Since opening their business in 2007, Lobethal Bierhaus is a micro-brewery that has consistently worked hard in delivering their customers with a range of experiences, including cellar door tasting facilities, off-license bottle sales, and a restaurant / beer garden (licensed for up to 200 people) with matching beer-themed foods built around unique local produce. Their location in the heart of the Adelaide Hills is pristine and oozes with beautiful nostalgic memories that have been preserved through their 1850s heritage and history, whilst being coupled with a touch of modernity that can appeal to anyone and everyone.
Last month, co-owners and couple Alistair and Rose witnessed the horrific Cudlee Creek bushfires that ravaged through the Hills first-hand, but thankfully weren’t as heavily impacted. However, it was still a day that would change the course of their (and their neighbouring businesses + individuals’) lives dramatically. Here’s a snippet of what happened on that day and how Lobethal Bierhaus will be popping up as part of the RE:Gathered SA Market this upcoming weekend:
Tema: How are you, Alistair? How is the team and families of those involved with the Bierhaus doing in the Hills?
Alistair: I have to admit it has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. Myself and my wife Rose are among the more fortunate – whilst our business lost considerable revenue at the busiest time of the year, our Lobethal-based home and business came through without material damage. Among our almost entirely Hills-based staff (totalling 20), some have suffered significant damage to their properties, but thankfully, none have lost their homes. I wish we could say the same for many of our friends and customers.
Tema: What were your first thoughts when you realized that you were in danger / had bushfires happening close by?
Alistair: Despite the hot and windy weather on the day and all of the warnings that day being classed as catastrophic fire danger, I never thought our town would have to endure what it did. Warnings of a fire in the neighbouring town of Cudlee Creek came relatively early in the morning, as we were preparing for what promised to be an extremely busy day – our restaurant was booked to capacity for both lunch and in the evening, as many local businesses and families prepared to celebrate the end of their working year with us. As the automated warnings sent to our mobile phones increased in frequency, I have to admit I still didn’t believe it could impact our town the way it did. I have never seen so many CFS fire appliances or airborne firefighting equipment flying over us.
I called a friend in Cudlee Creek to get his perspective – he was definitive that the fire wasn’t in control and it was heading towards us. Still not really believing we were truly under threat, as a precaution we sent home our staff while they could still leave (only our head chef, my nephew who works with me in our brewery, and my wife stayed – we all live in town). We rolled out all of our fire hoses, placed a ladder for access to our roof and began to wet things down, got our generator ready, and began relocating food in case of a power outage. My wife went home (an older structure literally across the road from our business) and brought our dogs to the brewery, where we thought we would all be safe. The brewery building is a brick structure with a sprinkler system and recently upgraded fire fighting equipment. By around noon when the fire arrived, most people had left Lobethal – the parade of people departing with pets, horses, old vehicles, other prize possessions, etc, intermingled with fire appliances rushing through town in the opposite direction was daunting. All but a couple of the owners of our neighbouring business remained.
As the fire neared town, the smoke increased and then one by one, you could hear small explosions and see periodic changes in the colour of the smoke from grey to plumes of black – I assume from property being destroyed. When it came over the hill behind our business, the pace of its approach was incredible and the CFS were right amongst it, trying to protect as many houses as they could – they are very brave and dedicated people! If not for tireless efforts of the CFS and then the plane which came from NSW that I understand delivered retardant just behind us, I believe the fire would most certainly have come into the centre of our town. The fire literally came within 100 metres of our buildings. We put out a few minor spot-fires behind our business together with our neighbour, but quickly realised that it would not be possible to deal with much more. The heat in our car park was particularly intense.
Tema: How do you feel the bushfires have impacted the community – what are some aspects in particular that you’ve noticed since the bushfires of Dec 2019?
Alistair: I feel what has occurred may well bring the community closer together. Many have pitched in to help others – the stories are endless. And interestingly, the worst affected are often the most humble.
Tema: How long has the Bierhaus been in business for? What has the journey of being in business been like so far?
Alistair: We began in 2006 and opened our restaurant in 2007. We love what we do, it isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day, it is a great lifestyle. We meet many people and absolutely love living in Lobethal – despite being close to Adelaide, it has an amazing country feel and community.
Tema: In a nutshell, what does the Bierhaus aim to offer to their customers?
Alistair: A friendly little regional business where local residents, their visiting friends and families, and tourists visiting Adelaide can enjoy the beer we make and the food we serve, wherever possible based around local produce sourced from our many neighbours. While we do need to pay the bills each week, I’d like to think what we do is far more about lifestyle than mercenary gain.
Tema: Have you noticed a change in trading since the bushfires?
Alistair: We were unable to reopen until the Sunday after the fires when power was restored. At this point, many roads were still closed, so trade was slow and largely local residents just looking for a place to have a break and I guess share experiences. Once all of the roads had reopened, business picked up with many we hadn’t seen before; I assume some wanting to see what had happened for themselves, others spurred on by the Government’s promotions through Adelaide Hills Tourism and SA Tourism’s campaigns to have tourism return. We have had a number of very busy days. The impact and timing of the Tour Down Under and the Crush Wine Festival has further helped to show all we are still a fabulous region to visit.
Tema: What do you think people can do to help the Adelaide Hills community with their rebuilding and recovering stage?
Alistair: The best way to assist is to simply return and enjoy what the Adelaide Hills and its many little business have to offer – and why not, the produce here in the Hills is among the best in the world – whether it be wine, cheese, chocolates, cherries, strawberries, apples, pears, vegetables, meat, and many other forms of primary produce. So many have pitched in to assist those impacted. The generosity of so many is incredible. The emergency services, the locally-based army in Woodside, neighbours helping each other with cleaning, fencing, etc – the list goes on. At the same time, the local CFS continues dealing with ongoing flare ups and the like. A small event at our brewery organised by a number of local musicians who donated their time raised in excess of $8,000 in a single day.
On a personal note we will be ever grateful to our bank the ANZ, Adelaide Hills Tourism, our insurance providers, and of course (last but most definitely not least) all of our friends and customers for their considerable support.
Tema: How did you get involved with the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Alistair: Via invite from our neighbours – we cherish being a part of our local community.
Tema: What are you anticipating from your participation with Gathered SA?
Alistair: I see this event as another opportunity for us to show all those who visit the Adelaide Hills what we have to offer – it is very special.
Alistair and Rose from Lobethal Bierhaus will be participating at the Gathered SA Market in Lobethal on February 8 + 9, 2020.