The Empire Hotel in Annandale has been doing some really interesting things since it launched. They have a good craft beer focus and their support of local breweries is plain to see.
I asked Hotel Manager, Kate Marsden, a few questions about what’s driving the passion for craft beer at the Empire Hotel and in the local area.
Those that have visited the pub will know that it has two bars. One is definitely craftier in its offering. This seems a purposeful set up to serve two different groups of clientele. However, craft beer seems to be drawing more and more people in.
Kate says, “The craft beers are in the space we created to have a bit of a small bar vibe, whereas the public bar is more your traditional Aussie pub feel. However, the craft we have been putting out there has been some of the fastest sellers, so it really is not exclusive.”
Saturday Arvo Craft Beer Club
As the popularity of the craft taps grew and grew it led to the start of the Empire’s beer club.
Kate says, “We had just been plugging away and doing our own thing with craft beers, without all the fanfare and promotion that happens sometimes, and it was going well and we realised there were people out there who just love good beer and are keen to share it with others but in a chilled out and relaxed, casual way, so we decided to do the Saturday Arvo Craft Beer Club.”
“Nothing formal, no voting or pitting breweries against each other, no speeches, no winners; just craft beer lovers enjoying great beer together at a bargain price on a Saturday afternoon.”
And it’s so far, so good for the beer club. There’s been a space for this more relaxed style of beer event. Particularly as it gives craft beer geeks access to the brewers.
Kate says, “It means that people can really ask the questions they want to and have a good conversation with the brewers one on one.”
Always a Focus on Craft
Kate used to be at another favourite craft beer venue, Forest Lodge Hotel. The Flodge went contract free and this inspired Kate to do the same at the Empire: “We are contact free here and it’s the best. It’s so great to have the freedom and be able to try different things and create events around different beers.”
People’s appetite for good beer is changing but price is often the main barrier to entry. “People are certainly more open to it than they used to be,” says Kate, “but for beginners we always try to have a range of prices as sometimes the deciding factor as to someone trying a new craft beer or not is the price point. That’s why we try to keep all schooners in the public bar on the lower end.”
Craft Beer Growing in the Local Area
How long local punters have an excuse not to try good beer remains to be seen.
The Empire Hotel fits neatly into this crafty circle. Kate says, “There hasn’t been a great deal on offer over this side before the last few years, which is surprising being such a major road with such accessibility to so many suburbs and the city.”
However, for Kate, the recent growth in this area is just following the trend set throughout the rest of the Inner West. Camperdown, Annandale and the surrounds are just catching up with the rest. “I think you can’t go too far these days without finding another brewery popping up and craft beer has been on the Inner West radar for a long time with so many ‘gypsy brewers’ hailing from the Inner West.”
But what does the future hold? Well, according to Kate, more craft beer focused events: “I’m working on some more ideas for beer dinners.”
As well as this, we’ll see vertical tastings and collaboration brews, like the Inner West Empire which was brewed for Sydney Craft Beer Week 2015.
There are many people in Sydney who help make craft beer what it is. Kate is one of them. She has an obvious knowledge and passion for craft beer.
I’d encourage fans of good beer to get along to the Saturday Arvo Beer Club. You can find out more on the Empire Hotel website.