Willie the Boatman was named after a community legend and 1800s convict. And in little more than a year, the Newtown brewery that takes his namesake has become a household name in the Sydney craft beer industry.
Charming the pants off of the inner west community, owners Pat McInerney and Nick Newey have seen the brewery become an integral part of St Peters creative hub Precinct 75, along with Sample Coffee and the newly opened Urban Winery Sydney. If you're having trouble finding their unassuming roller door, just listen for the shouts coming from their next door neighbour, Maniax Urban Axe Throwing.
Once inside, you'll find a non-kitschy, nautical themed, rockabilly-playing hangout. It's bright, airy and not at all what you'd expect a brewery's tasting bar to look like. This matches the unusual look of the brewery itself, which consists of an automated brewing system made of converted milk vats, complete with a beer kettle that was originally a milk pasteuriser.
Proving to be one of Australia's cheapest startup breweries, WTB is in the process of expanding already. And it's no surprise that demand for their beer is so high — head brewers Newey and Joel Cook are bringing the inner west some remarkable concoctions that you don't see much of around town. "These days you can mash anything together and make a new type of beer," says McInerney. "There are no rules in the craft beer industry."
This no-rules ethos is apparent in their range of brews. The Old Salty gose — a saison-like style of beer from 14th century Germany — tastes almost briny and goes great with oysters and seafood. Our personal favourite, the Albo corn ale, is a farmhouse-style ale that is perfectly golden in colour, 'corny' on the nose and just ridiculously crisp and delicious on the palate.
The beers, much like the brewery, are all named after real people, many of whom are family and friends. The Sorry Anne hoppy summer ale is an ode and blanket apology to McInerney's wife, while the Rubi brown ale is named after Cook's dog. Note that it's Rubi, not Ruby. "It's a good thing Joel's dog's name is with an 'i' because my daughter's name is Ruby and she was not at all happy about having a beer with her name on it," says McInerney.
WTB has your back for every season and every weekend. If you're new to their beers, grab a tasting pony ($15) to give them all a go. And when you realise how class this beer is, we'll see you at the takeaway fridge.
Images: Marissa Ciampi.