Bruny Island, in Tasmania's south, is a place famed for fine produce celebrating the region's natural bounty. Among those who have helped build its reputation is Nick Haddow, the founder of Bruny Island Cheese.
Evan Hunter is a Tasmanian who has worked with a number of the state's leading booze producers, including Lark Distillery, Moo Brew and Seven Sheds, and who has long had a vision for creating beers that not only celebrate local produce but do so in a unique manner that reflects beer and brewing's long history.
Since 2014, the two have been working together in a partnership that seems as ideal a match as the pairings they now suggest between the former's cheeses and the latter's beers. Bruny Island Beer Co released its first beer in February 2016, brewed in a small building that occupies the same farmland as its dairy-based sibling and has rapidly built a reputation as the progenitor of some of the most fascinating beers to come out of Tasmania's rapidly swollen brewing scene.
While the core range of beers may appear to tick many staples – a pale ale of sessionable strength, an IPA, a stout, a mid-strength, for example – the ingredients within and the methods by which they're made are frequently a little – or a lot – different from the norm. And they're joined many times a year by short run and experimental releases, such as a series of diverse saisons, some huge stouts and the occasional, sometimes extreme, sour.
In keeping with the location, Evan and partner Stephanie Schrodka sourced most of the equipment that makes up the brewery from dairy farms. The collection of decommissioned vats was repurposed into a 15 hectolitre brewhouse with three open fermenters, a collection that had already hit capacity within two years.
The team there believes the unique setup of the brewery contributes to the rustic, farmhouse nature of the beers, adding character in keeping with Evan's idiosyncratic methods. He enjoys using raw ingredients in his beers and, for bottle conditioning, adds a portion of a particular beer's unfermented wort instead of kickstarting the process with a dose of sugar as is more usual practice; it's a choice he believes is better for the end product and also in keeping with his passion for keeping archaic practices alive – even if it can lead to some ridiculously long brew days and challenges along the way.
This fascination with atypical local ingredients and the process of fermentation is one that's shared with the cheese side of the business and also with customers: pick up any bottle of Bruny Island beer and the label details not only every single ingredient that's gone into it but also a beer and cheese pairing. With the cheesery releasing seasonal products alongside its permanent range, the scope for matching is great.
While you can find Bruny Island's beers across Tasmania and in a handful of outlets on the mainland, the majority of the beer is still sold via the cellar door and tasting room attached to Bruny Island Cheese. It's worth crossing the water to make your own visit, as the buildings offer views over Great Bay and you can walk through scrub to the nearest beach in a couple of minutes.
As for how Evan and Nick came to work together, it goes back to a project called Brew Nouveau. Evan launched a crowdfunding campaign back in 2013 with the aim of starting a small brewery making beers "inspired by the Tasmanian environment.” Nick was sent the crowdfunding pitch, liked what he saw and got in touch. Realising they shared many of the same passions and goals, they decided to work together, with Evan returning the money to those who'd backed his Pozible campaign once Bruny Island Beer Co was ready to roll.
Where their shared journey will lead should be worth watching for anyone with an interest in authentic regional produce. Already, they've embarked on multiple collaborations and started celebrating Tasmanian artists on beer labels too. That said, it's likely to be a meandering journey with the Bruny Island Beer crew describing what they do as "slow beer" – a pleasant change in a beer world that's moving ever faster.