Bondi is a name that’s recognised across the world; for many overseas, the inner Sydney suburb perfectly encapsulates the vision that comes to mind when they think about Australia. But while the iconic beach, panoramic views and metronomic surf don’t require any introduction, introducing locally-brewed beer to the area took some time.
As other parts of Sydney welcomed one brewery, then two, then – in some cases – many more to their neighbourhood, for year after year Bondi missed out. Given the ‘burb’s association with drink-fuelled revelry, you may well question how that could be, yet the area’s makeup helps explain why: unlike the city’s inner west, Bondi was never home to large factories and warehouses waiting to be transformed.
That all changed when Curly Lewis Brewing Co took up residence, opening their doors in August 2022 and welcoming guests inside to sample a lineup of locally-made beers in the heart of Bondi Beach. Located in Campbell Parade, a mere hundred metres from the surf, it takes its name from the adjacent Curlewis Street and is unashamedly a place for locals.
For founders Oli dos Remedios, Adam Richards, Gareth Morton, Loren Morton and longtime brewer, beer judge and industry consultant Scotty Morgan, the search for a spot in which to set up a brewery in Bondi took a long time but they never gave up on their dream. After all, this was where Oli and Adam surfed as kids and where the founder’s family roots run deep. So deep, in fact, you’ll find photos of Adam and Loren’s grandparents on display by the bar dating from their days at the Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club in the 1940s.
Curly Lewis’ street frontage gives you the impression it’s a little on the small side, but walk in (making sure to take in the sign overhead first) and you’re greeted by an immersive brewery taproom, where the narrow front bar leads to shared tables and wide booths watched over by the stainless steel tanks.
The polished wooden bar is practically begging you to pull up a stool and crack into a schooey post-surf, while there’s an undeniably nautical vibe you’d pick up on even if the ocean wasn’t waving from across the road. Porthole windows in the front door serve as a reminder of how close you are to water, while warm yellow hues run throughout, providing a backdrop for a beer-clutching surfer rendered in neon lights and “CURLY LEWIS” in bold lettering opposite the brewhouse.
A further reminder lurks behind the bar: a chart documenting the size of the swell, high and low tide, and the water temperature. It sits next to the drinks list, where you can pick from the liquids pouring through the venue’s 20 taps – most pouring Curly Lewis beers, including the core range Clean Cut Lager and Bondi Hazy Ale – as well as a selection of wine and cocktails. You’re as likely to find those flagship beers filling shelves or on tap in nearby bottleshops and bars too, with Bondi’s other good times haunts quick to embrace their local brewery.
Along with a steadily rotating lineup of seasonals and one-offs, they’re brewed on a 1,000-litre brewhouse, tasked with filling ten fermentation tanks of the same size somehow cajoled into a narrow corridor behind the bar. They’ve installed so many not just to ensure there’s a diversity of beers available at any one time, but also to give Scotty the ability to properly condition as many lagers as his heart desires.
Given it’s the first brewery to open in Bondi since craft beer culture caught fire, and that it’s a beachside brewery whose first priority is refreshment, many of those beers tip towards the sessionable end of the scale, with limited releases like the Yewzu Lager quick to find a receptive audience.
The kitchen is run by the famed Frank’s Deli and offers up the kinds of snacks you’d find at a European wine bar: deli meats, meatballs, croquettes and so on. Meanwhile, sandwiches like the Reuben that put Frank’s on the map, as well as large plates of prawns and quail, further reveal just how unique an operation the founders envisage in Curly Lewis.
Sure, it’s taken far longer than might have been expected for Bondi to have a brewery of its own, but the beach views, fresh beer, impressive cuisine, and welcoming vibe all serve as a reminder that sometimes the best things do come to those who wait.