The Pumphouse sits in the middle of a tourist bazaar in Sydney. Sandwiched between the Sydney Entertainment Centre and Exhibition Centre and a short walk from Darling Harbour, it services concert-goers, visiting businessmen and overseas travellers who pass through its doors either deliberately or by chance in the course of transit. The Pumphouse also serves as a bit of a mecca for beer enthusiasts and new craft beer converts, boasting one of the most impressive tap and bottled beer lists in Sydney.
Originally used in the early 80s as an outlet for the Tank Stream brewery, the Pumphouse has maintained its beer heritage, but has diversified to offer more choices to regulars and visitors alike. Bar supervisors Liam Pereira and Bronwen Andrews-Baxter have been spearheading the service of craft beer at the Pumphouse since 2009. They say the bar is unique in the Sydney landscape, since they offer a choice between the ubiquitous macro-brewed beers and their assortment of craft beer from local and imported sources.
“I see it as sort of where the battle line is,” Pereira says. “People can go to other venues that only serve craft beer, and they’ve already been won over because they’ve walked into the building. For us it’s about being the place where they can have a Tooheys New if they want, and being able to win them over.”
“We do have to have introductory craft beers available,” continues Andrews-Baxter,“and sometimes you’ll still get people going ‘Yeah, I’ll just have a Tooheys New’ after you’ve given them twelves tastes of what’s on tap and a 20-minute spiel. But we sort of like that, anyway.”
Although their location provides them with a constant flow of customers, Pereira is looking to establish more of a footing in the Sydney craft beer scene, and is hoping to take the first step during Sydney Craft Beer Week. The Pumphouse is hosting a Beer Trivia party on Wednesday 26th October, and will be combining the event with a ‘meet & greet’ session with three prominent figures in the beer community: Michael Lonard from Beer Importers & Distributors, as well as Warwick & Kylie Little, founders of the Little Brewing Company in Port Macquarie. Little Brewing Company and the Pumphouse have a solid relationship going back many years.
“The first thing I wanted to do was get the Little Brewing Company involved, because we’ve had a pretty good relationship…even before I was working at the Pumphouse,” Pereira says.
Kylie Little, co-founder of the Little Brewing Company, confirms that the two businesses have a history.
“Initially, to get our beer on tap, we provided one of those little bench-top portable kegs that sat in the corner…and we’ve gravitated now to a permanent tap,” she said.
Kylie and husband Warwick set up their brewery and cellar door in Port Macquarie over four years ago, and have slowly built the business, gaining popularity in Sydney and Newcastle among other beer centres. Both Kylie and Liam agree that having Warwick at the Pumphouse is a rare coup.
“He’s usually a very shy man,” Pereira tells me.
“I’ve been discussing with him for a while about getting him to come down to the bar, and so this is the excuse to get him to do it.”
Beyond the brewer meet and greet session, the Pumphouse’s plans for the evening involve a beer trivia party; one that can be enjoyed by both beer geeks and people who just enjoy a good night out.
“It’s designed to involve all people who are into beer,” Pereira says.
“We take our beers seriously but we don’t try to force beer down people’s throats. We want it to be as casual as possible.”
Both Pereira and Andrews-Baxter are excited about their involvement in Sydney Craft Beer week, and see it as an opportunity to expand their audience, both as a venue and as part of a growing craft beer scene in Sydney.
“What I really want to do is instil this as a craft beer venue in Sydney, because it is, and not everybody knows us. We want to be doing more craft beer events, and we’re not going to wait until the next Craft Beer festival,” Pereira says.
Andrews-Baxter adds that they are embracing the event to show a united front for the beer scene in Sydney.
“Because we are the little sister to Melbourne in a lot of ways. I’d like to feel Sydney pride a little bit, and show that there are more venues out there,” he said.
“I always have daydreams of moving to Melbourne and running the best beer bar, but then I wake up and say no, bugger that, we need to do that here. And if I run away, who else is going to stay here and fight the fight?” Pereira adds.
The Pumphouse Trivia Party kicks off at 6PM Wednesday 26th October. Find out more at www.sydneybeerweek.com or call the Pumphouse at 02 8217 4100.