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Building a head of steam

March 11, 2011

Steam Exchange Brewery, Goolwa, South Australia

The Steam Exchange Brewery is located in old rail sheds right on the Murray River near Hindmarsh Island and the Murray Mouth in Goolwa South Australia. All the beer is brewed on-site looking over the river.

(c) Aaron Caruana


The Brewery opened it’s doors in 2006 but the whole concept started long before that. Due to the heritage nature of the site it wasn’t as simple as moving a brewery in and making beer. Whilst a challenge early on it has proved to be an asset as they have a fantastic brewery door environment that provides a unique experience.

Sitting in the bar looking at all the shiny stainless in the brewery or looking over the full and flowing Murray River and enjoying a steam ale is a pretty great experience. The building itself is a fantastic old rail shed that has been well restored whilst still keeping a lot of its historical character. You can still see some old roof beams that have been touched by fire in the past. The rail line was originally used to connect the river port of Goolwa to sea ports at nearby sea ports of Port Elliot and Victor Harbor. A local tourist train still runs right by the brewery, so if you are staying in a nearby town you can catch the train down for a beer and get back again without having to worry about who is doing the driving. If you have a better half that is a train spotter you have an excuse to get them to visit the brewery too. The town of Goolwa has some interesting historical sites and some great old buildings for those that have an interest.

(c) Aaron Caruana

Owner/Manager/Brewer/Managing Director at Steam Exchange is Gareth Andrews. Gareth has a long history of home brewing before leaping into the pro scene. Gareth has a very professional approach to his business and did a lot of study of the area and its possibilities before going ahead with the brewery. While making great beer he also has a real business sense that helps the Steam Exchange as a business as well as helping to produce great beer.


Unlike many breweries that start from a desire to be a brewer there was serious business planning and commercial investigation done on the area prior to going ahead with the project. This groundwork has produced a sound footing to build a great business on. For the first few years of operation veteran brewer Simon Fennell ran the brewhouse and helped get the operation off the ground. Simon has moved on and Gareth is now running things and from the sound of things doing a bit of everything, including serving behind the bar and chatting with visitors to the brewery.

The beers are a pretty rounded collection with something for most tastes pouring. The Steam Ale is their flagship beer and a really drinkable example of the style. It’s made in the American Steam Beer style including fermentation in open fermenters as originally done with pre prohibition steam beers, and still to this day by Anchor Brewery in San Francisco. They also have a really malt driven traditional IPA. This isn’t the hops bomb most people are used to when they think of IPA, somewhat welcome change in the era of bitter equalling better. It does have its fair share of hops but it is closer to the traditional IPA from England.

English-style IPA (c) Aaron Caruana

The Southerly Buster is another traditional English style ale but on the sweeter and maltier side. The main line-up is rounded out with the mandatory stout. It’s a nice chewy malt-driven beer without being over the top in roasted malt flavours or alcohol. The body is a little lighter than you would expect but it makes it very drinkable. The beer that Steam Exchange is possibly best know for is Truffles. This, by their own description, is a dessert beer designed to accompany a sticky date pudding. Whilst never having done that exact match I think it would be a wonderful combination. It is described as a chocolate, vanilla bourbon porter. Quite a mouthful and a lot to get into one beer. It really works though. At a beer and whisk(e)y tasting I had it paired with a very peaty Isle of Jura malt. The combination of the sweet beer and the smoky malt was incredible and one of my first great experiences with malts. The Truffles seems to make it around the country a bit so you should be able to find it at a bottleshop without too much effort. Get your Nanna to make you a sticky date pudding and take it on a test drive.


This is a great little brewery that is producing great classic styles all on site and in their own brewery. If you can make it to the Steam Exchange tasting their beers with the brewery on one side, the bar on the other and a great view across the (now flowing) Murray River is a fantastic experience. Enjoy the beers and wander around the old historic part of Goolwa while you are there.



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