The Woolshed Brewery is located in an old shearing shed on the banks of the picturesque Murray River in the Riverland region of South Australia. The sheds are steeped in history with many yarns spun and hard earned knock off drinks enjoyed in them over the years.
The entire station on which they’re situated, previously known as Murtho Park, was once a thriving wheat farm too, with former owners, the Wilkinson family, using the Murray River to transport their grain to all parts of Australia. These days, it has a rather different use for wheat and grain.
New owners bought the part of the station known as Wilkadene in 1988 and have since converted the grounds into a brewery and cellar door. The view from the verandah looking over the Murray River is now one of peace and tranquility – a far cry, one imagines, from the intense shearing sessions of yesteryear.
The Woolshed Brewery is a short drive from the country town of Renmark and welcomes guests with the warm hearted country spirit being typical of the region. Its owners live in a small homestead with a friendly dog, aptly named Murray. The cellar door, brewhouse and a few historical snapshots of the past fill the old woolshed. And out the back lies the new shed, which is where the magic happens: inside you’ll find three fermenters, kegging and bottling machines and a conditioning room.
Of course, you don’t have to arrive by car: Anyone cruising the river can moor their boat right outside and clamber up a few stairs into the brewery. In fact, even if you do arrive by car, you don’t have to leave that way; as well as offering craft beer and cosy accommodation, The Woolshed Brewery also dabbles in houseboats. There’s a fleet of four with options that cater for a large group or a small family, all fitted with creature comforts including double beds, a BBQ, Eskies, stoves and (naturally) a craft beer tap through which you can pour beer from the brewery.
Within the brewery itself, the bar area is made out of white ant resistant native pine posts and brings the natural surroundings inside. This emphasis on locality and nature pervades the beer range too: two ales are named after local flora and fauna, the Amazon Ale was named after a little creek that runs close by in the Murray River and the Cherax Destructor is the scientific name of the common yabby, which you can find in abundance in the river below.
Judas The Dark’s name also reflects the station’s past. A ‘Judas’ sheep is one used to lead the other sheep into the shearing sheds or onto a sale truck; one that’s usually trusted by the rest of the flock. Hence the saying on the bottle: “Judas will lead you into an unknown darkness.” Continuing the natural feel, Judas The Dark is brewed using locally grown and roasted wattle seed.
Since 2010, brewing has been overseen by Jackson Beavis, who left a career in manufacturing management for large companies to pursue a passion for brewing close to his family’s hometown of Renmark. In 2014, he was joined by Dave Hartigan, who left a job as a theatre nurse after responding to an ad on The Crafty Pint and moving to the Woolshed from Port Lincoln with his family. With Jackson embarking on a yearlong pilgrimage to the UK to work and learn new techniques and ideas from the country's brewers, his fellow former home brewer is stepping into the head brewer role.
Whether its the warm country welcome, picturesque views, relaxing atmosphere, natural woolshed cellar door and locally-inspired beers, there's little doubt The Woolshed has plenty of enticing reasons to hit the road or, better still, cruise up the Murray.