The Ministry of Beer story starts back in 2016, when Brett Reimann first began brewing barrel-aged sours in his shed on a farm in the Barossa Valley. At a time when sours were still relatively rare sights in Australia, he played the long game, waiting patiently for his beer to hit prime maturity in a single barrel before releasing it to a tiny local market.
The first release was a golden sour called Old Timer that spent 12 months in barrel, first entered the spotlight at the 2017 Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival, and instantly received rave reviews, including a spot in The Crafty Pint’s Best New SA Beers Of 2017.
From those humble beginnings, Brett slowly chipped away, building up his barrel collection, developing a core range, and decanting a portion of his golden sour from barrels every year. Alongside the Old Timer, a number of fruited sours – notably a peach and six cherry offering – also appeared.
Fast forward to 2021 and the business has grown significantly, with a number of unsoured beers also bearing the brewery's name. Brett now counts a hop field, a canning line, and close to 30 barrels – American and French Oak and some ex-whisky – as part of his operation too. And at their new property in Lyndoch he and wife Dayna have started growing fruit for use in some of his sours.
As last year drew to a close, they took arguably their biggest step yet in terms of taking the business to the next level: opening a venue. Brett quit his earthmoving job and they set about creating a cellar door within an impressive old bank building in Lyndoch’s main street that had previously housed a winery cellar door.
"We've been looking for a venue for a long time," he told The Crafty Pint. "We just did wholesale while I worked another job, and that had been going on for too long.
"We were just trying to find a venue, then COVID popped up and we thought, 'Bugger it. We need this location'."
The one they landed upon occupies a prime location on the corner of Lyndoch's main street, and while they had to go through the rite of passage faced by most brewery owners – 12 months spent dealing with council – they were able to throw open the doors to customers in November.
It was worth the year of back-and-forth, however, as they've inherited a building with good bones as well as a good location: there was already a bar in place as well as the beginnings of a kitchen.
Call in and you'll find that bar sporting 16 taps covering a broad range of styles: pilsner, blonde, pale ale, IPA, New England IPA, sours, milk stout, and a selection of barrel-aged offerings encompassing gold, red and dark, a tart saison, Old Timer, and an imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels. If that's not enough to whet your whistle, the offering is augmented further by what's found in the fridge. There, you'll find limited releases in bottles plus Ministry of Beer's entire can collection; of course, there's plenty more in the pipeline, while some of the barrel-aged beers aren't sold anywhere else.
As for the venue in which they're poured, they've gone for a natural approach. There are thick wooden beams and barrels above the taps, and the beer garden is decorated with grapevines.
When it comes to the small but functional kitchen focused on Flammkuchen – a German-style flat pizza – the real talking point is found in the corner: Brett converted the bank vault into his coolroom.
"We've had some of the locals coming in to say they can give me the code for the bank vault if I need it," he says.
Since opening in early November, the 80-capacity venue has attracted both local supporters and those travelling to the Barossa to check it out. After living in the region for many years, Brett and his family have embedded themselves in the local community, establishing strong bonds with the coopers at local wineries, as well as drinkers and weekend diners; now they've given the wider community a new place to enjoy.
As for the future, while brewing and packaging continues in the brew shed on the farm, you can look out for further expansion of the barrel program, the use of fruits and hops grown on the family's property, and maybe even the arrival of a foeder that would allow for greater experimentation.
Whatever direction the Ministry of Beer takes next, in their first five years they've certainly come a long way from working with a single barrel in a shed.
Ministry of Beer's cellar door is located at 1 Lyndoch Valley Rd, Lyndoch, and you can find them alongside hundreds of other breweries and good beer venues across Australia in the free Crafty Pint app.
Photo at top of article by John Krüger.