When Alex Marschall, Joshua Talbot, Matthew Orman and Oliver Brown wanted to open a brewery six years ago, they lacked the start-up capital to purchase the brewing equipment. So they opened craft beer bar Nola instead – the next best thing to brewing their own. Brown and Talbot’s Big Easy Group venues Anchovy Bandit, The Stag, Yiasou George and Bottega Bandito soon followed. But all the while their original concept was still brewing (figuratively) in the background.
“Our company’s been registered for over three years,” says co-head-brewer Marschall. After a few Covid-related delays, Bowden Brewing finally opened at Plant 3 in July. It brings on board another business partner, co-head-brewer Jake Phoenix.
When Broadsheet visited in February, the site was very much still under construction. While the industrial warehouse vibe remains, right down to the MMA-like metal caging that separates the brewery from the rest of the site, designer Sans-Arc Studio has warmed the space with dark timber, upholstered terracotta seating and a whole lot of greenery. The petite site extends vertically to a mezzanine level – with more seating and a second bar – that overlooks the action below.
The 14-tap ground-floor bar pours a range of beer styles, fermented in 600-litre steel tanks that are visible through towering glass windows to passers-by and residents of Fourth Street. Three of the taps are connected to bright (or serving) tanks, which act as giant kegs for fresh tank-to-tap pours.
The brewery’s core four are an approachable easy-drinking Bowden Draught; a hoppier, fruit-driven session ale; a big, bold, bitter West Coast IPA; and a fruit sour that’ll change based on what’s in season. Right now, the fruit sour features mango. Next up: orange and blueberry. “I spent about three hours zesting oranges earlier this week,” says Phoenix. “[The blueberries give it] an amazing colour and the orange gives it a nice zesty zing.”
The team will source produce locally wherever possible (50 Lebanese cucumbers supplied by a local farmer will soon become a cucumber and watermelon gose). They’re also placing an emphasis on local collaborations: the opening range includes beers made with Swell Brewing Co (a low-ABV hazy IPA), Big Shed Brewing Co (a 7.9 per cent ABV hazy double IPA), Western Ridge Brewing Co (a brown ale) and Monday’s Coffee (a coffee porter). They’re also working on a vivid-pink cider made in collaboration with Lobo Cider using the Lenswood orchard’s red-fleshed Redlove apples.
Coming soon is a 13 per cent ABV Monte Carlo imperial stout (“our take on a Monte Carlo biscuit, with raspberry and a hint of coconut,” says Marschall) and Odin’s Crumpet (“an oat Baltic porter … nice and roasty,” says Phoenix). Beyond beers, there’s also a creaming soda and Kakadu plum hard seltzer and a non-alcoholic passionfruit kombucha. Production is kept small, with only enough brewed to sell on site (and a little bit of excess to supply their favourite bars). “The idea is hyper-local beer, in Bowden, for Bowden,” says Marschall.
That neighbourhood-minded approach extends to taking feedback from the local community. (After some patrons requested lighter, lower alcohol options, Marschall and Phoenix are tweaking some of the recipes.) “We’re lucky to have a good relationship with the locals,” says Marschall. “Our next step will be like, ‘well what style of beer do you like? What flavours do you like?’ Some of our staff have already started giving us suggestions.”
The drinks are backed by food from Big Easy Group executive chef Harry Bourne, who’s designed a menu of “untraditional” Mexican- and Central American-inspired cooking under a separate identity, Masa (named after the maize dough used for tortillas).
Naturally, there’s a selection of tacos and tostadas – pig’s head and puffed skin crackers; blood sausage with pickled red onion; battered Port Lincoln flathead with green salsa; and Spencer Gulf prawn with avocado, lime and fermented chilli all atop house-made corn tortillas.
“It’s food to be shared,” says Phoenix. “Everything is made in house; they get their own corn and make masa and press their own tortillas daily. All the ingredients are Australian, if not SA, so we’re trying to keep the footprint small.”
Expect barbequed Nomad Farms chicken and charred Ngeringa cauliflower off the wood-fired grill, plus snacks such as smoked Padrón peppers with togarashi seasoning; fried school prawns with popcorn and garlic mayo; pig’s head croquettes with refried beans; and chargrilled corn with black garlic butter and pecorino.
The kitchen will soon introduce takeaway DIY taco kits, and Phoenix says to expect a new Mexican-style beer (made with maize) to pair with them. All the brews are available to-go in growlers and squealers, and a canning line will arrive in the coming months.
12 Fourth St, Bowden
Tue to Thu 4pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm