For several years Peter Philip was one of Sydney’s most archetypal gypsy brewers. He’d brew small test batches at his house, hoard homebrew, fine-tune recipes then head to a local brewery to borrow a bit of tank space and release a commercial batch under the Wayward Brewing label. He certainly got around; in the three years following the first commercial release in 2012, Wayward’s beer came out of at least seven different Sydney breweries. But late in 2015 the gypsy brewing journey came to an end when the door was rolled up on the brand new Wayward brewery, nestled in a quiet lane on the border between Annandale and Camperdown.
The brewery itself is based on having considered the good, bad and downright dysfunctional parts of other breweries and having it custom built into something perfect for their own needs. That’s resulted in a four vessel system that belies its relatively diminutive physical size by allowing Pete and Shaun Blissett – the well-regarded former Illawarra brewer now in charge of Wayward’s day to day brewing activities – to brew several times a day if needed. It was a canny move that, in actual terms, means shorter brew days but a larger potential total output. They’d soon need it.
Wayward’s approach to beer, as the name suggests, has always been a little esoteric. The starting lineup for many new brewers generally goes something along the lines of: golden ale, pale ale, IPA and a variant on a dark beer. Wayward’s releases came roughly in the following order: India Red Ale, German Kellerbier, Biere de Garde, Jasmine Saison, Eisbock, Chocolate Dopplebock and Oatmeal IPA.
When you head to the brewery with the intent of trying some of these fresh out of the tank, you’ll do so in the most unique – and in the eyes of many, the best – cellar door of any Sydney brewery. Entering off Gehrig Lane will have you walking by a blazing yellow mural tracing a motorcycle rider’s distinctly whimsical road trip towards a brewery. Art meets life at the end of this passage, with your metaphorical journey to beer enlightenment manifesting itself physically in the form of the real motorcycle bolted to the wall next to a pile of luggage which seems to suggest that, once here, you’re in for a long visit or an adventure, or both.
On top of the regular goings on in the brewery they have a small pilot brewing system for experimental beers and a barrel program – both of which get used frequently – resulting in the bar having 14 taps to pour a sometimes dizzying array of beer styles. Plus they often throw on a keg or two from a passing gypsy brewer – Pete’s way of paying it forward for his time using other breweries. You’ll need a bit of time to try everything.
There’s a certain irony – or perhaps just a nod to changing tastes – in the brewery being set up in an old winery that once stretched all the way down Gehrig Lane and beyond. What were once enormous concrete vats housing fermenting grapes now form a series of connected rooms running off the main serving area and fully kitted out in retro furniture. But despite still being able to see and feel remnants of site’s former life in the thick wax-covered and juice-stained walls, you can smell, see and taste that with Wayward you’re firmly in beer country.
Looking at Wayward with a wider view, something that for so many years was just Pete and his wife, Yvette, working away at an idea became, with the opening of the brewery, something tangible. They’ve now got a real home of their own, won awards for their beer and the bar, have roots in a community and a growing team, effectively making them de facto parents to a whole Wayward family. You get the sense they’re proud as punch of what Wayward has become, and well they should be.