Ton Up In Tassie

August 31, 2011, by Crafty Pint

Ton Up In Tassie

For more than two decades, he was best known as the country’s foremost beer writer. Then, in 2008, Willie Simpson joined the ranks of those he writes about by opening Seven Sheds in northwestern Tasmania, a brewery and meadery specialising in traditional ales, meads and melomels that has just produced its 100th beer. The milestone was marked with the release of the one-off 100 Sheds, a single hop beer based on his popular Kentish Ale – but featuring seven hop additions – that was launched last Thursday at the New Sydney Hotel in Hobart, where Willie was hosting the regular HOPS beer appreciation night.

“The story of my life is I’ve either been well ahead of my time or past my time,” he says. “I started writing about beer at least a decade before there was enough happening and now I find myself writing about beer for old media, like books and newspapers. However, I did enter the craft brewing industry at the perfect time.”

Willie and partner Catherine Stark bought their property comprising seven sheds in Railton comprising eight years ago. At the time, with almost 20 years' beer writing under his belt, he was looking for a new challenge so decided to take the skills nurtured as a successful home brewer and mead maker to the next level.

The result was Seven Sheds, which combines a brewery, meadery and hop garden on one site and features a purpose built tasting room as well as brewery tours and cellar door sales. The beers often use hops grown onsite and, where possible, locally produced malt and hops.

“I’m a risk taker,” says Willie. “If I hadn’t done it I’d be a grumpy old man.

“We see ourselves as tourism operators first and local brewers second, with 50 per cent of our sales done at the cellar door. We had 4,000 visitors over the past 12 months and tend to do a lot of festivals, with three or four major food and drink festivals in Tasmania that have got bigger and are a great opportunity for microbrewers.”


In recent months, Seven Sheds beers have appeared in greater numbers in bottleshops and bars on the mainland. A core range of Kentish Ale, Willie Warmer, Elephant’s Trunk and Razzamatazz is supplemented by seasonals, such as the Stark Raven in winter and Paradise Pale in summer. Willie also produces Brewer’s Reserve beers, such as the Smoking Bagpipes, made with 100% Tasmanian peat-smoked malt and described with a smile as “pretty extreme”, and this latest release.

He also produces a range of meads and fruit melomels, although less often then he would like as demand for his beers rises, while, looking ahead, he’s been approached about producing another book to follow on from the Australian Beer Companion.

The 100th Brew

Based on his Kentish Ale – a beer that has made up 46 of those 100 brews – the 100 Sheds followed on from the 50 Sheds released, you’ve guessed it, as the 50th brew. Featuring a malt grain that’s predominantly Maris Otter with a touch of dark crystal to deepen its colour, it’s a single hop beer featuring Willamette hops grown in Tasmania by Hop Products Australia.

Willie made seven separate hop additions while the beer was in the kettle before adding two kilograms of hop flowers to the hop back and dry-hopping with another kilo and a half that were added loose to maximise their flavour and aroma potential.

“Willamette is one of the forgotten hops in Australia,” says Willie. “If you read the history [of the hop] it’s a US variety that’s been developed from the English Fuggles so it should be a great ale hop. Everyone has gone for the big "C” hops [Cascade, Chinook, etc]. With this I’m getting some lovely red berry characters."

The 6.7% beer is available on tap at the New Sydney and the Seven Sheds cellar door. There is also a small number of 500ml bottles, only available at the cellar door.

You can visit Seven Sheds between 11am and 5pm, Wednesdays to Sundays, at 22 Crockers Street, Railton. Alternatively, keep up to date with the brewery’s activities on Twitter or Facebook.

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