If you are anything like me you have probably never heard of the town of Goolwa. The important bits to know is that it is close to the coast about 50 odd kays south of Adelaide, down by the mouth of the Murray and it has a very good micro brewery.
Those people who read this blog carefully may have worked out that I was in South Australia with my brother, his wife and my lovely girlfriend Jordan. You may have also worked out that we were there to visit my Mum and her husband who live in Murray Bridge.
Now if you have ever been to SA you will be aware that there is exactly two fifths of fuck all to do in Murray Bridge, so my Mum had thoughtfully organised a bit of a day out where we toured towns with household names like Tailem Bend, Milang and Strathalbyn. If I sound harsh I’m not intending to, all these areas are actually quite lovely, quiet sure, but very pretty.
We had a lovely day which included a strange cable ferry ride across the Murray at Wellington, a picnic in a winery and a trip to a community-run craft shop that was conveniently placed in an abandoned train carriage in, you guessed it, the middle of nowhere. They did however sell us an excellent banana and rhubarb pie.
But the beery highlight of the day was a trip to the Steam Exchange brewery which we spotted as we were driven over the Hindmarsh Island bridge, famous for secret women’s business and bringing down some property developers and a couple of state politicians. The brewery is tucked under it, right on the wharf, in an old railway goods shed.
The brewery itself is what a good working microbrewery should look like. In a big glass room at one end is the brewing kettle, mash Tun and alike. At the other end of the room is a small bar, the space in between is spilt in three. On one side are the fermenting/conditioning tanks, a coolroom and a smallish bottling line. In the middle are tables and chairs for the obvious drinking/lounging purposes, and then the other side is taken up by two huge glass doors opening onto an outdoor deck and strangely, a model train set.
Andre & Cat drinking, bottling line in the background
It’s an interesting place to poke around and examine the equipment, stand at the bar and discuss brews if you are that way inclined (as myself and my brother are) or simply to sit, drink and chat as the rest the party were.
There were five beers on tap and then one extra bottle only product, and across the board they were pretty darn good. Here are my thoughts:
Oscar Summer Ale: It was an unusual light golden colour with a wispy white head. It had quite an unusual aftertaste which wasn’t any hop character I was familiar with. The weakest beer of the lot. Schooner.
Steam Ale: I’m not a steam ale fan in any way, shape or form, but this beer almost converted me. It had a creamy head, a clear fruity (tropical and citrus) nose and lingering flavour. Complex for what is normally a boring style. Pint.
IPA: More at the gentle end of the scale of IPAs. Again it had a nice creamy head sitting atop a golden amber coloured body. It was wonderfully balanced with sweet malts balancing the hops meaning it wasn’t too aggressive. Pint.
Southerly Buster (Dark Ale): This was the absolute standout of the bunch for me (although I found out later it was more complex on tap than in bottled form). It had toffee and banana smells on the nose and they reappear again in the taste. It had a wonderful body and mouthfeel, perhaps too sweet for many, but not for me. Jug.
Fermenting Tanks, random kegs and a place to sit
Stout: Again a well balanced beer. Powered chocolate tones abound throughout the brew but particularly in the aftertaste. An easy drinking stout. Pint.
There was only one beer of theirs that I’d heard of before I visited and that was Truffles, which is a bourbon infused porter. Unfortunately it wasn’t on tap but we did buy a four pack to take away to have with our dessert, the aforementioned banana and rhubarb pie. As an accompaniment to dessert it was perfect. You could smell the bourbon in the beer, along with some plums and brown sugar. It was exactly what it claimed, a very sweet, almost syrup-like dessert beer. You are not going to enjoy one of these whilst watching the footy on TV, but give me a thoughtful moment in front of a fire and this will work. Pint.
Distribution of Steam Exchange is very locally based. If you are reading this in South Australia you may be able to find some (and apologies for making jokes about your state all week), otherwise you might have to find a really good bottleshop or better still get a houseboat and head down the mighty Murray and moor it at Goolwa.