The Pike family's story begins a long time ago; indeed, the brewery’s foundations were laid long before any of us were even born. Theirs is a tale of long distance ocean travel, all in the hope of starting life anew in Australia and creating a long lasting legacy.
It all began in 1878, when a 41-year-old Henry Pike arrived in South Australia from Dorset, England, aboard a ship called the Oaklands. A jack of all trades, he soon found work as a carpenter, a joiner, a builder and even an undertaker, a career that ultimately saw him assisting with the expansion of the Johnston brewery at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills.
Prior to arriving in Australia, Henry had learnt about brewing from his mother, Emma, when he was just a boy, as she believed it would be handy skill later in life. And, when he first attempted a few hobby batches, he enjoyed instant success; the beer was so popular, in fact, that he was persuaded to make more. So he did, resulting in the launch of the "Dorset" Brewery.
In 1885, Henry and his wife Emma bought land on Elizabeth Street in Oakbank, which would later be used to house his brewery. The same year, the company name H Pike and Son (the son being Walter Pike) was made official. The brewhouse arrived the following year and between the years 1886 and 1900 the brewery continued to expand, with additional houses built and more land purchased.
Ale was delivered throughout the area via a pony drawn cart. A five-gallon keg would cost seven shillings and sixpence, a dozen ales four shillings – five for the fully matured ale. The brewery continued to be an integral part of the area for many years and the Pikes name was so successful they started buying hotels at which to serve their beer: Duke of York, Crafers Hotel, Hahndorf Arms, Belair Hotel and the Railway Hotel to name just a few.
As time went on, the company passed from generation to generation until 1973, when the brewery was sold at auction and promptly went out of business. By then the Pikes name had found its way into the wine industry through fourth generation Australian Edgar Pike, who had established himself as a vineyard manager and private grape grower. Together with his two sons Neil and Andrew, and Andrew's wife Cathy, he launched Pike’s Wines in 1984 in the Polish Hill River region of the Clare Valley.
It wasn’t too long – at least in the grand scale of the Pike family’s brewing legacy – before it started all over again. In 1996, the family began having beer produced for them under contract before, in late 2014, they brought it back to the Clare Valley where they’d installed a brand new 20 hectolitre Italian brewhouse.
The family’s brewing tradition continues firsthand to this day, with Alister Pike overseeing the brewery. That involves production of five year round releases and seasonal brews that pop up throughout the year. The idea for the Sparkling Ale and Genuine Stout dates back to Henry’s time at the brewery while the recipe for the Tonic Ale is also a relic from the past, brewed with orange peel, coriander, ginger and cinchona bark from South America.
You can sample them all at the source, with the brewery operating a cellar door operation that's open seven days a week and allows you to delve deeper into the family's unique history. The Pikes home was given a serious renovation and expansion in 2018 too, making it an even more welcoming stop for anyone touring the region.
Set on the vine covered plains of the Polish Hill River, it's a resurrection of a brewing tradition nearly 140 years old that ensures the legacy of Henry Pike and his mother lives on.