The Adelaide Hills region is a treasure trove of quaint, quirky towns that typically boast little more than a pub, a general store and a post office. These popular towns ooze a certain quiet country charm capable of luring travellers and day-trippers from near and far.
One such place is Uraidla, a township with a population of a little over 600 people. The name Uraidla, or Yurridla, translates to "ear" in the local Kaurna language; it's said that once a giant fell in battle in the area, forming the Mounty Lofty Ranges and adding its appendages to the surrounding area.
If you’re starting out in Adelaide, Uraidla is a mere ten minute drive up the winding Greenhill Road, a scenic drive along occasionally very narrow and steep-sided roads that takes you past fruit orchards, vineyards and smoking chimneys – all while taking in the sweeping views of the city and the ocean in the distance. The town itself features the token footy oval, a primary school, and the aforementioned general store, post office, pub and brewery.
The hotel has served locals and visitors since 1867, when the Cutting, Willcox and Dyer families held the lease. Today, the renovated pub, which pours the widest selection of Uraidla beers on tap you'll find anywhere, retains much of its old world heritage, yet there are flashes of more contemporary elegance throughout too.
Arguably of most interest to Crafty readers, however, is the far more recent addition next door: The Uraidla Brewery and café located in a former squash centre. The old court houses the brewery itself, visible through a floor-to-ceiling glass door/window for those keen to watch the brewers at play, while the café sells delicious pies, sausage rolls, loaves of bread, pasties and the like – as well as Uraidla beers and local wines and spirits – and has become a popular stop for cyclists grabbing a mid-ride coffee or takeaway beer.
Uraidla launched their first beers in June 2018 under the stewardship of founder and head brewer Oscar Matthews, who wasted little time building a fine reputation locally. Slowly, their beers started to filter through into South Australian pubs and bottleshops before spreading even further in cans.
He’d started his brewing journey in his backyard, perfecting homebrew recipes in the company of mates before, following several years of amateur brewing and working as a beer buyer, he decided to take the next step. He counts himself lucky in this regard: Oscar was able to call upon family to hone his skills.
His uncle is a part-owner of SLO Brew in California, where Oscar worked for 12 months, learning the ins and outs of running a commercial brewery, before spending a further six month stint at a brewery back in South Australia, experiences that exposed him to the latest American styles and influenced many of the flavour profiles that he favours.
Around a year on from releasing the first Uraidla beers, he began to experiment more, building a buzz around his highly-hopped IPAs in particular. Yet it's beers of a different ilk Oscar and the brewers now doing most of the day-to-day on the brewhouse like to focus on: creating full-flavoured yet lower ABV beers suitable for sessions.
It's clearly something they do well, with the 2.9 percent ABV Future Light making the top ten best Australian drinks – not just beers, but drinks – in the 2021 Drink Easy awards, and the 3.8 percent ABV Half Moon session ale appearing alongside it in the top ten beer list.
Aside from hop forward pale ales of all sizes and degrees of clarity, a busy limited release schedule is as eclectic as you could wish for, from black IPA and imperial reds to classic lagers and a variety of porters and stouts, often given a new world tweak. Indeed, there’s no style that’s off the table, particularly as they look to work closely with neighbouring wineries and businesses.
“One of the things that inspires our beers is the surroundings of the Adelaide Hills,” Oscar says. “Having a lot of cool wineries, I think there is a lot we can do to work with them, sourcing barrels and playing around with wild fermentation. There is a lot of room for experimentation.”
As for the beer names, they're typically mystically or spiritually-inspired names after Oscar was told the local area has a history for witchcraft. Thus, you can expect to enjoy your hit of hops with names such as Psychic Mind, Forgotten Ritual, Primeval Slayer, Afterlife, Wizard’s Wrath, Moonlight, Cosmic Labyrinth and Lucifer’s Lifeblood.
The brewing equipment is squeezed ever so expertly inside the former squash court, with a Premier Stainless 12 hectolitre brew kit, two 25 and two 35 hectolitre fermenters, plus a 35 hectolitre brite tank sharing the small space. Water is sourced from the Piccadilly Spring, a large aquifer below the brewery, before undergoing reverse osmosis filtration, then building a water profile specific to each beer.
Yet what Uraidla lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in punch. The brewery quickly became one of the most talked about in SA, and has only grown in stature over time, like the giant watching over the Mount Lofty Ranges all those years ago.