The Riverland Brewer & Publican Rewinding Time To Make A Beer From 1859

May 27, 2024, by Jason Treuen

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The Riverland Brewer & Publican Rewinding Time To Make A Beer From 1859

While many brewers froth over the next big thing or toy with the latest hop product, the publican and brewer at two South Australian operations have instead turned back time for inspiration, all the way back to 1859.

Brad Flowers (above right) is the co-owner and caretaker of the historic Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland region. Jack Beavis is the head brewer at Woolshed Brewery, a 45-minute drive east from the pub along the Murray. Together, they’ve combined their love of beer and history to recreate the beer – a traditional English porter – that poured at the pub 165 years ago. 

“The Overland is such an iconic pub and one of the oldest freestanding buildings in the state,” Brad says. “When my wife Nicole and I took it over three years ago, we did a lot of research into the pub’s origins and all the stories just kept pointing back towards this certain beer.” 

The brewer who helped bring the beer back to life adds: “There’s all these amazing old articles and historical photos on the pub walls and we were just like, 'We have to delve into this.' We’d been talking about it for years but one night we were drinking round the fire, we were like, ‘Let’s make this beer – it’s now or never’."

 

The Overland Corner Hotel first served drinkers in the Riverland region 165 years ago.

 

Of course, remaking the Overland Corner Original Porter was hardly as easy as popping into the local brew shop and putting in an order. First, Brad and Jack had to piece together the recipe, gleaning shreds of information from old town archives, ship manifests, the local museum, the state library, and the family history of the Brand brothers, who built the pub after immigrating from Kent, England. 

The pair settled on Maris Otter, brown and black patent malts, paired with flaked barley and classic UK hops East Kent Goldings (the Brand brothers picked hops for a living back home), but it was sourcing the historic yeast of that time that proved to be the most curious part of the puzzle. 

“We worked with Ferveo Yeast Suppliers in Adelaide to find the strain that was used in the Fuller's Brewery in London back in the 1850s,” Jack expains. “Compared to modern yeasts, it’s a bit clunky and funky, but it adds a great fruity character and drops really bright.”

After a semi-traditional brew, using stainless steel tanks but with a hand-raked mash and no temperature control, they split the 1,000 litre batch in two: first, into traditional casks with lower carbonation; then into kegs and cans with more fizz to suit the modern market.

 

Brad helping out on the Woolshed brew deck; and enjoying a tank sample with head brewer Jack.

 

So how does it taste? 

“When I tried it at the brewery the other day, it blew my mind,” Brad says. “From a non-brewer perspective, I love porters but some over the last few years have tasted quite thin. This one is a real full-bodied, flavoursome beer that’s perfect for knocking back around the fire.”

As Jack tells it, back in older days, a pub scoring a barrel of beer would have been a very special and rare event, drawing thirsty folks from far and wide. 

“Rum was for everyday drinking back then – it was probably just fermented shoe polish – but beer was a very big occasion for the locals who’d all get together to drink it before it spoiled.”

 

Brad and Nicole have revived the old boozer, while also showcasing its past.

 

In a beautiful echo of the past, the beer will once again bring the town together when it’s launched this Thursday (May 30). There, Brad will be pouring it from a vintage hand pump or keg (your choice), Jack will be giving a talk about the beer’s creation and history, there will be a raffle to be the first to taste it. Descendants of the original Brand brothers are even expected to attend. 

And, if it all goes well, Brad is already eyeing a new old beer to continue the series.  

“I've been looking at some of the very first police reports from the local area and they mention different people being charged with making and supplying illegal beer back in the day," he says. "That’d be interesting to delve into too.

“Who knows? Maybe they made a hazy IPA!” he adds with a laugh, before Jack fires back: “Yeah, I don't know if they had mango sours back then but anything’s possible.”


The Overland Corner Hotel is at 205 Old Coach Road, Overland Corner, SA.

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