hear that even though Sydney Brewery monitor their beer for consistency through modern scientific approaches (because you want some guarantee of consistency of flavour), they also value the taste buds of the brewers, and the beer is still tasted at various stages to ensure flavour balance and quality. Just like it has been for hundreds of years. Did you know that people have been brewing beer as early a 3000BC?
Each of their beers is named after a suburb in Sydney and their catch phrase is, brewed lovingly by hand in small catches, each variant is designed to epitomise the local style, personality and people of the suburbs that make this city great. I asked Andrew if he thought they were isolating their market by naming their beers after (predominately eastern) suburbs of Sydney. Quite simply, he didn’t think so. When you scan their website’s list of places where you can buy their beer, at the moment most of the pubs are located in their suburbs of their beer’s namesakes. However a ‘Sydney’ brewery named Sydney Brewery, with beers named after Sydney suburbs, wasn’t going down so well with a Canberra crowd, who kept asking. “When will be beer be named after a suburb in Canberra?” Fair call too, especially considering their beer is awesome. Who wouldn’t want one of their beers named after your suburb?
In our lazy afternoon of beer tasting, we tried their Galmarama Summer Ale, named after the popular Tamarama Beach (because only tourists go to Bondi) and their Paddo Pale, named after Paddington. The Glamarama was paired with prawns and the Paddo Pale was paired with hare. Delicious! But the clear favourite with the wine crowd was the Sydney Cider, which was paired with the most divine tasting coconut ice-cream. For me, I liked the pale ale. However, I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to try their other beers, but considering the far majority of the crowd were wine drinkers, the more mainstream tasting beers were obviously the better choice.
If you like good beer, or would like to pretend that you do, definitely pick yourself up some of Sydney Brewery’s finest. If you need to butter someone up (I needed a big thank you to my husband who looked after our children so I could go drink beer), why not pick yourself up a growler? Have some at the pub and then take the rest home… Or refill before you leave. If you’re in Canberra, the only place you can buy this fine brew is from the Mercure Canberra. But with their friendly staff and relaxing atmosphere, I don’t see having to visit their establishment to buy the beer an issue at all! Perhaps you might even pop into Canberra for their beer festival, which the Mercure Canberra hosts every year around late March or early April. I know I’ll be there next year!