This may be one of the strangest blog posts I have ever written, because, let me say it right up front, I don’t drink beer! Sure, I come from a long line of beer drinkers, and my dad, brother, husband and even my daughter do their fair share towards keeping the beer industry alive, but I have just never been able to get the taste for it. This post though, is about tasting some of the craft beer Adelaide, South Australia, has to offer.
So why am I writing about tasting craft beers? A group of my friends decided that instead of the wine tasting we seem to do regularly, they were keen to check our the burgeoning craft brewery scene here in Adelaide. I sat there quietly while everyone enthused about this idea, planned some dates, and started to Google the best craft beer Adelaide has to offer. How we were going to get around soon came up, and that is where I come in. I am the perfect candidate for the designated driver – and this was the perfect opportunity for me to take notes and write about the tastings without getting half way through and forgetting to take notes about the rest thanks to the…umm…effects of the alcohol!
So while we visit all of the Adelaide craft breweries and everyone else tastes all of the beers, I get to sip on water. This also means I can spend my time recording some of the comments about the beers. Some were hilarious, but I mostly can’t quote those on my blog due to dubious language. Note these are not professional beer tasters I am quoting, but the average person who likes a beer every now and then.
There was also more than one tasting session, and different people were with us on different occasions. I don’t think anyone could have tasted all these beers and still make sense by the end of them!
I hope by putting together this list it gives you some ideas for places to go in Adelaide to taste craft beers. Of course taste is subjective, so even beers that my friends didn’t like, might be your favourites – after all, some of them are really popular.
Cafe – 67A, Semaphore Rd, Semaphore SA 5019
Brewery – Unit 5, 21-23 Naweena Road, Regency Park, SA 5010
We visited the Sweet Amber Cafe on Semaphore Road. From the front it looks like a small area, but there is also a decent sized beer garden out the back, so don’t be put off it the front area looks full. The atmosphere here is that of a relaxed, intimate cafe, but instead of coffee it’s beer that is served. The furniture is a little retro, but it’s all very comfortable. This feels like a nice place to go for a relaxed Sunday afternoon beer without feeling like you are off to the pub.
There were four beers available on tap at the time of our visit, but Sweet Amber also has some other seasonal offerings, or a selection of bottled beer in the fridge. There is also a small wine selection available for those like me who may be tagging along but don’t drink beer.
These were offered on tap
- Sweet Amber Beachmaid Blonde
- Sweet Amber Portside IPA
- Akasha Freshwater Pale
- Sweet Amber O-Bahn Kolsch
My tasters decided to try to Sweet Amber Beachmaid Blonde and the Sweet Amber O-Bahn Kolsch. Both beers were met with comments along the lines of “good everyday drinking beer” and “I would come here again and drink this.” As this was the first stop, the descriptions were quite mild, but overall, everyone liked the beers and would happily return.
I also enjoyed Sweet Amber Cafe, and would also return. While this time I was drinking water, I can have a glass of wine here while others are drinking beer.
Big Shed Brewing Concern
13/2 Brandwood St, Royal Park SA 5014
Jason and Craig have been happily tinkering in a shed with beers (hence the name) since 2002. It wasn’t until 2014 that they opened the premises at Royal Park where people can come and taste their beers. It’s a testament to their products that five years on they have a loyal group of customers who come back time after time to their shed in the backstreets of an industrial area to quench their thirst.
When visiting Big Shed Brewing Concern you are entering their brewery. This still feels very much like the shed I imagine that this all started out in. The bar sits next to some to the gleaming silver vats storing the next batch of beer. Seating is at stools by the bar or on tables that more closely resemble workshop trestles than restaurant tables. There is all sorts of memorabilia hanging from the ceiling and plastered to the walls. Heavy metal blasts from the sound system. This is the man-cave of the working man!
My tasters chose to do what all good tasters should do – they ordered the beer flight! This gave them a small glass of seven different Big Shed Brewing Concern beers to try. Here are the beers, a short description, and some of the comments
- Jetty Jumper – Mid strength IPA brewed for summer, “Light, flowery beer”, “not much to it”, “good for summer”
- F-Yeah – American Pale Ale, “goes down easy”, “no strong flavour, nice everyday beer”
- Frankenbrown – American Brown Ale, “smoky flavour”, “reminds me of something slightly burnt”
- Californicator IPA – American West Coast IPA, “strong flavour”, “like a meal”, “wouldn’t want to have too many at 7.5%”
- Kol Zilla – Australian Pale Ale, “full flavoured”, “a lot to it”, “at 8.4% it’s for the dedicated beer drinker”, “like the taste but couldn’t drink a lot of it”, “a beer for winter”
- Golden Stout Time – Heavy stout infused with toffee and honeycomb, “smells like caramel”, “would be nice over ice cream”, “smells better than it tastes”
My tasters’ favourites were the F-Yeah and Jetty Jumper. I had a little taste of the Golden Stout Time and almost liked it since it barely tastes of beer!
Big Shed Brewing Concern also produce some seasonal ciders, and we chose to buy a bottle of the Cherry Popper, an apple cherry cider. I thought it tasted almost like a cordial, barely any alcohol flavour at all. It was sweet, and I could easily see myself enjoying a few of these on a hot summer day. Two of my other tasters though it was too sweet, although one said they would still drink it.
Along with the beers, basic beer-drinkers meals are available. It seems like the range is limited to one dish at a time. During our visit it was a Slow-cooked Beef Brisket Burger served with fries for $18AUD. Wine and softdrinks are also available, and children were here with their parents so are clearly welcome.
Pirate Life Brewing
18 Baker Street, Port Adelaide SA 5015
Pirate Life Brewing was founded in 2014 and these guys are probably the best known in the Adelaide craft beer scene. Early in 2019 they moved into custom made premises in Port Adelaide. There had been a lot of hype both about their beers and about their new factory. I had heard somewhere that this was only going to be a warehouse and brewery, but boy was that wrong.
Pirate Life is an amazing facility. Not only is the tasting room huge, there is plenty of outside space too. The whole place has, unsurprisingly, an industrial feel to it, with the huge vats providing focal points behind the bar. While sipping your beers it’s possible to watch the activity in the brewery behind. There is a merchandise shop with a surprising amount of Pirate Life gear, and an old style barber’s shop for the blokes to have a bit of a spruce up while enjoying a drink. There’s space for some drinking games, such as old style pinball and a shuffleboard table. This will be a fantastic venue for events featuring live bands or small festivals and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
There were two options for tasting a range of beers at Pirate Life. For $15AUD customers receive four beers chosen by Pirate Life. As the beers available change over time, I presume these might too, but mostly they are the popular, standard beers. For $17AUD drinkers are again supplied with four small tasting glasses of beer, but now it’s the beers you choose, including any of the beers on tap not brewed by Pirate Life.
All three of the tasters with me chose to go with the $17AUD deal so that between them all they could taste a wider range of beers. We didn’t end up with exactly twelve different beers though as there were a few double ups, but there was a good range.
Here’s what was tasted and some of the comments
- Pilsner – This is a crisp, clean, refreshing beer, 4.8%. “Niiiice!”, “Light flavoured”, “Too fruity”
- Festbier – A lager made in the style of the German Oktoberfest beers, 5%. “Fruitier than the Port Local”, “Tastes like honey and flowers”
- Pale Ale – This is a west coast USA style pale ale, 5.4%. “Very different to Coopers (the most commonly consumed, mass-produced, pale ale amongst my friends)”, “Different to most pale ales I’ve tried”, “Smell the malt!”
- Mosaic – This is a clean malt beer with tropical fruit flavours, 7%. “Looks like a nice beer”, “I like it!”, “Not too citrusy”
- Port Local Lager – A simple, thirst quenching lager, 4.5%. “Nice to drink”, “Simple everyday drinking beer”
- Strata – Dark, IPA style beer, 7.3%. “Sour, bitter”, “No, not good, don’t like that one”
- Tomfoolery Shiraz Stout – This stout is aged in shiraz barrels supplied by Tomfoolery Wines, 11%. “Smells delicious”, “Two drinks in one”
- Triple IPA (IIIPA) – Strong beer, 12.2%. “Like being punched in the face”, “very smooth, strong beer”
Two of my tasters listed the stout as their favourite of the beers tasted, and the third liked the pilsner.
Pirate Life Brewing also do tours of their facilities to tell you about their beers and the brewing process. Tours cost $15AUD and bookings must be made in advance. Click on the Book Now button on their Facebook page.
39 George Street, Thebarton SA 5031
The Wheatsheaf Hotel has been around forever and I have been here a few times over the years, mostly to watch live music. I had no idea they brewed their own craft beers – but I guess it’s not really been my focus.
The craft beers are brewed under the banner of the Wheaty Brewing Corps and they’ve been brewing since 2014. They have a huge list of beers on their website, but only have a core few available all the time. These are supplemented by a whole range of specialty beers that are often just one-offs. I just loved the creative names of many of the beers, with some like “Cutlet” and “Kransky” really getting the imagination going.
There’s nothing fancy or “hipster” about this location, this is a traditional pub, with many of the beers on tap in the bar. This feels like a place the locals will still call into on the way home from work for that one beer before dinner. The people behind the bar seemed to know most of the customers, but were also happy to answer all the questions we asked about the different beers.
There was no tasting paddle here, but small (200ml) butchers of beer were available, and sips of the beers were offered before a whole glass was bought. In the end my tasters chose only four different beers to try here.
- Black Pils – looks like a stout, drinks like a pilsner, 5.1%. “Great alternative to stout”, “A lighter black beer”
- Wheaty Bix – stout with coffee and oats flavour, 6.2%. “Coffee flavoured”, “Heavy”, “Tasty with bitter bits”
- Kransky – a light, mini-pilsner, 3.5%. “Light, easy drinking beer”, “A little watery”, “Not big on flavour”
- Footloose – called a berry table beer! 4.5%. “Different to any other beers”, “Slight pink colour”, “Almost a cider”
All of my tasters liked coming here to taste the beers and all picked out some more beers they would like to go back and try another time. I expect though that they will find a very different list next time they get here as these beers run out and new ones are added.
Lady Burra Brewhouse
4 Topham Mall, Adelaide SA 5000
This is another one I had been to before. Located in the heart of Adelaide, Lady Burra is well known for it’s food as well as it’s beers. When we visited while tasting for this post, we also had a meal here too. The food is always good. It’s fairly standard beer food, with pizza, ribs and wings, but there are also a few small tapas dishes which a great for a snack or sharing amongst a group.
Lady Burra is more like a trendy eatery than a brewery. There’s no stainless steel vats or industrial features in sight. Instead it’s a comfortable casual restaurant setting.
There are four main beers here that seem to be available every time we visit. Each time there have also been one or two others available. My tasters stuck with two of the standard beers during this visit.
- Lady Burra Pilsner – light, floral, refreshing beer, 4.7%. “very nice, drinkable, beer”
- Lady Burra Nitro Irish Red Ale – ruby red medium bodies ale, 4.9%, “Nice!”, “Very creamy, yum”
- Lady Burra India Pale Ale – strong, hoppy beer with fruity flavours, 6.3%
- Lade Burra Pale Ale – pale coloured beer with caramel flavours, 5.2%
Beer paddles are available for $18AUD if you would like to try all four beers.
Little Bang Brewing Company
25 Henry Street, Stepney SA 5069
Located in a back street in Stepney, Little Bang Brewing Company has been brewing their beers since 2013, first from their back shed, then moving into this impressive facility in 2015. My visit here would have to have been the best complete experience. Not only were there about 15 different beers of their own available to try, there were five imported “guest taps” too.
The shed houses all the stainless steel vats that would be expected, but it also has a huge area dedicated to customers. While yes, you come here to drink the beer, there are also so many other ways to enjoy your time. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons there is live music, and a local food truck comes in to sell food. The truck changes each week so there is always new and different food varieties to nibble on while drinking your beer.
You will also find some retro computer games – Pacman and Frogger anyone? – a foosball table and some racing games too. This is a family venue so kids are welcome too. This is the perfect place to relax on a weekend afternoon, with a few friends and a beer or two.
For the newcomer wanting to taste the beers, a beer paddle with four small beers is available for $15. My tasters took advantage of this and between everyone covered nearly all of Little Bang’s own beers, missing only one of the stouts.
- Fil’s Pils – traditional Czech style pilsner, 5%. “Refreshing”, “Typical light lager”, “I’ll have another one please”
- East End Draught – classic Australian lager, 4.6%. “Like a Hahn Superdry”
- Perfectly Sensible German Kolsch – traditional German ale, 5.4%. “Weak, not much taste”, “Bland”, “A bit boring”
- Schwang – Classic or berry sour, 3%. “Like fizzy cordial”, “Not very sour”, “Needs more bite”, “Has grown on me as I keep drinking”
- Icon – unfiltered cross between a lager and an ale, 5%. “Strong after taste”
- Happy Land – hoppy summer ale, 4.5%. “Very hoppy”, “Quite nice”, “Yes, I could drink this one”
- Beard Fiction – fruity American pale ale, 5%. “Hoppy”, “Very nutty”, “I’m going to buy some of these”
- Let Them Eat Cake – one off passionfruit pavlova IPA. “Sweet”, “Like a cider”, “Nice summer drink”, “A girls drink”
- The Naked Objector – bitter West Coast IPA, 6.5%. “Bitter, strong”, “Clings to your tongue”, “Full bodied”, “Like Newcastle Brown Ale”
- Dark Arts – chocolate stout, 6.5%. “Really taste the chocolate taste at the end”, “I like it!”
- Super Lucky Golden Extra Apple Happy Fun Times. “cloudy cider”, “easy summer drink”
- Road Tripper – double West Coast IPA collaboration, 8.1%. “Too strong for me”, “A big beer”, “Wouldn’t drink too much of this one”
Overall my tasters really enjoyed testing out all the different beers. There were some very different opinions on them. When I asked each person for their favourites, here’s what I got: Beard Fiction, East End Draught, Fil’s Pils, Dark Arts, Super Lucky Golden Extra Apple Happy Fun Times. I don’t think that there could have been a wider spread!
Everyone loved the experience here, the atmosphere is fantastic. There is wine available for non-beer drinkers too. With an ever changing line up of beers, some or all of these may not be available during your visit, but all of my tasters were keen to revisit to see what is coming up next.
Oh, and apparently the men’s bathrooms have an unusual feature too!
151 Regency Rd, Croydon Park SA 5008
Brewboys are one of the older craft breweries around. Tucked away in a small shopfront on a main road, this place has a real local feel about it. Much of the clientele seemed like regulars, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. My group gravitated to the pool table area and ended up spending the afternoon playing pool and darts over a few beers.
Brewboys Brewery have a range of standard beers, with about six of them available on tap. They also have a “one Keg Wonder” available, so no matter when you visit there will be something new and interesting to test. During our visit it was “Chocolate Thickshake”, a brown ale collaboration with the people at Sweet Amber.
Brewboys also have a “Not Beer” range that they produce on site, including ciders and hard lemonade, wines and gin. There is something here for even those who are not beer drinkers.
There are no tasting paddles available here which was a little disappointing because it limited the number of beers that were tasted.
- Hard Pressed Lemon – alcoholic lemonade, 5.7%. “Very lemony”, “Delicious!”
- Cosmic Cat Lager – a lager using new style hops, 5.5%. “Strong aftertaste”, “perfectly drinkable lager”
- Chocolate Thickshake – one keg wonder, chocolate brown ale, 7%. “Like a light version of a chocolate stout”, “Tasty”
- Ace of Spades – stout, 5.9%. “Nice all round stout”, “Not bad, not good, almost forgettable”
- Crisp Ale – 4.6%, “fresh light ale”, “lingering sour aftertaste”, “refreshing”
- Awkward Orchard Cider – standard apple cider, 5.5%. “cloudy cider”, “not too sweet”, “perfectly drinkable”
After visiting all of these different Adelaide craft breweries I can say that they all provide very different experiences. Some have custom built facilities, others are in a pub or shed. Some are boutique, others are much bigger. Some are all about the beer, and others about the whole shebang. All are worth a visit while you are in Adelaide.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.