Last week, we kicked off a tour of some of Adelaide's craftiest beer gardens on a mission to find out what makes a beer garden great. You can read part one here, while below is part two, as Matt King checks out another half dozen combining craft beer with al fresco action.
At each venue, he spoke to the owner or manager to find out what they were hoping to achieve with their outdoor space and picked the brains of punters too.
Benjamin On Franklin
The feel of the 1920s flows all through the Benjamin On Franklin, from the vintage telephones, English style wallpaper, 1,500 piece crystal chandelier through to the stylish and elegant beer garden oasis. The rainforest shrubbery that encroaches on the back wall is an eye catcher and instantly sends the drinker into holiday mode. Three resort style huts occupy the majority of the space and each has the potential to fit whole parties of people inside. They're matched with Alice In Wonderland style white furniture, a vertical growing garden and old stone vintage walls.
Venue manager Danny Stone describes the Benjamin on Franklin’s beer garden as summery and inviting. He says it has both British and Bohemian notes to it and, when he is sitting in one of the booths, he feels like he could be having “a holiday in his own backyard”. This particular beer garden has a really eclectic feel to it and was one of the first in the city to incorporate booth type seating.
The lattice work in the Benjamin On Franklin’s outdoor area is home to a growing Jasmine vine, adding extra greenery. Danny believes space, sunlight and atmosphere are the crucial key ingredients that are needed to make a great beer garden.
The patrons at the Benjamin on Franklin were a cheery bunch, celebrating a birthday with a Sunday lunch in one of the giant booths as the "Souled Out Sundays" jazz vibes kicked off. The choice to drink outside came down to the open air, sunshine and to avoid claustrophobia. In terms of improvements, they felt there could be more beer or an outside bar. Generally, however, they thought this beer garden was great due to the vibes created by the live soul music in combination with good friends and the open air.
Sweet Amber Brew Cafe
Opened as recently as November 2015, the Sweet Amber Brew Cafe owners are definitely the new kids on the block in Adelaide’s craft beer scene. However, owners Dane and Nicole already knew their way around a good beer.
Semaphore’s newest beery attraction boasts four craft taps (pouring mainly SA brews) and two huge fridges stocked to the brim with craft tinnies and stubbies.
The garden area is at the rear of the premises and is shaded in the late evening by the huge cinema building next door.
The atmosphere is extremely relaxed and feels like the perfect place for a beer soaked lunch or dinner.
Sweet Amber Brew Cafe’s drinking experience is unique to SA with an easy drinking atmosphere and beer incorporated into nearly every aspect of the operation.
Dane Adkins took a short pause when asked to describe his beer garden. It could have been that his outside area was only just finished or maybe he just loves it that much it was put feelings into words. In the end he called it eclectic, natural, homely, really rustic – a place that makes him feel like drinking in his own backyard. It certainly is unique, a hidden gem as unexpected as it is secluded; punters have to walk past the fridges, taps and beer sampling chef to reach it.
According to Nicole, beer is the main ingredient that makes a beer garden great, aided by ambience and atmosphere, something they’ve created by adding fairy lights, shade, greenery and citronella to keep away the bugs. While most beer gardens are associated with summer, Dane wants to flip that on its head by creating fun events in the garden during winter: open mic nights, fire pits and wood fired pizzas to warm the cockles.
A sunny Saturday lunchtime saw three ladies perched outside in Sweet Amber Cafe’s backyard style beer garden. They didn’t seem to be bothering with lunch but instead were working their way through a variety of different beers. The outside area appealed as it offered the choice of shade or sun and was incredibly quiet and peaceful; they said they were outdoors sorts too. Pluses were the really natural feel: stones on the floor and an abundance of trees. A spot of lawn may improve the aesthetic slightly, they felt.
The Lion Hotel’s beer garden is more of an inside outside (or outside inside) drinking affair, as the majority is enclosed. The breeze and sunshine still flows freely but the walls with holes still give the impression of an inside drinking spot. On a hot summer’s day, the retractable roof leaps into action and the TVs are turned on to show sporting action. Bright green and orange wire structures intertwine to make up the side wall, stools and a hovering structure that forms part of the seating booth – think Star Trek tele-transportation unit and you’re on the right track. An outdoor kitchen / pop up bar is great for an evening function or giant dinner party.
Craft Beer Manager
Owen Lyons has only been in the craft beer manager’s role since October 2015 and already has some big plans for the beer garden area in the future. He believes the outdoor area is a good example for what's needed in a diverse commercial pub, with “diverse” meaning the space is more than just a beer garden for them, as it's used for dinner parties, live entertainment, sports and more. It sees a high volume of foot traffic most nights of the week, with the setup extremely contemporary.
On a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, a guy and his girlfriend enjoying a beer and a cocktail said their intention was to soak up some rays and, like a large number of other patrons, enjoy some fresh air. A key element for them in creating a great beer garden was the comfort of the seating, plus the need for large tables to cater for big groups of friends.
The Mile End
Definitely a year round beer garden, this place features an open, free flowing space for the summer and a blazing fire place and heating panels for the cold winter nights. The abundant seating at the Mile End allows the area to be used for multiple events and functions, from sit down dinners to cocktail style events. Andy Warhol-inspired art hangs from the wooden walls, while the floor is paved with bricks. This theme continues all through the hotel, with similar Pop Art paintings, drawings and stuffed animals exhibited in different rooms.
Marketing manager Alice Hemming is in charge of no less than seven hotels in Adelaide, all trading under the Saturno group banner. She believes the beer garden at The Mile End Hotel is a bit different than most as the whole pub takes on the Art Deco feel. It's a light, airy space, as the whole area is only partly covered with roofing, and is first place anyone would gravitate to on a sunny day.
A regular with his girlfriend enjoying Friday knock off drinks after a long week said he found it a very comfortable place to sit and enjoy a beer, away from the chilling air conditioning inside. He described the staff as “amazing”, which gave him another reason to continue coming back to The Mile End. He enjoyed the unique, rustic look. The only suggestion for improvement was maybe opening the walls up so drinkers can watch the world go by. That said, he felt the look of a beer garden wasn’t that important; it’s the feel and vibe that’s the most important element when creating a great beer garden.
Smiling Samoyed Brewery
Set on the edge of the Myponga Reservoir [which we know isn't actually in Adelaide, but allow us this one! Editor], Smiling Samoyed’s beer garden (pictured at top of article) is attached to their restaurant, brewery and brewery bar. The outside areas are split into two: a quaint terrace area out the back and another large drinking area on the side. The terrace area is exposed to full sun and is a perfect area to watch wildlife hopping by as the sun falls on the reservoir, whereas the larger area is more appropriate for a wood fired pizza party matched with one of Smiling Samoyed’s beers. Both areas have a full view of the scenic surrounds and are great drinking areas for a warm, sunny day.
The beer garden is always the first area to fill up, according to Caitlyn Dunstone. She says their outside areas are simple and basic – no bells and whistles because they already offer exactly what's needed: sun, views, fresh beer and food.
Atmosphere and offering something unique are two things that make a great beer garden, says Caitlyn, as they’re places people tend to want to sit and stay a while. With demand so high for their beer garden, they intend to make it bigger, with more shade and more spots in which to sit and enjoy their beers.
A large family gathering was setting up early on a Sunday morning in the beer garden, ready for lunch and a beer. They loved the panoramic view of the reservoir, which helped create a feeling of space. They thought having an area that looked over such a rural scene was smart – a good point of difference as you can’t have such an experience in the city.
They felt the greenery from the reservoir could seep more into the drinking area itself. As for beer gardens generally, they felt they should be nice and airy with plenty of shade and protection from the weather.
So where has the experience of touring so many beer gardens talking to owners and drinkers got us? It’s fair to say that beer garden greatness doesn’t come easy; a slapped together open space with chairs and tables at the back or side of a pub just doesn’t cut the mustard. Thankfully, Adelaide is increasingly well served by venues serving good beer with great beer gardens in which to enjoy it.
Looking further afield, there are, of course, regional breweries offering welcoming outdoor drinking areas: Barossa Valley Brewing’s tree-lined garden in Tanunda, Woolshed’s Murray River-side deck (pictured) or the outdoor area at Prancing Pony that may lack much in the way of greenery itself but has plenty of tasty beer and views over the surrounding fields, to name just three.
And, while there can be no set formula for creating a great beer garden – each venue has its own quirks and each venue owner will have their own ideas as to what they believe will work and what their clientele will enjoy. Yet there were common elements that came up over and over.
The comfort of drinkers (and the ability for groups from one or two up to large parties to feel comfortable), the aesthetics of the space that surrounds them – whether inside or looking out, and the atmosphere created – either silently or with carefully chosen music, are all crucial. Above all, of course, a beer garden, no matter how well designed, how stunning, how spacious and comfortable, cannot really be great – at least in our eyes – unless it serves great beer.
Thanks to all of the venue staff, owners and guests who took the time to chat for this article. Do you agree with what they had to say? Where are your favourite beer gardens? And who have we missed in Adelaide (noting that we visited and attempted to make contact with people at The Franklin, the Lady Daly Hotel, The Edinburgh Hotel and The Edinburgh Castle without luck before publishing)?