Right in the centre of Sydney lies craft beer nirvana. Here are some tips on what you should pick up at The Oak Barrel.
Let’s face it. Craft beer is expensive. And, for the most part, it should be. You get what you pay for; premium ingredients and premium craftsmanship.
You’re also paying for economies of scale. Smaller, independent breweries can’t produce on the same scale as macro breweries, so they can’t make (or pass on) the savings achieved from purchasing ingredients in bulk and producing efficiently.
So, sinking a few schooners (or tulip glasses) in a trendy craft beer bar can soon start to sting your pocket. That’s where great bottle shops come in. It can still be expensive but you’ll have a much wider choice and a variety of price points in which to dip your toes.
Picking up a mixed six pack is an awesome way to experience a range of different styles and broaden your craft beer horizons. That’s if you can keep it to just six.
The Oak Barrel on Elizabeth Street is one of the best craft beer bottles shops in Sydney.
With over six hundred different beers at last count, including an enormous range of Australian beer, you can’t go wrong. There are refrigerators full of interesting looking bottles and six packs, including a lot of the big boys (VB, Carlton etc.).
Walk round the corner, however, and you’ll find the craft beer cavern. Shelves upon shelves of beer organised by country of origin.
Buy smart or buy local
As with buying craft beer anywhere, think about the freshness. Beer takes a long time to come to Australia from elsewhere, so that super hoppy IPA from the US might not be as fresh as the brewer would like it to be.
Particularly with hop-forward beers such as pale ales and IPAs, you’ll want to check the bottled on or best before date, if you can find it on the bottle.
The Oak Barrel seem pretty good at maintaining fresh stock but everywhere misses the odd bottle occasionally. It’s just another reason to try some beers local to Sydney.
They’ll be as fresh as can be. Some will have been bottled or canned within the week.
Sign up to the newsletter for the best deals
I recommend signing up for their newsletter, where they’ll let you know what’s new in whisky, wine and beer. You might even find out about free tastings, which are always worth attending, and ticketed events.
They always include a link to their craft beer page, which is updated every week with the new stuff they get in. I check it more than once a week.
The service is excellent and the staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. I’ve definitely learned things talking to them and they’re happy for you to ask them questions or ask for recommendations. Do it. It’s worth it as you might find something you wouldn’t otherwise have picked up.
If you tell people you have membership at a bottle shop you might get some funny looks, or a concerned arm around the shoulder. But here, you should say it with pride.
$25. That’s it. Forever. Then you get 10% off every purchase. There are some T&Cs that are worth checking out but I’ve saved hundreds of dollars buying incredible beers.
You also get priority access and discount on certain events. If you’re in the city regularly and you want to buy craft beer, this is a must have.
As you walk towards the beer cave, you’ll see a couple of taps hammered into the wall. These are for growler fills. You can buy a plastic 750ml bottle or bring in your own growler and get it filled up with whatever they have.
Prices vary but generally the quality doesn’t. There’s some fantastic local beers and some from further afield. It’s definitely worth checking out the website to see what they have on.
Where to start
The range of beers can be daunting so here are a few tips for mixed six packs that you should be able to pick up from The Oak Barrel. They usually have this stuff in stock but obviously supplies vary.
You can always ask the staff there for a good substitute. Otherwise, just pick up a cardboard six pack container that will be hanging on the shelves and get filling it.
Sydney craft beer starter pack
- 4 Pines Hefeweizen
- 4 Pines Keller Door (seasonal and limited batches, get whatever they have and give it a try)
- Young Henrys Hop Ale tinnie
- Rocks Brewing Boxer Red Ale
- Batch American Pale Ale
- Nomad Long Trip Saison
Aussie craft beer newbie
- Murrays Angry Man Brown Ale (NSW)
- Moo Brew Belgo (TAS)
- Two Birds Sunset Ale (VIC)
- Stone & Wood Pacific Ale (NSW)
- Brew Cult Thanks Captain Obvious IPA (Vic)
- Feral Hop Hog (WA)
- 4 Pines Stout
- Mornington Peninsula Porter
- Holgate Temptress
- Australian Brewery Into The Void Oatmeal Stout
- Batch Elsie The Milk Stout
- Doctor’s Orders Iron Lung Black Imperial Pilsner
Best of the rest of the world
When The Oak Barrel imports so many high quality beers from around the world, you can be spoilt for choice. And sometimes, to broaden your horizons, you might want to look beyond Aussie beer.
If you do, the following breweries are a great place to start (but by no means exhaustive, so pick up whatever catches your eye)!
- Garage Project (NZ) – Hip and edgy craft brews straight over the pond. Check out their awesome tinnies.
- Samuel Smith (UK) – One of England’s oldest breweries, still making natural, handcrafted traditional ales.
- Brewdog (UK) – Edgy, punky and prolific. They led the craft beer revolution in the UK.
- Stone (USA) – Kings of hops. These are now delivered fresh from the US. Check out their IPAs.
- Anything Belgian – Saison Dupont, Chimay etc.
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am-8:30pm, Sat: 11am-8pm, Sun: Closed
If you’ve checked out The Oak Barrel, or you have a membership there, tell me your beer tips in the comments. Or subscribe to SydneyBeer to get more insight on the local craft beer scene.