South Australia beer scene enjoyed a rollercoaster of a year in 2022, which was also a year that saw a return to normality – or the new normal, at least – and in which several new venues and breweries opened their doors as the state’s scene continued to grow and, in many cases, thrive. Join Matt King as he runs the rule over the past 12 months in SA as The Best Of Beer 2022 series rolls on.
A Feast Of Festivals
Probably one of the most exciting elements of the beer scene in 2022 was the return of festivals and other notable beer events. After a couple of COVID cancellations, Beer & BBQ Festival once again graced – if grace is the right word for such a wild event (see the Air Guitar Championships above) – the pavilions at the Adelaide Showgrounds, taking over a larger space and packing the event with more food, more entertainment and a whole lot more beer.
NOLA’s Festival of Darkness was back showcasing all beers dark in the middle of the coldest months, while joining the festival circuit in 2022 was West Fest. Big Shed, Shapeshifter and Bowden teamed up to create a three-venue event with more than 50 beers on offer – including a collaborative West Coast IPA – and a free bus scooting punters between the breweries. Add in a rise in the number of smaller events, from tap takeovers and tastings to meet the brewers, as well as the ubiquitous Oktoberfest style celebrations covered elsewhere, and it was a far cry from the cancellations and capacity limits of the preceding years.
One of the biggest stories in the world of brewery ownership centred around Little Bang, with the Stepney-based brewery acquired by the Duxton Pubs Group in July (pictured above). The move saw former Uraidla brewer Oscar Matthews step into the head brewer role as the previous holder of that position – and brewery co-founder – Fil Kemp moving with his family to WA while staying on in an advisory role.
When announcing the sale, the new team talked up the potential for opening new Little Bang venues, and the first duly arrived before the year’s end. They will be taking over The Boiler House at the Tonsley Innovation District. Once an assembly line for Chrysler and Mitsubishi, the site has sat idle since 2008 but now they’ll be helping inject new life into the building.
While on the topic of changing hands, Sparkke at the Whitmore is no more with Mighty Craft instead turning the multifaceted Adelaide venue into a home for the brewing wing of the SA company they acquired for $47 million in cash and shares last year, Mismatch Brewing.
Two of the state’s best-known craft breweries notched up the not insignificant milestone of ten years of beers in 2022. Prancing Pony celebrated by bringing back their Sledgehammer imperial pilsner as the Ten Year Beer in time for a weekend -long party at their Brew Shed. Earlier in the year, the German owners, Corinna Steeb and Frank Samson (pictured), and their team put out a trio of festbiers for Oktoberfest as we got their input into our Spirit Of Oztobterfest feature.
Back in the city and the other gang celebrating a decade of beers was Big Shed. We chatted to them about the lessons learned along the way, while they invited their mates from Body Jar to headline a birthday bash in their car park.
Barossa Valley Brewing caught the attention of the media well outside SA due to their prominent role in exploring the potential for using artificial intelligence (AI) in the brewing process via Deep Liquid. They worked closely with the Australian Institute for Machine Learning to build a neuron network that uses feedback and data to tailor a beer’s recipe to consumers’ preferences, bringing in brewing partners in the US along the way.
That wasn’t the only success for Barossa Valley in 2022, as they claimed Champion SA Brewery at the Indies, where the Wheaty Brewing Corps took out their second major trophy, Champion Small Independent Brewery, on the night Wheaty co-founder and figurehead Jade Flavell was recognised with the prestigious Service to Industry Award.
It was a popular choice, as emphasised by Carla Naismith, Shapeshifter’s head brewer: “Jade, owner and founder of The Wheatsheaf Hotel, arguably Australia’s best pub, is a pioneer and pillar of the craft beer community. SA is lucky to have her.”
In other awards-related highlights, Adelaide Hills-based Left Barrel took out the top gong at the Adelaide Beer and Cider awards with Bob’s Ya Dunkel, a Munich dunkel on a night when Vale took out yet another Champion Large Brewery gong. Sibling brand Fox Hat later experienced their own moment of glory when they won World’s Best Pale for Tropic Ale and World’s Best Bitter (over 5.5%) for Red Pelt at the World Beer Awards. Completing a big year for the Bickford’s-owned brand, they moved into their own taphouse in the McLaren Vale too.
As the Murray kept on rising through the latter part of the year, the owners of the Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland had to put out a post advising everyone they were still open for business after a photo used on 7NEWS Adelaide suggested their pub was unreachable. While that misconception was later cleared up, the waters continued to come and, as Christmas approached, they were forced to close their doors.
A short drive away to the east, however, the owners of the Woolshed Brewery, a short drive from Renmark, were happy their brewery and venue sits as high as it does above the Murray, welcoming guests to pull up a pew on their deck – or moor a boat outside – and enjoy the views of the swollen river bend.
Beers Of The Year
As mentioned in the national piece that kicked off this series of articles, in SA we witnessed beer trends going full circle in 2022 as brewers and drinkers continued to venture back towards West Coast IPAs from hazies, embrace lagers and, in some cases, put more focus their core range. There also seems to be a trend towards well-made session IPAs and pales, perhaps in order to counteract some of the bigger doubles and triples on the market.
Big Shed Vicious Evolution Coconut and Mango Smoothie Sour
Well known for their ice cream and ice block-flavoured beers, Big Shed unlocked a new favourite in 2022, the smoothie sour. Vicious Evolution was conceived by brewer Vish, who was given the opportunity to brew a beer for the Brewer’s Series. Thick and juicy with an accompanying sourness. Vish not only wrote the recipe but also painted the can art (pictured above) for a beer that took out sixth place in GABS Can Design Awards. Vicious Evolution flew off the shelves and punters soon requested a re-brew.
Brightstar exploded onto the South Australian craft beer scene in 2022, with a focus solely only European beer styles creating a point of difference for local drinkers. With experienced brewer Steve Brockman (pictured below) at the helm of the brewhouse, there was always a good chance they would feature here, and there’s a number of Brightstar beers that formed part of the discussion for this lineup, not least the pils and helles poured directly from the brewpub’s serving tanks, or their Berliner weisse.
However, we plumped for the delights of their Schwarzbier, a gold medalist in Adelaide on a night brewery owners Gareth and Megan Parker were delighted to walk away with the Best New Exhibit trophy.
Bowden Brewing Fruit Frenzy
Another brewery that could potentially have landed several beers here due to the impressive consistency they display across a broad range of styles – and we mean broad. Honourable mentions for one of many collabs, the coffee-laden Bean Counter Porter, and the year-ending, big ’n’ bold Santa’s Rave Cave IIPA, but it’s their Fruit Frenzy Juicebox Sour that gets the nod, largely because it absolutely nailed the brief. Full-on juicy passionfruit, pineapple, guava and strawberry all combined within a refreshing sour.
Lone Gum Tart Saison
Lone Gum will be a new name to most readers – and that’s totally understandable, because for the last few years Ryan Bickley has been brewing, ageing, blending and bottle-conditioning his beers, waiting for the right moment to release them. They’ve popped up at a few masterclass events across the state and in select bottleshops. One early release, Tart Saison, is a testament to the patience, time and effort that has gone into the final product. A complex, slightly sour and savoury saison that has just a touch of funk, it should herald a big year for Lone Gum (more details later in this article); for now, if you’re a farmhouse beer lover and can find his beers, buy them.
Loophole Piquette Pressed Farmhouse Sour
With the brewery sitting on the same land as the off-grid Cape Jaffa Wines Loophole’s head brewer, Tom O’Reilly, has some pretty diverse equipment and ingredients at his disposal. The Piquette Pressed Farmhouse Sour isn’t only a great tasting beer but a super cool concept that sees him re-using the vineyard’s biodynamic grapes to pull every last ounce of goodness from them. For this particular beer, late-harvest cabernet grapes were first used to make a Port before the skins were rinsed with spring water and a blonde fruited sour before a secondary fermentation. Pouring a bright pink, this sour showcases some funk, elements of both the blonde sour and the cabernet grapes, and a little texture from the tannins.
On a related note, one of Tom's meads – produced under the Sunlight Liquor banner – came fourth out of all drinks entered in this year's Drink Easy Awards too.
Mismatch Imperial NEIPA & BBA RIS 2022
A goal that breweries aim for from year to year is consistency, and it's something upon which Mismatch pride themselves. While there have been some major changes in the brewing team since the sale to Mighty Craft, the quality of their biggest beers remains on point. One is the latest vintage of a beer that’s appeared in these lists before, with the 2022 Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout as rich and boozy as it should be, with heaps of bourbon playing a part, with all elements melding perfectly. Their Imperial NEIPA only shared one word in common with that beer, but in a world in which it’s pretty commonplace to talk about beers drinking far easier than their ABV would suggest this did just that. Delicious hop juice that deservedly bagged an AIBA gold in May.
Shapeshifter One and the Same Hazy IPA
Another brewery for whom multiple beers were put forward as 2022 highlights was Shapeshifter, which is a credit to the brewing team. Their rapid-fire limited release schedule features hazy pales and IPAs, fruited sours, witbiers, a saison, stouts and even a dark lager (which won gold at the Indies). It’s hard to go past the hazy IPA One and the Same, however: a style of beer Shapeshifter have been perfecting since they launched, this time brewed on the Pink Boots Society’s 10th birthday brew day, in which balance between malt sweetness, pineapple and mango, with a hint of Sabro’s coconut, was just brilliant.
Swell Getting Barrelled
Another year of steady releases from McLaren Vale’s Swell sees them land another big stout in the list. But before diving deeper into Getting Barrelled, it’s worth acknowledging the McLaren Vale’s knack for session beers, such as year-end NZ session pale Chilly Bin which incorporated plenty of great NZ hop flavours in a beer that was only 4 percent ABV. However, back to the main event… Getting Barrelled was an imperial stout that spent ten months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. The bourbon was lavish without being overpowering, working well with some vanilla and roasted characters to make for a very rounded big stout.
Uraidla Mana / Enchanted Delirium / Telekinesis
Another brewery returning to this year-ender is Uraidla, with the Crafty team and other contributors torn between three beers of note, all a form of the sort of hop forward beers for which they’re best known. Enchanted Delirium was a cracker of a pale – kicking off their seasonally-changing “core” pale lineup – that used Citra, Sabro and Nelson Sauvin to create a bright, juicy, citrusy, stonefruit-heavy beer with a little coconut.
Working wonders with just one hop variety was Mana. Their entry into NZ Hops Bract Brewing Programme squeezed all the good stuff from experimental variety NZH102 in a milky-looking IPA that, according to this site’s founder, was faultless. Telekinesis, on the other hand, represented another big step-up: an 11 percent ABV juicy monster of a triple IPA.
Wheaty Brewing Corps Schmaus Lichtenhainer
Since adding a brewery to their iconic Thebarton pub, the Wheaty brewers have never been afraid to take on lesser-seen traditional styles rather those in fashion. Sitting very much in that camp is the lichtenhainer Schmaus, a slightly soured, smoked wheat ale. Working with smoked malts is no easy feat, but what Jade and co have accomplished here is pure brilliance. The smoke works delicately alongside a lemony sourness and some wheat and saison-esque yeast esters in a manner that sees them getting along fabulously: a masterclass in fine brewing.
Not far down the road from Mount Gambier you’ll find Beachport Brewing (pictured above) housed in an old fish factory. The views from the taproom take in ocean views and the town’s 772 metre jetty. Owners Mark and Kate Wheal are local farm owners, working with pigs, sheep, cattle and crops, and are keen to explore using their own grains in their beers, potentially using Voyager Craft Malt to help make it happen. Venture to their brewery and you’ll find at least four Beachport beers on taps and several others in cans while soaking in one of the best brewpub views in the country.
A taste of Europe in the back streets of Thebarton, Brightstar made a huge noise when they opened in the 1920s built building that once housed pharmaceutical company Faulding & Co. Owners Gareth and Megan Parker fell in love with European beers while working in Germany and now have twin 2,400 litre serving tanks dedicated to their house pils and helles, while beers such as their Berliner Weisse (sometimes fruited), the Schwarzbier featured above, an Irish stout and altbier, also frequent the lineup.
The owners of Grünthal Brew, Sheree and Saul Sullivan, are no strangers to the Handorf area, as they also own the Udder Delights cheese company on the main street. As such, you’ll find cheese in multiple courses on the menu, on offer at the in-house shop or even waiting to be made by you at one of their classes. But back to the beer…
Brewing is headed by Kai Cooke, who brought a wealth of experience with him from previous roles at Vale and Prancing Pony. The beer list he’s created is expansive, moving from heavily fruited sours through to XPAs, IPAs and pales, a nitro brown ale and stouts. The beers are super solid and clean, while the food is just as good and designed to match.
Hahndorf Brewing Co
Hahndorf Brewing Co was born of necessity. The owners of the Hahndorf Inn next door struggled to obtain fresh German beer during COVID with shipments often held up in Customs for long periods. Hence they created their own brewing company and started getting their own beers brewed locally under contract.
Hard Days Night ADL
Hard Days Night ADL was opened in January by the Shifty Lizard team, giving them a city venue in which to pour their beer. Located in Wright Street, the space features the Whoopi Goldburger food truck and other drinks from Caravino. Visit at the right time and you could witness a wedding in the back corner or a tattoo artist at work.
More local beer has landed on SA's Copper Coast courtesy of husband and wife team Troy and Rayma Dennis. They spent much of 2022 setting up Hedonbar in Kadina, right next door to the Copper Coast Visitors Centre.
Lachy and Taryn Mutton started Little Rippa so they could offer a local beer option in their Mount Gambier café, Sorrentos, which they’ve owned for 21 years. The beer company became a success locally so they decided to sell their café and build a dedicated brewery and restaurant on a section of their own property instead. Opening in August 2022, Little Rippa has a commercial kitchen, including a huge woodfire pizza oven, views of farmlands with access to baby farm animals, and, of course, beer.
Possibly one of the smallest breweries in Australia, Snapper Point’s Dave Peacock brews in his back shed. While he does own some smaller commercial fermenters, he still uses several smaller style stainless buckets for most of his beers, and hand cans and labels every beer himself. His taphouse is located on the esplanade of Aldinga Beach, with a fish and chip shop next door. The locals love him and his beer, with his 20-person capacity venue quickly filling most weekends.
Suburban’s New Brewery
Suburban started life as contract brewers, finding and filling empty tanks wherever they could. It worked out well for owners Tony and Troy, who opened their Goodwood Road taphouse in September 2020. But the goal was always to own a brewery and that became a reality late in the year. Located in Glynde in Adelaide’s north, Suburban’s brewery also forms their second venue in which a 20-hectolitre brewhouse knocks out the beers under the guidance of new head brewer Peter Bradley, formerly of Big Shed and West End.
Union Bridge Brewery & Distillery took up residence in the old Creek Cold Store in Cudlee Creek, which dates back to 1922, and joined the Adelaide Hills’ vibrant producers’ scene. Owners Steve O’Connor and Gerri Milham are no strangers to craft beer, previously owning an online store and a venue on the main street of Handorf. Union Bridge puts a heavy focus on Irish and English styles, as well as traditional alcoholic sodas and great old-fashioned service.
It has been a long time coming but, in 2022, Vale Brewing returned to the Vale – and in a big way. The new taphouse is poised on top of a lush green hill, on the vast Beresford Estate. Their original kit was brought out of storage and charged with creating taproom-only limited releases. Fourteen taps cycle through those plus Vale’s and Fox Hat’s core range, while there’s a top class restaurant within the family-friendly venue with a large, grassed area and plenty of games.
The much anticipated, Beer No Evil/Lone Gum brewery and venue is set to open in early February. The two breweries are very different in terms of approach and styles, so the partnership should work well. Located in Lonsdale, the space will have both breweries’ beers on tap, barrels and a ton of fun for visitors.
Yellow Matter has been a long time coming and has had a few different names along the way, from Stupid Bloody Tuesday to Sonic Yuni before the founders settled on Yellow Matter. Set on Marion Road in Brooklyn Park, where the old railroad building has been demolished and a warehouse hub erected, it’s the vision of Janie Kammer, who also owns the successful café Karma and Crow around the corner.
Penny Red is another new brewery coming to McLaren Vale – look out for teasers on their social media channels in early 2023, which is when we can also expect to welcome Crafty Robot to arrive in Grote Street in Adelaide’s CBD, while Little Pete hope to be brewing in Langhorne Creek around then too. All in all, plenty on the way with the city preparing to host the IBD Asia Pacific Convention in March.
Bowden Brewery were on our radar for this spot last year and in 2022 they took it up a notch, punching out a myriad of styles to a consistently high standard, which is even more impressive when you consider the small space inside Plant 3, Bowden, in which they operate.
As well as the cracking beers we mentioned above their release schedule over the past 12 months included a schwarzbier, black IPA, Italian pilsner, fruited and spiced sours, an oaked amber, oatmeal stout, hazies, various IPAs, and an Adambier (yep, had to look that one up), to name but a few. And that doesn’t even take into account their tight, finessed core range.
Their venue is typically fun and pumping, with one-off beers flowing through the taps and delicious Mexican food proving the perfect foil. Their events always draw a huge crowd and often go long into the night.
Well done to the Bowden crew on a great first couple of years of beers!
How's 2022 been for you?
If 2022 has been a rollercoaster for the SA beer scene, you might describe Jade Flavell’s as a rocket ship careening into space. She has been through treatment for breast cancer, which drained the usually irrepressible Wheaty owner of energy and a desire to drink beer, and led to a period spent avoiding the public due to the risk of contracting COVID.
But, having knocked cancer on the head and returned from desk duties to the frontline, the second half of the year was filled with many highs.
How's 2022 been for you?
Wowsers. A clusterfuck really. In addition to the delight that was COVID, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Running a pub during COVID while having cancer was very difficult. The first half of the year I ended up banished to the office, but I smashed the accounting software which was a bit like double punishment at times.
I had very little to do with the pub and the brewing side of things. However, I was incredibly lucky to have people to step in such as Maeve in the pub and Rose in the brewery. The Wheaty crew and community were all fantastic, sending me flowers and chocolates and offering words of support. Everyone has a cancer story so it kind of humanises it all and helps build strength.
I didn’t drink beer or anything for the first half of the year, I didn’t feel like it, and my taste buds weren’t great, so I didn’t want to ruin beer for myself.
My return beer was Fortune Keller. I was pouring a few in the pub and I thought, “That smells delicious.” I poured myself one and my tastebuds had returned and I was very happy. The resurgent half saw heaps of canning, collabs, the installation of a brand new foeder, solar on the way, and we are so close to a new website launch. So, 2022 was split in two halves: cancer half and getting back into it.
Any standout moments?
Despite an interesting start to the year, there were many standout moments.
The first memorable moment was brewing the Ukrainian anti-imperial stout which raised funds and awareness for the war in Ukraine. This was the first brew that Rose did back on the brew deck, which proved to be an exciting and important one. We followed the RESIST recipe which was created by displaced Ukrainian brewers. The amount of community support we received for the fundraiser was outstanding.
The design of the decal was created by Hana Katya, a Ukrainian musician and illustrator that lives in Australia. We loved the design so much that it made tea towel fame. On launch day, she performed for us, there were prizes and food donated, it was just incredible.
We had amazing support from the community. The place was packed, Ukrainian refugees came along, and everyone loved the beer. We donated 100 percent of takings from the beer sold and the money raised through auctioning the prizes donated. We were very proud to donate over $30,000 to Doctors Without Borders. There were hotels, wineries, distillers – everyone we approached were happy to donate something. The beer lasted a week, which is incredible considering it was a 7.4 percent stout with roasted beetroot – and people still ask for it.
The second moment was releasing beer whisky, which pre-dates COVID. I have been wanting to do this for a while now and when a brut IPA went a little wrong it was the perfect opportunity. The beer tasted OK but it was a yeasty ester bomb with huge banana notes so this beer provided the best base for this whisky.
Tin Shed distilled the beer and then matured it for three years in French oak. It came out at 51 percent and turned out brilliantly. The hop perfume remained and there was a little sweetness from the hops which was actually a bit strange. It was a very, very cool exercise and we will continue to play around in that space. Our long game will be putting in our own still and this has definitely whetted our appetite for that.
One of the most exciting moments was when the foeder finally happened. It was a little present to myself for getting through this cancer thing. I wanted one for a long time ever since we worked alongside Ben from Bridge Road. It was commissioned in late November and we were surprised with how much the oak aromas really permeated through the brewery. The foeder is made from air-aged American oak and has a conical bottom so it can be used as a fermenter as well as an ageing vessel. To start off proceedings, we needed to brew something that would love the strong oak flavour, so we went with a Belgian dubbel inspired by Chimay Red and Rochefort 8.
At this point, I reminded Jade about her success at the Indies.
Oh yes, I forgot about that with so much happening. The Service To Industry award means a lot to me, especially because we won the best small brewery award at the same time. This is the second time we have won that award, which is great because it means we are still up there and that is quite satisfying. 2022 has been a year of extremes, that is for sure.
Which beers from SA have you enjoyed most in 2022?
To be honest, I haven’t really had the opportunity to drink much this year, so it is a difficult question. I have been stuck indoors so haven’t been out much. But looking locally, I would have to say that Brightstar’s Berliner Weisse is very good.
What can people expect from you and The Wheaty in 2023?
Well… The foeder is going to be played with a lot. We may put in a lager or two before we head down saison territory and then comes the sour and funk and fruit. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
We have a new canning line upgrade which will mean we are a lot more serious about canning. We will have a lot more capability with canning with the ability to push our beers out to limited wholesalers that we know will look after our beer.
More collaborations. We have started conversations with microbiologist Tommaso Watson who is a yeast farmer starting up a new business in 2023. He has worked previously with Mismatch and Big Shed and we are in talks about a collaboration with Bridge Road in the new year. Potentially a grisette.
The second new company that we want to work with is Amsat Character Malts. A company from the Adelaide Hills who make floor malted malts. They have been making oak staves for the wine industry for years but have decided to branch out into the beer and whisky industry.
And finally: solar.
You can check out the rest of The Year In Beer 2022 series here. Thanks to the wider Crafty Pint team and the industry gurus who have helped in the compilation of this series.