A brewery expansion featuring new canning and bottling lines, extra tanks, an invitation to brewers looking for contract brewing options and a rebrand to boot... It's fair to say Barossa Valley Brewing has had a busy few months both reshaping the brewery and the way they work with beer.
Perhaps most eye-catching of all is the new look. Not only has the conservative and traditionally minded branding been replaced by names and imagery of a more lighthearted nature – Barossa Smoke is now I Can't Believe It's Not Bacon; Hop Heaven (now tagged an Easy IPA) features a marvellously and hoppily moustachioed prancing man – but the beers have been canned too.
“No light, less oxygen, they are essentially mini kegs,” says brewery founder Denham D'Silva of the decision to import a canning line from the States.
However, even though the canned product is being well received, he believed more education is still required.
“We are having the same struggle with cans as the wine industry had with screw caps," he says. "With education, beer drinkers understand cans protect good beer much better than bottles.
"It’s the same education that had to be given to wine drinkers. People thought screw caps were just cheap wines, but if you ask any winemaker, they will say that it protects the wine."
The brewery has already shown in the past that it likes to work in partnership with other local producers, often collaborating on beer-wine hybrids with the region's winemakers. And now they've kickstarted another form of collaboration: the brewery's cans are being labelled, packed and wrapped up by a company called Barossa Enterprise, which supports people with mental and physical disabilities, helping them integrate into the workplace.
“Using them creates a feel good factor," says Denham. "It is really good being in an environment with people that love the fact that they have work.”
As for the rest of the expansion, there's a new shed now attached to the one already housing their brewery in Tanunda and more gadgets on the way too: a small pilot brewing equipment, more lab tools and fermenters that will allow Denham and his team to expand the contracting side of their operation.
It's a direction that he sees as the last piece in the Barossa Valley Brewing puzzle: allowing anyone looking to brew some beer to use his system to get a leg up, in much the same way that fellow South Australians Big Shed started out, albeit on a larger scale. His reasoning is that there is something of a gap in the market for gypsy brewers or companies looking to have beer brewed under contract between large scale facilities with a substantial minimum orders and small breweries with spare capacity up for grabs. On his 18 hectolitre system, he says companies can start small with orders of just 100 cartons.
“That allows people to really try something,” says Denham. “I want to help the small guys get their ideas out to the market because that is what pushes the market. The barriers to enter the industry are so large, but we can help as we can let guys start with a tenth of the volume other contract companies offer.”
As well as home brewers looking to step up to the commercial level, there is an increasing number of wineries seeking a beer to pour at their cellar door and more Adelaide pubs and hotels looking to pour their own "house brand" beer; The Archer Hotel in North Adelaide pours an Archer’s Lager and the Prince Albert Hotel in Gawler has started its own label Fair Weather Small Batch.
Malt Fiction is already brewing its IPA at Barossa and Bosun’s Whistle Brewing has brewed a porter titled Diver Derrick, from which some of the profits made are donated to the Defence Shed, an organisation that supports returning soldiers.
The microbrewing scene in South Australia has already been enjoying a boom of late; Denham's efforts to reduce the barriers to entry for newcomers should see it diversify even further.