Brewerism - Hobart, Tasmania

Australia is a place with no shortage of great beer and since Tasmania accounts for majority of the hop supply, it’s no wonder that there would be a handful of breweries putting out some excellent craft beers in the state’s capitol of Hobart. We spent a week in Tasmania, using Hobart as a base, and since we never made it up to Launceston (home of James Boag’s and also close to Van Dieman’s) I decided to focus this post on the breweries of Hobart.

With a quick search you’ll find that the most popular brewery in the area is the historic Cascade Brewery. Yes, it’s part of the “Big Beer” conglomerate of AB-InBev but it’s still a unique tour and shouldn’t be missed. As for craft options, there are several brewpubs and beer bars in town but you’ll have to check out their websites carefully for opening hours, as we found that most places are closed Monday - Wednesday and even then, some are closed by 5 pm (like everything else in town)!! Here’s a summary of the places we checked out:

1. Cascade Brewery Co.

The oldest brewery in Australia (1824) offers pre-booked tours of the historical brewery, concluding with a tasting of four beers at the classy tasting room. The Cascade tour lasted around 45-minutes and is perfect for those interested in history. I won’t give away too much of the story, but the area started as a sawmill supporting the local timber industry and was later transformed into a brewery due to the prime location upstream of the water source running down to Hobart Town. The name is derived from the literal waterfalls towards the back of the property, up against the surrounding mountains. The founder fathered 10 children, but lost 8 of them in a tragic accident at sea while traveling to the mainland for school. Consequently, the ownership of the brewery fell out of his immediate family’s hands and today the brewery is part of AB-InBev.

The history and the tasting was great, but admittedly we didn’t get to see very much of the actual brewery. I think this is a result of being corporately-owned and trying to avoid any risk. We literally saw where trucks pick up kegs, the bottom of their boil kettle, and a decommissioned fermentation room - actually pretty neat since the cylindrconical fermentors were cladded in concrete rather than being jacketed (thus the need for replacement). On the plus-side, they can afford a beautiful tasting room and lots of branded swag! You’ll also have a chance to taste some Goose Island and cider that is brewed on the grounds.

Mr. Jackson recommends: Cascade Lager, Cascade Premium Light, and Bonham’s Cider

2. Hobart Brewing Co.

HBC has a really cool industrial warehouse down on the wharf, cladded in sheet metal and equipped with a sweet beer garden set-up. We happened to be in town for the annual “Hoptober Fest” which included food trucks, live music, and several collaboration brews with other local breweries. Reportedly, one of the brewers is from Colorado, and you can definitely spot an American influence with the hop selection on many of the brews.

Mr. Jackson recommends: Harbour Master (amber ale), Extra Pale Ale, Smoked Apple Bock (collaboration w/ Willie Smith’s)

3. T-Bone Brewing Co.

On Elizabeth Street in North Hobart you’ll find plenty of restaurants and a few brewpubs and beer bars. Again, we were lucky to be in town for T-Bone’s 2nd anniversary celebration which came with live music and a bbq food truck outside. I’d like to pretend that it’s always like this, but I’m sure that it isn’t the case. However, it was a great vibe and I’d have to say that they had arguably the strongest lineup top-to-bottom in Hobart.

I went with two tasting flights to cover their core range of year-round beers, as well as their seasonal offerings. Everything from their Helles, to Rye IPA, to their Chocolate Stout was solid. Ironically, the only beer that I didn’t care for was their flagship “Fruit Bowl IPA” which had an aroma more of butterscotch than any hop variety that was claimed to be included (diacetyl?). As the building is the operating brewery, the hours are limited to evenings only a few days a week. Great space that allows takeaway food from nearby restaurants (pizza across the street).

Mr. Jackson recommends: Munich Helles, Rye IPA, Choice XPA (NZ pale ale)

4. Shambles Brewery

Just up the road from T-Bone, also on Elizabeth Street, you’ll find Shambles Brewery. We stopped in on a Wednesday night with hours quoted as “4pm to late”. From the website we saw that the kitchen closed at 9pm so we got there around 8:30 and quickly placed our food order. Like all breweries in town, they offered a tasting flight from their 6-7 beers on tap. We were surprised when most people cleared out at 9pm and they started locking the doors! While they don’t claim an official closing time, unofficially they mean 9pm! Luckily we were allowed to hang around until 9:30 to finish off our food and beers. Go on a Friday or Saturday for later opening hours.

The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable about their beers. Food was a’ight, lighting was dim and the space seemed super loud despite being only 1/3 full. Beers were decent though.

Mr. Jackson recommends: Barry White (robust porter), Dances with Hops (American IPA), Afternoon Delight (summer ale)

5. Moo Brew

We didn’t make it to the brewery, but I tried several of their beers in town and we dropped in to the “Cellar Door” located at the MONA art museum which apparently was the original sight of the brewery and now serves as an official tasting room. Moo Brew’s cans and bottles feature modern art commissioned for their beers by artist John Kelly. They are brewing some classic styles (Pilsner and Hefeweizen), as well as more hop-forward offerings. Probably a Top-2 brewery top-to-bottom in Hobart.

Mr. Jackson recommends: Hefeweizen, Single Hop (featuring Enigma hop), Dark Ale

6. Fox Friday Craft Brewery

The tasting hours are limited at Fox Friday Craft Brewery, but luckily we were able to make it to the cellar door of the brewery to try out all of their offerings. In the process we met the brewer and subsequently found out why the hours are so limited - he works full-time elsewhere and operates the brewery in his “spare time”. Having a similar experience I can totally empathize to the difficulty in balancing home life with a passion project and a full-time job to make it work. This New Zealander is making some decent beers and if you can make it to the tasting hours, it’s a really laid-back experience that’s worth the trip.

Mr. Jackson recommends: Nefarious NZ/USA IPA, Bombshell Blonde Ale, Bangarang Brown Ale

Hobart exceeded our expectations by a long shot (with the exception of everything closing at 5pm) and that certainly included the local beer scene. In our short visit of less than one week we hit up a respectable number of the local breweries and were pleasantly surprised to find some great, affordable beer utilizing native ingredients. If I ever make it back to Tasmania I’d make it a priority to visit the Bushy Park hop farms and up to Launceston to check out Van Dieman’s and James Boag’s for another contrast of Big Beer and craft beer. Lastly, I was pleased to find a well-stocked home-brew supply shop in Tasmanian Home Brewing Supplies on Liverpool Street downtown. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Hobart craft beer in the comments below.

—Mr. Jackson