We kicked off our annual review of the year in beer in WA, which you can check out here. For the second instalment, we're off to Tasmania to see who dazzled drinkers in 2021.
For those of us in Tasmania, 2021 was potentially an even stranger year than 2020. The pandemic raged, and our political master Peter “Papa G” Gutwein pulled the drawbridge up even more firmly than before to our COVID-ravaged brethren, particularly in Victoria and NSW.
A paucity of visitors did bring advantages, however, with the local beer industry reaping the benefits that came as a result of many Tasmanians being forced to look inwardly. With more breweries focusing on their own backyard rather than casting covetous eyes at the big island, and more beer tourists spending an increasing amount of time in their local watering holes, there's been a subtle and important shift in the quality and consistency of Tasmanian craft beer as a whole.
Many commentators (including this one) have quietly (or not) spoken over the years about the quality and consistency of Tasmanian beers often sitting a few years behind some of the more successful independent operations across the country. Given this time to spend concentrating on the bread and butter of production, rather than trying to keep up with the latest fickle fad, has seen a certain coming of age from many in the island state.
For us local beer snobs, the days of scanning the list at our local to see what the distribution companies have managed to secure from the mainland or further afield whilst quickly skipping over the local offerings seem to be behind us. With the increased availability of stalwart Tasmanian operators such as Hobart Brewing Co, Shambles, Ocho/Miners Gold, Spotty Dog, T-Bone and the phoenix-from-the-ashes that is The Albert, not to mention the ongoing exploration of beer's wilder realms by Van Dieman and Two Metre Tall, the bases across styles are well and truly covered, providing options for even the fussiest among us.
This shift forward in quality has taken place alongside the opening of a number of venues across the state that note a change in demographic beyond just the stereotypical inner-city latte sippers. Whilst such folk have not been forgotten – not least with the launch of venues such as Deep South Brewing Co in North Hobart – arguably more significant has been the opening of Penguin Beer Co and Communion Brewing Co on the state’s North West Coast, and Welcome Swallow in the Derwent Valley.
This expansion of operators catering to their locals not only marks an opportunity for change in a market that previously had few options, but also extends the beer tourist trail beyond the usual places. This bodes well for the future now the drawbridge has been lowered and we welcome some much-needed tourism back to the state.
With more breweries and more beers than ever before to pick from, it might be a daunting task to pick out just a handful of highlights. But that's what we're here for, with the below list (in alphabetical order) showcasing the best of Tasmania in 2021.
The Albert Brewery – Lager
Many breweries have some sort of lager in their core range, often as a concession to mainstream tastes or a cut-price pitch for space in a less-than-crafty venue or retailer. When a brewery’s mission is to brew only lagers, however, it can be expected that the flagship namesake hits the mark with the audience.
This particular lager embodies the ethos and mission of The Albert (brought to life by one of the founders of the late Boekamp Bier), which sees them putting the quality of craft first, while producing something that nearly anyone will enjoy. If you’re after something a little punchier, then Lager’s blue tin sibling, their 5.2 percent ABV Pilsner, is a cracker too.
We'll have more on The Albert when we welcome them to the site with a full listing any day now...
Fox Friday – Code Of Silence Oat Cream DIPA
When it comes to oat cream IPAs, or indeed any form of hazy, highly-hopped, or high ABV IPA for that matter, nobody in Tasmania goes about it quite like Fox Friday. Ahead of what promises to be a milestone year for the team led by Benn and Sarah Hooper as they eye up a brewpub in Melbourne, they continued to attract attention from beer-chasers across the land, with Code Of Silence the pick of their 2021 offerings.
As with the other oat cream in this list (see below) the creaminess wasn’t too overt, while the aromas extracted from Citra and Mosaic hops in T90 and Cryo form certainly were.
Hobart Brewing Co – IPAs
OK, so having opened with a comment on how "bases across styles are well and truly covered" in Tasmania these days, we sure do have a few IPA variants in this lineup, but credit where it's due. Led by a brewer who cut his teeth in Colorado, we’ve long known HBC can brew top notch IPAs, and 2021 saw the likes of Talus A Secret and the Little Pine Haze Session IPA receiving praise.
If you got your hands on the recent HPA Lupomax mixed packs, you’ll no doubt have enjoyed the glorious delights of Scott Overdorf’s Less Is More West Coast IPA too. Sadly, despite asking for more, we were told they only brewed enough for the packs. Time for Tasmania's IPA lovers to hassle them for a repeat in 2022!
Moo Brew – Oat Cream IPA
Moo Brew have been diversifying their releases in recent times, all while remaining true to their extremely consistent core range offerings. In 2021, they even brought one former core beer back for The Hefurrection and claimed an Indies trophy for their Dark Ale on a night that saw them run Stomping Ground close for Champion Large Brewery too.
Having relented last year and added a cracking IPA to their lineup, they’ve continued to explore the broad style, with this year’s Oat Cream IPA proving extremely popular upon its release in Tasmania, in part thanks to the “cream” component being far less present than some of its contemporaries.
Ocho – Various
Once again, Ocho’s beers featured heavily throughout feedback we received when compiling this series of articles. And, as in previous years, it would be wrong of us to attempt to present a single standout beer. The seasonal IPAs continue to impress (with the Purple again a standout for this writer), as did the Hairy Troll Rye IPA that made our mid-year wrap, the punches-well-above-its-2.4-percent-ABV Feijoa Sour, and arguably the pick of them, V barrel-aged barleywine.
Brewer Stu Grant – also responsible for the Miners Gold beers – continues to cement himself as one of the country’s most innovative brewers without succumbing to the need to go overboard on the hype train.
Spotty Dog – Simcoe IPA
Last alphabetically, but very much not least for Tasmania in 2021, is this hark back to simpler times. Remember them? When you could pick up a beer with a label that said “IPA” and wouldn’t have to ask: “What kind?”
A big, dank and bitter single hop IPA, which in its second iteration saw cans find their way beyond the small island. The response to both this beer and its stablemates in the series (Strata, Mosaic) is evidence of a market that continues to thirst for a tried and true style.
Continuing the theme of an uptick in quality and consistency, two little spoken about Tasmanian operations need mentioning here. The first is Buttons Brewery, based out of Ulverstone in the North West.
The team there caters to their local crowd – turn up on a Tuesday or Wednesday without a booking at your peril. There are few better examples of a taproom bringing the community together than Buttons, something they achieve from their prime position overlooking the Leven River in the heart of town. It might seem odd to put this relatively established operation in the “breakthrough” section, yet the latest iterations of some of their beers, such as their Wilderness IPA, are evidence of an operation ready to raise its profile beyond its idyllic hometown.
The other is Scottsdale-based Little Rivers Brewing Co. Since first releasing beers in 2014, they have quietly gone about their business, catering largely to the Northern Tasmanian market. The release of their mountain bike-inspired Trails range in cans again provided evidence of a brewery that’s raised quality to the point that if you stumble across a few, grab as many as you can – there’s every chance they’ll be the last you see for a while.
After an enormous amount of work, the opening of Deep South Brewing Co was a highlight and a bar-raiser for the scene in Hobart. A taproom, restaurant and brewery in which the founders duplicated the ethos found at their sister venue The Tasmanian Inn (just around the corner): creating a space where everyone is welcome, no matter their tipple of choice. Being able to drink a fresh pint in the shadow of the stainless it was brewed in while enjoying a quality of pizza rarely found outside Italy (24-hour sourdough dough, anyone?) has given the fast-expanding neighbourhood of North Hobart an option that had been severely lacking.
Local craft beer darlings Spotty Dog continue to be one local brand that actually does marketing properly, raising the hype for their releases and engaging strongly with their crowd, be it here in Hobart or via the influencers they've converted across the country. Their campaigns around the release of their single hop IPAs, led to the rare event of some Hobart bottleshops selling out of stock on the morning of release. Sometimes it pays to have a local bottleshop that’s slow to put stock out due to a delay in SKUs hitting the system!
Many Tasmanians would remember the sad news that Boekamp Bier were to cease operations at the end of 2020, just before being named our standout Tasmanian of 2020. The story continues, however, in the shape of The Albert Brewery. Opening in early 2021 with the same focus on traditional, properly made lagers (of many varieties), The Albert has quickly picked up where Boekamp left off. A new team and a fresh brand have seen a rapid spread of kegs and cans across the state, with their tight focus on quality shining through. You don’t need to travel to Europe for a lager when you can go to Moonah instead!
Speaking of Moonah, the once-industrial suburb in Hobart has long been mooted as ripe for gentrification, and with the opening of the Moonah Hotel & Cellars (pictured below), the main strip finally has a watering hole that people are excited about. The Fox Friday brewery team is behind the extensive renovation and reinvigoration, while the man in charge of the beer lists is Ali Davis, known for his work with the Step Brewers Podcast. The Cellars opened today too, along with the borders, just in time to stock up for Christmas…
When it came to readers’ highlights from 2022, the Moonah Hotel featured highly, as indeed did Spotty Dog’s Simcoe IPA, far and away the most popular Tassie beer from both industry folks and drinkers in 2021; “Perfectly executed”, “well-balanced beauty”, and “cracking IPA showcasing one of the OG hops in the craft world” were just three examples of praise for the beer.
Elsewhere, there was love for Welcome Swallow’s Chocolate Porter as well as the tiny run of the same beer that was aged in an ex-whisky barrel, plus shoutouts for even more IPAs. The Cold Coast IPA collab between Penguin, Button and Communion was “the best tasting beer by far”, according to Will Egan, who reckons the collaboration highlighted the community around craft beer – “a really positive scene [where] everyone is happy to help everyone”. Penguin’s Emperor Penguin IPA and Shambles' Fear Of A Dank Planet were lauded too.
Outside individual beers, both the beers and the venue at Burnie’s Communion Brewing Co have been an instant hit with punters, as was the “continuing awesomeness” and medal-winning at Hobart Brewing Co, the aforementioned rise of craft brewing in the North West, and the launch of the Pink Boots Society’s Untamed beer.
The last of these was brought up by Matt Fielding, whose personal highlight was hosting ExBEERimental Science during National Science Week. Well, Matt, we’ve got another highlight for you as you’re the Tasmanian winner of our prize packs, featuring an NZ Hops Great Brew Challenge carton and a Crafty Cabal membership. Cheers!
IN 2022, LOOK OUT FOR…
Looking ahead and 2022 promises to bring the opening of even more brewpubs and taprooms in Tasmania. Look out for The Winston finally opening their long-awaited home in North Hobart (admittedly, they have already managed to open a bottleshop alongside their much-loved boozer). Also in North Hobart, Overland Brewers and Distillers will bring the total number of production venues open to the public within a kilometre or two up to an impressive seven.
Kicking just a short cycle or taxi up the road to Moonah, Fox Friday are building their new brewery home there (pictured above in the early stages of construction), while a brisk stroll will bring you to Spotty Dog, with construction of their brewery overlooking the Prince of Wales Bay now underway.
Launceston is also set to welcome its first CBD brewpub as Du Cane Brewing and Willie Smith’s Cider join forces for a venue close to iconic bars Saint John Craft Beer and Tandy’s Alehouse. Don’t be surprised to spot a few others cropping up across the state either; the pandemic has seen many “refugees” seek the safety of the island state and there’s an impressive amount of new talent around as a result.
In short, if you’re ready to come “out of the cave” or “out from under the doona”, Tasmania awaits: more places to visit (we’ve only touched on the breweries themselves in this article!), better booze to drink, and don’t even start about the food. Your move, 2022…
Thanks to everyone who helped Dorian Broomhall pull this together for another year, in particular Mr Beer Healer himself, Chris Lukianenko. You can check out our WA wrap here and look out for more to come before the year is out. Cheers!