Sydney’s Northern Beaches are about as classically Australian as areas go. The shores are sandy and surfable, the venues are beery and beachside, packed with the leathery locals who could never live anywhere else and struggle to see how anyone else does. Long branded "The Insular Peninsula", this idyllic yet isolated community has become a self-sustaining pressure cooker for subcultures such as surfing, skating and English expats who would rather not discuss their current visa status.
These days, however, something else is brewing in the Northern Beaches and it tastes a lot like friendly competition. More importantly, it tastes delicious.
Back in 2008, 4 Pines launched in Manly, bringing a variety of stouts, kolschs and pales ales to an audience that had really only known VB. Nowadays, 4 Pines are part of CUB/Asahi's stable of craft brands and owns the naming rights of the local NRL stadium, yet they remain a local success story and inspiration for the new generation of beach brewers that have dropped in on industrial precincts like surfers on a pupil-free day.
A beaches brewer once told me “you can get anything in Brookvale” which is what makes it such a great place to brew. Beer ingredients both essential and experimental can be easily acquired and you’re never far from another brewer who can share tips, war stories and motivation. So busy is the beer scene in Brookvale that it's even led the gutter reporters at The Crafty Pint to ask if there are too many breweries in Brookvale.
But the benefit is for you, the sipper, who gets to crawl these breweries without even developing a sweat patch. Blow-in or local, it’s easy to see that there’s never been a hoppier time to be in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Before we begin, a word of advice: if it’s footy season, check if Manly have a home game on during your crawl. Brookvale breweries pack out before and after a game at 4 Pines Park, and it would suck if you didn’t get a table because the NRL's most hated fans are lining up to drown their sorrows over whichever ligament poor old Tommy Turbo has busted this time.
4 Pines Brewpub Manly
Hop off the iconic Manly ferry and look for 4 Pines in the hubbub of piss-boutique eateries. Made famous by beers that were trailblazing in their time (kolsch and nitro stouts), the flagship 4 Pines can come across as a brewery experience designed in a lab, right down to the bar menu of burgers and fried chicken designed to be washed down with crowd pleasing beers and a playlist that pillaged the best of the last eight years of triple j.
This "beer lab" description is exactly the reason that this brewery remains a solid starting destination for your Crafty Crawl. The fabled 4 Pines Keller Door continues to pump out a range of limited release masterpieces that are brewed in-house. Like the core range, the Keller Door releases cater to a crowd with a mix of seasonal fruited sours, new hop variety IPAs, and something unexpected such as imperial lagers and classic old-world beers, such as the ESB which claimed the top spot at the 2023 Sydney Royal Beer Awards, that are authentically hand pumped, much to the delight of the aforementioned English ex-pats. There are usually about four Keller Door releases available meaning you can load up a tasting paddle and get your crawl off to a ripping start.
Now head down to Stand B at the West Esplanade of Manly Wharf and get the 199 bus to the Pittwater Road stop, where it’s only a short walk to…
Named for the tranquil bay below the world-dividing Spit Bridge, Quakers Hat is a brewery all on its own in Manly Vale. Within an unassuming sand brick unit, Quakers Hat conceals a warm and wooden world with antique furniture, lantern lighting and eight taps pouring their beer. The ones with their hands on the taps are the Robinsons: brewer Cam with mum, Sue, and dad, Dave, the latter two being professional antique collectors who turned this industrial garage into a well-kept beery home. To enjoy Cam’s contributions it’s time to get sipping.
Pale Ale was Cam and Dave’s first brew, a well-malted number with a subtle mingling of floral and citrus, while their delicate Kolsch is increasingly popping up as a refreshing option in Beaches venues, but Quakers remains the best place to knock it back on tap. The bold and complex Rye IPA packs a punch and the same usually goes for the limited-release beers, while the pizzas make for great beer ballast – as do Sue’s grazing plates with cheese, cured meats and homemade pâté.
Walk down to the Condamine street bus stop and get on the Manly Vale B-Line bus to Warringah Mall, where it is only a short walk to the glorious Brookvale brewery district. These next four breweries are so close together you can do them in any order you like (but this one makes the most sense).
First opened in 2014 in a carpet warehouse that actually made good on its closing down sale (which may have been the first and last time one did that), Nomad is a classic for a reason. While found all over Sydney, Nomad have a special place in the heart of crafty Beaches locals as you can taste the Northern Beaches in the beer. Literally: they launched their gose range by pulling buckets of water from Freshwater Beach into the brew.
As the brewery name and that gose imply, Nomad’s brewing team take beer inspiration from styles around the world as well as showcasing rare and hard-to-find international beers in bottles, cans and across their whopping 36 taps.
The Nomad core range is a lineup of certified heat-beaters, including the tart Rosie’s Raspberry Sour, easy-going South Pacific Dream and the clean, crisp Budgy Smuggler Pale Ale. If you’re looking for something more extreme, there’s always an experimental IPA or stout available either on tap or, if you ask nicely, you’ll find something special hidden away in the Transit Bar Lounge where more independent Australian and international beer can be found.
Be sure to bring an appetite and some toothpicks as the in-house kitchen by Chimichurri features the most succulent Argentinian BBQ this side of several bridges.
How good is this: it’s now just a leisurely three-minute walk to our next stop...
Bucketty’s is a brewery that refuses to quit. Named for the small upper Hunter Valley town where Nick and Lexi McDonald originally wanted to set up, Bucketty’s found a home in Brookvale when that plan fell through. Several international awards and endless weekends of live music later, it’s hard to imagine a Brookvale without Bucketty’s. It’s even harder to believe the brewery only opened in 2021 and that head brewer Tony D'Astolfo only had one previous brewing job. See the success for yourself by trying to wrangle a table at 6pm on a Saturday or, better yet, taste the success first hand.
Gazing up at the towering range listed behind the bar, deciding what to drink can feel a bit intimidating, but the passionate staff are always there to supply you with as many tasters as you need to make your decision. If you’re here for the World Beer Cup award winners, bronze-winning Pale Ale No.2 was voted third best session beer in the world in 2022 and the remedy for homesick pommies, Sunday Bitter, took out Silver in the following year.
Enjoy your middy, pint or jug among the handmade wooden furniture and touches of green which make the Bucketty’s brewery feel like a much cosier venue than a warehouse has any right to be. Make Bucketty’s an earlier stop on your crawl as it is usually packed out from 5pm onwards.
It’s a mere 100 metres to our next brewery! So if you get lost, we've got concerns.
Dad & Dave's
By now, it will really sink in that you are in fact in Brookvale as you are in an old bowling alley that has been turned into a brewery, in this case a local father-son venture known as Dad and Dave’s. Traces of the brewery’s former life are visible with the old wood panel lanes repurposed as tables and bowling pins finding a new career as table numbers. I point this out because you’re likely to miss these details as you become enamoured by the sheer amount of choice across Dad & Dave’s 20 taps.
Brewed by the titular duo since 2011, the Dad & Dave’s core range features simply titled but beloved brews such as happy and hoppy Pale Ale and the complex yet repeatable Belgian IPA. Dad & Dave’s also boast several well known seasonal beers that have developed a cult following such as their Peaches and Cream Oat Cream IPA and nostalgic Pine Lime Milkshake Sour.
The food truck is affixed and similarly branded, serving an always fresh and exceedingly juicy range of burgers that are some of Sydney’s best. Additionally, Dad & Dave’s is also home to a distillery called Wildspirit Distilling Co with a selection of tapped mixers and cocktails that will delight the beer-free vegetarian who somehow got an invite.
PS: Local contract operation Surfcraft brews at Dad & Dave’s and usually has one beer available on tap, a must-try for the crafty surfer.
If you mess up this one-minute walk to our next stop then you might just have the kind of brain that wins you Liberal Party candidacy in this area!
Started by a local trio who combined their respective skillsets of branding, brewing and hospo, Freshwater Brewing opened in September 2022 after a period brewing their beers elsewhere. Aside from the brewing gear and play equipment, Freshwater (often shortened to Freshies) have a glaringly white interior that makes walking up to the pink-tiled bar the only, and most sensible, option.
Lager lovers might want to bring a seatbelt or at least something to restrain yourself as you look at the Freshies range and learn that it is primarily lager based. Loading up a tasting paddle of just lagers is always a possibility with core classics such as the crisp but funky Freshie Pils and Corona-inspired Wedge Cerveza, a citrusy refresher with Motueka hops. If you’re lucky there might be some Curly Gold, a Vienna lager that's given four mont
hs ageing in the bar adjacent lagering tank. German styles such as helles or kolsch often make seasonal appearances, as does Sparkling Ale, inspired by an early Aussie craft classic. Those wanting something more funky can ask for a hazy or side-poured amber ale but it is the range of lagers that best accompanies the modern seafood menu, which includes a fish finger butty and lobster rolls, the latter only made on Sundays to ensure freshness.
Speaking of Sundays…
7th Day Brewing Co
A crowdfunding success story, 7th Day opened their doors in 2018 in a surprisingly concealed corner of the Brookvale brewing circuit. The interior is massive but welcoming, with locals usually catching up to share surf tips around the large wooden tables. Similarly round and sharable are the pizzas from neighbouring Pizzeria Sale Pepe, one of the all-time partner dishes to a blessed round of beer. You can go full sacrilegious and order something called a pizza taco but you’ll want something holy to wash it down with.
The 7th Day core range is massive, prompting questions as to whether the brewers ever take a day of rest. Australian beer awards sit alongside some of the core range beers, which include an unfathomably rich Red IPA and a refreshingly sharp Pacific Ale that is among Sydney’s best.\
Keep a tastebud out for limited releases in their Making Waves series which pair to the season and often raise funds and awareness for local charitable causes. If Jesus returns, you could see him coming to 7th Day for a schooner. Well, there's about 22,000 beaches locals who look like him anyway.
Get back on the B1 bus at stand C and after a 30 minute scenic trip you’ll find yourself at our last stop…
Modus Mona Vale
End your crawl at one of those breweries that just makes you smile the whole time through: Modus Mona Vale. Maybe it’s the live music every weekend, the weekday happy hours, or the 100 percent green energy that makes Modus a place that makes you feel so naturally happy. Or maybe it’s the house-brewed beer across the 16 taps? Maybe? Probably. Definitely. Either way a schooner of Mona’s finest is the best thing to put in that freshly cracked smile of yours.
Their first Australian champion beer, brewed back when Modus opened in 2014, is the Former Tenant Red IPA which still pours strong and sweet to this day. Lighter options include a Mexican cerveza, XPA and the award-winning, Simcoe-heavy Pale Ale. If you’re really looking to cap off the crawl and go full dark timeline, order one of their wicked limited releases which you can sample on a tasting paddle of six (100ml each) for $25.
If the beer with alcohol wasn’t satisfying enough, Modus is also home to NORT Brewing, one of the upstanding names in ultra-low alcohol beer with the likes of a pale ale and ambitious IPA both coming in under 0.5 percent ABV. If someone has been a designated driver for the whole crawl, you better be buying them a case of this stuff or better yet, some takeaways they can enjoy at home.
Some more options:
- Wings & Tins Dee Why: Does what it says on the tins.
- Cromer Cellars, North Curly Cellars, Winona Wine and Porters Liquor Balgowlah: All top spots for ensuring the fridge at home is loaded with crafty deliciousness.
- The Beach Club Collaroy: Independent craft beer, including their own pale ale, with possibly the best beach view in the Northern Beaches.
- Tokyo Joe: Sushi restaurant that’s one of the few places you can get Beaches Brewing on tap.
- 4 Pines Truck Bar: 20 taps, shuffleboard, foosball and footy – an easy extra stop in Brookvale.
- Sketch Manly: Drop in for the unlikely combo of specialty coffee, Indian food and craft beer.
- Manly Leagues Club: A deceptively good beer lineup for an NRL venue.
You'll find the breweries, bars and bottleshops above alongside hundreds of other good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.
Photo at the top of the article provided by Northern Beaches Council.