Swell Brewery & Taphouse

Dan Wright is the nomadic type, living a life that’s seen him travel far and wide searching for great surf and rolling snow covered mountains while absorbing the buzz of the local craft beer scene wherever he roams.

The owner and head brewer at South Australia’s Swell, he first came up with the idea of owning a brewery while on a two-year surf/snow odyssey through the Americas. The craft beer industry so impressed Dan over the course of his extended holiday that ideas of brewing beer under his own label were soon swirling.

So, with notebook in hand and time to plan on the extended bus rides between surf breaks, he soon had the right combination of enthusiasm and ideas to turn his dream into reality; once he arrived back in Australia, of course.

Upon touching down back on home turf, he set about fine-tuning beer recipes brewing in his back shed. And, once those recipes were ready to go, Dan turned yet again to his nomadic ways, brewing his beers across state lines in Mildura.

It was way back in 2010 when Swell’s first set rolled in across SA in the form of a lineup featuring pale, golden and amber ales and a wheat beer. The contract brewing approach was to continue for years too, far longer than most who’ve set out on that path.

After Mildura Brewery was sold in 2017, Dan instead looked to the rather more local Vale Brewing, where he invested in a single tank and settled in as a permanent fixture. Fast forward to 2019, however, and witnessing the craft beer industry gathering an unstoppable momentum and becoming a permanent fixture of its own in the country’s food and drink landscape, he made the decision to invest in a brewery and cellar door of his own a short drive away in McLaren Vale.

The 16-tap venue is set on a family-owned vineyard on Olivers Road. The vineyard views stretch all around, with a giant underwater mural offering a nod to the brewery’s surfing name and its founder’s passion.

The brewery and venue share the same giant shed, with punters able to look in on the brewing magic via windows on the mezzanine floor. There’s plenty of seating both in the downstairs bar area and on the mezzanine. Or, if outside is more your thing, there are two options there as well. From the upstairs patio, punters can drink and eat while soaking up the picturesque wine country vistas; downstairs, kids are free to burn off energy on the lawns while families and beer tourists picnic on the grass or at high tables.

The taps pour all of Swell’s core range beers as well as a constant rotation of limited releases, which typically takes in fruited sours, a variety of different IPAs and a collection of stouts. To help soak up the booze, the kitchen offers a simple, but tasty, burger style menu, with cheeseburgers, fried chicken burgers, loaded fries and the like gracing the menu.

Helping Dan brew the beers is Shane Parkes, who draws his brewing experience from many years at Vale. It’s a lineup of beers that’s remained consistent over the years, with the longstanding Golden Ale claiming Best Australian Style Pale Ale at the AIBA awards in 2016, an award Dan cherishes.

In his spare time, Dan manages the family vineyard called Rayments block. It produces premium grapes that are sold to wineries including Penfolds and Wirra Wirra, while the pedigree for quality beverages runs through the family: Dan’s wife Corrina is the winemaker at Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards, also in McLaren Vale.

The Swell story might have started thousands of miles from home as Dan chased big waves on another continent, but now the brewery is part of an industry making big waves of its own and ensuring this popular SA wine region has much to offer the beer lover.

Matt King

Swell Brewery & Taphouse

168 Olivers Road
McLaren Vale
SA 5171

(08) 8323 0879
Open Hours

Weekends only during COVID-19
11am to 6pm

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Swell Brewery & Taphouse Regulars

Swell Brewery Lager

Make your way through the Swell range and it's not hard to see the influence of the American craft beer scene on Dan Wright's brewery. With his Lager, however, he's trained his sights on the home of such beers: Northern Europe. Sure, he opted for New World hops out of New Zealand to pair with the European malts, yet the result is still very much something you'd expect to find on your travels through the Old World. Bready, cereal like malts form the platform for gentle hops of the floral, herbal and… Read more

Swell Brewery Pale Ale

Dan Wright first had the idea of launching a brewing company while surfing and skiing his way through America. And you can smell and taste the roots of his brewing journey in his core range pale ale. While many brewers in Australia have moved firmly into the world of tropical fruits and stripped back the malt character in their pale ales to the point the latter's flavour and aroma impact is negligible, here the hops and malt both have a role to play. You might find memories of Sierra Nevada's classic… Read more
American Pale Ale

Swell Brewery Golden Ale

Given the way tastes have changed over the past decade (or, perhaps more accurately, tastes and naming preferences for beers), Swell's Golden Ale stands as one of the few survivors. It wasn't that long ago that brewers were adding golden ales to their lineups at a rate of knots; today, it's XPAs Pacific ale style beers. Not only is Swell's a survivor but it's a trophy-winner too, collected a gong at the country's largest beer competition, the Australian International Beer Awards, in 2016. Presumably,… Read more
Golden Ale

Swell Brewery North Coast IPA

Like its stablemate Pale Ale, Swell's core range IPA is one that nods to founder Dan Wright's craft beer epiphanies in the US. Tagged North Coast but taking America's West Coast IPAs as its model, it's the sort of IPA that helped build the style into a global force. The hop character is very much of that traditional American IPA ilk, with piney aromas leading the way, with some floral and citrusy flourishes for company. As is typical of Swell's year round lineup, their years in the game serve up… Read more
American IPA

Swell Brewery & Taphouse Specials

Swell Brewery Lagundri Bay Tropical Session Ale & Southport Sunset Blood Orange Sour

Tapped Yesterday
Lagundri Bay is a popular tourist surf beach located off the island of Nias in Sumatra, Indonesia. Several years ago, Swell founder Dan Wright spent time there surfing, reading brewing books and drinking Bintang. The Lagundri Bay Tropical Session Ale has been brewed as a beer he wished he'd had available to him: a session IPA that smacks of lazing on the beach in the summertime sun. The tropical vibe has been harnessed well, with juicy mango, pineapple, some lychee and a little papaya on the nose.… Read more
Session IPA & Blood Orange Sour
4.2% & 3.2%

Swell Brewery Evening Glass Off DIPA

Tapped December 16, 2020
They sure are enjoying playing in the IPA space at Swell right now, with another to follow the likes of their first NEIPA and the Tropical Hazy DIPA landing before 2020 bids farewell. Evening Glass Off refers to the end of a surfing session when the winds die down to produce glassy clean waves. As for the beer bearing the name, it's a double IPA featuring no less than 22 grams per litre of Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo to produce a hoppy hit for those seeking a full-flavoured reward after a long session… Read more
Double IPA

Swell Brewery Corduroy Lines Hazy IPA

Tapped November 14, 2020
Fashion styles tend to work in a circular manner, yet I imagine most would be happy if humanity makes an exception for the corduroy pant. Apart from the dreary colour spread spanning light beige, beige, medium beige and darker beige colour selection [I dunno, I've seen some pretty mean purple ones! – Editor], they were just plain unexciting. Which puts them at stark contrast to Swell’s new hazy IPA, Corduroy Lines, which is an ode to a dream surf day at the beach. Lines upon lines of perfect… Read more
Hazy IPA

Swell Brewery Small Swell

Tapped November 14, 2020
Man can't survive on 7 percent ABV, fruit-laden monsters, much as we might like to; sometimes we need a stayer. Something to mix with a burst of activity or a long chill session in the outdoors. Enter Small Swell, a 3.4 percent ABV mid-strength with those longer sessions in mind: a refreshing ale to clean the salt from the mouth after a long day riding waves. Pale, Vienna, oats and wheat combine to provide a solid base so the Wai-iti and El Dorado can throw down some fruity vibes. Light in body… Read more
Mid-Strength Pale

Swell Brewery NEIPA

Tapped September 28, 2020
Swell continue to ride the rolling wave, pumping out limited releases in rapid succession. Here, after dipping their toes into the world of haze with their NE XPA and Tropical Hazy IPA, they've delivered their first NEIPA, with rolled oats and wheat added for haze and body and Vic Secret, Mosaic and Simcoe the hops of choice. It's lightly hazy rather than heavy in the glass, with burnt orange glow and the aromas ready to lure the drinker in with a medley of sweet stone – namely apricot, peach… Read more
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