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Dark SA beers for winter cheer

Eat | Drink | Explore

Beer is not just a warm-weather drink – beer enthusiast John Krüger reviews some of the darker South Australian brews which he says are hearty enough to make the soul sing.

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While winter is on its last legs and the mind wanders to sunny days and refreshing beers, there’s still time to embrace nourishing SA-brewed, winter-warming beverages.

There’s nothing better than a pint of stout next to an open fire and sometimes we forget how blessed we are to have fresh local stouts for our enjoyment; forget Dublin, Adelaide has all you need for a hearty black brew that makes the soul sing.

Some people object to the harsh acrid roast barley and roast malt that’s in some stouts, but here are stellar examples of darker beers with a hint of sweetness to take the edge off the dry, dusty ashtray character.


Southwark Old Stout.

Southwark – Old Stout

Generally available only in South Australia and conjured like a miracle every winter in Thebarton. The beer nerds say it’s the best beer to come out of the West End brewery and it’s undoubtedly a beer we should be proud of. The experts also agree on its quality, awarding this rich hearty brew Champion Stout at the 2016 Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards.

It’s thick, slightly sweet and full-bodied. Quite a mouthful. One brewer described it as “stout meets smokey Barossa mettwurst”. There’s a hint of coffee, bitter chocolate, layer upon layer of roast barley, roast lamb and chocolate mud cake.

It’s not quite the beer to drink on a Friday night on the way home from work. At 7.4 per cent abv (alcohol by volume), you could have a few of these at home instead of a glass of port.

Unfortunately, these days it’s available only in 375ml stubbies.

Food match: Oysters Kilpatrick. The bacon matches with the hint of smoke.


Fox Hat Phat Mongrel Oatmeal Stout.

Fox Hat – Phat Mongrel

From the Willunga team that brought you Vale Ale comes a new range of cans and kegs, including this wonderful stout.

It’s an American-style oatmeal stout with a dash of nitro. In a nutshell, that means it’s got a bit more of a hop kick than our standard domestic stouts; the oatmeal adds body and a smooth silky mouthfeel, while the nitrogen softens the carbonation for an even smoother finish.

It smells of lightly of tar, hops, cocoa and dark, rich, sweet malt. The sweetness gives it a bigger body and balances against the higher hop rate to make a really enjoyable stout that’s a great after-work beer in the colder weather.

Definitely one to look out for on draught if you can find the perfect pub with a fireplace. It’s 6.5 per cent abv available in 375ml cans and draught.

Food match: Drink this sweeter stout with a slice of dark chocolate mud cake. The perfect dessert pairing.

Choc Oatmeal Stout

Lobethal Bierhaus Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.

Lobethal Bierhaus – Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

He’s almost old enough to be called the Grandfather of South Australian Craft Beer and Lobethal Bierhaus owner Alistair Turnbull has won plenty of awards for his fine range of beers. His Red Truck Porter is legendary and the Choc Oatmeal Stout is also a lesson in balance and honing a recipe until it’s perfect.

The stout almost starts off with flavours of bitter-sweet Chinotto before swapping over to dusty cocoa and freshly ground coffee. There’s enough coffee to consider a bottle with a Sunday bacon and egg breakfast.

The oatmeal takes the harsh edge off the roast barley and smooths out a stout that could easily be a session beer as well as a single treat. 5.8 per cent abv in 330ml stubbies and draught.

Food match: Quality Barossan bacon with eggs on rye. If breakfast beer is frowned upon in your house, drink this instead of a glass of red wine with a well-seasoned roast leg of lamb.


Little Bang – (Warning) May Contain Traces of Panther.

Little Bang Brewing Co – (Warning) May Contain Traces of Panther

Possibly the coolest beer name to ever grace a beer. While technically more aligned with a porter, this is definitely a dark winter warmer worth including. With a great balance of sweet and bitterness, this deceptively easy-drinking beer is one of the first bottled products to come from the micro-brewers based in Stepney.

It’s dark but still a little light through, revealing a deep dark red hue. It has some wonderful complex caramel notes and enough roast to make it into this list.

Let it warm up a little to enjoy the dark bitter chocolate and espresso coffee flavours and aromas. For brewers who love their hops, this shows nice restraint and is a joy to drink. 6.5 per cent abv in 330ml stubbies and draught.

Food match: Scallop and chorizo skewers. Salty seafood and spice are complemented by the dark malts.

John Krüger is an Adelaide-based photographer and home brewer with a passion for good beer. He’s on the Royal Adelaide Beer and Cider Awards committee and also a beer judge with the awards.

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