When the Last Rites Brewing Company opened the doors of its brewery in October 2015, it was enough of an occasion that Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman was in attendance. He was invited to assist in brewing a beer on the occasion too: the Premier’s Horn.
At the time, the explosion of Tassie’s microbrewing scene was in its infancy and the number of brewing companies in the state was still in single figures – with many of those already brewing for several years. Since then, that number has risen to more than 20 – and competition for taps is getting fierce as a result – but, from their site at Cambridge, just a few minutes from Hobart airport, the Last Rites guys seem to be holding their own.
The founders of Last Rites describe themselves as friends and enthusiastic homebrewers. They include former research chemist Phil Zakaria, Brett Allchin and Chris Cooper, co-owners of craft beer haven Preachers in Hobart, and Vineyard manager Tom Potter. The team started out contract brewing at Morrison Brewery in Launceston before good feedback for their beers at festivals and other events gave them the necessary boost to invest in their own equipment and set up a brewery and venue closer to home.
The focus at Last Rites is on New World, hop driven beers – something that was, for the most part, missing in Tasmania when they launched. As such, the core three features an American influenced pale ale called Horn of Diligence, a malt driven red called She’s No Bette Midler, and a deep, complex black IPA called Dead Man’s Revenge.
This lineup is regularly embellished with a diverse array of seasonal offerings that has included everything from a Raspberry Ginger Beer to the Barilla Bay Oyster Stout, and from the Georgie Ella Springtime Ale to the Cloudy With A Chance Of Awesome Pale Ale.
Over the course of their first year, the brewery moved from hand labelling longnecks to a small bottling line for 330ml bottles. And, towards the end of 2016, they decided that, rather than upgrade the bottling line a second time to keep up with demand, they’d invest in a canning system.
One of Last Rites’ earliest releases – the Pina Colada – was rebranded as Love Country Tasmanian IPA and became the first product to be released in a can, joined by Slightly Laid Back Lance, a lower alcohol sessional beer named after a guy they met on a beer tour of Brisbane, with Dead Man’s Revenge the third to receive tinnie treatment.
With competition hotting up across Australia as more and more people take the plunge and become commercial brewers, it’s wise to have your own outlet to sell direct to customers. And that’s what Friday and Saturday evenings are for at Last Rites’ Cambridge home. There, they welcome a busy crowd to the cellar door, with local food trucks in attendance too.
That said, the focus for the future is very much on packaged products rather than kegs, hence taking over a second warehouse within a year of opening their first. It allows the Last Rites team to continue filling their bigger tanks with the core three while using smaller tanks for experimenting and developing new products.
They’re also venturing onto the mainland, something that not too many Tasmanian microbreweries have done to date, so if you live outside the state then keep an eye out for tap takeovers at good beer venues (and in the Crafty Events Calendar where they’ll be listed). For the foreseeable future that will remain a small part of the brewery’s plans, however, with Last Rites concentrating on the local market. And, given how many brewers are brewing beers for that market, you’d better book your ticket to Tassie now.