Twenty years ago, the American beer scene was in chaos. A handful of people who had been homebrewing with suboptimal ingredients were going commercial, and growing the idea of craft beer in the United States. Nowadays, we benefit from their legacy with incredible craft beer, and more breweries and brewpubs than anywhere else in the world. If you want to relive that spirit of innovation, go to Tasmania.
As we have already noted, the Tasmanians don’t go in for the traditional Beer Judge Certification Program styles. “Dark ales” are close to porters, “wheat beers” could mean Belgian wit styles, hefeweizen, or American blonde ales. A few “honey” ales attempting to be braggots, and an “apple ale” attempting to be an apple-flavoured brown ale round out the spectrum.
Tasmanian brewers are trying, and they are brave and adventurous, but they do not seem to be leaning on or using the massive brewing knowledge available in the United States. As a small island state sometimes referred to as “Under Down Under,” it is possible Tasmanians feel disconnected from the greater beer community. In comparison, a handful of mainland (or “big island”, as some Tasmanians call the rest of Oz) stouts compare quite favourably to American craft stouts. Bellarine Brewing, 4 Pines, and Prickly Moses all produce excellent stouts, which makes one wonder: are the Tasmanians consciously rebelling against beer trends, and trying to start something even more extraordinary, or are they merely misled and disconnected from the craft brew community?
We have so much love in our hearts for Cascade, it’s impossible to separate our nostalgia from reality. It’s what got us in to beer, the visitor center is so amazing we wanted to fly everyone there for our wedding, and we go back again and again. The beer is good, they have a nice lineup, and they know their craft. Even after our palates evolved, we still enjoy Cascade Draught.
Winery and brewery and art house all in one! The tasting room is amazing, with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. We preferred their dark, and even bought a few to bring home. Not a large lineup, but well crafted. The wine we found to be fine, but overpriced for the taste.
James Squires Pub, Hobart
This was a new addition since our last visit, and quite nice. Quiet when we got there, but with the potential to be rambunctious. The lineup was aimed to please a more popularist consumer than we are. Fine beer, just nothing too flavorful.
One of the first upscale breweries we have seen anywhere. I believe there was a golf course. Beautiful views, surprisingly comfortable space. Their beer lineup was fine, but not remarkable.
Boag Brewing, Launceston
A tiny tasting area is set aside for dedicated tasters. We got to build our own flight, and their beer leans decidedly towards the light lager range. In comparison with Cascade, we found Boags to be just a bit more bitter and breadier.
Seven Sheds Brewery, Railton
Tucked away in a tiny little town, this brewery has the potential to have lots of character. The lineup was just four beers, and their flagship Kentish Ale was odd. Nothing struck us enough to buy for the road.
Tasmania’s beer scene has a ways to go before they’ve come up to the same level we experience in the US. Their wine, however, is absolutely amazing. When we visit Tassie, wineries definitely top the list. Breweries are more a curiosity than a destination for us on Under Down Under.