There are clear benefits to having an old man who makes award-winning whisky. The ability to sample each release is perhaps the most obvious but, for Tom Bignell, there was another: it offered him a place to brew with an excise licence already in place.
Tom’s old man, Peter Bignell, started Belgrove Distillery on his Kempton farm back in 2008 after a bumper rye crop led him down the path of building his own still and turning his excess grain into whisky.
As a long-time homebrewer, Tom wasn’t quite as keen on whisky as Peter but the space in a back shed did encourage him to turn his long-standing love for brewing into a profession. So, in 2015, he and his wife Carla launched T-Bone Brewing Co, taking its title from a high school nickname of Tom’s, at Belgrove Distillery’s Kempton home.
When the brewery first launched, Tom and Carla initially focused on getting the T-Bone name – and, of course, its kegs – across the wider state, but the plan was always to give the brewery its own space. And, with the couple living in Hobart, the idea was to ensure the next stage of T-Bone took shape closer to home.
That happened when they found an ideal location in an abandoned fishmonger’s in Elizabeth Street in North Hobart and, with Carla's brother Aaron now on board, set about turning it into brewpub. With Elizabeth Street also home to Shambles Brewery, Boodle Beasley and The Winston, it can comfortably claim to be the best strip in Hobart for anyone on a hunt for good beer.
On T-Bone’s corner, all twelve taps pour beers brewed just a couple of metres away. At any given time, they'll be filled with the core range Easy Ale, Pale Ale, Golden Ale, Fruit Bowl IPA and Choc-Milk Stout plus a mix of limited releases. Being based in Tasmania, those limited run beers tend to make use of either the hops or fruit grown down the road and, with a ready supply of whisky laced oak, there’s plenty of barrel ageing going on too.
As a small brewpub, most of the T-Bone beers are sold right next to where they are brewed – often poured straight from one of four brite tanks. But some make it further afield, whether as kegs hitting taps at other Tassie venues or thanks to a canning machine that allows Tom’s beers to find fridge space in some of Hobart’s craftier bottleshops as well as further north.
The beers may well be the only in Australia brewed thanks to food waste too. Carla’s brother owns Flippers, one of the fish and chipperies that are a permanent fixture on Hobart’s Franklin Wharf, and, using an idea swiped from his old man, Tom uses old cooking oil to create enough steam energy to power the brewery.
The bar itself opens Wednesday through to Sunday, when you’ll find locals filing in to have their growlers filled, pick up some T-Bone tinnies, or wile their time away at the bar. As they do, a steady stream of charcuterie boards and small eats are shared although, with no kitchen, those settling in for a session can take advantage of BYO food from the myriad takeaway spots that surround the venue.
On Friday nights, local musicians take to the stage or, rather, brew floor by the stainless, sending their tunes floating out into Elizabeth Street, often accompanied by the aromas of the next batch of beer taking shape. Given it’s amid Hobart’s craftiest strip, it’s a combination that feels just right.