The Adelaide Hills has continued to grow as a beer lover’s destination, with the advent of Left Barrel Brewing in Balhannah.
Husband and wife team Brad and Nada Bown have opened a microbrewery and taphouse specialising in farmhouse-style barrel-aged sours.
Bown, who has been a homebrewer for 20 years, started Left Barrel in his shed two years ago. His first Left Barrel beer was brewed in October 2016, when his Rocky Rye pale ale fermented with all Brett yeast was showcased to the public at the King’s Head Hotel in Adelaide.
Left Barrel got a new home two months ago. No longer brewing in his shed, Bown has opened a brewhouse and taproom around the corner from his home. Until now Left Barrel beers were only available wholesale and online in bottles and kegs.
“We had to see how the market was going to enjoy our beers, being a bit left of centre,” Bown said.
“We’ve never had a retail outlet until recently.”
“We wanted to have a place to showcase our beers and allow me to speak to people face to face.”
Bown bottles his beers “old-school” with a four-head wine filler, which relies on gravity. The beers are bottle conditioned and bottle carbonated and are generally stored for a month before being released onto the market.
“Similar to the old homebrew days,” Bown explained.
The Left Barrel brewhouse has a 300-litre system made by Bown himself, which he uses for smaller batches on-premise. Bown said he uses Little Bang Brewing’s 1000-litre system for his larger format beers.
“Part of our business plan early on, is to utilise other breweries for the hot side of things and ferment back at homebase.”
“The hot side part of other commercial breweries is often under-utilised.”
“So, we do that hot side at Little Bang and then transport the wort back up to my brewery and then add the yeast and ferment that all in my vessels.”
Left Barrel has two 1,500-litre conical fermenters and other smaller fermenters ranging from 200 to 1,000 litres. Bown also uses ex-spirit and ex-wine barrels to ferment and age some of his more unusual beers like barley wines and sour beers respectively.
Brewing farmhouse ales as Bown does consistently, can be a challenge, but he said that’d he’d never release a beer that he wasn’t totally happy with to the public.
“Anything that’s had time in barrel, there is always a risk of bad bacteria getting into the beer.”
“I’m not afraid to toss a beer out – we haven’t had too many barrels we’ve had to toss but there’s been a few,” Bown said.
Bown’s special interest in yeasts and wild ferments has stemmed from his desire for a variety of beers and flavours.
“The variety, even from one batch to the next, you can get varied results but they’re both still tasty.”
“I’d hate to be drinking the same beer all the time, so that’s one of the things I wanted to bring through with the brewery, to have many smaller batches so there’s always something different for you to try.”
Bown said he’s got hundreds of recipes that he’s been working on and tweaking for years, still to come out commercially. The taproom has 6 taps at the moment of which two will be mainstay beers, a Balhannah Bitter and Duckhunter Pale Ale. Bown has plans to add more taps very soon. He also hopes to have a range of food trucks booked where possible, until he can get the kitchen up and running.
Left Barrel is a family and dog-friendly venue, where Bown says everyone is welcome.
Brewery openings are presented by Spark Breweries and Distilleries, the finest in-venue and production brewing systems available, with local design and support. Read more: How to start a brewing company: Part One.