On 18 September, Freshwater Brewery opened the doors of its new taproom and restaurant at 4 Powells Rd, Brookvale. Manly Observer spoke to co-founder Jonny Bucknall about the origin of the name, plans for the future, and what distinguishes Freshwater from their hoppy neighbours.
Freshwater Brewing company, which has been operating on the Northern Beaches for over a year (utilising contract brewers), now has an indoor manufactory from which to expand their small but popular range of ‘thirst-quenching’ beers.
The 120-capacity venue, formerly the Admiral Plastics custom-made stationary factory, has been converted to include brewing tanks, a semi-circular bar and a large child-friendly dining and social area. Dogs welcome too.
Freshwater is now the sixth brewery in the heart of the Northern Beaches’ brewing hub of Brookvale, an area beer lovers have affectionately renamed ‘Brewvale’. These include Dad & Dave’s, Bucketty’s and 7th Day in close proximity, and near-neighbours Nomad and Four Pines, transferring the industrial zone dominated by vehicle workshops and warehouses into an after-hours social sector. Each has their niche – more on that later…
What was the inspiration for choosing Freshwater Beach as the brewery name, instead of one of the other magnificent stretches of sand that collectively make up the Northern Beaches?
“We’re predominantly about lagers and easy-drinking beers that pass the ‘Freshie Test’,” Bucknall revealed. “When I began home-brewing I was living in Freshwater, and I would often sit on the green grassy knoll in front of Pilu [Sardinian restaurant on the seafront] and crack a brew with my friends. We’d call it the ‘Freshie Test’, and if the beer suited the conditions, I’d re-brew it… The beers had to be fit for the time and space and location
“I then went to work in other breweries, during which time I continued to test and refine my own beers. But I began to think, “what does a brewery stand for?” A brewery stands for a community; when you start sharing with people, beer is a great way to bring them together. And through brewing I started making more friends..”
The company launched with the slogan: “We’re not craft, we’re chill. In a village where community, good vibes and welcome smiles come first, we set out to be just that – a brewery for all..”
“When we started thinking about opening up this brewery,” Bucknall continued, “we had values centred around people, culture, beaches and beer, and celebrating what we had in common – like we all loved surfing. The beer became the platform on which to build things on.
“We also thought seriously about what we could actually do to help our local community. The best thing about small breweries, and one thing all the breweries in Brookvale do, is help charities that do great things for the world…
“For us, it was not just that the beers are great to drink on the grassy knoll by the sand, but we needed to get involved in community initiatives. For example, after a beach clean-up, which involves an hour or so clearing up garbage, there’s nothing better than enjoying a cold beer at the end and chatting with your friends. It’s a sense of identity as well.
What is the next stage now you have a home base?
“Now we’re up and running, Freshie Pils remains our original beer, a German-style pilsener, along with Pacific Pils.”
Pacific Pils was launched in May 2022 at the Great Australasian Beer Spectacular (GABS) in the Sydney International Convention Centre. It is described as: “An unfiltered New Zealand Pilsner, busting with stone fruit and bright tropical flavours. Hazy, hoppy, refreshing.”
“Then we have Wedge Cerveza, our Mexican-inspired lager,” Bucknall continued. “We also have Duke’s, a Czech pilsener, and Secrets, a hazy pale ale. That’s the bedrock of the beers we have here on tap, also available in cans. And Dusky Dark, a brown beer inspired by Czech dark lagers, but only in draught.”
Duke’s, surfing fans will realise, is named after Duke Kahonamoku, champion Hawaiian surfer and swimmer, who popularised the burgeoning sport of surfing in Australia with public demonstrations at Freshwater Beach during the summer of 1914/15.
“What’s super-exciting,” Bucknall enthused, “is to be able to start brewing new beers. This tap room is going to be very much focused on small-batch, one-off brews… We brew predominantly lagers, but we’ll be trialling new hops and yeasts.
“Right now we’re brewing a Kolsch, which is the aroma throughout the building…”
(Incidentally, Head Brewer Brett Phillips is formerly of the Wayward Brewery in Camperdown, which won Beer Cartel’s NSW Favourite Craft Brewery Venue two years in succession, 2017-18.)
In a commercial hub where several breweries are in close proximity, what sets Freshwater apart?
“Basically, we’re retailing crisp, easy-drinking beers. If you like lagers, come here. You won’t see milkshake flavoured beers from us any time soon!
“But we’ve also got spritz, ciders and a range of non-alcoholic beers on tap. We’ve also got a pretty solid wine list. If you’re not into beer, you can still come here and enjoy a delicious meal and something alternative to drink… It’s a welcoming space with a quality restaurant [the menu was devised by Michelin-trained chef Daniel Wilson].
“Our kitchen is open, it’s very exciting! When you open a business named ‘Freshwater’, the food has to be fresh too! We’re calling the menu ‘Aussie nostalgia’, like an Aussie barbecue but premium style. Think fish finger sandwiches, prawn and beef on skewers, oysters, amazing sausage rolls, plus lots of vegan options.
“We’ve also got a kids’ snack plate, kind of inspired by my four-year-old son from when we visited other breweries but found all they offered kids was a plate of chips. We’ll rotate it seasonally, but for now it’s flat bread, hummus, cucumber, carrots, strawberries, cheese. It’s kind of fun for them to dip into the hummus but also nutritious.”
All inside a large covered area, sheltered from another forecast La Niña rainy summer.
Operations Manager Chloe Morgan-Webster revealed that some sections of the glowing white walls might soon be adorned with arts and crafts from the Northern Beaches. “We have so much talent here around us, it would be good to show some local artists.
“I’m also thinking a display of surfboards would be interesting, and would be in keeping with the Northern Beaches lifestyle, especially Freshwater Beach…”
“Freshwater is an iconic beach,” Bucknall affirmed, “and who gets to claim the name is debatable – and we weren’t entirely confident in our right to do it – but by putting it in our company name, it gives us a sense of responsibility that we have to honour and do right by it.
“We can’t just say we’re part of the community, we have to be at the centre of the community…”
Ian Kingham, Chief Judge for the Royal Agricultural Society New South Wales Beer & Cider Show and consultant and writer for Beer and Brewer magazine, provided us with his tasting notes for the Freshwater brews..
Secrets Pale Ale
Comments: An aroma of orange / citrus is evident. The palate has a nice balance of sweet and bitter with some citrus souring on the finish.
Suggested food match: Orange glazed Leg of Ham.
Comments: Aromas of lemon, lime and orange are evident. The palate is light, and the citrus notes are accentuated by the salt edition. Low in bitterness with a semi sweet salty finish.
Suggested food match: Whiting and Chips with rock salt and lime.
Comments: Nice malt aroma and light fruit hop notes. Clean on the palate with excellent balance and late, light bitterness.
Suggested food match: Spicey Buffalo Wings.
Comments: Good malt aroma and tropical fruit notes. The medium palate is clean and refreshing with hints of tangerine, mandarin and orange. A nice malt finish with subdued bitterness to support.
Suggested food match: Asian Stir Fry.
Comments: Hints of mango, guava and grapefruit on the nose with licks of pine. The palate is clean and has hop fruitiness for interest with piney, resinous bitterness. The finish is mildly bitter.
Suggested food match: Pavlova.
Freshwater Brewery Opening hours:
Wednesdays and Thursdays 4pm – 11pm
Friday 4pm – 12am
Saturday 12pm – 12am
Sunday 12pm – 10pm.
DJ music sets on Friday and Saturday nights
Freshwater Brewing Company webpage