One of the first things you notice when you walk into Slow Lane Brewery’s warehouse is a wall lined with wine barrels. Order a drink from the Scandi-timber bar and chances are it’ll come in a glass not dissimilar to what you’d get at a winery. Are we in the right place?
“Many of our beers are left to age in oak barrels,” brewer and co-owner Alex Jarman tells Broadsheet. “It’s a more traditional method for building flavours, and it’s how a lot of old ales were made.”
Old-world European beers are the focus at Slow Lane Brewing – but they’re interpreted in exciting and modern ways. You’ll find a new take on grisette, a traditional Belgian ale popular in old mining communities; a 14 per cent English-style barley wine (a strong ale); and a Belgian blonde ale inspired by recipes traditionally brewed by Trappist monks.
“We just wanted to do things differently,” says Jarman.
His interest in brewing was piqued when he moved to New York in 2012 and saw how local craft breweries were putting modern spins on the traditional European beers he loved. His wife Yvonne Jarman bought him a home-brewing kit – “It wasn’t very long before it was too big for our New York apartment,” he says – but soon enough he’d quit his job in financial services to learn the craft at commercial breweries in California. Two years later, the pair returned to Sydney to launch their own brewery.
Jarman says his approach to brewing hasn’t changed all that much since his home-brew days. Keeping things relatively small-scale means creativity can trump efficiency. His Resting Place Hoppy Sour Ale is brewed using an experimental new yeast strain that was recently discovered growing on a tree in a Philadelphia graveyard. Jarman is the first brewer in Australia to get his hands on it, and says “it’s the sort of risk bigger breweries just wouldn’t have the time or capacity to take”.
Then there’s the Old Russet, a Belgian sour-brown ale that’s aged for six months in wine barrels. Tasting something like a sour to start, it slowly evolves in the mouth into a dark brown before finishing with rich notes of hazelnut. Interesting is an understatement, but it’s a flavour profile not common in other beers (new or old), and it really reflects what Slow Lane is about.
Jarman already has 14 beers on the go, but he’s constantly playing with new concepts. “Ideally I’d like to make a new beer each week, but it takes me too long to come up with a new name and design for the cans,” he says, laughing.
The labels are delightful, covered in pastel colours and geometric shapes. “The design is inspired by an aerial view of Botany, with its storage sheds, ports and warehouses,” explains Yvonne.
Drinkers in the sleek tasting room sit among the silver brewing tanks, which are tapped at the bar (beers are also available to take away in cans). For non-beer-drinkers there’s also a range of wine, cider and local spirits. Bring your dog, bring your own food (or order in from nearby restaurants), but most importantly, bring an open mind to this innovative style of brewing.
Slow Lane Brewing
30 Byrnes Street, Botany
(02) 9121 6279