“The rise of craft beer is a response to plain, insipid, mass-produced beer. Our objective is to support the local craft-beer scene, and bring more and more people to craft beer,” says Dave Phillips, owner and chief tour dude of Dave's Brewery Tours.
Dave's Brewery Tours launched earlier this year after Phillips returned to Sydney following many years working in Bangkok. A love of craft beer, a gap in the market and a desire to do something different led him to the idea for the business. “I want to help people understand brewers and brewing, and at the same time help the industry. The tours are about education and enlightenment, and experiencing good things that are local,” he says.
Dave's Brewery Tours has started with the Hipsters and Hops tour, which visits microbreweries and pubs such as Young Henrys in Newtown, The Henson and Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville, Rocks Brewing Co in Alexandria and the Royal Albert in Surry Hills. Tour-goers are picked up at Central at 11am and then bussed around to the breweries and pubs until 6pm. Phillips and his brother-in-law, Ben Cooper, run the tours.
Once there, the brewers give an overview of their operation, provide some background into the brewery's history, and explain how and why they make their beer. Phillips acts as the go-between. “We want to bring people closer to the toil and strife of what it takes to produce fine craft beer,” he says.
Ten tokens, which can be redeemed for beers at the pubs and breweries visited – one token for a small beer and two for a tasting paddle, are included in the price of the tour. And if you think that sounds like a lot of beer, it is spread out over seven hours, and a hearty lunch at the Henson is included. “Of all the tours we've done, only one guy got really drunk – and it turns out he was buying 'in-betweeners,'” says Phillips.
Dave's Brewery Tours hopes to expand in the coming months. The planned Northern Exposure route will visit breweries north of the harbour such as 4 Pines, and the Wild West tour will stop by Riverside Brewing Co in Parramatta and the Australian Hotel Brewery at Rouse Hill. Phillips is investigating bespoke itineraries for corporate clients and possibly even running longer jaunts to breweries on the South Coast and in the Hunter.
Phillips also has further plans in the craft-beer market, and is looking to introduce a hop-on, hop-off bus service which will link notable craft-beer spots. The idea is that a couple of buses will travel between venues on a Saturday, making it easy to visit multiple pubs and breweries. The idea comes from Phillips' time overseas. “When I lived in Bangkok, it was so easy to get around. You could go out for a night without worrying about taxis. When I got back to Sydney, I realised how spread out everything was, and how much harder it was to go from place to place.”
For now though, the focus remains on building his start-up tour business, and spreading the word about Sydney's ever-evolving craft-beer scene. Phillips is constantly seeking out new and exciting craft-beer makers, all with the goal of sharing his love of locally made beer with a wider audience. “Ideally, at the end of a tour, people will say, 'that was really fun, and I learned something.'”