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A Butcher of Victorville Pale Ale at the Greenock Brewers

It was a perfect half hour.

We strolled in, exchanged greetings with mine hosts and were offered a beer. It was then that we learnt the nostalgic truth.

At the Greenock Brewers Chris and Lisa Higgins sell tremendous beers in bottles and on tap. And, most wonderfully, they can offer you a butcher of beer too.

In a world where the blind madness of upsized consumption has held us to ransom by making us believe we need more and bigger serves of everything from homes to cars to buckets of popcorn at the cinema, being served a beer in a 200ml glass is of great comfort and wistful joy.

Urban myth suggests the Newmarket Hotel in Adelaide first served a butcher of beer to workers from nearby cattle yards, and so the term entered the local vernacular.

Garden-fresh from lunch at the Greenock pub, Nick, Chrisso and I wandered through the shadows of Laucke’s flour mills having decided upon a quick visit and concluding refreshment.

I’m confident it was the first butcher I’d had this millennium. Most pubs no longer stock schooner or butcher glasses and therefore it’s a pint or you’re spitting feathers.

It was instantly the mid-1980s and I was being taught to pull a beer (along with old mate Davo) at the Kapunda Golf Club by Gus Higgins (who was Chris’s uncle). Suddenly all of us were far skinnier but had fatter hair. Allan Border was Australian cricket captain. There were Kingswoods parked outside too.

The Victorville Pale Ale is fiendishly easy to consume. It’s zesty and agreeable and sparkles with citrus notes. I also purchased a six pack for medical and research purposes. If it’d been an hour later, we might’ve dropped anchor and cancelled our evening plans and had a second butcher.

With this nostalgic tone set we spoke of our past, most notably Kapunda icon Skeeta and shared stories of his footy exploits and his drinking exploits and his drinking at footy exploits. Many of us associate Skeeta instantly with the Holden Torana, more particularly his being driven and then not being driven, largely as it frequently ended up in exotic places where a Torana shouldn’t be.

With the golden Barossa light bending across the brewery and through the windows we shared more stories and then it was time for Nick, Chrisso and I to point our non-Torana cars homewards.

I’d enjoyed the beer, and the company enormously. I couldn’t wait until the next time I’d drink a butcher.

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Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

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Located on the north-west edge of the Barossa, Greenock was a town I typically ignored in my youth.

Coming from Kapunda for footy or cricket we’d drive through it in a minute on route to Nuri, Tanunda or Angaston. Sometimes, after a hot afternoon in the field you’d swing by the Greenock pub, five of you in an old Holden furnace (six in a HQ if it had a bench seat in the front), and each get a longneck in a brown paper bag for the meandering trip home.

Now, Greenock is a destination. There’s a handful of bright cellar-doors and the excellent Greenock Brewers, run by Chris and Lisa Higgins. Also chief among the attractions is the pub and on my annual June sabbatical I meet old school mate Nick there for lunch.

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The local cricket club is nicknamed the Schlungers and their teams comprised an assortment of blokes usually called Nitschke. Playing at their home ground was often memorable, and one distant day my friend Bob’s bowling career came to a tragicomic and delayed death with an eighteen ball over (which only contained seven legal deliveries). Despite being an opponent he brought curious relevance to the GCC’s official prayer: Blessed are we who are cracked, for we shall let in the light.

Walking into the pub you instantly feel a sense of earthy relaxation with the curved wooden bar, fireplaces and dining rooms both spacious and snug. Given our reverent understanding of history Nick and I order Norton burgers, named for former mine host Norton Schulter who ran it for many years along with his son Mick. The Schulters have owned the pub for 150 years. Norton recently turned ninety.

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Norton (on left) a publican’s publican

We each nurse a Trafalgar Pale Ale and chat about times old and new; local footy and the AFL; Tarantino and the Stuttgart beer festival; Vampire Weekend and boys and utes and misbehaviour; family and love. Winemakers and farmers drift in. Outside, the world spins with blind delirium.

Decades ago Kapunda fielded an indoor cricket team on Thursday nights in Tanunda. Despite having some decent cricketers we were no match for the side filled with Schlungers and other Barossa notables like Horrie Moore who were so cocky they took to fancy dress. Once they whipped us while wearing rubber boots. Another time, in dresses. Humbled, we’d break up the despondent quarter-hour drive home by pausing at the Greenock for a healing cup and Fats would press C6 on the jukebox which was, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Back then we were all caught in a trap.

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The Schlungers

For a while some pubs engaged in a pissing contest to see who could serve the biggest schnitzel and you’d often get one flopping off your plate the size of grandma’s best tea-towel. Now, the competition has moved from acreage to height and burgers and it’s all culinary architecture and perilous scaffolding and intimidating the diner into meekly deconstructing their meal in an act of surrender. Happily, no shallow displays of Freudian compensation in the Greenock today and we find our Norton burgers approachable, just like their eponymous inspiration.

And the chips are great too.

In this complex, unknowable time the Greenock pub is a sanctuary within the sanctuary of the Barossa within South Australia’s sanctuary. An easy amble from Adelaide, the pub and its unpretentious charms make this hamlet a terrific destination.

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Brewery Review: Greenock Brewers

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In one of his more reflective and tender moments Australian poet-balladeer Kevin “Bloody” Wilson offered the following as a courtship inquiry

            Does your Dad own a brewery?

I’m unsure what reply Kev received- probably one in the negative, but I do know that a bloke from my hometown of Kapunda runs Greenock Brewers Barossa Valley in this gorgeous hamlet about an hour from Adelaide.

If you ask the average punter their favourite law what do you get? Thou shalt not kill? The deliberate out of bounds law? Unlikely.

I nominate the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, and happily the owners, Chris and Lisa Higgins are fans of this one too, and it guides their craft. And, of course, it’s especially relevant here in the Prussian-settled Barossa with its tradition and strict codes and nodding respect.

I ducked in last week, and while Chris was down in town, Lisa let me in and after a couple snifters, I strolled out with some tremendous cargo in the form of two six-packs. I drove back to Glenelg with matronly care.

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Bunawunda Blonde is dangerously easy to drink. But unlike many commercial beers (read muck) this lager rewards with complexity and maturity that doesn’t scream, “Messy Millennials on a hot Sunday.” There’s delicate spice infused with a smiling approachability. I like it. It’d find a cheery spot around a BBQ, or at five bells on a Friday (or earlier in the week).

The brewery is set just off the town’s main drag on Mill Street. Coming from Nuriootpa (where a young HG Nelson once kicked a footy) if you get to the pub, once run by iconic mine hosts, Norton and Mick Schluter, then you need to turn the EH Holden around. But if you slip into the Greenock Tavern’s front bar, never fear, for the brewery’s excellent product is available there too.

Having spent not a few winters up at spoggy’s on a Saturday and playing footy in various Barossa towns I can assure you it gets decidedly crisp, and in these times of personal need the application of dark ale becomes vital.

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Greenock Brewers Dark Ale is like the Bunawunda Blonde, in that it’s a beer of subtlety and elegance. It doesn’t get in your face like a Tanunda Magpies fullback or an Angaston opening bowler, but moves with seduction. This, as many will tell you, always works better and jags the win. There’s some lingering Mocha and wafts of smokiness too that seems perfect for an evening around a cracking fire, after the Kapunda Bombers have had a top day in the lead-up to finals.

When I poked my head in the other day I spotted a cosy outdoor area with tables and chairs and a fire. The brewery itself is housed within a fetching old stone wheat store that immediately makes a wonderful impression. It sets a tone, and turns up the thirst a few Fahrenheit notches.

Couple this with occasional live music- probably no Kevin B Wilson, although I can’t be certain- and it makes the Greenock Brewers Barossa Valley an attractive location, in an attractive town, in an attractive valley.

I’m there.

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https://www.greenockbrewersbarossavalley.com.au/