Set among the picturesque Adelaide Hills is a small country town called Lobethal. At its heart and centre, the local Bierhaus operates, churning out a wide variety of craft beer and good bites to match. The Lobethal Bierhaus has been in operation since May 2007 and has slowly been increasing distribution of its 16 beers to South Australia's many pubs and hotels.
The beers can be found either in bottles or on tap at most beery establishments around South Australia. And now, eight years in, and with the local market well stocked with a plethora of Lobethal beers, owner and head brewer Al Turnbull has decided the time is right to expand distribution interstate.
“It took a while to find the right distributor for my product," he says. "I wanted to find someone who really understood beer and shared the same enthusiasm and care for it as ourselves.”
After looking around for quite some time, distribution company Bid Beer approached Al and won him over with their wealth of knowledge and experience. The company has been importing mainly European brands into the country for more than 30 years now, with the brands they're associated with including the likes of Chimay, Duvel and Old Speckled Hen.
The move by Lobethal is one that's likely to be welcomed by beer lovers outside Australia. The micro has had a reputation as one of South Australia's finest and most consistent for years and small amounts of its beers have popped up interstate – mainly in keg – for events and festivals in the past. However, with Al able to sell everything he could brew within SA there was little need or desire to look further afield.
Significant expansion in 2014, plus upgrades to the brewery that included a serious bottling line, has meant that, finally, there was enough of his traditionally-minded brews to feed the East Coast market. As such, earlier this year, shipments of Lobethal Bierhaus beer – complete with new livery – began heading to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
There, they'll join a growing band of SA brewed beers in bars and bottleshops as Al is not alone in broadening his horizons. Where once, aside from Coopers and Vale Brewing (formerly McLaren Vale) and a couple of beers from smaller breweries ranged in Dan's, you'd have to scour the shelves of specialist stores to find anything from a small SA brewery: the occasional bottle of Brewboys' Seeing Double, perhaps, or something from Barossa Valley Brewing. Then, last year, Clare Valley Brewing began distributing to parts of the East Coast, with Prancing Pony following suit and launching its range via Crafty Ranga in Queensland during Brewsvegas and Big Shed Brewing Concern wasting little time sending its beers over state lines.
At this point, Lobethal is focusing on its core four, with a number of small, independent cellars, bottleshops, pubs and hotels now selling the Bohemian Philsner (named after Al's business partner, Phil, from Lobethal's early days), Pale Ale, Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and the Indian Pale Al.
To keep up with the demands of the bigger market, Al needed to enlist some help and, in the spirit of the craft beer world, found it from within his family. His nephew has been helping with some of the brewing in order to reduce Al's workload and keep the drinkers happy; one interstate order was the largest they had ever received and required around the clock brewing and fermenting.
“I am pleased to report," says Al, "we delivered on time as promised and that we are now ready for their next order.”
To coincide with the interstate launch, Lobethal have also made a few label design changes.
“Our range is now more noticeable on the shelf, they stand out more,” says Al.
The new look is a lot simpler, while retaining Lobethal's colour scheme and logo. Each label comprises of the Lobethal Bierhaus logo, a short synopsis of tasting notes and is colour coded depending on the style. Of the beers shipped interstate the Philsner is packaged with a grey coloured label, the Pale Ale with dark blue, the Chocolate Oatmeal Stout dons purple, while the IPA comes wearing green.
After conquering the South Australian craft beer market, Lobethal is now taking its first steps on the path to winning over the rest of Australia. Four capital cities are stocked with Al's beer for now; expect more beers and states to be added soon.