You might be familiar with a lot of Sydney's iconic breweries that reside along the Inner West's "Ale Trail", travelling from Enmore, through Marrickville, up into Tempe. But next time you're searching for a cold craft beer around Sydney's brewery epicentre, pop your head into Hopsters Co-Operative Brewery taprooms at the top of Enmore road.
Operating out of an old fruit shop, the Hopsters taproom is the physical home of Australia's first member-owned brewery built under "co-operative principles". A community brewery in the truest sense of the word, Hopsters is run and owned by its members (there's currently over 630). And yep—anyone can be a member.
With a one-off $250 lifetime membership fee, members get a vote in key business decisions and beer production, first dibs on freshly canned beers, invites to member-only homebrew classes, discounted tickets to beer festivals like GABS, and a discount on beers at their very own taproom. When the business eventually turns a profit, those members will also be paid dividends on their shares.
The entire co-op runs entirely on the help of its members—from the board of directors to those who run committees, and even bar staff are all volunteers.
"The members are invested not just financially but emotionally, as well, they want to make sure we survive because they feel a part of it," said Mitch Hobbs, the bar's licensee and only paid employee. "So many people are just volunteering because they're so passionate—you don't get that with most other businesses."
The co-op still currently contract brews out of Rocks Brewing in Alexandria. The plan, however, is to grab the 200-litre pilot system they use for seasonals and put it out the back of the bar in Enmore, hopefully by the end of the year. That way, you'll get the full tasting room experience, smells and all.
If you visit the bar, you'll find Hopsters core range beers on tap (which all originally came from member homebrews and have been tweaked into professional quality), as well as a rotating range from some of NSW's best craft breweries. You might also find some beers you've never heard of before. That's because Hopsters likes to give a go to those who, like themselves, exist without their own brewing site.
"We don't have our own home as yet, so we try and look after those people and support the industry that we're in. If a member wants to take the next step into professional brewing, they know that we'll put them on tap," said Hobbs, who was himself a volunteer for many years before heading up the tasting room.
As for food, because Enmore road is one big happy family, you can order a couple of slices from their friendly next-door neighbours, Epic Pizza, to eat in.
The next step for the rising co-operative enterprise is wholesaling to more pubs and bottle shops, so keep your eye out for them.
In the meantime—whether you're a craft beer nut looking to immerse yourself in the brewing world further, if you're looking for a great spot to enjoy an eclectic list of brews, or if you're just wandering up Enmore road one day and fancy trying a new spot—then Hopsters taproom is for you.
If you are interested in becoming a member, check out their website here for information.
Image credit: Meritt Thomas