Since opening their Hunter Valley production brewery in March 2014, Sydney Brewery has been going from strength to strength.
On the back of a swag of medals in the years that followed – 100 in total including ten trophies and eleven golds by mid-2018 – they expanded the Hunter Valley facility (tucked to the side of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley hotel and opening onto a golf course) by tripling capacity and installing a state-of-the-art bottling and canning line to handle the dozen or so beers they put out on a regular basis.
It's a far cry from the brewery's origins, which go back to 2005 and the opening of the Schwartz Brewery, named for its founder Jerry Schwartz, inside the old Macquarie Hotel in Surry Hills. It was an 800 litre wood clad brewhouse from the UK that mainly supplied the hotel bars upstairs, but also several others around NSW within the Schwartz Family Company portfolio.
When the hotel part of the business was sold in 2012, they rebranded to Sydney Brewery and gave the beers names that reflected nearby suburbs: Surry Hills Pils, Paddo Pale, Glamarama Summer Ale, Darlo Dark, Potts Point Porter. They also moved their headquarters over the road to a different hotel – the SFC-owned Rydges World Square – where they set up a spiritual home at The Cidery bar and kitchen. The quirk was that, by that time, all their beer was being produced up in the Hunter Valley and the Sydney Brewery wasn't actually brewing in Sydney at all.
That changed in 2018 when they came full circle, installing a microbrewery in yet another of their hotels – Rydges Sydney Central – just a stone's throw from where the original Schwartz Brewery once sat. In this new brewpub, officially called Sydney Brewery Surry Hills, they gained the ability to bang out small batch, one-off beers to complement a regular range that had swollen thanks to the development of beers like the multi-trophy winning Lovedale Lager, Pyrmont Rye IPA and Pittwater Bitter.
Adding to their all-round credentials is a range of ciders – spanning the spectrum from the classic Sydney Cider to the unusual offspring of the Agave Ginger Cider – which has collected its own pile of awards since arriving on the scene.
From Surry Hills brewpub to production brewery in the heart of wine country and back to being a city brewpub again, the Sydney Brewery story is surprisingly long and winding. Indeed, it's one best pondered with a good beer in hand. Fortunately, they have plenty of those to offer.