Parts of this guide have changed. For example, when it first appeared on Rip It Up, the nudie video was edited out.
Rundle Street and its surrounds have long been a haven for bohemian paupers. More recently, however, Adelaide’s East End has become rather fancier: $5 coffees are the norm, swish handbag vendors have replaced bookstores, and there seems to be even more money in the pavement than before.
That’s all well and good, but to help out the struggling artists and students of Adelaide, Rip It Up has undertaken a scientific evaluation of the cheapest places to drink in the East End.
So off I went, to evaluate the district's many esteemed watering holes (read: get shitfaced on the company dollar).
The venues numbered in order of visitation
All venues were asked for “a pint of their cheapest full strength beer”, which was then painstakingly measured. One considered ordering stout everywhere, as it is almost always cheaper per unit of alcohol. Ultimately we opted against this, as stout is often available only in the winter months and the hunt for inexpensive drinking takes place all year round.
For the same reason, no drink specials were permitted in the study. This guide can be applied at all hours, all year round.
Beers served in pubs in South Australia are smaller than in the other states. Over in Victoria, for example, what they call pots we call schooners, and what they call schooners we call pints, and what they call pints we call imperial pints.
The Adelaide pint is meant to contain 425 mL of beer, but shockingly there is no official ‘beer inspector’ who goes around making sure the glasses are of correct size. As a result, there is some variation between venues. To ensure that a proper measurement was taken, all beers were measured in this very accurate and trustworthy instrument:
It was determined that no venue actually serves a 425 mL beer. Always, one got less than was advertised. Mostly this can be put down to the fact that beers are poured with a frothy head, much of which is air, but improper glass size is also a factor.
1. HOTEL RICHMOND
Located above Rundle Mall, the Hotel Richmond was the first stop. $7.80 for a pint seemed quite steep, though that price also affords you the privilege of drinking on a balcony overlooking the shopping strip. Free blanket rental is also available. The cheapest pint on offer was Coopers Pale Ale.
2. AUSTIN & AUSTIN
Austin & Austin has quickly established itself as a happenin’ venue for the younger generation. They’ve got a Sega Megadrive, a SNES, board games, and the greatest toasted sandwiches you’ll ever encounter. A request for a pint of their cheapest was met with strained looks from the bar staff. They’ll serve you a glass of beer, but not in a pint size, and while it’s on the pricier side it’s also a departure from the ubiquitous Coopers. A small glass of Beard Fiction, a delicious American ale, costs $8.
In the spirit of thrift in which this study was undertaken, the reporter was attired in his cheapest-looking clothes.
However, they also sell $5 cans of beer. How to factor this into the investigation? The budget beer changes month to month – they’ve previously sold both Foster’s and West End – but at present you’ll be treated to a VB.
It had started to rain by this point, so I got the missus to take this photo of me - standing inside - from outside. She was a real good sport about getting drenched in the name of journalism.
3. THE AUSTRAL
The Austral is located in the middle of Rundle Street, and do a middle-of-the-road beer at a middle-of-the-road price. A pint of Coopers Lager will set you back $6.
4. THE CROWN AND ANCHOR
The Crown and Anchor do some incredible happy hour specials, but during daylight hours you can get $6 pints of Coopers Clear and Coopers Dark Ale.
5. THE EXETER
The Exeter and the Cranker attract a similar crowd, and the drink specials, prices and selections are almost identical at both venues. This is unsurprising as they have the same owner. They too offered $6 pints of Coopers Clear and Dark Ale.
Those looking for some differentiation between the venues will notes that the ‘hipster’ Ex has always been a tad milder than its ‘tattooed’ counterpart. For example, having a relaxed lounge on the front bar of the Cranker would probably look a little odd.
6. THE BELGIAN BEER CAFE
The prices at the Belgian Beer Cafe are high, but so is the quality. The cheapest pint on offer was Stella Artois, which is still considered pretty la-de-da in Australia, especially when served in the fancy gilded glass. The staff were friendly, the decor magnificent. The entire experience provided by the BBC is so pleasurable that you probably won’t even mind when you hand over $12 for the pint.
7. THE ELEPHANT
You’d think The Elephant would be expensive. It’s a beautiful old timey-style British pub, has a huge number of highfalutin’ beers on tap, and when you ask for a pint, it is fittingly of the imperial variety. Shockingly though, 540mL of Coopers Pale cost only $6.
8. PJ O’BRIEN’S
By this point the experiment had stopped being fun.
PJ O’Brien’s also serve imperial pints. Their cheapest was $8, and it is Carlton Draught. Call it a personal prejudice, but even after thoroughly warming up my beer palate, and some really expensive advertising campaigns, I still can’t quite find a way to enjoy Carlton Draught.
9. THE BOTANIC BAR
The Botanic charge $8 for an Adelaide-sized pint of Coopers Pale Ale.
10. THE HOWLING OWL
Finally, you can get a Coopers Pale at local gin bar the Howling Owl (underneath the Rhino Room) for $7.50. They also do some tremendous Happy Hour specials, with fancy craft beers going for $5, but as mentioned earlier, no drinks specials were counted.
I was, by this point, over refreshed.
The Elephant take out first place. At $1.11 per 100mL of beer, they’re twice as cheap as their priciest competitors.
The most expensive were Austin & Austin for their Beard Fiction. They, however, also take out third place for a $5 can of VB. Ties were resolved, where possible, with beer quality. Call us a little parochial, but Coopers Pale trumps VB, while we’d rate Coopers Clear and Dark Ale trump Coopers Lager.