If Mountain Culture Beer Co was in Marrickville, you’d already know about it. The Katoomba brewery, which opened late last year, is one of the most ambitious breweries ever to open in Australia. Just looking at the beers on offer may not tell that story, but the presence of a reverse-osmosis filter should (more on that later).
The brewery is run by husband-and-wife duo DJ and Harriet McCready. DJ, who hails from North Carolina in the US, won acclaim at Mona Vale’s Modus Operandi Brewing (which won many industry awards during his tenure) and at Colorado’s Oskar Blues brewery before that. Here, he wants to take the craft to another level.
He’s doing that by working with water, which is where that filter comes in. “What it does is strips our water back to base level. It removes all the minerality, the chlorine, the fluoride, and brings the water back to absolute base. That allows us to build the water profile we want to then build each beer individually,” he explains. “We can match the water profile in the Czech Republic or Ireland. Beyond matching we can treat our brewing water as another ingredient.”
This is rare in Sydney and uncommon anywhere outside the world’s most serious breweries. But that’s not all. Mountain Culture also controls the pH level of the water, imports special yeast strains and uses unmodified grain – all to increase its options for brewing styles and flavours. It sounds extremely technical, and it is – you should hear McCready talk about it – but in practice it means more control over the product. “Even though it’s a total pain in the ass,” McCready says with a laugh.
For you, that means better-quality beers. It doesn’t necessarily equate to more niche beers, though – this isn’t genre-bending stuff like Marrickville’s Wildflower.
“We want to cater [to] people who’ve never had a craft-beer experience in their life to people who would be beer judges internationally,” says McCready.
The lager is a good, simple introductory brew to try. “It’s the most similar in colour, alcohol and all that to a mainstream lager, but it really showcases how much effort we put into the beer,” says McCready. At the other end of the spectrum, you might be looking at an aromatic Double Red IPA, the Imperial stout-styled Eudaimonia, or even a one-off experimental brew. When you visit, just ask them what’s on tap.
In the future you might be able to get all of those beer in bars in Sydney, but for now, many of the brews are hard to find outside the Katoomba brewery (which is located in a beautiful heritage building just off the main Katoomba drag).
In fact, its rarity is one of the reasons it’s built a cult following. Mountain Culture is the only brewery in greater Sydney canning every single small-batch release (most only can a couple), branding each one individually and selling them – often at one unit per customer. Which means ale aficionados make the pilgrimage to the Blue Mountains to buy and collect the one-off creations.
Before Mountain Culture moved into the space it housed a Civic Video, and before that a press. “We would walk around thinking this is such a great space for a brewery. We’d even map out a floor plan. The drama section would be the vats; this would be that. We were just thinking ‘come on Katoomba, what about Netflix, we want to open a brewery’,” says Harriet.
The fit-out is simple but elegant – long timber benches on an open-air back veranda, simple tables with stools in the front, and a long bar and kitchen between. The kitchen serves American-style burgers, tater tots, fries and not much else.
“We wanted this to be a brewery first and foremost. We don’t want this to feel like a pub, an RSL or a restaurant. The food is designed to be great to have with a few beers. This isn’t fine dining – maybe a fine drinking experience. But the food is just supposed to go well with the beers.”
Mountain Culture Beer Co
23-25 Parke Sreet, Katoomba
Tue & Wed 11am–4pm
Thu & Fri 11am–9pm
Sat & Sun 11am–4pm