Friday, 30 January 2015

Friday Five: Visiting Breweries

Tough decisions in the Wheatsheaf beer garden

Although the region is famed for its wineries, there are obviously a fair few breweries in the Barossa and nearby regions too, and it would be remiss of Him Outdoors not to sniff them out. So, as a companion piece to the previous post, here are some that we sampled.

5 Barossa Breweries:
  1. Barossa Valley Brewing - located in Tanunda, the heart of the Barossa, this brewery understands that the way to compete for customers is to offer them something exceptional. The beers on tap range from a honey wheat ale to a coffee chocolate porter, with the full flavour spectrum of pale ales, smokey reds and hoppy IPAs in-between. The pizzas made with local ingredients and an interesting approach (lamb borek infused with Turkish spices, topped with tzatziki) accompany the beers perfectly when eaten on the sun-drenched deck enhanced by the squawking of a clattering of cockatoos. Best Brew: Threesome; a mix of Hefewizen, Semillon (from David Lehmann of David Franz Wines) and Riesling (from Ronald Brown of Maverick) - it's an interesting blend, which tastes initially of the beer and then lengthens into the wine flavours. It may be a gimmick, with its provocative name and unorthodox combination, but what are boundaries for, if not to be given a good solid nudge now and then?
    It's wine and beer!
  2. Lobethal - We've been here before, but as the Tour Down Under cyclists were passing three times as part of their circuit, we settled in with some beers - the brewery is usually only open at weekends, but made the very sensible assumption that people who ride bikes like beer and so opened for the event. The outdoor area provides shade and a prime viewing position, and, once the cyclists had moved on, we adjourned to the spacious beer hall to watch the remainder of the race on the big screen. Best Brew: Bruce; an Australian interpretation of an English bitter, using Maris Otter malt, nutty golden oats and Whitbread yeast. The combination of UK Challenger and NZ Waimea hops gives the beer a distinctive flavour and, at 3.5%, it is eminently session-able.
    What better way to wait for the cyclists?
  3. Prancing Pony - this is a flash, shiny new brewery in Mt Barker where you can see the beer being brewed before your very eyes. The beer is fire-brewed: a process brought over from Europe where flames are used rather than steam to heat the copper kettles. The premise is that the resulting higher temperatures bring out greater flavours in the beer; in much the same way as a flame-grilled steak will taste different from one cooked in an conventional oven. This may or may not be true, but the beers are good. Best Brew: Black Ale; the nose is dark chocolate and molasses; the taste is of liquorice and floral hops with an earthy, woody, slightly bitter finish; the suggested food match is slow-cooked meat dishes such as lamb shanks or beef cheeks.
    Serious contemplation

  4. Rehn Bier - always keen to be supportive, we tried the beers from a small local microbrewery. The couple run the business together (he brews; she markets) and they can be found at the Barossa Farmers' Market and other such locations. They are a part of the community and believe in sustainability and organic principles (the packaging is made from recycled cardboard; solar panels supply the electricity; spent grain goes to local farmers for stock food) and are clearly passionate about artisan brewing. Best Brew: Maple Porter; the elegant brown ale is enhanced with maple syrup and American Cascade hops. If you want the specifics it's 4.2% and 45 IBU, but if you just want to drink it and enjoy the flavours of North America, you could do a lot worse.
    Local beeroes
  5. Wheatsheaf - totally unassuming from the outside, this pub has one of the finest whisky lists I've seen outside the British Isles and Ireland. But we're here for the beer and that's pretty good too. Claiming, "We pour full-flavoured characterful Australian and imported craft beers on tap: no skinny lagers or low-carb blands; instead we recommend real beer and regular exercise", the pub has an excellent range (including Lobethal, Feral, Bridge Road, Stone & Wood, 8 Wired, Parrotdog). It also brews its own under the Wheaty Brewing Corps label, so we sat in the beer garden and sampled a few. Best brew: Schmutzig Berlinerweiss; it consists of German Pilsner and Wheat malts with a single addition of Magnum hops, but it's really all about the bugs - Pediococcus to be precise. Combined with French Saison yeast, the super bug culture results in a beer that is funky, dirty and delicious!
    The unassuming exterior of the Wheatsheaf Hotel

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