Almanac Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. You are on a winning streak here Mickey. A week back in the home state earlier this year clearly demonstrated that the best thing about SA is the pubs. Well above sparkling shiraz, chicken salt and Barrie. And the best thing about the pubs is the food. WA is a 3 on the Schlunger scale. Victoria a 6.
    Cricket identity Jack “Slinger” Nitschke played 2 tests for Australia in the early 30’s as an opening batsman. Owned racehorses with Bart Cummings. Pale blue, black sleeves, red cap. Not that I was a desperate or anything. His best was Dayana which won the Vic; SA; Sydney and Queensland Derbies and a Perth Cup in the early 70’s.
    My suspicion is that “Slinger” was a misheard Anglicisation of the Germanic “Schlunger” Nitschke. Could you please go back to the Greenock Pub and verify my theory. Extensive research required.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    150 years of family ownership is incredible.

    Greenock very much sounds like a destination town. Had a look at Greenock Brewers website, the Victorville Ale and the Dark Ale look superb. If only we could cross the border!

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Wonderful and enjoyable, Mickey. Some ancestors of mine, the Reynolds, lived in the Greenock Creek area in the 1850s and 60s, before moving further north. It’s also great to read some German surnames – such a part of South Australian history and my family history.

  4. John Butler says

    Mickey, thanks for this reminder that normal life is still out there. It will come again, even in Victoria.

    Cheers

  5. Thanks, Mickey.
    I have not had the good fortune to stop at Greenock on my two previous visits to the Barossa.
    It is now on my bucket list.

  6. PB- Thanks for the research on Slinger. Looking at the GCC website I was impressed that it lists everyone who’s ever played a game for them; all four hundred-odd of them and four of the top ten in terms of games played are Nitschkes and there’s dozens of them further down the list.

    Luke- I went to school with Chris Higgins of Greenock Brewers and can report that his products are excellent. The Victorville is great and the brewery is well worth a visit.

    Thanks Kevin, JB and Smokie. Much appreciated!

  7. Colin Ritchie says

    You’ve whetted my appetite Mickey! Unfortunately the van I was going to hook up for some touring of the Flinders Ranges, Barossa Valley etc is put on hold for the time being! Great read as always!

  8. Ripper pub. Ripper story.

    Many yarns around Norton.

    Also, great to hear Horrie Moore’s name. Whooshka: pretty sharp. And mean enough too. I always thought Horrie was short for Horace. I believe it’s short for Horrible. And didn’t he smash a stack of sixes in an Australian Country v England game at the Adelaide Oval?

  9. Nicole Kelly says

    Making me miss the Barossa! Gorgeous pub.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve given us something to aim for Mickey. Thanks.

  11. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

    Colin- I trust you’ll get over here soon. Hang tight.

    JTH- Isn’t Horrie in the Malcolm Marshall mould? Probably about 5’10 but pushed them through briskly. I reckon I’ve heard that Adelaide Oval yarn too.

    Nicole- it’s a great pub and probably my favourite in the Barossa. Highly representative of all that’s good in the Valley.

    Swish- thanks. I’m rarely accused of being a role model.

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