On the emerging craft beer scene in Adelaide

The craft beer scene in Adelaide and more broadly South Australia is suddenly booming. There’s South Australian tap takeovers; SA beer launches; SA beers venturing up the East Coast, and SA beer all over Twitter and Crafty Pint. All this for a scene that had been conspicuously quiet in recent years as other states had experienced craft beer booms.

In the past, South Australia’s craft beer highlights focused primarily on The Wheaty, rated as one of the best bars in the country (now is brewing its own intriguing beers too); Brewboys’ Seeing Double, a smoky scotch ale that I rate as one of the best beers in the country, and the unique Thorogoods apple beers that rank highly on RateBeer.

Now there is a new breed of South Australian craft beer emerging, bringing innovation and excitement to the craft beer scene with them. Adelaide brewers Pirate Life Brewing for instance are producing their beer in cans that are not only attractive but informative, with the novel idea of sharing the brewing ingredients and process on the rim of their packaging. Pirate Life’s hop-centric range is launching in Melbourne this week and judging from the super aromatic pale ale of theirs I had, it should be well received.

Big Shed Brewing Concern are another new brewer getting some buzz. They’re sharing their facilities in Adelaide with other brewers, such as Mismatch Brewing, who have a well-regarded White IPA, and recently opened up the premises to the public. Big Shed’s own American Brown Ale, FrankenBrown, is everything you want from that style, with heaps of malt and hops flavour going on. While their BruChoc is a dark fruity sweet beer, that mimics a classic South Australian sweet.

Another emerging brewer is Prancing Pony Brewery, situated just outside of Hahndorf in Adelaide Hills, and using an old school ‘fire brewing’ method for their beers. They entered GABS last year with a daring cross-style weizenbock/IPA but also have a range of crowdpleasers. Their popular India Red Ale was sold out when i tried to get it but I did enjoy the solid Copper Ale and Black Ales.

Then there’s Smiling Samoyed brewery, who may have the coolest tasting paddles going round with their vinyl records and they don’t disappoint with any of their beers either. Balance is their strong point and I enjoyed their pale ale the most for that very reason. Their brewery in Myponga is about 20 minutes from Victor Harbor and is a relaxing spot to enjoy some quality beers.

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Whilst South Australia is traditionally wine country that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for beer. In fact, the focus on gourmet and local produce fits well with the craft beer ethos and regions renowned for their wineries such as Clare Valley and Barossa Valley now also sport breweries.

You can check out South Australian craft beer in Melbourne at the 2016 Good Beer Week Pint of Origin from May 14-23 at the Palace Hotel in South Melbourne.

Otherwise just head over to South Australia, it’ll be worth it!

Four best brewery daytrips from Melbourne

The perfect city escape involves good food and great beer in a beautiful seting. Here are four breweries that don’t disappoint on all three scores, and are well worth venturing out to.

  1. Holgate Brewhouse

One of the elder statesmen of the craft beer scene, Holgate has one of the finest core beer ranges as well as regular interesting one-offs. At their bar and restaurant located only an hour from the city in Woodend, you can taste the range with 6 taps, 2 handpumps. They offer paddles, takeaway bottles (and growlers last time I checked), so you’ll surely leave very satisfied.

Housed in a large brick building with an expansive interior, there’s plenty of space in the bar or dining areas and even on-site accomodation. The food in the bar and restaurant is also fantastic. Beer is used as a key ingredient in some of the food and the food is fresh and tasty.

Don’t leave without drinking… their chocolate porter, Temptress, is an absolute classic, but it goes to another level when you get this one on handpump at the brewery with the creamy mouthfeel and chocolatey flavours enhanced.

Also visit nearby… I always enjoy stopping into Trentham for some sourdough bread from the bakery there that uses wild yeast from its historic oven. There’s also Mount Macedon for the nature lovers, and Daylesford for the relaxers, depending on what’s your thing.

2. Hargreaves Hill

Housed in a beautiful historical building, Hargreaves Hill, pours a selection of their beers on tap, and offers up some top quality food. It’s worth venturing to Yarra Glen just for the food, which is a level up from your standard pub grub, with some delicious pastas and dishes featuring local produce.

Beer is what it’s all about though and they’re well stocked in that regard too. They have an ESB and Pale Ale in the range as well as the Belgian AD dubbel and a stout, which are good beers too. Usually there’ll be a special seasonal or two such as Phoenix the strong red ale that’s rich like a dessert.

Don’t leave without drinking… their ESB is a gem. Dry hopped with bodacious New Zealand hops you’ll probably want a large glass to enjoy.

Also visit nearby… If you have kids, the playground just down the street is a big one and will keep the little ones busy. In the Yarra Valley there’s plenty of wineries, but also the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is not far, nor is Yarra Valley cheese.

3. Mornington Peninsula Brewery

The building doesn’t quite have the same charm as the previous two, being an industrial factory, but it has a wood-fired pizza oven cranking and a beer lineup that you’ll want to work your way through.

Don’t leave without drinking… take your pick, Mornington Peninsula’s range is amazingly consistent and you can’t really go wrong with whatever beer you choose. Try their Brown Ale for something different or their IPA for a hop kick.

Also visit nearby… the Red Hill Brewery is open on weekends and worth a trip and there’s a few nice wineries around. You can always enjoy the beaches along the coast there and the Missus or Mister may appreciate some relaxation at the Peninsula hot springs.

The pizza oven at Mornington Peninsula brewery.
The pizza oven at Mornington Peninsula brewery.

4. Napoleone brewery and ciderhouse

This one certainly doesn’t have the small-time brewer feel about it, it’s a bit more swanky, being a sibling of Punt Road wines. The rustic contemporary architecture sets a grand stage as part of a brilliant setup in a beautiful location in the Yarra Valley.

The brewery is co-located with the excellent Meletos restaurant, where you’ll enjoy some top notch culinary delights.

All the beers I tried were really solid and well made. There was a definite emphasis on producing well balanced beers in the more classic European styles rather than the hopped-up American IPAs, which is fine with me.

Don’t leave without drinking… their porter was actually my favorite when I visited. Just nicely made, chocolatey and with that perfect balance of sweet and dry.

The next generation of Aussie craft brewers

It’s hard to believe it was only a couple of years back that breweries like Mornington Peninsula, Cavalier and Kooinda were just breaking into the craft beer scene. Now these guys seem like veterans and there’s a whole new brigade of microbreweries stepping forward, vying for the the discerning beer drinker’s tastebuds. 

In recent months, bottles and kegs from the likes of Dainton brewing, Killer Sprocket, Boatrocker, Monster Mash and BrewCult have made waves in the craft beer scene.

These brewers have announced themselves as the next generation of Aussie craft brewers and I like what I’m seeing.

Where past generations of Australian craft brewers generally built a following around sessionable hoppy pale ales and wheat beers before progressing to more ambitious styles, this generation are coming out with challenging and tasty beers from the get-go. Read More »

Beers on the border of NSW and QLD

Based off previous experiences I wasn’t expecting much, or anything really, in the way of good beer when travelling to northern New South Wales / southern Queenland recently. I was pleasantly surprised to find craft beer on the upswing there.

I stayed just outside Kingscliff, a small beach town about 15 minutes from the Gold Coast airport in NSW, and was stoked to find a brand new independent liquor store in town, Taphouse Cellars, brimming with really interesting craft beers that I hadn’t tried before like BrewCult’s Hop Zone Session IPA (as sessionable as advertised) and Nail Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout (similar to Cooper’s Stout) as well as old studs that I was more than happy to revisit like Belgian trappist beer Rochefort 8 and Feral’s Hop Hog.Read More »

Why beer is about more than just taste

I used to think that taste was the sole determinant of what constituted a good beer. Taste is important, maybe the most important thing, but it isn’t everything.

Beer is about much more than its taste, and its aroma and appearance for that matter. When you buy a beer, you are not only supplying your taste buds with (hopefully) a great tasting beer but shaping the beer industry as we know it.

Every time you buy a beer, you support that beer product and the business behind that product, not to mention the retailer and distributor. Your beer choices matter in ways that go beyond the short-term win of cleansing your palate with a, hopefully, tasty liquid – they also influence the kind of beer you’ll be able to drink again in the future.Read More »

Putting the beer back in beer

“I might argue that the average mass-market beer doesn’t look like beer, smell like beer, act like beer, is not made from proper beer ingredients, is not made how beer is made and is generally lacking in beer attributes”.

– Garrett Oliver in Beer and Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking 

For a long time, the big beer corporations (BBCs) have tried to talk about anything but the beer itself. The BBCs applied ‘the mushroom theory’ when it came to their drinkers, ‘Feed ‘em shit and keep ‘em in the dark’. They differentiated their beers through advertising not the product itself, and made beer a superficial symbol of personal identity, giving only a cursory nod to the brewing process in between their marketing garble.

The BBCs branded and ‘blanded’ beer. They removed the sense of place from beer by taking ownership overseas and brewing ‘imported’ beers locally. They reduced taste and ignored the diversity of beer styles to produce indistinct and boring carbon-copy lagers. Basically, they produced beers that weren’t worth talking about. But times are a changin’, and so are the beers.

A niche movement of microbrewers and beer drinkers are galvanising to make beer something worth talking about again. Microbreweries are putting the beer (in the real sense, not the marketing BS sense) back in beer in Australia. Read More »