Spearheading the local craft brew scene after opening its doors in 2011, Prancing Pony remains one of the most recognisable South Australian craft beer brands. Last year saw the brewery’s India Red Ale awarded top honours at the International Beer Challenge, piquing consumer interest in a burgeoning export market.
The story behind the awarded brew is tightly entwined with the origin of its owners. Compared to their brewing contemporaries, Frank Samson and Corinna Steeb come from a unique place — the pair moved to Australia in 1982 from Esslingtein, a medieval town in the South-West of Germany.
The transition from a culture boasting a centuries-old law related to brewing to Australia was jarring, with Steeb regarding Australian beers as “cold and tasteless” upon arriving on our shores.
For Steeb, a stark contrast existed between beer culture in Germany and Australia. The German Purity Law (a law stipulating that beer must only be brewed with water, malt, hops and yeast) boasted by her homeland resulted in beers far removed from the generic fare to be consumed ice cold that was produced in Australia.
Originally operating a nano-brewery in Macclesfield, the two decided in 2011 to relinquish their corporate jobs and dedicate themselves to brewing. Their first commercial brewery took the form of a 10-hectolitre micro-brewery in Mt Barker where the gas-fired system used resulted in their original “fire brewed” moniker.
Growing popularity necessitated the relocation to a larger site on Mount Barker Road in 2015, and the installation of a custom built brewery in 2016. Currently the brewshed and restaurant serve approximately 1,000 patrons a week, and their beers are sold in hundreds of venues Australia wide.
Popularity was never a problem for Prancing Pony, but the brewery’s India Red Ale prompted an unexpected brand transformation. After being awarded the Supreme Champion Beer at the International Beer Challenge in London last year, the exposure has enabled the brewery to significantly expand its profile.
“From day one we had a fantastic following for our India Red Ale. [It] is now our biggest seller in Australia and overseas, and it certainly has opened a few doors and leads for sales of our other beers in the range,” Steeb explains.
Prancing Pony Brewery CEO, Corinna Steeb
Despite export demand increasing due to the India Red Ale’s success, Steeb still emphasises the importance of first serving the Australian market.
“We believed that a healthy business needs to stand on its own legs in Australia before it can tackle the world. Our past experience tells us that good relationships with suppliers, distributors and happy customers are pivotal in business and this is not different in export, so it all takes time.”
The craft beer scene is still rapidly expanding around the country, and competition between micro-breweries has never been fiercer. Although daunting to some, Steeb sees this competition as healthy for both consumers and the industry as a whole.
“For customers it is wonderful, as this provides an endless supply of new, interesting beers as each new brewery carves out their niche. Our industry is still in it’s infancy in Australia and we believe that the craft beer revolution has only just started and as they say, a rising tide lifts all the boats.”
The goal to produce high quality beer is clear, but emphasis is also placed by Prancing Pony on the more cultural aspects of beer consumption.
“As a brewery, I think we are very approachable, we champion a great atmosphere. We like to connect with our fans and as a craft beer brand, we exclude no one,” she says, exemplified in their inclusion of a ‘stammtisch,’ a tribal table, for regulars at their brewhouse.
The stammtisch acts as a cultural centre where “plans are made, dreams become reality and where controversial topics are debated and options raised with respect and no judgement”.
Prancing Pony Brewery
42 Mt Barker Road, Totness