Back at the start of 2017, we published a guide to the small bars helping to bring good beer to the people of Adelaide. As we wrote at the time, a lot of the venues brought into existence by the passing of "small bars" legislation were thriving and, while craft beer is typically only part of a broad lineup of quality booze they offer across the board, their selections were typically small but perfectly formed and served by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.
In the ensuing time, as happens with the world of hospitality, some have gone, others have come and others still have evolved. All of which warrants revisiting the Crafty Crawl and highlighting the smaller venues in the city leading the charge when it comes to pouring new and interesting beers – sometimes with recommended boilermaker pairings – and dedicating their fonts to independent brewers.
There are so many good options these days, it's not a "crawl" we'd suggest undertaking in one go, more a guide to where to go hunting when you're out and about. That said, some of them are so close to each other, you could practically trip from one to the next...
Many of these venues are found in and make clever use of unlikely locations, 55ml among them: the garage style building that Seamus Noone and Seira Hotta occupy was once a fish market. Thankfully, the smell has since disappeared, replaced by a psychedelic playground in Mill Street.
The venue itself is inspired by a road trip around Australia, where Seamus and Seira experienced some good old-fashioned customer service. Meanwhile, the 55ml crew are party animals, regularly flying in guest DJs to spice things up.
The four taps pour a South Australian favourite in the form of Coopers Sparkling or Pale, with the other three set on rotation. If you're embarking on a crawl, we suggest starting here as it opens earlier than the rest. Once ready to move on, it's time to head to small bar central... MK
55ml is at 33-35 Mill Street.
Adelaide’s own laneway dive bar opens its doors at 4pm and doesn’t get cranking until the later hours, but once it does a line usually forms outside pretty quickly. You won’t forget the name of the place in a hurry thanks to the large neon sign – and the bar’s namesake song usually gets a few spins a night on the Statesman jukebox filled with classic rock.
Dancing on the tables is encouraged, which means things get pretty raucous late in the evening at a spot that's quickly become a favourite with Adelaide’s hospo scene. Brewers have been known to enjoy a few sessions here too, and there are regular tap takeover events to enjoy.
If you’re after a snack, you can get your hands on some free Cajun spiced popcorn at the bar. Once you’ve worked up a thirst, turn your attention to the 12 taps dedicated to craft beer (including regular collaborations with local brewers) or the well-stocked fridges that have plenty of seasonal brews to peruse too. ABC
Cry Baby is at 11 Solomon Street.
Venture to Sunny’s for the pizza, stay for the beer. Initially, Sunny’s might seem like a great venue to start the night off: a good feed and a good beer, but throw in a DJ, three interesting taps, a fridge of simple beers and fun staff and it can quickly become a one venue night. Or at least a one laneway night: Sunny's is just a few doors along from Cry Baby, so why go anywhere else?
Fresh, wood-fired pizzas come in the form of six main choices, taking in a Neapolitan with two cheeses, pepperoni with squid ink cacciatore, eggplant parmigiana, and pork and fennel sausage to name a few. Not keen on pizza? Sides add to the experience with wood-roasted brussels, burnt cauliflower, fried squid, fried chicken among others.
Come the weekend, Sunnys is pumping with drinkers starting their evenings amid its buzzing, party vibe, one that frequently spills out into the laneway. MK
Sunny's Pizza is at 17 Solomon Street.
Pink Moon Saloon
If you can tear yourself away from the laneway, there are plenty more treats to be found just a couple of blocks away, not least Pink Moon Saloon. Born in an old garbage bin alleyway off Leigh Street, it's an award-winning small venue, picking up a swag of prestigious titles pretty much as soon as it opened.
The younger sibling to Clever Little Tailor, Pink Moon Saloon adopts a lot of the same philosophies when it comes to simplicity. The bar area supports five taps, all flowing with craft beer, while the bottle and can list is short but always diverse and interesting.
The vibe is typically of the "Let’s party" nature with DJs cranking out sweet beats most nights and a colourful crowd filling every nook and cranny of the cleverly designed space. MK
You'll find Pink Moon Saloon at 21 Leigh Street.
Bank St Social
Descending the steps to this underground haven just around the corner from Pink Moon Saloon is the perfect way to escape the madness of Hindley Street at any hour of the night. One of Adelaide’s first small bars, the tiles at the entrance announce “always good times” and Bank St Social delivers on that claim. Halfway between a bar and a club, it’s the perfect spot for casual after work drinks but as the night gets going things grow a bit livelier and a dancefloor materialises in the middle of the venue.
Large leather booths and exposed brick walls stretch off into the darkness in the dimly lit interior, giving it a speakeasy feel. And there are plenty of on theme cocktails in the extensive drinks list, but you’ll also find four taps pouring South Australian craft beers and another fifteen packaged selections from around the country. ABC
Bank St Social is tucked away at 48 Hindley Street.
Swing around the corner into Peel Street, venture down a set of stairs that lead to… nothing. Well, nothing if you don’t know where to look.
Those in the know about this hidden retreat will make their way through what initially appears to be a wall and into one of the cooler spots in town, the sort of venue where you can imagine stumbling upon a huddle of Tarantino characters lounging in a booth.
Again, there's just the three taps here, but you'll always find them delivering beer from the Aussie brewers. Maybe Mae is also well regarded for its cocktails, winning numerous awards over the years. Get lost, forget about the world above and immerse yourself in quality booze in all its many forms. MK
Descend the stairs at 15 Peel Street.
Clever Little Tailor
Sharing the same laneway is one of the first small venues to open in the CBD, with Clever Little Tailor epitomising all that's great about great booze. Via the carefully crafted cocktails, a petite wine list and three rotating craft taps, the Clever Little Tailor keeps it simple.
The staff are enthusiastic purveyors of craft beer, always ensuring punters are drinking the drink that suits their current mood and appetite (you just try to resist their boilermaker suggestions). The bar snack menu guarantees drinkers never leave hungry and there's always a buzz. MK
Clever Little Tailor resides at 19 Peel Street.
Hains & Co
Follow the compass and ride the tall seas to find Hains & Co tucked away in the back streets of the CBD. The nautically-inspired haunt pours craft beer from four taps and boasts several other tinnies and bottles in its fridges.
The dim lighting, cigar cabinet and sailing paraphernalia give the place a somewhat mystical feel, a sense of being transported back to another time and place. The music is gentle but the atmosphere tends to be less so, with revellers spilling out into the laneway to enjoy drinks with the wind in their hair.
Breweries such as Pirate Life and Little Bang are known to frequent Hains and Co, taking over the taps and partying like it's their final voyage. It needn't be yours, however, as Johnny Cash's Big River lies a mere two minutes walk away... MK
Set sail at 23 Gilbert Place.
Another blink and you could miss it affair, Mississippi Moon lurks behind a tiny shop frontage hidden down a small laneway just off Hindley Street. Once you've located it, you'll discover a South American-inspired dive bar awaiting you.
Three taps rotate through beers from near and far, there's a killer lineup of ever-changing boilermakers to check out, while the homely feel of the front bar that welcomes guests leads into a space at the back where you find the dancefloor, ready for you to pull shapes with the singing crocodile while DJs spin classy, old school rock 'n' roll. MK
Mississippi Moon is at 25 Gresham Street.
You'll have to move a little further to reach the final destination in this guide, but we're pretty sure you'll find it's worth it. Just down the road from NOLA, this upstairs bar takes its cues from another iconic US spot. Reflecting the hipster vibes of gentrified Williamsburg, it has tiling that looks like it belongs in a subway station and features a barbershop and deli-style counter inside. So it’s only appropriate that it serves Adelaide’s best Reuben, alongside the beers to match it.
The five taps include a rotating Mismatch pour alongside limited editions and mainstays from around the country, while the packaged selection features a number of larger US craft names including (of course) several Brooklyn Brewery beers. And, if you can’t decided what to order, you could always let chance take over and order the $7 Mystery Beer before grabbing a spot on the balcony to watch the crowds pass by on Rundle Street. ABC
Find a slice of Brooklyn in SA at 260-262 Rundle Street.
You'll find our guide to Adelaide CBD's pubs and bigger venues here and you can check out all other Crafty Crawls from around Australia here. You can also locate all venues featured here and hundreds more across Australia via the free Crafty Pint app.
NB "Crafty Crawl" is our catch-all title for suburb, area or PT line guides to good beer around Australia and we're not suggesting you take any of them on in one go unless, of course, they're approached sensibly.
Article by Matt King and Alexis Buxton-Collins.