Pioneering Redoak Beer Cafe to close doors

Pioneering Australian craft brewery Redoak has announced it will be closing the doors to its Sydney beer café in June.

In an announcement to customers, owners Janet and David Holyoak said the pandemic was the last straw for the inner-city venue.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic and the past few years has been tough on everyone,” the statement said.

“With the CBD a mere shell of what it used to be, despite our rebranding, pivoting, re-opening and re-re-openings, unfortunately the time has come to seek a little more work life balance and for something better suited to the legacy and next chapter for Redoak.”

While the CBD café is closing, the statement said that after 18 years the business would be opening its brewery to consumers.

“For the past 18 years Janet, David and the crew have opened the doors at 201 Clarence, St to you as if it was our home,” the statement from the siblings said.

“And it has been our ‘beer home’ in the city. Our original home has been the brewery ‘out southwest’ as we would say.

“However, the time has come for a change and to go back to our roots. We ask that you wait patiently as we get our ‘original beer home’ ready.

“Yes, you heard right, we will be inviting you to enjoy your next Redoak beer at the brewery.”

The brewery functioning as a consumer-facing venue represents a significant change in attitude for the business, which for a long time sought even to keep the brewery’s address a tightly guarded secret.

In an industry that thrives on collegiality and brewers welcoming industry visitors to view their stainless setups, Redoak drew a cloak of secrecy around theirs, with the owners reluctant to even confirm the physical address, let alone invite visitors inside.

The closure of the beer café, which opened in 2004, sees the end of one of the most significant beer-focused venues the country has seen.

Launching at the dawn of the modern craft beer movement, Redoak was a pioneer opening with a then-unheard-of line up of beers, and quickly came to be the most awarded brewery in the country with multiple Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA).

The brewery introduced many modern beer lovers to classic and impeccably-brewed styles. In its first outing at the AIBA in 2004, it won a swag of awards, including four Best in Class honours, even before the café opened.

“The elegance, respect and theatre it brought to the service of its beer and its pioneering approach to food matching have been unmatched in the past two decades.” (Photo: Mike Curtain)

Amongst its many international awards, the brewery’s Special Reserve, named Grand Champion Beer at the 2006 AIBA, was a barley wine that went through multiple fermentations and spent time in a variety of barrels.

While similar techniques are increasingly common today, they were in many ways, ground-breaking at the time and did much to create excitement and interest in beer and brewing.

While the beers were influential, arguably the most significant impact the café had was around the sophistication it brought to beer service.

The elegance, respect and theatre it brought to the presentation of its beer and the café’s pioneering approach to food matching have been unmatched in the past two decades.

The attention to detail, use of glassware, investment in staff training and passion for beer made any visit to the café, especially in the early days, a transformative event, particularly for the non beer drinker. Beer and food masterclasses with David Holyoak took this to the next level.

Few, if any, venues or even special events, have come close to the celebration of the cultural potential for beer that Redoak’s café brought to the industry, and as the industry continues to grapple with competition from other alcohol segments, Redoak’s café remains a beacon for attracting consumers to the category.

At the same time, Holyoak’s strength of passion for the purity of craft and independence saw him champion the Australian Real Craft Beer Association in a manner that proved divisive and distracted from the then in-planning and more widely-supported mainstream craft beer industry body.

The rival, the Craft Beer Association, was forced to change its name, initially to Craft Beer Limited, before becoming the Craft Beer Industry Association. It is now the Independent Brewers Association.

Last beers will be poured at the Clarence Street venue on the stroke of midnight, Saturday 11th June. No date has been set for the opening of the brewery-based venue.

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