If you were going to write a top 5 list of beer geek havens in Sydney, Bitter Phew would be on it.
Walking down Oxford Street, you might miss it. It’s quite easy to ignore the signs hanging above your head and the entry is fairly well hidden: a small gate leading to a narrow staircase.
There’s a board by the entrance which promises craft beer. This is what you need to look out for.
Up the stairs it looks like a Berlin loft apartment with its exposed walls and rafters. The furniture is slick, with leather upholstery, bar stools and nice tables. There’s some sexy light fittings and it all looks über cool.
There’ll probably be a pile of kegs lying around and there’ll be old beer bottles hiding away in alcoves in the walls.
The taps vary regularly. Sometimes there might even be just one keg of a beer before they change over to the next thing. The stainless steel taps are hammered into the wall behind the bar and the beer menu is scrawled up on a chalkboard.
It’s a beer-focused venue so the staff are more than happy to talk to you about the beers and recommend something for your tastes. You might need the help because the choice is nearly always too much. You’ll be tempted by everything.
And that’s before you get to the bottle menu. And it is that, a full menu. Pages and pages of some of the world’s greatest and most interesting beers.
At this stage I must admit, it’s one of my favourite places to get beer from Melbourne. There I said it, I’m sorry. Specifically, I’m talking about La Sirene. If they have something from the Victorian artisans, give it a try. It’s some of the best stuff being produced in Australia at the moment.
One of the things that sets Bitter Phew apart from Sydney’s other craft bars is their bottle sharing events.
The principle is simple. They get in a few bottles of special or rare beers, you bring a few mates and you share the bottles between you. It’s one of those things which is so clever and so simple that it’s hard to believe it’s not been done widely before.
Perhaps it isn’t overly profitable but it’s certainly exciting for beer geeks. Many of these beers are hard to get hold of. Many are released in 750ml bottles, which can be frustrating if you won’t be able to drink it all yourself.
By gathering a few people you can make the most of a beer which you’d otherwise never buy or at least wouldn’t finish.
Some of the special beers can be big imperial stouts or barleywines which pack a boozy punch. With these styles it’s often best to share tasters among friends.
The bottle shares run fairly regularly but it’s worth checking in at Bitter Phew to find out when the next one is. There are also other events such as board game nights.
As with the best bars in Sydney, they’re big into the local scene, so when Sydney Craft Beer Week rolls around there’s sure to be events or tap takeovers running at Bitter Phew.
In 2014 there was a tap takeover by New York craft brewery, Sixpoint. Happenings like this are an awesome opportunity to try beers which we might not otherwise get in Sydney.
There have a few bar snacks but they concede that these don’t always hit the spot, so they’re totally happy for you to pop down to Oxford Street and bring some food in. Which is awesome when Sydney favourite Mr. Crackles is just a few doors down.
All in, it’s a fantastic craft beer venue – one of the best – and it’s pretty central. They’re doing stuff which no other bar is really doing.
If you like Bitter Phew, you’ll definitely like The Local Taphouse.
Hours: Mon: 5pm-12am, Tues-Fri: 3pm-12am, Sat-Sun: 12pm-12am
Now Tapped!: https://nowtapped.com/bitterphew
If you’ve checked out Bitter Phew let me know what you thought and recommend some beers.