Crafty Crawls: The Breweries Of Marrickville

April 28, 2023, by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox

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Crafty Crawls: The Breweries Of Marrickville

For the Sydney craft beer lover, Marrickville is simply the happiest place on Earth. Nicknamed the Golden Triangle, it's home to the most breweries of any Australian suburb, making it crawlable in a possibly literal sense if you’re trying to make some beery, religious statement.

Named after a Yorkshire village, which Judd Owen described in the 2018 version of this article as famous for being “the birthplace of a racehorse breeder no one even gave a shit about 150 years ago”. The Gadigal people call this area Bulanaming, and it's one that's become a multicultural community with a notable presence of Greek, Portuguese and Vietnamese culture and cuisine.

However, since the late 2010s it’s not food but beverage that has put Mazzaville on the map and this suburb's drink of choice is (you’re not gonna guess it) beer.

Marrickville became Australia’s prime brewery suburb for two reasons.

Firstly, it is warehouse country with seemingly endless spaces in which breweries can pop up like mushrooms after rain. The closeness of these breweries has built a tight-knit community not only of beer enjoyers but brewers who can share resources, knowledge, and a spirit of friendly competition. Close proximity also means breweries have to do more to stand out in this town, resulting in a diverse range of venues with offerings that flit from broad to niche to infamous. 

Secondly, industrial Marrickville is beneath the roar of the flight path, a conversation-stopping phenomenon commonly known as the Marrickville Pause. How does this pause help? By giving you the perfect excuse to have another sip of beer.


STOP ONE: WILLIE THE BOATMAN

Photo by Alexander Hoy.

 

Named after the convict-turned-ferryman of the nearby Cooks River, Willie the Boatman is tucked away in a business park that makes for an unassuming start to your Crafty Crawl. Make your way there in five minutes from Sydenham train station or 20 minutes if you detour to check out where said boatman is buried. Your walk is rewarded by an expansive white-walled brewery with hanging plants, wooden booths, kooky nautical adornments and taps pouring fresh beer. 

Starting life in the early ‘10s with a Coopers brewing kit, owners Nick and Pat have built Willie the Boatman (AKA Willies) into a beloved inner-west brewery known for their stalwart core range, which includes the approachable Marrickville Lager, the salivating-while-writing-about-it Nectar of the Hops NEIPA, and Albo Pale Ale, a chuggable tribute to the local MP turned PM. There’s also pale ales, hazies and IPAs, meaning you’ll find something to pair with whatever food truck is parked out the front.

If you’re feeling adventurous, ask for a tasting paddle made up of their limited releases or, as they're better known, Unusual Edition beers. Half the taps at Willies are dedicated to Unusual Edition beers such as the seasonal Wet Willie Wet Hop NEIPA, Double Nectar of the Hops Double NEIPA, and Cappuccino Stout but expect things to get even weirder as these guys once brewed a lamb souvlaki beer for GABS and I’m still talking about it. After one visit you’ll be talking about it too and maybe even planning your wedding there (yes, they do weddings).

Willie The Boatman is 75 Mary Street, St Peters.

Crafty Cabal Member offer at Willie The Boatman: 2-4-1 Tasting Paddles at Willie The Boatman


STOP TWO: BATCH BREWING CO

 

It’s an 18 minute walk to our next stop but, fret not, it is the longest walk of the Crawl: everything is a lot closer together after this (you’re also actually undeniably in Marrickville now). Equally undeniably Marrickville is Batch Brewing Co, founded in 2013 by American expats Chris and Andrew who just wanted to brew an amazing West Coast IPA. In hindsight, it’s fair to say they did that and a few other things too.

Batch boasts two other notable Sydney locations (a Darling Square booth and the Petersham brewery where they get even more experimental) and they're now part of the Local Drinks Collective formed with Wayward in 2022, but it’s the original Marrickville brewery and taproom that made the little man with the keg and cup famous. To be fair, the beer made him famous too, which is why you’ll have to jostle for a spot in the mostly communal bar space. If it’s the weekend or you’re with a big group, make a booking or expect to be taking your beers to go.

Speaking of beers, Batch make them! The curated core range includes the lurid pink, fruity boom-boom Pash the Magic Dragon, dark and dreamy Elsie the Milk Stout, and the WCIPA that started it all. There’s also an American pale ale and Tasman Tango South Pacific Pale Ale made with a veritable duet of Aus and NZ hops and malts. Previously Tango started out life as a limited release beer, one of an ever-revolving stream of boundary-pushing beers brewed with unexpected ingredients and pure imagination. Arguably, it’s the variety that Batch is more known for; past releases have included a choc orange stout, a lemon meringue sour, and a banh mi ale (made with real pork broth). 

If you have something weird you enjoy, tell them, they might just decide to keep it.

Get up close and personal at 44 Sydenham Road, Marrickville.

Crafty Cabal Member offer at Batch Brewing Co: Save 10% With Batch Online


STOP THREE: BOB HAWKE BEER & LEISURE CENTRE

Photo by Nikki To.

 

Leave Batch, turn left twice, and in under a minute you’ll find the Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre. Don’t let the name and facade fool you: this is a brewery, the HQ of Hawke’s Brewing to be exact. Opening in Marrickville in 2022, Hawke’s needed to be much more than a brewery to grab attention which is why the Beer & Leisure Centre was meticulously designed to be an uncanny love letter to 80s Australiana, a cultural tribute you can sit in and drink from.

Previously a nut roasting factory, the Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre features a wood-panelled bar space with tiled sepia glass that looks as if it’s authentically stained brown by cigarette smoke. A pool room (with a free table!) features a glass cabinet of genuine Bob Hawke memorabilia and makes a pretty ideal space to down an Indies gold-winning Patio Pale, crush-worthy Underdog Session Lager or potent Legend IPA. There’s also a limited range of One Hit Wonders only available in the Leisure Centre, as well as wine, cider and cocktails for less beery patriots.

Perhaps the crown jewel in this unapologetically Aussie throwback is the in-house Australian-Chinese restaurant, The Lucky Prawn. A nostalgia-pulling spectacle, the Lucky Prawn decor is akin to a rural Chinese RSL restaurant right down to the fish tank, gold lettering, vinyl seating, and wooden bowls of prawn chips. The menu is a one-of-a-kind tribute to Australian-Chinese cuisine (yes, cuisine) with sizzling plates of Mongolian lamb, beef and black bean and some unmissable prawn toast that's fresher and juicier than any you’ve ever sampled. Eating is mandatory here.

Fill up at 8-12 Sydney Street, Marrickville


STOP FOUR: PHILTER

 

Back onto Sydenham Road, our next stop is reachable with just a short three minute walk (or roll if you ate too much prawn toast) to reach an ugly-beautiful brutalist building known as Philter Brewing. Famous for their widely-available and trophy-winning XPA, in 2020, the Philter crew took their beers and 80s kitsch aesthetic into a disused garment factory and quickly became a staple of the Marrickville brewery scene. The wooden and retro downstairs space looks out onto the brewing gear from where the marvellous beer in your hand was brewed.

Aside from the every occasion-suitng XPA, Philter produces a stunning sessionable Red known to convert those of us who had thought themselves red shy, a dangerously delicious hazy titled Haze, and a Caribbean Stout. Whatever beer you choose, the in-house kitchen has the grub to soak the good stuff up with highlights being spicy fried chicken wings and a Ninja Turtles-evoking pepperoni pizza.

Time and weather permitting, pop upstairs to Marrickville Springs, the Miami Vice-inspired rooftop bar pouring a range of custom cocktails and sour beer slushies. On a hot day there is no better place to be than upstairs with a nostalgic plate of cheese & cabanossi with a Raspberry Pash Berliner Weisse so cold and icy you risk a brain freeze.  

NB: With all-inside seating, Philter is not a dog friendly venue. I’m not sure if it’s kid-friendly either but don’t bring your kid on a brewery crawl FFS.

You'll find Philter at 92-98 Sydenham Road, Marrickville


STOP FIVE: SAUCE

 

If it’s a nice sunny day and you managed to snag a spot in Marrickville Springs you may be tempted to stay. Here’s a tip: DON’T. Soak up that sun in the best beer garden in the Inner West, one intersection away at Sauce Brewing Co.

Started in 2016 by IT entrepreneur Mike Clarke, the doors to Sauce's home first opened onto a big old tin shed you have to follow the signs to find. When you do, you can either take one of the limited seats by the brewing gear or join the crowds of beer lovers and dogs who are both loving life in the aforementioned hop garden.

Although their core range and prolific limited releases will match a variety of palates, Sauce beer is famous, and possibly infamous, for big, bold beers that live up to their unctuous name. The simply-titled core range offerings include a refreshing and intriguing Pale Ale, bold and boastful West Coast IPA, and an exceedingly drinkable Pacific Ale which is to beer gardens what salt and pepper is to steak.

If your Crafty Crawl crew includes a few Untappd high achievers then Sauce is the perfect spot for you as the brew team love experimenting with single hop IPAs, cocktail-inspired ales and the odd brew that makes you wonder if it’s all gone too far. Grab a tasting paddle of four tasters, ask for all limited releases, and prepare to confuse the life out of your tastebuds. Equally varied are the food tents out the front (Thursday to Sunday) which have featured jerked chicken, BBQ and Philly cheese steaks

Follow the signs to 1a Mitchell St, Marrickville


STOP SIX: MIXTAPE BREWING & BAR

 

Leaving Sauce (easier said than done), it is only 240 measly metres to the entrance of our next stop: Mixtape Brewing & Bar. Opened in February 2022 by power couple Gabby and Jason Newton, you'll find arcade games, a green-tiled interior, menu screens, and hanging plants, and could be forgiven for thinking Mixtape is cut from the same cloth of other Marrickville breweries. However, Mixtape boasts a point of difference concealed in their name: an eclectic, alternating lineup of beers brewed both in-house and by other breweries, both from Australia and the wider world, with previous international additions coming via Cascade, Heretic and Gweilo; you'll find rare, old and Trappist beers available by the bottle in the well-stocked beer fridge too.

Unlike the previous stops on this Crawl, there is no core core range at Mixtape. Across the 18 taps, head brewer/owner Jason tries to ensure there's always a wide variety of beers to suit the taste and mood of anyone who pops in. Usually, this will include three to five house-brewed beers, including a work-in-progress pale ale which Jason tweaks based on customer feedback. Something sour is usually in the works and, depending on the season, you might find Oktoberfest brews, Easter chocolate beers, or sumptuously strong concoctions celebrating a local birthday. Local and international tap takeovers are frequent and delicious.

If you fancy, grab a curry, pizza or whatever they’re cooking up in the kitchen, but don’t miss the Nutri-Grain-based Nuts ‘n Bolts mix based on Jason’s nan’s recipe.

Pull up a pew at 142A Victoria Road, Marrickville


STOP SEVEN: WILDFLOWER

 

Passing the Factory Theatre and more street art murals than you can poke a For Lease sign at and we find ourselves at an unofficial holy grail of Australian craft beer, Wildflower Brewing & Blending. The interior is a grand tin shed decked out for a Pinterest-perfect wedding, lined on all sides by towering stacks of ex-wine barrels. Few breweries in Australia can boast the revisiting value of Wildflower, a place that can be frequented constantly and yet remain a mystery.

If you don’t like sour, wild and funky beers then you can either a) skip straight to stop eight or b) prepare to have your notions challenged. Wildflower build their brews and blends upon their distinct house culture derived from bacteria and yeast from native flowers and the air you breathe as you look up at the menu written on brown paper. Fruit additions and blending with all manner of carefully-sourced adjuncts is to the fore, with many beers featuring a batch number as seasonality takes priority at Wildflower. The resulting beers are exquisitely and subtly complex, never boring, and have a well-deserved cult following. 

Wildflower don’t do tasting paddles but the friendly staff will allow you to taste everything on the menu until you find the one that’s right for you. Start with the Table Beer then see where your tastebuds take you. Stock up with an elegant 750ml bottle (or three) from the cellar door or wrap yourself more in the mystery by booking a brewery tour. 

Dogs and kids are welcome; the only people who might have a hard time here are those that haven't realised they like such idiosyncratic beers yet.

Step back in time at 11-13 Brompton Street, Marrickville


STOP EIGHT: GRIFTER

 

Our glorious Crawl of Australia’s suddiest suburb ends across the road from Enmore Park, just a five minute walk from Wildflower to The Grifter Brewing Co. It's one of the brewery elders in the area: their first beer was released in 2012, while they took up residence here three years later. Their interior is grand, charming and just the right amount of daggy, perhaps best summed up by their tagline: “Exquisite Piss”. With this cheeky attitude and award-winning beer, it’s easy to see why Grifter beers are on tap in so many local venues, even if their home may just be the best place to enjoy one.

Grifter's HQ features an all-encompassing tap selection of their modern classics brewed for the Aussie palate. Nicknamed Orange Goblins, the Grifter Pale Ale makes a great starting point or meal lubricant, while Pink Galah Pink Lemonade Sour or the fruity fun Serpents Kiss Watermelon Pilsner make brilliant session starters. Bigger flavours can be found in the Big Sur West Coast IPA or the Indies 2022 trophy-winner, The Omen, a moody and luxurious oatmeal stout.

The Grifter also release one limited batch beer a month that's available exclusively at their brewery. Past releases have included a rosemary & pineapple sour, a honey golden ale, and a highly sought-after cucumber kolsch. These are available to take home in 1L squealers only, so if you managed to lug an empty squealer along for the whole crawl, now would be the time to fill it.

Complete your descent at 1/391-397 Enmore Rd, Marrickville


NB Kicks Brewing have opened their taproom at 31 Shepherd Street since this article was published. We'll add a full entry as soon as we've had time to drop in!

Find all of the above venues and hundreds more breweries and beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, designed to help you find your nearest good beer, wherever you are in Australia.

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