Just when you thought Sydney’s craft-beer scene couldn’t get much craftier, another brewery joins the fray. Bucketty’s Brewing Co joins Brookvale’s rapidly expanding “hop zone” of brewpubs, which already counts 7th Day Brewery, Nomad, Dad & Dave’s and the 4 Pines Truck Bar in its circle. Happy as they are to be on the insular peninsula, co-founders Nick and Alexi McDonald originally had their sights set on a different location.
“Bucketty’s is actually a place in the lower Hunter Valley,” Nick tells Broadsheet. “Alexi and I share a block of land up there with her dad. It’s proper Aussie bush: 300-odd acres of massive gum trees you can’t put your arms around. Eucalyptus as far as the eye can see.
“We bought that place about six years ago and fell in love with it. Then the block next door came up for sale, which had 300 metres of road frontage on the tourist trail to the Hunter Valley. We thought it would make such a great spot for a brewery. Corrugated iron, natural timbers, a really relaxed vibe in the middle of the bush. Grow our own hops and do the real paddock-to-pint thing.”
Long story short, the McDonalds got the green light from council, planted cascade and centennial hop vines and dropped a motza on the site. They wooed locals with a landlord’s shout (a free round) – only to discover that a few neighbours were dead against the idea of a microbrewery on the block.
The opposition dug in on a zoning technicality. When the state government redefined craft brewing as light industry in 2019 – right after the McDonalds bought the site – it meant fewer headaches for new breweries trying to get industrial space in Sydney. It also meant Bucketty’s couldn’t trade; light industry is prohibited in rural zones. And Bucketty is as rural as it gets.
“The crazy thing is we can sell the beer, have a function centre and a pub, grow all the shit to make the beer – we just can’t turn it from raw ingredients into beer. We have to take it to an industrial area to do that,” Nick says. “So that was pretty shit. Heartbreaking, at the time.”
After that saga, the couple put their plans on ice and headed to Curl Curl for a sea change. But Bucketty’s was still on their minds. “We love everything it represents, that really organic side of things and the community. Everything that’s great about Australia, really. We thought, let’s bring that to Brookvale,” says Nick.
And they’ve done just that, corrugated iron and all. The industrial-tinged Brookvale taproom is filled with vestiges of the original Hunter Valley site. The bar is made from swathes of ironbark timber, milled from a fallen giant in the Bucketty bushland. The robust steel frames on every table were welded by a local craftsperson. The feature table is crafted from 100-year-old wooden beams, salvaged from a bridge near Mount Yengo that was incinerated in the January bushfires.
“It’s thick and heavy and it takes three guys to lift one beam. It still has the char from the fires, but now it’s this massive table that can seat 24 people,” says Nick.
The done thing for most breweries is to build up a core range of beers (usually a flagship pale ale, a boozy IPA and a sessionable lager), then rotate seasonal styles in small batches. Think blonde beers and fruit-forward sours in summer; fortifying malt-driven styles such as stouts and porters in winter.
Bucketty’s has no plans to walk the beaten path. Head brewer Tony D’Astolfo – formerly of Six Strings Brewing on the Central Coast – is keen to see what people like and simply brew more of it. For now, you might find a hazy pale ale at the top of the list, followed by a clean American-style lager and a wet-hopped ale, using hop flowers from those vines up in Bucketty (the original site is now a dedicated function space).
Nick says they’ll also run guest taps with local beers such as Quakers Hat Brewing, plus wines and a few cocktails. A food truck serves drinking-friendly food, including burgers, lamb skewers and a $20 rump steak.
“We try to be hyperlocal so everyone from the northern beaches comes through,” he says. “The fun of having a brewery comes from enjoying time with punters in the venue. It’s not about putting beer in a can, sticking it in a box and putting it on a truck. We’re not interested in selling to the big boys.”
Bucketty’s Brewing Co
26 Orchard Road, Brookvale
02 8350 6622
Wed to Fri 5pm–late