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Thursday 1 September 2016

What's old is new again: the Pike family branches out

The Pike family is synonymous with fine wines from the Clare Valley, particularly superbly crafted rieslings.

The Pikes also combine with the Joyce family to produce some excellent Adelaide Hills wines under the Pike & Joyce label.

The Pike link with the Hills stretched back decades - and now brewer Alister Pike - son of viticulturist Andrew Pike - is reviving old drinks recipes from the historic family brewery, starting with a “healthy” tonic beer that can be mixed with gin.

"The family brewed beer until 1938 and then went on to do soft drink and cordials,” explains Pike, whose great-great-grandfather, Henry Pike, established the Oakbank brewery in 1886.

After the Pikes stopped brewing beer, the Tonic Ale was the only fermented drink they continued to produce. It was made with orange and lemon peel, coriander seed, ginger and hops, and sold as a “non-intoxicating healthy drink”.

“Back then there wasn’t much scientific research – it’s really just a lightly alcoholic soft drink with added botanical ingredients,” explains Alister. “At a guess, the alcohol volume was around 1.5 per cent.”

In the late 1960s, when the Oakbank brewery was sold, the Pike family interests moved to wine production in the Clare Valley and the Tonic Ale recipe became part of the family memorabilia.

After a stint working with Good George Brewing in New Zealand, Alister Pike decided to join the family business in 2012 and help create a new direction for Pikes beer, which had been brewed under contract since 1996.

“I’ve been quite attracted to the idea of doing historical brews,” he says.

“I had all these old labels that had been collected by the family over time and the Tonic Ale was always the beer that Pikes was known for back in the day.”

In 2014, the family decided to “take back the reins” and begin brewing “in-house” in a purpose-built brewery at the Clare Valley winery site, appointing head brewer Brad Nolen (ex-Mildura Theatre Brewing and Gage Roads Brewing) and Alister as assistant brewer.

In addition to the sparkling ale, stout and pilsener lager already being made, Pikes has since released a pale ale, a Red Hefeweizen and a seasonal Belgian-style sour cherry beer called “kriek” which is made with second-grade cherries and fermented in old shiraz barrels. It has also re-introduced the historic Tonic Ale.

“The difference between the original Tonic Ale recipe and the updated version we’re using now is that we’ve added cinchona (Peruvian bark), malt and fresh coriander,” says Alister.

“Most people just have a stubbie of it on a hot day, pour it over ice and drink it like a cider, while others are taking it home to use as a mixer with gin.

“The familiar quinine flavour comes through from the cinchona and other people pick up the citrus, coriander, and ginger.”

Alister says he plans to have a play with some of the Pikes historic cordial flavours to create new alcoholic beverages.

“I can’t say exactly what it will be just yet, but there will definitely be something new from the brewery next year.”

Pikes Tonic Ale is currently on tap at Osteria Oggi in Adelaide and the next batch of Pikes Kriek is due for release just before Christmas.

# This story is based on a release from The Lead South Australia

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