While McLaren Vale has long been a wine lover’s paradise, the region is increasingly gaining a reputation as a go-to destination for craft beer enthusiasts.
It has become something of a craft beer hub, with several breweries and taphouses now established or under development within the few short kilometres between Old Noarlunga, Willunga and McLaren Flat. This has inspired marketing of a brewery trail as a way for locals and visitors to enjoy the region’s malty delights.
In Old Noarlunga, Victor’s Place has sprouted from the ruins of an historic barn, treating visitors to stunning views and goodies from its onsite brewery. Ekhidna Wines, nestled amongst the vines on the outskirts of McLaren Vale, produces handcrafted beer and cider as well as wine. From brand new premises in McLaren Vale, Swell sells its own brews and runs several guest taps for patrons to enjoy on the expansive lawns.
Shifty Lizard Brewing Co. has found a home from which to share its wares with thirsty patrons in a trendily decked out space on Willunga’s main strip.
Heading coastward out of Willunga, South Coast Brewing Co. is a rustic oasis in a small industrial estate, pouring proudly parochial brews such as the Maslin’s Red Ale and the Porties Pale Ale. Beers by Vale Brewing Co., which was founded in McLaren Vale and is now part of the Bickford’s group of companies, are still available for local tastings at Beresford Wines in McLaren Flat.
The first craft brewery to make a home in the region was Goodieson Brewery.
Jeff and Mary Goodieson launched their Sand Road, McLaren Vale brewery in January 2010, where they brew predominantly European-style beers with some seasonal curveballs to keep things interesting. Patrons can sample beers such as the Indian Red Ale, Raspberry Wheat, and (from Easter) the Stout, while relaxing in the dappled shade of hop vines and taking in the views.
The Goodiesons have welcomed the shift toward craft beer in the local area.
“It’s been great for us and great for the region,” Jeff says. “The more the merrier — bring it on!”
For several years, before other breweries sprung up around it, peak time for visitors at Goodieson was from around 3.30pm on weekends: “when people had done their wineries and felt like a beer,” Jeff explains.
Now, the busy periods are extending and are more evenly spread, as more beer lovers are making a day of it, visiting a few breweries at a time. “And that’s fantastic,” Jeff says.
Each of the region’s brewers tends to specialise in a certain style of beer, so in one day — and in quite a small geographical area — you can sample a comprehensive range of beers drawing on influences, ingredients and centuries-old techniques from far-flung corners of the world.
“It makes for a better day for the visitor,” Jeff says. “That’s part of the beauty of this whole beer revolution. People are discovering that beer has a phenomenal amount of styles.
“We use four ingredients and can make a plethora of different beers. That’s pretty cool.”
Jeff acknowledges beer will likely always remain bridesmaid to the far more famous local wine industry: “With over 70 cellar doors, it will never be a beer region as such — it’s a wine region.”
But, the Goodiesons — and their fellow brewers — are having fun giving the industry a shake, while enjoying all the region has to offer.
“I think you’d struggle to find a better, more supportive community, anywhere,” Jeff says. “We live here because this is where we want to bring up our kids.
“Time and time again it has proven to be the correct decision. We’re not from here — we don’t have any family here or even in the state. But we’ve never felt like outsiders — we’ve been welcomed whole-heartedly,” Jeff says.
Adding, in his typically dry manner — “maybe it’s because we own a brewery — that helps!”
The City of Onkaparinga supports local businesses through its ON Business Partner Program and three of the start-up breweries — Victor’s Place, South Coast Brewing Co. and Shifty Lizard Brewing Co. — are program partners as well as grant recipients through the program’s small grants initiative. Beresford Wines is also a partner.