Adelaide does pretty well in the drinks department when it comes to historic brands. Now lovers of West End can brew their own first draught.
South Australia’s ‘wine-state’ reputation thrives on the likes of Jacob’s Creek and Penfolds, their foundation sites major points of local and visitor interest.
When it comes to beer, West End and Coopers carry the flag, the former brewery originally opened in the city’s west end, unsurprisingly, in 1859, beating its Norwood rival by three years.
That suggests West End Brewery will be cracking a few red cans this year as it celebrates its 160th anniversary in the state’s beer game. Now based at Thebarton’s landmark Port Road brewery, one of its birthday party treats is the launch of a unique Brewer for a Day program that takes you right to the heart of what West End beer is all about.
What goes on behind the big glass building with the giant copper kettle facing onto Port Road doesn’t have to be a mystery any longer, says long-time West End brewer and now beer ambassador Tony Jones.
“The brewery has been here for so long but people know very little about what goes on behind the gates,” Jones says. “Beer drinkers know and love West End Draught as a product, but they don’t know how it’s made. They can come in now, learn a little about the West End story, and actually get to make their own.”
Which is exactly what happens if you sign up to be a brewer for a day. It’s an eye-opening, sensory experience, hands-on, which shifts the gears for anyone who has done a bit of basic home brewing, or wants to. This time, however, you’re in action in West End’s own small-scale pilot brewery right next to that beautiful copper pot, with Tony Jones guiding your every move.
And it’s not just a West End Draught masterclass – if you fancy making your own craft-style beer with a few mates, you can choose your grain, malt and hop levels to suit from a light and summery lager through to wheat beers or a heavy-duty Indian Pale Ale.
First you need to decide what kind of beer you desire. It’s an intimate four-person session but you can only make one style of beer in your group. We went for a light to medium-bodied lager with a bit of citrus character and subtle hop-bitterness in the finish. The grain is SA-grown barley that you grind to begin the step-by-step brewing process – mashing, lautering, boiling, whirlpooling – and adding those precious hops at just the right moment for the desired level of refreshing bitterness. Ours: Pride of Ringwood, Citra and Amarillo.
By the end of the five-hour session, which includes a brewery tour and light lunch, the mix is cooling and ready for fermentation, which will take a week, followed by another for settling and filtering before you return for the all-important final bottling, tasting and receipt of your own carton of My Brew bottles.
During that wait, Jones sends updates on how your brew is progressing, with plenty of technical data if that’s your thing. In the end, the beer is spot on to what was originally planned – a fresh, summery version of a premium Australian lager.
The tasting and brewing experience is great value at $170 for the lot, including your own take-home bottles. It might just kickstart a new hobby. And more importantly it reveals a few secrets behind what SA beer drinkers have been enjoying for generations.
As for those classic red tins of West End Draught that are the backbone of the Thebarton brewery, they’re not going anywhere. In fact you’ll leave with a whole new respect for the product.
“So we all should,” Jones says. “It holds a very important place in Australian beer history and culture.”
West End Brewer for a Day
Select Fridays, 10am-3pm
West End Brewery, 107 Port Rd