With one beer released and the official launch of Uraidla Brewery scheduled for early March, we thought it wise to get to know the operation's head brewer, Oscar Matthews.
Meet the brewer: Uraidla Brewery
“As soon as I saw these tanks in here, it was like ‘This is finally happening,’” Oscar Matthews says, looking up at the seemingly fresh-out-of-the-box kit.
With one beer already released – available on tap at the Uraidla Hotel front bar – and an official launch event planned during Stirling Fringe in March, the Uraidla Brewery is the latest small-scale production to enter South Australia’s burgeoning beer scene.
Uraidla Brewery will officially launch early March during Stirling Fringe.
The brewery’s Third Eye Pale Ale is available on tap right now at the Uraidla Hotel, 1198 Greenhill Road, Uraidla.
Like many brewers before him, Oscar’s start in the industry began with “homebrewing in a shed with a couple of mates,” but his induction into the commercial industry involved a trial-by-fire move to the States.
“My uncle in the states, [Hamish Marshall], he took over SLO Brew, which is on the Central Coast of California. They’ve been a brewpub since 1988, and they wanted to really reinvent the brand and get serious about it, and ended up building a production brewery with a 30-barrel system,” Oscar says.
“I did a three-month trip to see if it was what I wanted to get into, whether brewing was going to be for me, and it was awesome, I had a really good time.
“Came back, did about four or five months with Pirate Life while they were finishing off building their production brewery in the States, and as soon as that was up and going I spent near on all of last year up there brewing for those guys.”
While his time at SLO was formative, so too, Oscar says, was witnessing the beer scene in San Luis Obispo (the S-L-O of SLO Brew).
“It was a pretty good space to be in over there,” he says.
“You’ve got those bigger breweries, like Firestone Walker was literally 40 minutes up the road. The head brewer I was working for was a brewer for those guys for about 15 years, so I learnt a lot from him. But then also, being so close to Firestone, got to go out there and check that out, see how the big craft breweries are doing it.”
A return to the Adelaide Hills was inevitable though, and through a family connection Oscar got talking to Julie and Ed Peters, who own Uraidla Hotel (and who also have a stake in The Crafers Hotel, alongside Oscar’s parents), about building a brewery in the space next door to the pub.
“We were thinking it would be awesome to have a brewery in the Hills,” he says, “Just something a bit different for this area, a point of difference.”
By the time Oscar returned to Adelaide, the project was well underway.
In setting up the brewery, Oscar made sure to strive for professionalism and to not allow the size of the operation dictate the quality of his output.
“You can run a pretty basic brewery, you don’t need to have all the latest and trickiest stuff to make really good beer, but I sort of wanted to take a small-scale production and use some of the technology that the more medium-sized guys would use,” he explains.
“You know, take it really seriously and ensure that we’ve got good quality beer all the time, because quality and consistency is the main thing.”
As for the core range, Uraidla Brewery’s first release, Third Eye Pale Ale, is “that hoppier, American-style of pale ale… It’s still quite fruity and whatnot, but it’s got some more of those savoury, herbal characteristics,” Oscar says.
The brewery’s second beer, which will be released at the Stirling Fringe event, will be a session pale ale, to be followed by an IPA, “probably a pilsner”, and a rolling roster of seasonal one-offs.
“The beauty of this system is the smallest batch we have to do is 1,200 litres – that’s about 15 kegs – so I want to do a lot of seasonals,” he says.
Oscar won’t be drawn on where he sees the business developing into the future, other than to say he’d like to eventually move to a packaged product. What he’s focussed on now is getting the operation ready for launch in March.
“Right now we’re really just going to be focussed on building up the pub and getting a really good following, bringing people up to the pub and seeing the area,” he says.
“I want to be seen as a really good brewpub, and I want to be playing in that really creative space of having those really interesting seasonal beers, but also known for putting out a really consistent, good quality beer all the time.”