These days, South Sydney is a hodgepodge of different people, industries and communities. From Waterloo to Botany, you'll find old pubs in various stages of gentrification dotting corners, serving neighbours who are fourth-gen working class as well as recent arrivals sipping over the sorrows brought by their new apartment in a crumbling tower.
Families of immigrants operate eateries in which English is seldom spoken while ex-Masterchef contestants open boutique dining experiences in luxury shopping precincts. Buses emit honks and fumes down perpetually busy roads pricked by side streets where you might just find your picturesque wedding venue.
South Sydney is every aspect of metropolitan Australia happening at once.
This blend of industrial and upmarket means that South Sydney has been blessed with a fine smattering of places where you can drink craft beer, options that are as diverse as the place they call home. In these breweries, envelopes are pushed, traditions are upheld, and everybody drinks good beer under the roar of the flight path. Some have developed a cult following while others are the worst-kept secrets to which crafty tragics make regular pilgrimage.
Good beer is not hard to find in South Sydney but a parking spot is, so we recommend a mix of walking and public transport for this Crafty Crawl which you would ideally do on a Saturday, starting from midday when all the venues are open. Or, to give yourself more time to enjoy the delights of each stop (and be kinder to your liver / next morning) spread your time travelling over a weekend, week or month, safe in the knowledge this area's breweries and beers will always be there for you.
So, tap that Opal card and get ready to suck down the best of the best.
STOP ONE: ONE DROP BREWING CO
During these Crawls, I try to write three paragraphs on each brewery but do I really need to bother here? Doesn’t One Drop Brewing Co simply sell itself? Specialty craft beer shops up and down the East Coast are all on the phone with their One Drop rep looking to stock their latest tall sour with at least eight words in the name, an unexpected colour, and a taste that vape makers want to steal like Prometheus. What can I say about One Drop Brewing Co that hasn’t already been said?
I’ll give it a crack; they’ve got a really underrated lager. In their vast and leafy warehouse where you’ll find a cosy beer garden and a bar 16 taps strong (including two side pour taps for those in need of the creamiest of heads), you can get a One Drop core range paddle that includes their red plum sour, hazy pale, ginger beer and the aforementioned lager with an old school European profile. The air is so warm with the smell of hops and reggae that you can't really walk in without a broad smile running across your face and there's every chance it'll be there – possibly even broader – when you leave.
A tasting paddle in the beer garden is a great place for you (and your dog) to start, or you could instead go for one of the boundary-pushing, borderline farcical beers that make them one of Sydney’s sacred mad cows. This ever-changing rotation of beers focuses on IPAs and sours which you can sample in their own tasting paddles but for an unforgettable start, ask for a beer soft serve: a decadent swirl of ice cream infused with a One Drop sour. If the food truck (which changes each week) is doing chips that day, order yourself a side and dip a chip into your tipsy soft serve for a taste of baffling yet delicious life in the twenty-first century.
One Drop can be found at 5 Erith Street, Botany. Just like Benny made it to three paragraphs, you can make it to our next stop in just a three-minute walk.
STOP TWO: SLOW LANE BREWING
Relax as you walk through the grand entrance of the aptly named Slow Lane Brewing. Gaze at the tall stack of wooden barrels that frame the beautiful wood-panelled bar before lazily wandering your eyes up to the simple drinks menu on the white walls of painted brick. Then, to your delight, discover there is a printed menu that features 43 beers that are all brewed in house. Yes, this might take some time but, hey, that’s life in the slow lane.
While the Slow Lane space in a revamped warehouse across the road from a gaudy sculpture studio has a certain relaxing quality to it, the name is actually derived from owners Alex and Yvonne’s love for European "old world" beer styles such as you might find in Germany and Belgium. Getting his first brewing experience in America, Alex also brings a passion for modern styles to the table, but one thing all beers have in common is that they are brewed without much of a rush.
Out of the 43 beers, around 14 are available on tap and are broken down between desired flavours: crisp, hops, malt and "fruit, spice, sour & funk". If that last one sounds appealing to you, go for the Classic Euro Styles tasting flight and don’t miss something barrel-aged like their table beer, farmhouse ale, Brett beers or a golden sour. Non-beer menu items include local wine, spirits, Small Acres Cyder, soft drinks and toasties.
Live life in the Slow Lane by wandering to 30 Byrnes Street, Botany. The next leg is the longest gap between breweries (at least until Beer Fontaine get to open their Botany taproom), 30 minutes on the bus to get to…
STOP THREE: ROCKS BREWING
Rocks Brewing launched way back in 2008 as a contract brand born out of Harts Pub in The Rocks but, since 2014, their home has been an impressive brewery and venue in Alexandria. Seriously, it's a mammoth and glistening site that makes a whole lot of craft beer for both themselves and others, with a constant stream of recipes coming courtesy of the Rocks brewers. As a result, the 20 taps at the Rocks Brewing Co Tap House offer an ensemble of beers that caters to the range of tradies, crafty crawlers and wedding guests who find themselves in this upmarket but still industrial shopping estate.
The award-winning pilsner made with Gladfield NZ malts is a crisp conversation starter as balanced as a tightrope walker. A succulent pale ale is their best-seller but to really experience Rocks Brewing you’re going to want to take the same sort of risks the brewing team does and go for something rogue from their limited releases which have included a blueberry wheat ale, thiol-driven oat cream DDH IPAs and a really kicking Thai basil sour.
Non-beer drinkers are in good hands too as Rocks offers a Hazelnut Moontini made with their own moonshine and a cheeky choc orange Old Fashioned. They have a full kitchen built around unique burgers, delicious sandwiches and pub classics.
Head to Rocks Brewing by skipping The Rocks and stopping instead at Building 2/160 Bourke Road. Then it’s just a five-minute walk through the hipster wholesale area to our next stop.
STOP FOUR: FRENCHIES
Can’t afford to go to France or scared Parisians will be rude to you? Head to The Cannery – the place where Binging With Babish fans come to binge on kitchen gadgets and imported produce – and take a seat at Frenchies Bistro & Brewery. Named for the moniker every French person gets given in this country, Frenchies have been providing drinkers with a distinctly European beer experience since they opened their bistro in 2017, sans Parisian disdain for tourists.
As the name suggests, Frenchies is both a brewery and a bistro with lunch and dinner services in their red leather, immaculately-set dining room. Lunch or dinner here is well suited to a treat or special occasion but, outside of those seatings, the bar menu features an excellent selection of classic French share plates. Sample a range of their housemade terrine, rillette and pickles (whatever is going on that day), with some imported French cheeses on their Mixed Board, the ideal accompaniment to the beers you will sip and savour.
Across the 12 taps and fridge full of tins, Frenchies beers sit together like paintings in an exhibition. There is a delightful core range featuring a pils lager and a pale ale made with experimental hops, along with a mix of bières de garde, a style from northern France that's a friend to all cheese. If you really want to splash out, ask for a 750mL bottle of their barrel-aged sours, such as the Cherry Kriek, often flavoured with fruit and made much like they were in the old world.
You'll find all those French delights at 6/61-71 Mentmore Avenue, Rosebery. You’re at the halfway point too! From here, it is but a 16 minute bus ride to our next stop…
STOP FIVE: THE BEER BAR
Once upon a time in Sydney, there was a theme park called Wonderland but it shut down because all good things come to an end. Some of the generation left disappointed can now rejoice, however, as there is now a new Wonderland for adults in Alexandria called The Beer Bar. Sitting at the back of an unassuming car park, at The Beer Bar it is GABS every day of the year. A tasting paddle here is not an option, it’s a necessity.
The Beer Bar is big inside and it has to be as it has 42 taps – FORTY TWO TAPS!!! – pouring independent Australian craft beer. Next to the expansive bar is a line of TV screens that show what is currently on offer, colour-coded and indicating the volume of beer left in their respective kegs, hinting that you might need to get in quick on a few of them. Grab some chalk and a paddle and begin selecting the five beers that will make up your kaleidoscopic tasting.
While browsing the galaxy of revolving beer offerings, you’ll notice an upfront core range from a local brewery (maybe Akasha, One Drop or Mountain Culture) and you’re sure to see the name of a small brewery that will make you go “No way! They have beers from [insert small obscure brewery you like]."
Although they are always busy, seats at The Beer Bar are plentiful and the bar staff are happy to help you with your selections as they "have to" taste every beer before it goes out. Unless it goes the way of the Wonderlands of old (which frankly we won't let happen) The Beer Bar will be where craft chasers go to geek out and eventually have their ashes scattered.
Explore all that beer at O'Riordan Street, Alexandria. From The Beer Bar, get the bus or walk 15 minutes to the next stop which is a brewery this time…
STOP SIX: YULLI’S BREWS
After sampling the weird, whacky and intensely traditional, Yulli’s Brews stands out as being a modern Australian brewery. The gorgeous big warehouse is the rumpus room of carbonated dreams, with a downstairs bar area decorated with hand-painted skateboards and an underrated mezzanine with comfy lounge room decor overlooking the grand brewery. From the locals sitting on stools to the portraits on the taps and cans, Yulli’s is brimming with character and that’s the whole point.
SPOILER ALERT: You’re about to get spoiled by Yulli’s core range of beers, each one named for a larger-than-life Aussie who you’ll swear you bumped into at the pub, bus stop or Yulli's itself. Any one of them makes a great schooner, but I recommend you load up a tray of tasters to really explore the range. Highlights include the Seabass Mediterranean Lager, Amanda Mandarin IPA and the Slick Rick Rampaging Red Ale, brewed with five malt varieties and three hops to create a rich, creamy and decadent red ale that converted me to reds and I reckon is near peerless in Australian red ales.
Look out for something fun and fruity from the rotating Dolly Aldrin sour range (identifiable by the sour look on Dolly’s painted face) and take a gander at a food menu that focuses on Asian fusion and is entirely vegetarian. Crispy on the bottom and punchy hot inside, the Massaman curry buns make a great crowd-pleaser if you weren’t satisfied with the lone one you got on their two-course degustation that takes you through most of their menu.
Yulli's will welcome you into their home when you visit 75A Burrows Road, Alexandria NSW 2015. Head back up Burros road and save four minutes on the bus or walk 20 minutes to our next brewery…
STOP SEVEN: 2 HALFS
2 Halfs Brewing is proof that you can get it all in South Sydney as you can travel the whole world and won’t find a brewery as unpretentious as this place. Standing picturesque on a leafy Alexandria corner painted with a colourful mural of a couple sipping beer, 2 Halfs has a welcoming warehouse interior that manages to feel cosy with natural lighting, indoor plants and brewing gear taking up its share of the space
The name 2 Halfs has (ironically) two meanings; the venue is both a brewery and a distillery as well as referencing the husband and wife owners, Kirk and Dragana – each the other’s better half. When I tell you these two are a big part of the charm it cannot be understated. If Dragana isn’t serving drinks and smiles at the bar, Kirk will pour your drinks before getting back to his brewing. The brewery name being "intentionally spelt alternatively" sums them up well as they do everything just a little differently.
Although there’s always a pale ale on tap, there’s no core range at 2 Halfs; yet lovers of European styles best prepare themselves for lagers, saisons, ales and punchy Belgian styles aplenty. Fun and more modern releases have included sessionable hazies, juicy pales and an award-winning guava fruited sour. You may even be tempted by their spirits range which includes a chocolate vodka, several gins (available in a tasting) and Sljivka plum brandy based on a centuries-old family recipe.
Enjoy Kirk and Draganás company at 2 Stokes Avenue, Alexandria. From here it’s literally just a stroll across the road to our final stop…
STOP EIGHT: BRACKET BREWING
We’ve reached the end of the South Sydney Crafty Crawl so it’s no surprise that we’ve reached the beery emerald city, dripping green with hops. The warehouse space is long and narrow, the menu is on a chalkboard, there’s a red rug on the floor, the place is absolutely bustling, and your tongue is itching for any of those hops you can smell in the air. In short, you’re at Bracket Brewing.
Opened by father-son duo Mark and Mike Meletopoulo, Bracket Brewing (which takes its name from a mushroom grown from spent grain) was born out of a love for fermentation Mike discovered when he took food tech as a bludge subject at uni. After years in brewing and distilling in Scotland and Australia, plus finding out his dad took to homebrewing like a duck to water, they opened their brewery in April 2020. Bracket have no plans for global domination, on the contrary, they are proud to have no big investors or big plans beyond staying local and producing great beer.
Bracket is the perfect place to end your crawl as their ever-revolving range of beers are potent and proudly so. The chalkboard beer menu shows what’s on offer on the 12 taps, with the left side dedicated to more sessionable beers such as pilsners, ales, hazies and sours (some of which can push beyond 7 percent ABV) while the right side is dedicated to an infamous and highly-anticipated range of IPAs, DIPAs, DDHIPAs and ones with names too long to bother making into an acronym. The featured hops are listed beside each beer meaning this is a perfect place to take a hophead – that is if they haven’t already been, which they almost certainly have. There is no core range and there are no tasting paddles. At the end of the crawl, this is a place to go one and done.
Be a part of Bracket by heading to 21 McCauley Street, Alexandria.
If you're looking for some more beery options, here are a couple more.
- Beer Fontaine – Brewed in Belfast and fermented in Botany, Beer Fontaine sell their revolving range of stouts, sours and saisons from their brewery. They'd be listed above but at the time of writing, they're still working on getting their venue up and running at full capacity.
- Iron Duke Hotel – A pub with taps pouring beers from the likes of Grifter, Moon Dog and Bridge Road. It's located at 220 Botany Road, Alexandria.
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. Image at top of article plus those for One Drop and Rocks by Katie Anne Morfoot.