I have a theory. Actually, if you’ve ever had a beer with me you’ll know I’m not short of them, but this particular theory is that if you live in Melbourne and hang around with a group of mates who all love good beer you are more likely to use the phrase ‘craft beer revolution’ than someone who lives in, say, Sydney or Brisbane.
That’s because if you live in Melbourne there are any number of great bars, restaurants and bottle shops that you can go to and enjoy the best of the beer being brewed by Australian breweries as well as great imports. The popular uprising that is Good Beer Week could only have happened on the scale it has in Melbourne, such is the depth of beer’s penetration in that city. You’re never too far away from a beer-stocked bar, restaurant or bottle shop and, when you are, you have friends around to talk to about great beer.
Essentially if you like good beer and live in Melbourne, you can pretty much live in a little craft beer bubble and tell yourself the world around you is swimming in good beer.
In other cities we’re still not so lucky. Good beer bars and restaurants are almost like stepping stones in a rather turgid river. The beer lover has to plan his journey in advance, picking their path across the river jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone in order to find somewhere that has something other than a uniform selection of lagers. All too often, there is no alternative but to get wet.
Coogee Cafe Cafe After Dark is one of the stepping stones that has sprung up in the Sydney providing a haven for those who love beer.
Run by Dan Hampton of Beer Snobs fame the cafe aims to bring Coogee locals the area’s first small food, wine and beer hangout targeted at those who appreciate and enjoy delicious food while drinking and supporting quality, Australian craft beer and wine.
Dan said the cafe was a result of his love of all things Aussie craft beer.
“About 7 years ago my eyes were opened upon tasting Little Creatures US-style Pale Ale. I realised that beer can have body, flavour & aroma, something that most Aussie mainstream beers lack,” Dan says.
“After further research – involving reading anything by Willie Simpson and Michael Jackson… and of coarse drinking beer – I also realised that beer had varieties much the same as wine.
“Unfortunately this lead me to be constantly disappointed at the lack of beer options when at the footy, cricket, music festivals, pubs and especially restaurants. I couldn’t understand why restaurateurs would spend so much time and effort ensuring their wine list had depth in style, variety and price, but their beer list would be four or five lagers with little to no distinguishing features.”
At the time Dan was working in the industry as a waiter and then manager of various licensed cafes and restaurants and was staging something of a guerrilla campaign to get beer included on the menu.
“I was doing my best to rectify what I saw as a problem, often against bosses will. Then a year or so ago, I created Beer Snobs, a beer appreciation events company, based here in Sydney,” Dan recounts.
“All of a sudden I was travelling to various bars and restaurants, hosting beer tastings, beer and food matching events and basically just talking about, and drinking beer.
“The next obvious step was to get a ‘home’ for Beer Snobs which is when Coogee Café After Dark came about. Now the only thing restricting my beer list is storage and fridge space!”
Dan’s approach isn’t just to provide good beer but also to look at how it can match with his menu.
“Each night we make a couple of beer and food matching suggestions on the blackboard, but as most people that come in order loads of food and share, it’s kind of hard to always match,” he says. “But as you know, most beer matches most food, whether it’s complimenting, contrasting or cleansing the palate ready for the next mouthful.”
“I’ll attempt to make it to every table at some point to chat about beer and maybe suggest a few beers to try with what they’ve ordered. A lot of customers come in and just let me choose their beers for the night which is easier for them and fun for me.”
While Melbournites may talk about beer revolutions, we need more individual rebels such as Dan leading smaller incursions against bastions of generic lager before it’s a national revolution. And in Coogee Cafe After Dark, those like-minded sympathisers plotting the craft beer revolution now have a safe haven.
Want to join the People’s Front for Good Beer? Dan has a tasting of some of Sydney’s best beer with food set for 31 May…
Coogee Cafe After Dark
221 Coogee Bay Road
Coogee NSW 2034
Tel: 02 9665 5779