Beer Travel: The Adelaide Hills


Adelaide is a unique city in the sense that, if you're caught up in the buzz and bustle that's part and parcel of being a capital city, there are quiet escapes a short drive away in pretty much any direction you choose. A sunny day off is easily filled with laid-back pleasures, be it a walk through the city fringe national park, a swim at the beach or a tour through one of the numerous booze-producing regions. Fun, frivolity and refreshment can all be achieved without the need to book even a single night’s accommodation, leaving more money to spend on whimsically running amok.

The Adelaide Hills is one of these great escapes: an easy region to tour due to its close proximity to the city and the large variety of venues to visit. Whether it's a meticulously planned, full on day spent meandering around from one beer-filled venue to the next or just lunch and a few quiet beverages, the Adelaide Hills possesses a magnetic pull when your day is free of chores. 

From the city, there are two main ways to arrive in the Hills: via the freeway or the scenic route. The Princes Highway allows you to maximise your time and connects you to every major town in the region. The scenic route is a twisty, windy one that takes in views of fruit farms, one house towns, rolling paddocks and dense national parks. The smartest method sends visitors along the scenic route first – if breweries, wineries or distilleries are on your agenda, the extra hour en route ensures the clock ticks past an acceptable drinking hour – then having your driver fly you home via the highway as you snooze off the day’s indulgences.

These days, there's so much on offer for the booze curious you can't feasible take it all in across one day, probably not even two, so if it is a day trip, we recommend selecting your venues before setting off. And, if you are travelling in a large group, it's best to phone ahead to ensure the venue can cater for you.

From breweries to beer venues to stellar bottleshops, the Adelaide Hills has the potential to fill both your belly and your boot. And here's how to do it in the most flavoursome way possible.


Uraidla Brewery

     

Following the suggested picturesque path, trail along Greenhill Road, around the edges of the Cleland Conservation Park, and soon enough you will arrive in a tiny town called Uraidla. Only the essentials are present here: a primary school, post office, bakery, hotel and a brewery (as we said, just the essentials). The latter three are all owned by the same company with the brewery housed inside the bakery. As such, it doesn’t take long for the mind to start pondering the first beer of the day while selecting the 10am smoko treat...

The 12hL Premier Stainless brewhouse fills a corner of the bakery where a squash court once sat. Here, head brewer Oscar Matthews uses knowledge amassed from homebrewing and a short stint working at the family-owned SLO Brew in California. To enjoy the beers, venture next door, a mere five metres away, where you'll find all of his beers pouring at the Uraidla Hotel.

The hotel first poured beer in 1867 when a Mr Edmund Wilcox was granted a storekeeper’s licence. Today, the venue has been renovated and all that is left from yesteryear is the long room facing the main street. Sharing the taps are other local craft beverages, while summer 2018/19 saw the owners installed a canning line too.

Uraidla Brewery is at 1196 Greenhill Road, Uraidla.


Lobethal Bierhaus


The second venue is only a short drive from Uraidla through charming townships to one of the very first independent breweries in South Australia, Lobethal Bierhaus. Al Turnbull first brewed in this former tweed factory in 2007 and, with wife Rosie at his side, continues to innovate to this day.

The Bierhaus is an incredibly popular place come the weekend so, if you plan on eating or drinking here, you'd best have a reservation. The tasting paddle is a must, with close to 20 taps and four hand pumps pouring Lobethal’s core range and limited edition brews.

The Lobethal gang has always been ahead of its time, and not just in being one of state's craft beer pioneers. Al and his team can regularly be found pushing boundaries and exploring new avenues. In 2016, they fired up their own in-house malting setup – a first for the state. It was built using modified brewing equipment along with custom-designed bits and pieces. Other firsts for Lobethal include a beer made from lentils and a 100 percent gluten free beer brewed with sorghum malted by Al.

Lobethal's Bierhaus is front and centre at 3A Main Street, Lobethal.


Left Barrel

 

Leaving the town on Lobethal, link up with the Onkaparinga Valley Road as it will lead you straight to Left Barrel Brewing’s taproom. Here you'll find Brad Bown and his farmhouse-inspired beers within a small shopping complex. Brad’s point of difference is his love of the unconventional yeast strains and bacteria, often experimenting with the likes of Norwegian yeast kviek, Brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus.

The taphouse is open from Friday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon, allowing Brad some spare time to complete his other brewing tasks, such as kegging, canning and cleaning – not to mention his other job as an engineer. Food trucks roll into the complex on occasion, providing another option alongside the in-house pizzas for those seeking an accompaniment to the beer pouring from eleven taps. 

The man likely to be pouring them has just one wish for the beer community in the future: drink more farmhouse style beer.

Brad and his barrels an be found at 2e/37 Onkaparinga Valley Road, Balhannah.


Gulf Brewery

 

Follow the signs to the historic German town of Hahndorf and you'll discover a beer haven. Clean lagers, estery wheats and malty dunkels line the streets, served alongside hearty meats, pretzels and sauerkraut; Hahndorf is a little taste of Germany in South Australia.

While the operation released its first beers in 2005, it was in 2011 that Gulf Brewing Company moved in to join the Germans and started pouring beers for the many tourists that visit every year. Owner and brewer Peter Fitzsimons started out as a passionate homebrewer and, when the obsession got too out of hand, started his own brewing company.

Drinkers have numerous options when it comes to choosing a spot in which to enjoy their beverages: on the front patio watching the cars go by, in the sunny beer garden or kicking back in the lounge area. Gulf’s beers range from a traditional German pilsner and dunkel to a pale ale, Belgian wit, amber lager and a smoked rauchbier that took out the best hybrid beer award at the 2018 Adelaide Beer and Cider Awards. 

Take your pick at 81 Main Street, Hahndorf.


The Haus

 

If you're in town and in need of a feed, you're in luck, particularly if you're a carnivore. Along the main strip of Hahndorf, there are loads of German style pubs and most will have some sort of traditional beer style on tap, often an import such as Weihenstephan or Hofbräu. 

The Haus is a little different from the rest, however, a little classier than some and with tap and bottle lists that are quite impressive, balancing local, interstate and European beers. Weihenstephan features on tap and in the fridges alongside Prancing Pony, Pirate Life, Pikes, Barossa Valley, Chimay, Liefmans, Smiling Samoyed, Lobethal and Modus Operandi.

It's easy to see where inspiration for the menu comes from, with gargantuan beef and chicken schnitzels, pork hocks and wursts sharing space with the likes of Atlantic salmon, gnocchi, Coffin Bay oysters and flame-grilled steaks. 

Augmenting the craft beer experience, The Haus regularly hosts Hop Wars, where two breweries go head to head, pairing their beers with food as attendees are invited to vote for their favourite and one company crowned Hop Wars Champion.

Score a full Haus at 38A Main Street, Hahndorf.


Mismatch / Lot 100

 

Mismatch started out as gypsy brewers in 2013, utilising Big Shed as their incubator. Their tight and approachable beers quickly struck a chord with South Australian drinkers and expansion soon followed.

As of late 2018, Mismatch ditched the gypsy tag and commissioned their own production brewery in the Hay Valley. Not only have they built a brewery and venue to match but they've gone big, installing a 35hL Premier Stainless brewhouse and a copse of fermenters increasing in size to four times that volume. They've also picked up a centrifuge and a shiny new canning machine for their core range and some limited release beers.

The brewery is far from the only talking point, as Mismatch has joined forces with Adelaide Hills Cider, Adelaide Hills distillery, Ashton Valley Fresh Juices and Vinteloper Wines to create The Travelling Wilburys or Cream of beverage venues. 

Located in Hay Valley, Lot 100 is a short drive from Hahndorf and boasts 20 different products across its 40 taps. An Italian-inspired menu is there to help soak up the booze in the restaurant and lush grass, sunny decks and spacious outdoor seating ensures drinkers can enjoy their beverages while kicking back in comfort. There are plans to create a chef’s garden alive with fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, as well as a small farm of animals destined for use in the kitchen. 

A natural amphitheatre means events such as A Day on the Green can take up temporary residence at a multifaceted venue ready to entertain a wide variety of drinkers and partygoers in as wide a variety of ways.

The many parts of Lot 100 are located at 68 Chambers Road, Hay Valley.


Prancing Pony

 

Your Adelaide Hills experience is far from over at this point as only 10 kilometres down the road is Prancing Pony. Starting out in 2013 in an industrial unit that formed both brewery and venue, it wasn’t long before the Ponies needed more room in which to roam, which led to a move to a much larger venue in Totness (a four minute drive from Hahndorf). 

Here, you'll find 16 different taps of Prancing Pony beer, a German-inspired menu and live entertainment that takes the shape of musical performances and live brewing demonstrations made possible by a brewhouse that straddles the restaurant and drinking area, giving guests a firsthand view of how the beer they are drinking takes shape. Prancing Pony’s parties are legendary, ranging from super chilled Sunday sessions and fundraisers to live comedy and, of course given the owners' German heritage, Oktoberfest. 

Moving through their range, you can start with Munich style Helles or the Indie Kid Pilsener, move through their Sunshine Ale or Hopwork Orange APA then finishing with their trophy-winning India Red Ale or big-hitting Magic Carpet Ride Imperial Stout. They can be sampled via tasting paddles if the choice is too much, while the menu has been created from a "beer up" standpoint – wood-fired pizza, burgers, wings, tacos and sausages (they’re the wurst), pretzels and the like – and incorporates almost exclusively local produce. 

It would be easy to settle in at Prancing Pony for the entire afternoon, however there's still more to discover. Up you get – and don’t forget to go to the toilet as the next place is a little drive away.

Join the Ponies at 42 Mount Barker Road, Totness.


Stirling Hotel, Cellars & Patisserie

 

Beginning the loop back to Adelaide, head back onto the highway and take the Stirling exit and enter a buzzing little town reminiscent of an English countryside hamlet. On weekends people pour into Stirling to shop at the markets and take in the beauty of the tree-lined streets (autumn is particularly impressive).

At the heart of the town lies the Stirling Hotel, accompanied by its Cellars and Patisserie within the same shopping complex. The Hotel takes on many forms, with a sophisticated dining area, a busy bistro and relaxed outdoor seating area. If you're in need of a lie down, they have five boutique accommodation rooms too. 

Good beer pours from multiple taps and is present in the fridges too, with Adelaide Hills breweries well looked after: Uraidla, Lobethal and Mismatch often feature, while the other taps are taken up by other local, interstate and, on occasion, international beer.

Towards the back of the Hotel and up a small set of stairs you'll come to the Stirling Cellars and Patisserie, a bottleshop-cum-artisan café that sells small sweets, rich pies and tarts, great coffee, wine and beer. Often frequented by the cycling community in the Hills, this café is a laid-back affair in which it's easy to unwind. If you're here to stock up, there's a large variety of styles and breweries from all over in the fridges.

Indulge your whims at 52 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.


Crafers Hotel

 

A hop an a skip along the highway is Crafers, another tiny town with a hotel at its heart. The Crafers Hotel mixes old natural materials with quirky new pieces to create a cosy, welcoming, classy Aussie pub with an English twang. The walls are made of exposed large stone pieces, with dark timber, arched windows and hanging plants to add to the surrounding greenery. 

Walking though the entrance, the stained glass window displaying the Crafers logo is impressive and striking and leads into the lounge area where you're met by six beer taps and comfy leather and upholstered couches. Beyond that, the dining room. If you're in the mood for wine, there's a room dedicated to it up the winding stairs, one decked out in floral wallpaper and portraits of an old English sailor. The final room in the hotel comes in the form of the front bar, where the elegant look continues and a dozen taps await your attention.

The Crafers Hotel takes beverages seriously, with a full-time wine sommelier on hand to assist diners in selecting the perfect bottle of wine to match their meal and tastes. The wine cellar takes up an entire room, surrounded by glass panels and visible from the dining room. Uraidla, Mismatch, Pirate Life, Coopers and Clare Valley usually make up the South Australian contingent on tap, while Bridge Road, Hop Nation, Sauce, Moon Dog and Mountain Goat drop in from interstate. 

Crafers Hotel sits at 8 Main Street, Crafer.


Belair Fine Wines

 

Your final stop is as good a place as any in SA to restock your fridges at home. Hook up with Waverley Ridge Road, which soon turns into Sheoak Road, and after about nine kilometres you'll reach Belair Fine Wines. If you were after a quality vino or artisan spirit, this shop would have you covered, but we're here for the "Great Wall Of Beer".

More than one thousand different beers grace the shelves and fridges at Belair, from fresh local gear, to aged farmhouse bottles from Belgium. Due to the sheer size and quantity of beer on the wall, each time it's perused, something new is found. Flanders red ales from 2015 can be found tucked in one of the back corners alongside decade-old Belgian dubbels, while there's an entire section for barrel-aged stouts and Russian imperial stouts. The beers are organised by style, with the hop driven styles typically found in the fridge.

Nearly every South Australian brewery is represented on the Great Wall Of Beer, whether from the Adelaide CBD, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, Riverland or as far east as Robe Town; if the beer is in a can or bottle, Belair is likely to have it. If you're going to be a regular, don’t forget to join their beer club, where members receive 10 percent off purchases. 

There's no such thing as a quick in-and-out here – plan for a minimum of thirty minutes to an hour just to wrap your head around the colossal range.

Take on the Great Wall at 9 Russell Street, Belair.


By Appointment: Silver Bark Brewing

Anthony Mibus started out where most brewers started, with a small homebrew kit and a bunch of friends to help drink his beers. An engineer by trade, he soon began upscaling his operation and then upscaled again and again. Now he has a 200 litre system he built himself housed in his back shed in Mount Barker with a few tanks and bottling and kegging equipment.

After travelling around the world for work and pleasure, he's created a core range of eight beers inspired by those trips. You can find his beers in some local independent bottleshops in the Hills but, if you fancy a guided tasting, Anthony will take bookings by appointment at his family home. Silver Bark only launched in late 2018 but has plans to slowly spread across the Great Southern State.

Make your appointment via Anthony's website.


Previously known as a popular wine region, the craft beer movement has begun something of a takeover in the Hills. It's a region that combines picturesque views, quaint towns and some great breweries and venues. Gather the friends, hire a driver and head to the Hills; you're guaranteed to return with a smile on your face.


You can find other Beer Travel articles here and our Crafty Crawl suburb and city guides here. You can also find all the above and hundreds more breweries and good beer venues when you're out and about – plus events, special deals, beer reviews, articles and more – in our free app.

About the author: You can follow Matt King on multiple social media platforms, including via his blog The Craft Beer King.

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