Red Oak Beer Cafe
201 Clarence Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9262 3303
Fax (02) 9262 3304
Most people tend to flee Sydney’s CBD as soon as the gong hits 5.30pm. The Fred Flintstone punch card gets stamped and people march (heads hung low) from whence they came. For many, post-work calls for a relaxing atmosphere and a cleansing ale and, if beer is indeed your schtick, then Red Oak may give you something to linger for in this neck of the woods.
The beer seriously good: It should be; brewer David Hollyoak created his first when he was 14 (ok, so it was ginger). Red Oak has consistently won awards for its subsequent brews since it opened in 2004, making it one of the stayers in Sydney’s boutique beer dynasty. Incidentally, Hollyoak also holds an Associate Diploma in Brewing from Ballarat University – now there’s a course of study to focus hard on.
Step inside this beer hall and you’ll be transported to a warmly lit, wood-lined space which calls on the atmosphere of yesteryear, complete with iron pressed ceilings and period lighting fixtures.
Start with the Belgian style Framboise Froment, a signature fave. Infused with raspberries, don’t be fooled into thinking this is merely a girly beer – the tart flavours and fruit aromas will please anyone who’s interested in truly interesting beer. On the unexpected infusion tip, there are also versions marrying mango, honey and even chocolate with the much loved beverage. Far from being a novelty, they’re crafted to compliment the ingredients, flavours and brewing styles; resulting in something pretty special.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, there’s a lot to whet your appetite here – everything from pilsners (light and crisp), bocks (medium and golden) and stouts (dark and rich) to choose from depending on your preference. Don’t know where to start? The very helpful staff will point beer novices and experts alike in the right direction of a suitable ale.
As is custom with brewery bars such as this, there are tasting boards (smaller versions) to try, so you can sip and compare before you commit to a schooner, stein or pint. For $20, they’re matched to your preference in food (meat, vegetarian, seafood or cheese) so you’re not tasting on an empty stomach.
The seafood flight takes my fancy - the seafood chowder with herb infused cream is warming, is a balance of sea and herb-infused flavours and is far to small in my opinion. The meat tasting, containing a confit of pork tenderloin topped with tomato confit probably has one 'confit' too many in the name but the pork is tender and the tomato brightens and compliments Kolsch beer you'll sip with it. There’s also a full dining menu, starting at $16 – with each dish coming with a recommendation on a complementary beer...how’s that for helpful?
Those who believe beer cannot be appreciated in the same highbrow manner as wine are sorely mistaken. Wine wankers step aside, at Red Oak, you’ll learn that a blackberry hefeweizen (German wheat beer) carries the flavours of banana and clove in its light, cloudy depths, for example. Not unlike the new Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst, you’ll also learn what to look for in different types of beer; a creamy head of foam here, or a velvety texture there. It’s not required learning though – it’s really all about enjoying the journey of discovering a new favourite friend.