Yulli’s co-owner Karl Cooney muses that one day he would like to own a pub. He calls it a dream, because it’s the sort of scene where he belongs.
Realistically he should be satisfied with where he is. Despite its unassuming exterior, Yulli’s is one of the most popular fixtures of the trendy Crown Street strip in Surry Hills, with a fiercely loyal group of regulars who enjoy fine vegetarian food and one of the best local beer menus around.
His ‘dream’ of owning a pub has edged a little closer with the opening of an upstairs bar to complement the restaurant downstairs. Although Yulli’s has long possessed a licence to serve alcohol without food, the upstairs bar further cements their place as a great spot to sit and have a beer, with an additional four beer taps added to the dedicated bar.
The bar revolves around a couple of quirks that nicely service Yulli’s existing ethos of trying to build a more sustainable business. In fact, despite the useful expansion to the business, Cooney eschews talking about the bar in business terms, in favour of focusing on the two-sided project that he and partner Danielle have been working on for many years.
“We’ve tried to design a completely bottle-free bar,” Cooney says. “Why should we have everything in bottles? Why can’t we do everything in reusable receptacles? It will be fresher, less tampered with, and it will have a more constant temperature because we look after everything at our end.”
The bar itself looks interesting, with casks and taps everywhere acting as streamlined service points for beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks, and without the need for a fridge there is more space available for the bar patrons and staff.
“It’s not only about sustainability,” Cooney continues.
“But when you can make a decision to improve the way something’s always been done, why not?”
A champion of fresh, local produce, the second part of the new bar project is an extension of this philosophy: all the drinks are sourced from independent NSW-based producers. This doesn’t just include the beer and spirits but even as far as the soft drinks, which are currently produced by special arrangement by Colin Larter of Sydney’s Happy Goblin brewery.
“Why do we always source everything from overseas or even interstate, when there are so many good producers in NSW?” Cooney reflects.
Of course, the most commonly used reusable receptacle – the keg – has been a staple of beer distribution for years, so the novelty of Yulli’s upstairs bar resides mostly in their attempt to rope in other members of the liquor industry. Bathurst-based independent distillery Stone & Pine is on board to provide spirits, while the oxidation-conscious wine industry was the hardest to tap, but a couple of open-minded wineries have decided to give it a go.
“The other thing is to support local people who are trying to do really cool things; we want to celebrate that.” Cooney says.
When Yulli’s first opened for business in 2008, the original vision was more of a trendy Surry Hills hang out with good drinks and a side service of vegetarian food. While the food aspect has skyrocketed in popularity – I met Cooney at opening time on a Thursday evening and 10 minutes later the place was full – the service of local craft beer has remained a lynchpin of the business. With the opening of the new bar, and the expansion from four to eight beer taps, Yulli’s have further cemented their spot as one of the unsung heroes of the Sydney beer scene.