If breweries were extensions of their owners and their brewers then the first steps inside Rocks Brewery and Bar in the heart of a gentrified industrial zone of Sydney would have you picturing the owners of Rocks Brewing Company as grand designers, studiously oiling the machine, busy exploring new horizons. And you wouldn’t be far wrong. There is a strong team behind the brewery which although opened just over a year ago, are busy with taking their beers and brand to an ever-growing market within Sydney and beyond.
What started as a dream for one of the owners Mark whilst playing baseball in the United States has now become his reality. The goal was to produce beers like his favourite at the time, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. We’re sure Mark would agree, not a totally original concept given the popularity of the green labelled beauty, but a worthy goal none the less. You know a person likes a beer when they name their pets Sierra and Nevada.
Pulling together a team and creating the Rocks Brand has been a journey of some 7 years and now with a brewery of their own, the team is starting to fire on all cylinders. Along with having their own pubs in Sydney, their beers can be found in Queensland, Melbourne and of course all over Sydney.
We recently spent some time with Scotty Morgan, Head Brewer at Rocks Brewing Company and got his take and some stats on all things Rocks.
Philosophy behind the brand and the brewery
First is to make the best beer we can, with no short cuts. Second is to lean towards a wider selection, with a core range of straight-down-the-line beers supplemented with seasonals and limited releases extending right across the profile spectrum. The branding is obviously influenced by The Rocks in Sydney and characters from around the area, with each core beer having its own character story. Apart from the name, we have our spiritual home at Harts Pub in The Rocks which is located on Hangmans Hill.
Influences – beer styling and range
Mainly US and UK. With Sierra Nevada being and influence to Mark, the Hangman Pale is a US style Pale ale, heavily dry hopped with US hops. Our Butcher Porter is one of the first all-grain beers I made and won an award with. The Boxer Red Ale is an easy drinking Irish Red ale and was our first beer released. The Governor golden ale gets a heavy dose of new world Aussie hops.
Specialties are becoming a feature of the Rocks range, however like most breweries they are often dependent upon tank space. Some of the recent limited releases have been A heavily Hopped West Coast IPA, rum barrel aged Porter, coffee infused Red Ale, a Belgian Golden Ale in tank, Ronder Flandarian (4% belgo refermeted with Pear Juice) and a 100% non-malt Apricot Wit.
It takes a good deal of conviction to make these sort of beers, our brew house lets us do some stuff very few other brewers in Australia can, like the Apricot Wit. We’ve really got the brewery and mash filter dialled in now, so you can expect to see more challenging brews coming out of here.
We started in September 2009 brewing under contract until we were able to move into Alexandria and in March last year.
Currently sitting at 500,000l, but more tanks are on the way to take us to just over 1 million litre per year. Each brew is 2000l, majority of our tanks are triple fill, with 1 double fill tank
Major developments since start up
Always lots of developments, from nothing Mark has built a small empire of 3 pubs and a state of the art brewery which is one of the largest in Sydney. We usually double production each year, this year we are on track to grow 4 times from what we sold last year.
Staff numbers and type
With 3 venues we are squeaking towards 50-odd employees
Furtherest place away that your beer is available
With regular taps in Brisbane, Newcastle and Melbourne we have lehs going interstate every week. Adelaide and Canberra are growing for us which is exciting. We have really strong demand in Sydney, so as you can imagine, keeping production up to that demand is always a challenge.
A mate did ferry beer back to the US for us once, with beers being seen on the Vegas strip.
Collaborations of note
Probably my best Collab was with Chris Anderson at Coachella Brewing. They have the sister brew house to ours, we put it thru its paces with a usual low alcohol Californian Ale; 10% alc and 100 Bu’s of bitterness.
Our venues have one quite a few and we have a load of silvers and bronzes from the AIBA. It is our goal for a gold medal for each of our beers from the AIBA over the next 3 years.
We are always growing, and look to the future with maybe a venue in Melb and Bris-Vegas. Also the brewery will continue to get bigger, with plans sooner rather than later to bring the bottle production in-house with a filling line down the back of the brewery.
It’s always an inspiring moment for us to visit a brewery, for the 1st time or for the 100th and Rocks Brewing is one of those places you can’t not be impressed with. On the other side of the brewery bar fence is a considerable amount of stainless steel and a brew house many beer fans could get lost in for hours. And then there is the food! Quality American style meals come from the kitchen in what seems an endless supply to match the 10 beers on tap.
Come visit the brewery on any weekday and you will be in line for coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course beers with local workers and residents alike, all thrilled to have a local brewery on their door steps. Weekends see the venue kick up a gear or two with the crowd swelling, live music and events making good use of the expansive beer garden directly in front of the bar. What was a printing factory is now a cornerstone of the Sydney local beer scene and from what we know, destined to be an even larger part of that scene in years to come.