The eve of Christmas Eve was the last serious day of beer travel on our Australian trip. We had three breweries to visit and then we were done. Almost as important, we had been putting off Christmas shopping (“Let’s just do it in Sydney…”) so we still had a number of Christmas presents to purchase. We hadn’t seen much of Sydney besides Circular Quay plus what we saw outside the taxi window. Thus, we decided a walking tour was in order.
The starting point of our day-long walk was our hotel, the Lord Nelson. Unfortunately, we left before the pub opened so we couldn’t fortify ourselves with a few pints of liquid bread. Crossing over to George St., we headed up towards the city center. Merideth popped in and out of a few stores while I dreamt about that first beer of the day. At Market St., we took a left and headed towards Hyde Park.
For those who started the walking tour with a few refreshments at the Lordie and now need to pee, there are plenty of pay toilets in Hyde Park. The cost is 50 cents.
To prove we are not complete beer heathens, I did plan our route to the first brewery so we could visit a couple of normal tourist spots. First stop was Hyde Park Barracks on the northern end of Hyde Park. The building was designed by Francis Greenway, the same gentleman who designed the complex that houses the Goulburn Brewery we visited on our second day of the trip [see “CanBEERa“]. Today, this 1819 building houses an excellent museum documenting the convict/transportation era of Australia’s history.
Walking to the southern end of Hyde Park brought us to the ANZAC Memorial. Built in 1934, the memorial is dedicated to the 120,000 men and women who served in the Australian New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the First World War. War memorials and cemeteries are one of the my favorite things to visit when traveling. With a degree in History, I find such monuments not only interesting but also powerful and moving. And I have to say, the ANZAC memorial was all three.
Strolling out the end of Hyde Park, the educational portion of the walk was over. And only blocks away was our first brewery of the day.
Located in the Macquarie Hotel, we only learned about the Schwartz Brewery from the beermen.tv guys the night before. Somewhat an embarrassing revelation for the master planner (There is a brewery in Sydney I don’t know about?), I guess Schwartz Brewery likes to fly under the radar.
There were five beers to try at Macquarie Hotel including a never heard of before Bavarian Red Lager. It was an interesting beer. But my highlight at Schwartz was the Pale Ale, made with cascade hops. Maybe I was entering the ‘ready to go home’ phase of the trip, but what reminds a California beer geek of home more than cascade hops?
Walking back towards George St., we were at Red Oak Boutique Beer Cafe, our second brewery of the day, in 20 minutes. As always, Merideth found us a seat outside, while I went inside to get our sample tray. But, there was a hitch in the plan, the brewer at Red Oak doesn’t believe in sample trays. Hmmmm… interesting… For beer travelers, this was somewhat unwelcome news as Red Oak had almost a dozen beers on draft. Perplexed, I ordered a Hefeweizen for myself and a Honey Ale for Merideth.
In place of a sample tray, Red Oak did have food and beer Tasting Boards. Costing 20 AUD, there were five to choose from: cheese, meat, vegetarian, seafood and dessert. Each board had a nibble of food paired with a beer. Merideth first ordered the cheese and followed it with the dessert. The dessert board was delicious. A nice concept but with one slight flaw; there were overlapping beers on the boards that Merideth ordered.
Red Oak was another brewery with a holiday beer. Christmas Cheer, available in 250ml bottles, had a light body perfect for summer combined with a nice amount of holiday spice. Well done.
A short walk from Red Oak had us at the bustling King Street Wharf. James Squire Brewhouse is a chain of brewpubs with locations in Sydney and Melbourne. I had received conflicting information whether they actually brewed at each location or the beer came from their production brewery.
As everyone knows by heart now, for it to count on “the List” the beer must be brewed on-site. So, it was with a great sense of relief that when we walked into the pub, we not only saw a brewer at work but also a list of the beers that were brewed there.
Ordering two of the on-site brews, Sundown Lager for Merideth and The Craic for myself, we joined the post work crowd on the patio who were just starting to get their holiday groove on. The Craic, an Irish Stout, was a really nice version of the style. Dry and roasty, the best part was the Craic wasn’t served on nitrogen.
We returned to a very crowded Lord Nelson pub. As Christmas Eve is a time to spend with family, it looked like Christmas Eve2 was the evening everyone was going to gather with friends at their favorite pub and celebrate. The Lordie appeared to be the pub of choice for many Sydney-ites. We joined the festive crowd.
It was time to rest on our laurels, relax over a few pints, and play some scrabble. We didn’t get much shopping done on Christmas Eve Eve, but we did visit three new breweries and see some cool Australian history. On Christmas Eve, we finished up our shopping and drank at the Lordie. We deserved a break after all the miles we drove and breweries we visited on our first ever trip to Australia. Christmas Day we jumped on a plane and arrived home in time to spend our second Christmas Day with the family.
Happy holidays to you and yours!