In Australia we’re conditioned by the success of lager to think that a hot summer’s day is the best time to drink beer in a pub. But one Sydney hotel shows that even a cold day provides some good drinking…if the beer is right.
From the outside Harts Pub, an easy five-minute walk from Circular Quay, looks like the old style of pub a traveller would expect to see around the back streets of the Rocks. It’s tucked away but attached to a large international hotel so still attracts locals and visitors alike. The impression as you enter is that this is just about any trendy pub in Sydney: lots of shiny floorboards, simple furniture and polished metal. It looks like it would be popular as a Friday night after work drinks spot. Don’t let this fool you though. Although it certainly fits this bill, it is much more beside. It’s a place for everyone, comfortable and welcoming.
On my visit, I got talking to the manager, Scott Morgan, at the bar. He’s the main man at Harts Pub and the head brewer for the closely related Rocks Brewing Company. Scott has been in the game for a while. He started brewing at University as a way to make cheap beer but he had a beer revelation involving Samuel Adams beer while working in the USA. This inspired his home brewing to the point he would make an annual stein beer (stone beer) until this was banned after an exploding rock incident. Professional brewing kicked off with business development work for Cryer Malt and the start up of Barons Brewing.
As well as brewing for Rocks Brewing beer Scott also does other production brewing and is working on some experimental brews for another label.
It’s great to talk to the guy who makes the beer you are drinking, particularly when he is really passionate about the beer. ‘Scotty’, as he is universally known, is a real down to earth guy and was happy to chat with everyone that passed through. He is happy to talk about all aspects of the beers and with everyone from complete novices to hardcore homebrew geeks. The pub also has a culture of ensuring their staff know beer too so they can talk knowledgeably about the beer that they serve.
At the time of my visit they had four Rocks Brewing Company beers on tap plus guest beers and cider from Australian craft brewers. You won’t find anything from the big boys nor anything contracted here. The guys at Harts are fiercely independent.
“As we own our taps, spent a heck of a lot of money on them and will not allow anyone dictate what we put on them,” Scott declares. The home beers are mostly traditional British beer styles including a bitter, porter and red ale.
“For the Rocks Brewing beers, Mark’s (owner Mark Fethers) key demand is the beers need to be drinkable, but with plenty of flavour,” Scotty advises.
The pick of the beers for hop lovers is the 1809, an excellent American-stye pale ale. The pale has great hop character and is very well balanced. Plenty of character but still very drinkable. If you’re lucky not to be driving, give the full range of the tap beers a try. If you’re stuck with the keys, like most craft breweries and good beer pubs, you can grab a tasting paddle for a small sample of each.
The food is also a focus at Harts. The food is a combination of tarted up pub grub and interesting modern Australian. The traditional Sunday roast makes for a very tasty lunch and has the added bonus of coming with a complimentary pint of Rocks beer. The lamb roast and porter make for an excellent match, and with Porter being the style of beer used to toast the raising of the flag just down the hill 212 years ago, very appropriate.
All the beers and everything about Harts has ties to the history of the Rocks area. This includes the very interesting sounding Pickled Monkey Imperial Pilsner soon to make an appearance. This beer draws it’s name from a barrel full of white spirits that a group of wharfies decided to drink in the early 1800s then later found it contained a pickled monkey for the local university. It’s a massive but deceptively easy-drinking beer according to Scotty and something to look forward to.
Harts is a great venue with great beer, food and atmosphere. At $20 for a roast lunch and a pint of craft beer in the centre of Sydney it is also exceptional value. If you get the chance to have a word with the man who makes the beer, it’s certainly worth talking beer with him.
The future looks good for Harts too. Currently working on getting their own brewery set up. This will allow for even more experimentation and higher production.
Harts is like your neighbourhood pub but with better food and beer…and just a little flashier.
Phone: (02) 9251 6030
176 Cumberland St
The Rocks, NSW 2000
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