It seems the pandemic has pulverised the art of talking. My tip to get started again. Grab a few of these beers, lend a mate your ears and take a moment to ask how they have really been going. The answer might just save a life.

Origin – Rozelle, New South Wales
ABV – 4.9%
Size – 440mL can
Style – Schwarzbier

Each day workers would rush from the White Bay Power Station across Victoria Road to the White Bay Hotel. Instead of lingering over their beers, they spent an hour crushed up against the bar. After 60 minutes of fast-paced, empty-stomach drinking, the ringing of a six o'clock bell announced a 'supping-up' time of 15 minutes, after which people would head home, pickled as newts. While it was only intended as a temporary restriction to help in wartime, the ‘Six O’Clock Swill’ was an hour of drunken anarchy that lasted through both World Wars and the invention of Vegemite! Ultimately, the regulations did precisely the opposite of what they had intended, with consequences that stretched well beyond the last call.

Yet a stone's throw from the now-demolished White Bay Hotel, the White Bay Beer Co team is determined to undo what 50 years of enforced bingeing did to our drinking culture. Rather than aiding the community to tear itself apart with the supply of mass produce swill, head brewer Dennis de Boer and the team have shown a special love for the locals with what they call their 'liquid works of expression, passion and individualism'. And given the area's gentrification, those liquid works understandably include a handful of hopped-up IPAs and Hazys.

However, the decision to set up a core range revolving around easy-drinking lagers and pales is just as much a throwback to the traditional working-class Balmain Peninsula as the twin smokestacks of the abandoned White Bay Power Station that feature on the brewery's logo. Although White Bay has been connecting folks over a beer with a neighbour since 2020, post-COVID, they've been able to bring the community together to intermingle in the new onsite taproom, housed within the corrugated iron walls of their 150-year-old steel mill. This Balmain Velvet, the latest release in the ongoing series of one-offs, is perfect for such coalescence. Styled in traditional German Schwarzbier fashion, it’s fermented cold, unfiltered, naturally carbonated and was left to condition in the tank for 12 weeks. The payback is a crushability dark lager where robust malts take centre stage, bringing forth vibes of chocolate brownie, hints of caramel and a smooth-as mouthfeel.

A splendid selection for a swill before or after 6 pm!