Of all the Australian capitals, Adelaide is arguably the most laid-back. Sure, there's the month between mid-February and mid-March into which the city crams enough festivals and major events to sustain thrill seekers well into winter. Yet, outside that period, things tend to be kept pretty simple and chilled.
The city's layout resembles a giant grid, you can cross the CBD by car at rush hour in the same time it takes to move 100m along Parramatta Road or Punt Road on a weekend, shops don’t open until 11am on a Sunday, it's renowned worldwide for its churches and there's a limited tram network available to travel through the city.
Luckily for the South Australian craft beer drinker, the trams do travel past a heap of the city's growing number of good beer (and other booze) venues and, as such, this updated version of a Crafty Crawl first published in July 2017 needn’t require much walking.
Taken together with our forthcoming article focusing on the city's craftier small bars and a subsquent guide to the best suburban spots for good beer, it should keep even the most ardent beer lover sated.
Stop One: Unibar
The revitalised Unibar – run by the team behind the city's annual Beer & BBQ Festival – is a far cry from the old venue, with its sticky carpets and ancient stained glass windows. Instead the ground floor venue has high ceilings, lots of light and plenty of comfortable seats. There are pool tables and foosball inside and the licence stretches out to the lawn, which is the perfect spot to relax on a sunny day (ask behind the bar for picnic rugs).
Coopers occupies two to three of the eight taps, while the rest rotate through breweries like Mismatch, Pirate Life and Young Henrys, who sponsor the pool comp. The bar is only open on weekdays and everyone is welcome – those who graduated a while ago will appreciate the student prices thanks to a rotating beer of the month that goes for $5 a pint, and from 4pm to 6pm every weeknight all tap beers will set you back the same amount.
With plenty of packaged product as well, it’s a pleasant spot to relive the past glories of uni days or begin a craft beer education. ABC
Stop Two: NOLA
Should you head south from your tram trip, you'd come to NOLA, where you'll find 16 taps pouring nothing but independently owned beers and ciders, supported by a simple but elegant bottle list. Throw in a shot of fine whisky to create a boilermaker, some soul food and jazz rhythms and you have a recreation of the New Orleans experience.
NOLA is a two level venue that opens with a chilled vibe in the morning and early afternoon, before transforming into to a buzzing party house after the sun goes down. Keep one eye on the diary too as the team behind the venue loves to put on events, including heaps of live music. MK
From here, it's a mere hop and a skip to...
Stop Three: Roxie's
The block surrounding the Crown & Anchor has seen a lot of changes over the past few years but with Roxie’s it’s finally found a bar that can draw a crowd year round. Basically just one giant beer garden, the outdoor venue is always heaving in summer but a regular calendar of events means there’s now a reason to visit during the colder months as well.
Local legends Comida provide a selection of delicious tapas and pub favourites with a Spanish twist in the kitchen while the wood-fired pizza oven is a popular hangout spot in winter. And there’s something for everyone behind the bar with the idiosyncratic selection of lo-fi wines matched by 12 taps that typically feature crafty offerings from the bigger players, such as Pirate Life, 4 Pines, Young Henrys and Coopers, while Wednesday is $3 schooner night. ABC
From here, you'll be wanting to head back through the CBD to...
Stop Four: Lady Burra Brewhouse
The Lady Burra this venue is named after led a turbulent life. Born in Burra Burra, Elizabeth Lilian Oliver experienced, among many other things, her father’s death from over-consumption, was raped and left for dead on the Ballarat goldfields, and was later blamed – many people believed wrongly – for her husband’s death and became the first and only woman hung at the Adelaide Gaol.
Thankfully, the Lady Burra Brewhouse that sits in Topham Mall instead focuses on delivering a buzzing vibe, often packed to the rafters with busy city folk. Sure, there's a mural of Elizabeth splashed across one wall, but no ghostly reminders of her tumultuous life.
Six taps pour beer brewed in house, with the entire process visible to all punters. There are four beers that make up the core range – a pilsner, pale, nitro Irish red ale and IPA – which is supported by a smattering of limited releases. The food is Spanish influenced, with small tapas style bites and paella the favourites, but with other beer food also making an appearance in the form of wood fired pizzas, burgers and fried chicken.
Heading to a game at the Oval? With its close proximity, Lady Burra is a great location to start off proceedings. MK
Stop Five: The Franklin Hotel
A convenient CBD watering hole, boasting ten dedicated craft taps including a hand pump for pouring nitro beers. Among the draught beers is one brewed just for the Franklin, with the Brilliant Ale a light coloured, easy drinker, while the remainder tend to rotate through beers from small breweries near and far. The kitchen serves up a mix between share bites, wholesome pub grub and Frank’s famous hot dogs.
When the sun is shining, the beer garden is the place to be: it's cozy and has a vintage summer feel, thanks to the pastel coloured furniture, with large umbrellas under which you can settle with mates. MK
Stop Six: Sparkke at the Whitmore
The 180-year old bluestone façade on the outside has barely changed in decades, but inside Sparkke at the Whitmore is definitely not your run of the mill, old school pub. With gender-neutral bathrooms and no dark corners to be found, it’s been designed by the women behind Sparkke to be an approachable and inclusive space for everyone.
A long bar and large beer garden mean there’s plenty of space to spread out and make yourself at home, and the upstairs deck is particularly inviting in summer. Sparkke’s core range products are still made under contract but an in-house 800 litre kit makes limited release brews that are poured just metres away. Other taps carry South Australian drops like Barossa Valley Brewing and Mismatch along with the occasional beer from further afield.
Acclaimed chef Emma McCaskill is in charge of the menu of the bar food with an Indian accent and, if you’re looking something to take home, you can fill a growler with the tap beers or check out the bottleshop, which has a reasonable selection of Sparkke and other craft beers from Australia, NZ and the US. ABC
Stop Seven: King’s Head/Sturt St Cellars
The King's Head Hotel is dedicated to South Australia, only selling booze and food that has been made in the state. The 12 beer taps inside the hotel are mirrored in the bottleshop. It means that, if you want to take a tap beer home to enjoy, you can as Sturt St Cellars was the first to bring a CANimal machine to SA. Apart from the choice on tap, drinkers have access to anything in the four-doored fridge of the cellars.
Sit out the front of the hotel and watch the world fly by, cozy up by the wood fires in the cooler months or buy a ticket to one of the occasional underground cellar dinners. Friday and Saturday nights see DJs playing music into the small hours while there's a collection of board games to help pass the time too. MK
Once you're ready to move on, just around the corner is...
Stop Eight: Gilbert Street Hotel
A very fitting place to end the crawl, with the Gilbert Street Hotel having a reputation for pouring rare and limited release beers not often found elsewhere in the city. Aside from that, you'll always find Pirate Life on tap (and often the team from the brewery drinking there) alongside other independent breweries' beers across the ten taps.
There's a colourful beer garden out back, a food menu that changes with the seasons, wood fires in the winter and beach parties in the summer. The pub is usually packed to the brim on a Wednesday and Thursday night, as it's the time GSH chicken wings land on diners' plates. MK
You may have spotted a glaring Wheaty-shaped hole in this guide; the Thebarton icon (pictured above) was the launchpad for this Crawl in the original version but, given the greater number of venues now offering a decent selection closer to the CBD, it will reappear in the suburban Crawl. That said, you can read all about the pub here and the in-house Wheaty Brewing Corps here in the meantime.
Another city venue worth checking out these days is Treasury 1860. Before you walk in, it’s clear this is not your average hotel bar. Located in the Treasury building in King William Street, where politicians once met and debated the bill that made SA third place in world to give women the vote, it’s a place with plenty of history. In the upscale bar, the four taps are democratically shared between locals like Little Bang and Pirate Life and, if you ask nicely, the bartenders might even tell you how to get down to the tunnels below the building.
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.
Writing by Matt King and Alexis Buxton-Collins; photo of Roxie's from their Facebook page.