If Adelaide has long been the epitome of the centralised city, Pirate Life (piratelife.com.au) has taken a rambunctious cutlass to that, threatening to turn the once rough-hewn Port Adelaide into a cultural epicentre, with its hipper-than-thou taproom replete with barber, clothing store and vintage arcade games.
Its intriguing HORT4337 IPA (a new hop variety touted as ‘the next big thing’) appears nothing out of the ordinary – a bright, slightly hazy IPA with some walloping citrus and stone fruit aromatics – but on tasting it’s evident this glass harbours something quite uncanny: a hop so brand-spanking new it is still known by its trial name classification.
Pirate Life was also in part responsible for the Mosaic outbreak in Australia with its eponymous IPA, a beer whose lo-fi malt bill allowed the singular hop to shine with a snappy 7% ABV, making the Mosaic IPA a sure favourite in its repertoire.
While many bemoaned the brand’s rapid-fire sale to AB InBev in late 2017, it saw an immediate $10-million capital injection in the brewery, and the innovation at its HQ today is nothing short of thrilling – from the beer itself, right down to adding to Adelaide’s growing reputation as a major craft brewing centre of Australia.
Little Bang Brewery (littlebang.com.au) in Stepney is also agitating at the fringes – metamorphosing from home-brew hoopla into one of Australia’s more innovative breweries in just a few short years. What started with a homespun barley wine now boasts 21 taps, including perennial favourites such as the Naked Objector West Coast IPA and the Pinkening Hibiscus Sour.
Founders Fil Kemp and Ryan Davidson may have cut their teeth as video game creators, but the swelling crowd at their brewery is telling of their traction with both local and now interstate consumers. The limited Schwang series of fruit beers and Galactopus barley wine are demanding attention nationally.
Beyond the half-timbered kitsch ‘German hot dog’ eateries located in the Adelaide Hills, Frank Samson – the founder of Prancing Pony Brewery (prancingponybrewery.com.au) in Totness – is brewing serious and truly localised beers and his brewery is well worth a visit.
Samson founded the brewery seven years ago and focuses on producing clean, vibrant lagers and other European styles that frame malt and yeast over hop profile, such as the brooding and bitter India Red Ale.
Currently producing 380,000 litres – with scope to expand to 800,000 – Prancing Pony is emblematic of Adelaide’s local- and regional-centric craft beer boom, as is Mismatch Brewing Co (mismatchbrewing.com.au) in the Adelaide Hills’ Hay Valley. Sharing a hilltop site with the Hills Cider Company, Ashton Valley Fresh and the cellar door for Vinteloper, Mismatch’s aptly named brewmeister Ewan Brewerton has created a label that is regional but attracting significant national attention. The beers here are as sublime as the scenery, utilising pristine local malts with the spent grain then on-fed to the local cattle.
And just down the road in Balhannah, Left Barrel (leftbarrel.com) is rattling the cages with some of the more daring sour and farmhouse beers in the state.
The Fleurieu Peninsula to the south of Adelaide also hosts three of greater Adelaide’s most beguiling craft breweries. Forktree Brewing (facebook.com/forktreebrewing), perched on a hillside in Carrickalinga, is a truly enchanting proposition with quality food and unfussy yet finely crafted beers, currently brewed off site at Smiling Samoyed Brewery (smilingsamoyed.com.au) just up the hill in Myponga.
Set upon the majestic Myponga Reservoir and festooned with eccentric bric-a-brac and beer paraphernalia, Smiling Samoyed takes its name from owners and husband-and-wife-team Simon Dunstone and Kate Henning’s beloved canines. The Samoyeds stroll the site as punters enjoy its notable brews, such as the invigorating kölsch and malty pale ale – an unmistakable nod to the traditional European styles.
South Coast Brewing (southcoastbrewingco.com) in Willunga completes the thrilling southern triumvirate. It was founded by winemaker Scott Zrna, whose modest brew shed features impeccable beers of balance and drinkability, and all named after local beaches – a standout being the generous Sellick’s Oatmeal Stout.
Adelaide’s craft brewing scene has never looked more cogent.