In Arts + Entertainment

Beer and Yoga? Sydney Beer Week Has Some Unlikely Pairings

You’d be forgiven for believing most of Sydney’s breweries are clustered in the inner west. But at Sydney Beer Week (Oct 26 – Nov 4), which bills itself as the city’s largest celebration of the amber stuff, the greater metropolitan Sydney gets a look-in.

“We have stayed pretty close to the original format, with the name change and wider geographical focus reflecting the growing appeal of quality beer and increase in breweries and styles on the market,” says festival director Dave Phillips.

Diversity is key to the eighth annual Sydney Beer Week (SBW). There’s over 130 events on offer, and while most are hosted in the inner west and inner city surrounds, there’s a healthy sprinkling of events in the western suburbs (Rouse Hill’s Australian Brewery and Easy Lane in Windsor) and in the northern beaches (including breweries Modus Operandi in Mona Vale, and Nomad in Brookvale).

Over the ten-day festival, there’s the return of some crowd-favourite events (like the pooch-friendly Dogtown II) and some off-the-beaten track additions: a bourbon-and-beer mash up, a dangerous-sounding Beer Olympics, and a Dad Rock Sunday Session (BYO trucker hats).

It might be a cliche to say there’s ‘something for everyone’, but considering the variety of events on offer, there’s a ring of truth to the platitude.

“If you like food, sport, games, music, comedy, cheese, science, history or just good banter, you will find an event to suit you,” says Phillips.

Formerly known as Sydney Craft Beer Week, the team made a decision to drop the “craft” moniker to reflect of how the local beer industry has matured. “The conversation is not about craft or mainstream – it’s more about what kind of beer people like to drink,” says the SBW website.

So, it’s not just run-of-the mill lagers and pale ales you’ll find at the festival. It tips its hat to the rising popularity of sour beer – a tart, acidic varietal with Belgian origins. At the Basement Brewhouse at Bankstown Sports Club, there’s a hops vs sour beer taste-off, where participating breweries supply one hop-centric and one sour-style beer, and punters vote for their favourite beverage on tap. Marrickville’s Batch Brewing Co will also host a one-off Sourfest, featuring an international range of sour beers; and there are several mouth-puckering sours on offer at Spooning Goats in the CBD.

“Whilst beer is the common theme throughout the week, we challenge all the event holders to come up with something different. Every year they surprise us with little tweaks to favourite events or completely new concepts,” says Phillips.

Ergo, beer drinkers can keep the beer gut at bay with the “beer cycling cruise”. Commencing at the Opera House, bikers will pedal their way to four breweries dotted around Sydney Harbour, including The Pumphouse and Beer Deluxe. In an unlikely pairing, SBW features a beer and yoga event. It’s a one-hour vinyasa yoga session in the morning, followed by a bottomless beer brunch at the recently opened Four Points by Sheraton in Chippendale.

It’s these events that gets Phillips most excited about attracting the “beer curious” to the SBW events.

“[It’s great] for those who are progressing their beer education, or are just in it for a bit of fun,” he says.

Gourmands, too, can jointly whet their whistle and appetite at SBW. While diners may typically pair their fine-dining meals with a fine wine, there’s a trend towards matching good food with good beers. This year’s SBW is the first to feature ‘hatted’ Sydney restaurants on the program: Chippendale’s Automata is hosting a four-course collab dinner with Modus Operandi brewery; and at OTTO in Woolloomooloo, head chef Richard Ptacnik will create a dinner menu based on the six ingredients of ale-brewing: barley, rye, hops, yeast and water.

There’s also a night of beer and cheese at Darlinghurst’s The Taphouse (with cheese supplied by curd enthusiasts Stinking Bishops), and beer and food pairings from Belles Hot Chicken and burger purveyors Bar Luca.

“[These events] are further recognition of the recognition of how far good beer has infiltrated Sydney’s hospitality scene,” says Phillip.

Making its popular return is the Hair of the Dog Breakfast, a six-course brunch paired with beers selected by the Rocks Brewing Co and the SBW team. Hosted on the last weekend of the festival, punters are encouraged to nab their tickets as early as possible – the crowd-favourite event sold out in 2017.

The groundswell of support from Sydney’s beer-drinking community contributes to the repeated success of the festival.

“SBW that grows noticeably each year – not just the number of attendees we have coming to the events, but also the number of event holders and businesses looking to get involved,” says Phillips.

He also encourages non-beer drinkers to attend the festival. “If you’re … not (yet) a beer drinker, you will still be entertained by a group of passionate producers and a community that supports them,” he says.

Sydney Beer Weeks kicks off with a Gala Opening at the Australian National Maritime Museum on Friday 26 October. Tickets to all events are on sale at sydneybeerweek.com.au

Published 30 September, 2018