Well known for exceptional wine, McLaren Vale has expanded its horizons with unique craft breweries and distilleries, taking tastings to an exciting new level.
With breweries and distilleries opening up, there’s never been a better time to experience the diversity of offerings. The gradual appearance of beers, cider and spirits is a welcome addition to the well established wine region.
“The brewery was an easy addition to the region, and it co-exists with the wine here in a really lovely way,” says Mary Goodieson, co-founder of Goodieson’s Brewery with husband (and brewer) Jeff. One of the first to open in the region, their McLaren Vale brewery and tasting space is nestled amongst some of the most renowned vineyards in the area.
“When we decided to do barrel aged beers, we put the word out one morning that we needed barrels and by that afternoon we had a local winemaker deliver some to us. It’s an amazing community here with support from the wineries – all the winemakers needed a local beer to drink at the end of vintage anyway, so it worked well!”
Since opening in 2010, their range has expanded to include an impressive collection of beer, all brewed on site by Jeff. From pale ale to wheat beer and pilsner to red ale, their standard range includes six year-round styles. Keep an eye out for limited editions like the barrel aged brews, seasonal beers and one-off blends using local ingredients. “We’re working on adding local cold brewed coffee in our stout soon – we like to do collaborations with locals where we can,” says Mary.
Vale Brewing is also making the most of the surrounding wine community. “We’re looking into some co-fermentation at the moment, mixing local cabernet into stout or something similar,” says Jeff Wright, head brewer at Vale Brewing. The Willunga based brewery also recently used McLaren Vale grown lavender to make a lavender stout, as well as cherries from Willunga Hill for a cherry lager. Ask for their limited brews at local pubs, but get in quick because they don’t last long. You can also enjoy a Vale Brewing tasting paddle at Red Poles.
Willunga is also home to Swell, another popular beer business in the region. With a background in winemaking, the team at Swell craft their beers with food pairing in mind. Harry’s Deli at Wirra Wirra winery is a great place to try one of their beers. Their award-winning golden ale is a local favourite, but make sure to try one of their Brewery Qualifying Series for a limited experimental brew.
Some of the region’s wineries are trying their hand at brewing their own creations too. Ekhidna Wines in McLaren Vale offers a beer flight tasting at their new venue, including their hugely popular ginger beer (this is a local secret – touted the best in the state).
It’s not all about beer, Maximus Wines produce a large range of spirits (Settlers Spirits) from single-malt whisky, vodka, liqueurs, and their flagship gin range. Owners Shelley and Rowland Short say the transition of the winery to include a distillery just made sense.
“The processes Rowland employs to make the spirits is similar to that of a winemaker. We take our botanicals and distill them separately to create the essences and then we blend them at the end,” says Shelley.
McLaren Vale Distillery is another newcomer making waves. With a focus on premium whisky, gin and vodka, brothers Lachlan and John Rochfort took their lead from Tasmania’s impressive distillery scene. Training at some of their top distilleries, the duo came back to their roots in McLaren Vale to set up their boutique distillery.
“McLaren Vale is known for its wineries and you can’t take away from that, but we can offer a new experience, work together and really add something to the region,” says Lachlan. Their whisky is barrel aged in 100-year-old McLaren Vale fortified wine barrels. “These barrels are very rare. We’re aiming for one of the best whiskies in the world, and with the quality South Australian grain we use, as well as the local barrels, we don’t think that’s out of reach.”
So why not take a nip between wine sips at nearby wineries! Local tour operators can tailor your experience, so you can taste to your heart’s content. To discover other great craft beer and distillery tastings, view another of our blog articles featuring McLaren Vale Breweries and Distilleries.
Explore the local brews and spirits for yourself. Here’s some of our top picks:
- Goodieson Brewery is a working brewery in McLaren Vale with stunning vistas over neighbouring wineries. They’re open 7 days, so bring a picnic (they encourage it) and try some of their delicious ales.
- Red Poles is not just a gorgeous winery and restaurant space – it’s also home to the Vale beer and cider tastings. Open Wednesday to Sunday.
- Ekhidna offer beer flights in their cellar door daily. Ask to try their handmade lemonade or house cocktail using their famous ginger beer and mint from the garden.
- McLaren Vale Distillery offers tours, tastings and masterclasses at their site nestled in the midst of wine-country. Open weekends.
- Maximus Wines is home to Settlers spirits – head to their McLaren Vale cellar door for wine, gin, vodka, whisky and liqueur tastings. Platters available too and masterclasses available by appointment. Top tip – try the house made espresso martini with their very own coffee liqueur mix. Open weekends.
Have you discovered a McLaren Vale brewery or distillery? Share it on social media using the hashtag #mclarenvaleguide