Newcastle's best breweriers, bakeries and distilleries
Newcastle was once a rough and tumble port awash with bootleggers, sailors and merchants when Shanghai Jack – king of crimpers - roamed the waterfront preying on drunken sea men. Today the historic city by the sea is enjoying a revival in craft brewers, small batch distillers and bakers. Here’s where to find them.
Newcastle was once home to several large breweries sadly no longer with us. Today a number of micro-breweries have cropped up bringing back the city’s history of beer making.
Not far from Crystalbrook Kingsley, grain to glass happens under the one roof at Foghorn. Foghorn’s founder and head brewer Shawn Sherlock started as a homebrewer and today produces an extensive range of IPA’s. Housed in an historic warehouse, the beer at Foghorn literally travels from serving tanks to frosty glass – it doesn’t come fresher than that. Incidentally, Foghorn is named after the ship horns that blast when entering Newcastle harbour. It’s Newcastle’s soundtrack.
Across Throsby Creek the harbourside village of Carrington is home to Styx Brewery (tastings by appointment) where quality small batch beer (and spirits – see below) are made onsite. Housed in a former coal testing facility scientist and baker husband-wife duo Analee and Geoff Isbister unite to create award winning brews. Styx produces two core beers and experiments with small batch limited release beers with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and locally sourced produce. Its tasting notes and labels illustrated by Newcastle artists are particularly clever. Of its Crimper Brown Ale, it states: “it’s reminiscent of Carrington’s bygone days when such an ale may end up aboard a coal ship. It warns “don't share it with Jack, "Prince of Crimpers"..”.
Another homegrown brewer is Cattleyard Brewing Co, a collaborative effort from the founders of Groovin the Moo and events dynamo Motti and Smith. Its core range is found on tap and in fridges across Newcastle (nearby try it at Coal and Cedar or Babylon).
The aforementioned Styx Brewery also produces small batch limoncello that tastes like a summer’s day and gin distilled in a tiny hand-hammer copper pot using traditional juniper and locally foraged botanicals. A collaborative effort with Newcastle’s Nagisa Restaurant saw them win gold at the 2020 Australian Gin Awards.
Carrington, fondly referred to by locals as “Carrodise”, is also home to the Earp Distilling Co. The Earp family, who has operated businesses in Newcastle since 1883, today operates gin distillery and swanky bar in a repurposed tile warehouse space with the star attraction a 5000-litre still from the Netherlands nicknamed Zeus. Expect killer cocktails, spirits and gin making classes.
Locally, Newcastle Distilling Co. also produces an extensive range of spirits including ‘Bathtub Gin’ and the city’s first barrel-aged rum. A cellar door is coming but for now give it a try at the Koutetsu and the Junction Hotel.
Newcastle was for a while there bereft of good bakeries despite the king of bikkies (William Arnott himself) hailing from here. Fast forward a century and a half and now there’s numerous gems to choose from.
Baked Uprising (aka Baked Up) is the city’s best known. Former silver smith Alice Lees’ minimalist bakery cum café is found in inner-city Maryville where locals queue for dense sourdough and heavenly treats. Even Nigella Lawson spruiked Baked Up’s almond croissants on Instagram.
Two newcomers worth checking out include the adorably named Covered in Crumbs (open Thursday-Saturday) owned by former fine dining pastry chef Gareth Williams. Drool worthy creations include a lime curd and coconut cake, canelé and sourdough and baguettes made from scratch. Meanwhile over in Hamilton, Newcastle cake maker and former Masterchef contestant Reece Hignell has opened Cakeboi, producing classic old school cakes that pay homage to his nan.
Top image credit: Julian Cebo and Foghorn Brewery