For years before Adelaide’s bar scene began waking up to the good stuff, beer loving travellers would return from visits to the city like explorers who had chanced upon the Holy Grail. The cause of their epiphany was The Wheaty, the Thebarton pub that would regularly attract declarations along the lines of “Best beer venue in Australia. Hands down.” To many it *was* the city’s beer scene for many years, proving that you needn’t be in a craft beer heartland to have a craft beer heart.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, similar messages began making their way to The Crafty Pint about another venue, Saint John Craft Beer. “You’ve got to check it out. It’s one of the best bars in the country.” “It is the beer scene in Launceston.”
So is it that good or was there an element of feeling they'd stumbled upon an oasis in a desert colouring people’s views? Well, we’re happy to report that it really is that good, the sort of venue that would grace and enhance any of the more developed beer scenes across Australia.
The entire venue has a stripped down, industrial aesthetic with the main bar built around a wall of taps pouring straight from the cool room opposite a wall of bottled beers available for take home or drinking in (with a corkage fee). What’s pouring is indicated by a cute magnetic board, while above the taps is a small selection of often quirky spirits and to their right the owners' *pièce de résistance*: a CANimal machine bought from Modus Operandi with which they fill (almost) one litre cans to take home in a flash (and a whirr).
Head further inside and you’ll find tall tables, lounging areas, walls decorated with loosely framed bottles – even a huge wooden door that once adorned an Indian temple. Out back the Eats with Beats caravan is permanently stationed, handling the food side of things with burgers and fried goodies. There’s a second bar area too, lit by repurposed overhead caged lights, armed with six more beer lines and home to barrels for the Saint John barrel ageing program.
Of course, none of this would matter if the beer wasn’t up to scratch, but there are no worries on that front. Saint John is a big supporter of local Tassie breweries but manages to get its hands on plenty of cool stuff from the mainland and overseas, frequently enticing brewers along for events – sometimes collaborating with them too. Events range from casual meet the brewer evenings to their epic annual hop harvest festival for which they fill every tap with a new harvest beer.
A key element in any great venue is the staff and here, with a mix of people from hospo backgrounds, a manager who gave Lonny its first craft orientated bottleshop (Crown Cellars) and eager home brewers working the bars, you’re in safe hands. What’s more, when you see their eyes gaze wistfully into some unseen distance as they reminisce about past events or plans for the future you know they care. What was that about a craft beer heart?