It didn’t take long for Hemingway’s Brewery co-owners Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell to start thinking of duplicating the concept once they’d opened their idyllically positioned Port Douglas brewpub at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina in July.
The plan was to take their gastro brewpub model to Far North Queensland’s capital, Cairns. All they needed was the right location. One that mirrored the Port Douglas venue – in terms of water views, indoor and outdoor hospitality areas and the brewhouse as a backdrop – but on a much larger scale.
Enter the local port authority, Ports North, and its desire to lease a heritage-listed early 1900s warehouse at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal on Trinity Inlet, right on the edge of the central business district.
Eighteen months after signing the lease and following an exhaustive development and fit-out of a 1400 square metre site, Hemingway's Brewery Cairns Wharf opened its doors in June 2018.
The first thing that strikes you about the brewpub? Its size… it is genuinely vast. It's one of Queensland’s largest craft breweries north of Brisbane and one of Australia’s biggest brewpubs.
The scale of the expansive venue – of which about 700 metres is dedicated to hospitality areas and 700 to back-of-house – is accentuated by high ceilings and exposed timber beams. It’s capable of seating 600 and there are plenty of options for visitors too, including a large interior space, a sprawling outdoor deck overlooking the water, and a lounge area under the shade of a long verandah for those looking to escape the sun.
The main bar extends almost 20 metres and, combined with a smaller outdoor island bar, it means there’s a total of 50 taps serving 20 different beers with ten of these dedicated to Hemingway's core range and specialty beers. The other 50 percent of the brews on tap come from other Australian or international craft breweries – and this constantly rotating lineup is always impressive.
The Hemingway’s crew also demonstrate their support for other local breweries by regularly presenting their wares. There are ciders and ginger beer on tap as well as a comprehensive range of wines and spirits.
The impressive 35-hectolitre brewery provides a perfect backdrop at one end of the building, with a four-vessel brewhouse and eight six-metre high stainless-steel fermentation and brite tanks. The brewhouse gives the brewing team ten times the capacity of the Port Douglas venue, which is now focused on new product development while the Cairns brewery looks after volume production.
The core range has evolved since the launch of Port Douglas and, at time of writing, comprised six different beers designed to tell a story relating to the history of Far North Queensland. There is The Prospector Pilsner, 7th Heaven Tropical Ale, Doug’s Courage XPA, Tunnel 10 Lager, Pitchfork Betty’s Pale Ale and The Endeavour West Coast IPA.
Every brew in the core range collected a medal at the 2019 Australian International Beer Awards, with The Prospector Pilsner taking out the champion trophy in its category. In addition to the core range – all available in cans – visitors to Cairns will find three draught only beers available all year long: Watson’s Session IPA, Hard Yards Dark Lager and Mr Wong Hefeweizen. On top of that, you can look out for seasonals, from hazy IPA to stout, pale ale and kolsch, and they’ve been known to collaborate too, with past releases including a NEIPA created with fellow trophy-winners Dainton.
In late 2018, a canning line was commissioned to allow Hemingway’s to expand their distribution strategy; beers are now available interstate, including venues in Sydney and Melbourne. For visitors to the brewery, there's also a Crowler machine that allows patrons to take home a 945ml can of their favourite beer filled fresh from the tap.
Hemingway’s has duplicated its successful Port Douglas food offering for the Cairns venue with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients in a menu comprising gourmet pizzas, burgers, seafood, tapas and barbecue-style food. There is also a providore showcasing some of the region’s craft produce as well as local and international spirits.
Given its scale, the venue has several options for events, allowing it to cater for corporate groups, private parties and weddings — from small numbers to as many as a thousand guests cocktail style when utilising the whole site.
As for their regular offerings, there is live music from 6pm to 9pm, Thursday to Saturday, and from 1.30pm to 4.30pm on Sundays, as well as a busy events calendar.
Brewery tours run every weekend at a cost of $25pp: attendees experience a short brewing and beer styles education session with a tasting paddle included in the package.
The beer scene in Far North Queensland has come a long, long way in recent years. And the Hemingway's team can take plenty of credit for that – and have big plans to develop the scene further still.