There’s probably some neat-and-vaguely-plausible theory to be elaborated about the psychogeography of a suburb called “Newtown”. I can only speak from experience about the two closest ones — in Wellington and Sydney — but they’re similar-enough in sufficiently-numerous ways to make me wonder if their history as the first-established alternate center of a city is enough to stamp them forever as a wonderful home to the non-dominant demographic and/or freshly migrated and/or just somewhat odd.
Anyway, the New-South-Welsh one is lovely, and I’ve had several enjoyable days wandering through it. It’s also blessed with its own brewery — the unaccountably unapostrophe’d1 Young Henrys — beers from which I first sampled at The Courthouse, a charming back-street bar to which I’ll happily return, despite their minor sins of a) bringing out the dodgy polycarb non-glass-glassware on the weekends (as if we were all going to start a riot and start shanking each other) and b) using “local beer” as a euphemism for “mainstream crap” in their Happy Hour rules such that the Y.H. stuff (though still a bargain) wasn’t eligible despite being from within rock-throwing distance, while Carlton Draught counted even though it’s from a whole ’nother fucking state.2
There’s a little cellar-door-and-bar attached to the brewery, and I made damn sure to pay them a visit these holidays having missed them — and their rather-restrictive opening hours3 — on a previous stop. And I’m glad I did; it’s a gorgeous little spot, a damn-near-perfect little in-house bar. If only they could stay open a little later, especially in the summer. You’re basically right there in the brewery, with nothing to separate you from the reality of the place as somewhere were work is done and it brings a lovely laid-back sense of open welcome which the staff nicely continue with amiably professional service and plenty of help for anyone unfamiliar with their offerings. It’s got a charmingly odd style, with nice little quirky touches all over the place that never seem overwrought or fake; you get the impression it’s a genuine local for a good number of people and a space that reflects the personalities of those who spend their days there.
The beers embody (intentionally or not) a nicely pub-first mentality; they skew hugely towards the sessionable and the simple-but-tasty, finding plenty of nuance and interest to be had within pretty damn friendly bounds. ‘Newtowner’ is an even-handed hoppy-and-golden thing, bordered nicely by their ‘Natural Lager’, being lighter and easier still, and the ‘Real Ale’, satisfyingly richer and apparently also gangbusters on handpump — an option I was talked-out-of on the day, given the weather. Instead, I ended my little visit two things I’d normally avoid: a cider, which was perfectly endearing and quaffable, and a much-boozier cherry saison, which did very well to throw nice doses of fruit flavour without coming across all candy-ish and phony as too-often happens.
They’ll quickly tell you of expansion plans, when you compliment them on their cute little setup,4 but hopefully they’re not self-conscious about for-now being a relatively-obscure suburban brewery. They do it very well indeed.
1: Coopers always confused me, as Australia’s other famously non-possessively-styled brewery. But I suppose, by now at least, they’re so multi-generational that it’s just a proud plural. I’m still not sure about Y.H.’s reasons — weirdly, people tend not to address these questions on their websites — but managed to get a mangled version of Supergrass’ ‘Alright’ stuck in my head just thinking about it: “We are young / we are free / we don’t need / no ’postrophe”. And if that now suddenly transfers to your brain and earworms you, I sincerely apologise. ↑
2: In the interests of full disclosure and Good Mental Hygiene, it’s worth pointing out that these two observations draw from two separate visits, the latter from my holiday last Easter(ish) — the write-up of which has languished a little unloved in my Drafts folder as ‘A New South Wales Travelogue in ≈38.5 Beers’ — so it’s at least possible that they’ve traded the former sin for the latter. ↑
3: Which provides a nice balance to the regulator-praising in my most-recent post; all is not Utopian in Sydneytown, of course, and sensible small-bar special rules still exist alongside apparently-overly-restrictive ordinances for relatively-suburban operations like this.↑
4: So, it must be said, will seemingly everyone in these corners of the market — even those you know to’ve already expanded, relatively-recently. It’s a terrifyingly exciting time in the beer business, and it must be keeping the steelworkers busy.↑