Followers of The Crafty Pint will be well aware that the microbrewing industry has been stirring in South Australia for the past couple of years. Sure, it wasn't without breweries at that point, but more recently Prancing Pony, Smiling Samoyed, Little Bang, the Wheaty Brewing Corps, Clare Valley Brewing and Pirate Life have started up, while Pikes has installed its own brewery after contract brewing for a number of years and Young Henrys is due to open a brewpub in Adelaide too.
Yet, while it had one of the most highly regarded beer bars in the country, The Wheaty, plus quieter achievers like the Earl of Leicester serving top drops for a while, not to mention quality bottleshops like Belair Fine Wines and, more recently, the Highway Hotel's store, like WA, the number of bars and pubs reaching behind much beyond Coopers was remarkably small.
That's all changing too, however. Matt King has been hunting down the best beer-lovin' bars in Adelaide – a tough task but someone has to do it, right? Here and in a second feature to follow, he celebrates the beery renaissance his hometown is enjoying and gives you the lowdown on where to find the good stuff.
Up, up and away! It has been a slow ascent into the limelight but finally the craft beer scene in South Australia is beginning to spark and ignite. It may be one of the last states to catch on to the craft beer craze, but the catching up has already begun in earnest.
Due to the recent openings of new breweries and new crafty venues, SA is well on its way to becoming a craft beer haven, exchanging blows with and breathing down the necks of the rest of Australia.
It has not been an easy journey; blood, sweat and tears have been poured into convincing punters to drink 'real' beer. They have been re-educated to rest their weary over-worked hands around a cold glass of independently crafted beer rather than 'the usual'. Slowly but surely the culture here in the Great Southern State is shifting, and there will come a time in the not so distant future where taps will change every week to a different brew and many venues will never tap the same keg two weeks in a row. It is a great time to live here as the shift is upon us, becoming more noticeable week by week, day by day.
Craft beer has always been lurking in the corner, hiding in the shadows and has been largely represented through the family run brewery of Coopers. Coopers have produced outstanding beer for many years now and it is difficult to find a pub or hotel that doesn't sling at least their Pale Ale from a tap. Long known as the 'go to' beer for many, it's still is the cheap craft option but the number of other locally brewed options is growing fast. To existing names such as Lobethal Bierhaus, Steam Exchange, Brewboys and Barossa Valley Brewing you can now add Smiling Samoyed, Prancing Pony, Clare Valley, Pirate Life, Pikes and more.
As for the craft beer scene in South Australia, it's more of a collaboration – a family if you will – rather than competitors trying to knock each other over. Brewers share their knowledge, share their equipment and share their beers; all in the name of the crafty up rise. The small venues are the ones taking charge, due largely to the changes to legislation on small venue licensing.
The promising sounds of a stubby cracking and the slurping of amber liquid can now be heard around all the small laneways and side streets in Adelaide inner CBD. There are many great places that are outstanding ambassadors for the rise of good beer in Adelaide. It is not hard to frequent these venues multiple times, eagerly anticipating finding a new crafty beverage in either the fridge or on tap. Here are just some of the wonderful places that are doing their all to support local, national and international craft beer. Cheers!
The Gilbert Street Hotel
Where: 88 Gilbert Street
Taps: Eight in total with seven dedicated to craft beer
Bottles: Currently 25 different bottled beers on the list.
The Gilbert Street Hotel has been a known server of good craft beer for quite some time now, dedicating the majority of its taps to the cause. It is a small cosy bar that boasts an amazing beer garden complete with grass on the walls and an automatic retractable roof. In winter the fires are stoked and the dark ales and stouts are in plentiful abundance. Brews from all across Australia have had their time on the taps at The Gilbert Street Hotel, from Byron Bay's Stone and Wood Stone Beer, Tasmania's Moo Brew, Victoria's Kooinda Boutique Brewery, to a variety of great local produce. It is not just the taps that are blessed with crafty goodness, as the fridges are stocked with between 20 to 30 different brews. The best part of the story has not even been told yet, as on a Thursday night this wonderful beer is perfectly paired with the best Buffalo wings in town but remember to pre order because they nearly always sell out.
Hotel Wright Street
Where: 88 Wright Street
Taps: Fourteen taps in total with six dedicated to craft beer and, sometimes, a seventh popping up
Bottles: Six bottles that are classified craft beer
Hotel Wright Street and the Franklin Hotel are owned and operated by the same company and both have many similarities. The main bar area is open and large, leading into a quaint vintage style beer garden. The taps are spread evenly around the rectangular shaped bar area. Hotel Wright Street are more into craft cider, however they do pour their own contract brewed craft beer. This light 'brilliant ale', was contract brewed through Vale Brewing and is sold under the label 'Crowder and Co'. It is extremely light in colour and of the sort that wouldn't be hard to knock back a few on a hot summer's day. Four years ago when the first beers were poured at this venue, two taps were dedicated to craft, since then more and more frequent craft tap rotations have been added. At this stage Hotel Wright Street is working its way into the crafty scene and has started off strong with some well known crafty labels and their own beery adaptation.
The Franklin Boutique Hotel
Where: 92 Franklin Street
Taps: Fourteen taps in total with eight pouring craft beer continuously
Bottles: Up 14 different bottled varieties in the fridge.
The Franklin Hotel is the younger sister (or brother) of Hotel Wright Street and because they are owned by the same person things look very similar inside. The main bar area is large and open, spanning out towards a rustic, vintage looking beer garden. Even though they are similar in looks, The Franklin Hotel does have some differences to split it apart from its younger sibling. If surprises are your thing, the Franklin has you covered as it offers a diverse selection of mystery craft beers. Served in a brown paper bag, they tempt you to be a little daring and try something new and delicious. Served alongside the bottles are the newly added canned craft editions from the likes of Pirate Life Brewing and Young Henrys. The Franklin Hotel has decided to turn a focus on tinned craft, pairing them with 'Franks Dogs'. Buy any of Frank's Hotdogs and pick up a craft tin for $5 any day of the week, what a winning combination! The Franklin is very much on its way to becoming a full time craft beer only venue in Adelaide.
Where: Corner King William Road and Sturt Street
Taps: Twelve taps in total with six rotating taps, four Coopers varieties and two ciders
Bottles: A definitive bottle list has never been developed at the King's Head due to the ever changing nature of their fridges. At anyone point there will be close to 70 beers/ciders chilling in their fridges.
The passion that drives the crew at The King's Head Hotel can been found written in numerous comical quotations displayed on their website. Such statements are listed under the banner "Please Attend If", “You enjoy local craft beer and cider poured through 12 rotating taps" or “you choose to spend your hard earned dollars supporting innovative independent local business and not lining the pockets of the supermarket chains and the state government." It is evident where the direction of this historical pub is heading. Beery taps and bottles are forever changing due to increased demand and The King's Head folk are working hard and doing everything they can to sway the opinions of the standard lager drinker.
The Wheatsheaf Hotel
Where: 39 George Street Thebarton
Taps: Thirteen rotating taps all dedicated to crafty goodness including one that pours through the Glasshopper and a hand pump
Bottles: The Wheaty has a ridiculous list of craft beer in bottles from all over the world, mapped out in every style imaginable.
The Wheatsheaf Hotel does not muck around when it comes to good beer and they preach to one rule, keep it simple. No gimmicks, no pokies, no messing around, just great beer on tap and in bottles. This old, quirky pub set in the Thebarton district has been the powerhouse of craft beer in Adelaide since 2003; it is the real ringleader for everyone to aspire to. As of early 2014, The Wheatsheaf Hotel (The Wheaty as it is known by many) has been not so quietly brewing up a storm, producing some outstanding crafty creations with a shiny new stainless brewhouse and three single batch fermenters. The Wheaty Brewing Corps brewers have never played it safe while crafting a beer because in the short time it has been in operation, they have collaborated with many brewers from some of the largest craft beer labels in Australia and overseas. With 35 different brews completed in one year, The Wheatsheaf Hotel will go on to push the boundaries of great beer and continue to provide a no nonsense craft beer venue for punters to enjoy for many years to come.
Photo credit: Rachel Harris
Benjamin On Franklin
Where: 233 Franklin Street
Taps: Twelve taps with eight dedicated to the crafty world
Bottles: Close to 30 different craft bottles in the fridge.
The Benjamin On Franklin is different to most crafty beer pubs, steering away from the vintage look and boasting an elegant 1920s vibe. Whether you step into the main bar, dining room, function room or the suave beer garden, you may think you have travelled back in time. The beer garden is definitely a talking feature with three lavishly designed individual getaway booths designed for a secret romantic dinner and beer date. The beer list matches the vibe perfectly, with an extensive bottle list complementing the taps. Drinkers can choose from an ever growing list supporting local drops such as Lobethal Bierhaus, Smiling Samoyed, Goodieson, Pirate Life and Clare Valley Brewing plus interstate representation from Mountain Goat, Stone and Wood and Feral. The Benjamin On Franklin defies the usual craft beer pub look and instead creates its own style by exuding a certain shade of elegance.
Thanks, Matt. We'll have the second part of his tour of Adelaide next week.
You can follow him at his blog, The Craft Beer King. And he is also taking on the CraftyPintSA Twitter mantle too.