Ogre Brewing Co is the newest player in the Southern Vales’ craft brewing scene, officially opening its doors today within the former home of The Barn at McLaren Vale.
Set in a restored 1840s coach way-station, The Barn was an institution of the regional fine dining scene for 50 years, yet the building has sat unused since the restaurant closed in 2019.
Over the past two months, the iconic venue has been repurposed into a taphouse and restaurant with a beer garden.
Ogre is founded by brewer Matthew Veide and his partner Imogen Mulholland, in partnership with her brother Sean and father Alan Mulholland who operate Mullygrub Café, also located on Main Road, McLaren Vale.
Ogre will open for lunch and dinner, from 11am until late, with a menu created by Ogre’s head chef Chris Chilvers, formerly of Penny’s Hill Wines and Red Poles.
The menu’s mains feature refined pub-style offerings, such as a pork cutlet schnitzel with sage and capers, red curry beef cheek, pork belly and octopus skewers, Korean fried chicken burger and a specials board of market fish.
Eight South Australian beers will pour on tap, including three Ogre brews – a pale ale, amber ale and a smoked porter.
“The food will be somewhere between pub food and fine dining… approachable food,” says Veide.
A long-time home-brewing enthusiast, Veide has became more serious about the craft in recent years, so much so that he began considering launching his own taphouse.
He recently became aware The Barn’s lease was available, and since signing on to the tenancy he’s given up his full-time job as a tractor operator at a local winery to concentrate on establishing Ogre Brewing.
“Opening a taphouse is something that I’ve thought about for a while,” says Veide.
“I’ve had the name registered for a couple of years, just in case something came up. I was going to do wholesale first before opening a restaurant, but this opportunity came up and it’s all happened pretty quickly.”
It’s been a busy time for the Veide and Imogen, who welcomed their third child, Austin, on Sunday, just a few days out from opening Ogre.
Ogre’s beers are not brewed on site but at Veide’s home, and also through a contract with Myponga’s Smiling Samoyed Brewery. Veide says he’s learnt a lot working with Smiling Samoyed’s owner and head brewer Simon Dunstone, and has enrolled at TAFE to study brewing in 2021.
“It’s a bit easier to brew at home at the moment, so although we’re allowed to brew on site, we’ve set up Ogre as a restaurant and taproom,” he says.
The Ogre pale ale is described as easy-drinking, not too bitter and approachable at 5.1% abv.
The amber is a slightly stronger and sweeter, while the smoked porter is stronger again, with a smokey flavour, which Veide says isn’t too overpowering, “but just enough to know that it’s there”.
The brewery’s name draws on Veide’s Latvian heritage.
“Ogre is the town in Latvia where my grandpa’s from and where our last name comes from. I wanted to use my last name as a brewery name, but no one knows how to say it or spell it properly.
“We will be putting a bit of Latvian food on soon, and some Latvian cocktails as well. There won’t be a huge Latvian influence, but I might make a couple of Latvian beers like a Baltic porter.”
The former fine-dining restaurant has a large cellar, which Ogre will use as a private function area. The cool temperature of the cellar also doubles as a perfect keg storage room.
Just a few days ago, large metal lettering was installed onto the side of the building, with the letters now being left to oxidise and become suitably rustic.
The Barn’s iconic vine-laden courtyard has also been completely overhauled.
“It will be similar to The Barn, but the courtyard area will be different – we’ve opened all that up,” Veide says.
“There used to be a brush box fence and vine growing over it. We’ve gotten rid of all that and pushed it out, repaved the area and put in some windows for more light.”
“We think Ogre will work well here. We’re at the entry to town, so it’s the first thing you see when you come into McLaren Vale. There aren’t many places in the main street you can go and have a drink except for the pub. Ogre will be a good place to go after work for a couple of beers.”
The new custodians of the building have plans to introduce an outdoor bar to the front, with wine barrels and umbrellas.
Veide hopes Ogre Brewing will be welcomed by locals and tourists alike as a destination for local brewery tours, and he wants the brand to become a significant part of the Fleurieu Peninsula’s flourishing brewery and distillery scene.
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