After making our way up Australia's east coast to start our Best Of Beer series with visits to Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, here we head south to the pristine waterways and beer taps of Tasmania.
You can check out our nationwide review of the past 12 months here too, and keep reading for a roundup of the highlights from Tassie's beer scene in 2023, compiled with the assistance of Matthew Fielding of Science Made Beerable (pictured stage right above).
A Moo-numental Year
There's a tiny number of Australian craft breweries that have been around since 2004 – fewer still if you count those that remain independent – and 2023 didn't just see Moo Brew celebrate their 18th birthday in style, they also enjoyed one of their finest years yet. In November, they marked their birthday by brewing both classic and new beers, cracked into a tin-yata, handed out party bags, and let their head brewer Jack Viney and his winemaking buddy Dredgy take on DJ duties.
The birthday bash took place at venue that represents a significant milestone for Tassie's largest indie brewer: Manky Sally's, the brewpub they opened in Salamanca Place in May. The "luxe dive bar" gives Moo a home away from the world-famous Mona, which lurks underneath the location of their original brewery before it was moved to a larger production site in Bridgewater.
Nestled on Hobart’s iconic waterfront strip, even the Manky Sally's name features Moo Brew’s clever, disruptive marketing, while the space is as eccentric as the brewery's owner: vintage carpet that runs up the walls, 3,000 illuminated Moo Brew bottles on the back wall, and a small brewery where the exceptionally consistent brewing team can get experimental.
Speaking of consistency: during the 2023 Indies, Moo claimed Champion Tasmanian Brewery for the fourth year running.
Spotty Dogs' Crafty Kennel
I did get married there in May so I might be a little biased, but Spotty Dog finally opening their taproom was easily one of the biggest moments in the state in 2023.
Spotty Dog Brewers released their very first beers in 2016, so the arrival of their brewery and taproom at the start of the year followed one of craft beer's longest journeys to find a home. Given Spotty Dog Brewery and Taphouse in Hobart's north overlooks the Prince of Wales Bay and its yacht marina, it feels like that long and arduous search for a home was well worth it, and it's a brewery that's been eagerly embraced by locals.
More recently, they completed the package as they turned on the deep fryers in their kitchen, Chicken Shop, serving up – you guessed it – fried chicken. To top off their year, they also put out several great releases, including their first lager, the Dortmund-inspired Export – take a look at this blog for a great explanation of the beer and style. Matthew Fielding.
Everyday Was Friday
For last year's Tasmania wrap, we listed Fox Friday as our Breakthrough Brewery on the back of a busy year and many excellent beer releases, yet it feels like 2022 was a mere appetiser ahead of 2023's main course.
In March, they announced they'd be opening a brewpub in the former home of Blasta Brewing in the Perth suburb of Burswood, with the former residents moving their operation just around the corner. Fox Friday's western outpost isn't too far from opening but, in the meantime, they swung open the doors to their long-planned Melbourne brewery and taproom. The Richmond venue features a dozen beers on tap, a food menu inspired by America's south, and a cosy atmosphere you rarely get in new venues.
Oh, and they also bought one of the country's best-loved beer businesses, Carwyn Cellars (pictured above on the day they signed the deal), and released many splendid beers along the way. Not bad for a brewery from a small island; makes you wonder just what they'll do next...
Spotty Dog Brewers You Want It All
How do you top a popular single hop IPA series?
You do what Spotty Dog did and use the same malt base from their Single Hop IPA series to create You Want It All: double IPA and cram it full of some of not one, but several of America's finest hops: Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic and Azacca.
This Frankenstein's Monster of a beer was packed full of old school hoppy goodness and delivered a classic dank and chewy IPA – exactly what we’ve grown to expect from them. MF
Ocho IPA Theory #1
I’m a science nerd who loves beer, so I have massive admiration for brewers like Stu who runs Ocho while also being head brewer at Miner's Gold.
Ocho’s latest beer series, IPA Theory, is focused on creative brewing; for the series opener, it was all about science, specifically thiols, which have gone from being relatively unknown in the beer world to a term that's appearing on beer labels at a rapid rate while becoming a much-discussed part of modern beer.
I also love that Stu wrote a detailed blog post to accompany the beer, allowing him to nerd out about beer science. MF
Fox Friday's Lagers
Sure, you could pick from any number of Fox Friday hazies – the juicy and supremely Fox Friday-esque DIPA Stop, Look and Listen stands out in that regard – but it's the brewery's lagers that have been particularly enjoyed by many in The Crafty Pint team this year.
May brought us Sunspot Hotel, a wonderfully classic pilsner brewed with their fellow lager-lovers at White Bay, while Giles and not-quite-a-core-range-beer Clean Sweep followed a similarly European approach.
The brewers have also been quick to embrace – and are more than a little responsible for – the rise in locally-brewed West Coast Pilsners: Kook, Ho-dad and Stage Show were all dialled-in, crisp beers that really let hops shine.
Their fresh hop beer back at harvest time saw them take fresh Eclipse and Ella and introduce them to Germany's Herkules and Mandarina Bavaria along with Motueka and Nelson Sauvin to create a beer that had a lot going on while still being precise in its drinkability. WZ.
Moo Brew Hefeweizen
Moo Brew didn't just spend 2023 celebrating the fact they were born in 2004 but spent part of the year brewing like it was 2004 too.
Hefeweizens were once a pretty common sight in Australian craft breweries but they're hard to spot today. Moo's is a past Australian International Beer Awards trophy-winner but hasn't been part of their core range for years now. However, following a rebrew in 2022, this year saw them tie the release to their birthday celebration and once again champion wheat and yeast esters in brewing.
Maybe I'm in the minority but I love this beer and wish it was always on offer because I would drink it every goddamn day. MF
Shambles Brewery Triangulum
I’ve long thought that I never really got cold IPAs, but recent examples of the style are changing my mind.
This easy-drinking beer from Shambles featured Australia's best known hop Galaxy and merged it with some of HPA's advanced hop products: Citra in Incognito form and Galaxy as Spectrum. Those liquid hop products made for a remarkably clean and crisp beer in which tropical and zesty hop notes could really shine. MF
Breakthrough Brewery: Du Cane
Tasmania's second biggest city went a long time without a brewpub of its own; having rectified that issue, Du Cane Brewery & Dining Hall has quickly established itself as an important third place for Launceston residents and an essential stop for anyone visiting the city.
The venue opened in the second half of 2022 and saw owners Will Horan and Sam Reid turn an old camping store into a brewpub that itself is built for the adventurous: maps of local hikes adorn the walls and Tasmanian parks passes are listed on the menu – all unsurprising once you appreciate founder and head brewer Will Horan's background as a guide, and the fact the brewery's named after the Du Cane mountain ranges.
Throughout the year, Du Cane's reputation – and that of Launceston by extension – has only grown as a place to spend a bit more time while visiting Tasmania's north. The beers are both consistent and designed to please a breadth of palates, while the bright, open space is worlds removed from many of the warehouse breweries you'll find across the country.
How Was 2023 For You?
Nick Maschke of Moonah Hotel & Cellars
Nick Maschke is the venue manager at Moonah Hotel & Cellars, which has specialised in excellent beer, wine and spirits since Benn and Sarah Hooper of Fox Friday revived it in 2021.
Nick has been part of the team since early 2022, after moving south from Brisbane where he had worked at Tippler's Tap, first meeting the Fox Friday team and other Tasmanian brewers during Pint of Origin at Brewsvegas – the one that just snuck through as COVID was starting to close down the world.
His role sees him showcasing beers from across the state and alongside those of mainland brewers, many of whose beers rarely make it down to Hobart.
How was 2023 for you?
The past year at Moonah Hotel has been a wild and exciting time. Our business has continued to grow and we have found that our locals are really getting around what we are doing. Whether it’s bringing in new beers from the mainland, live music on a Friday, or a fun food special, it just feels like everyone just wants to be hanging at the pub!
Which beers from Tassie have you enjoyed most in 2023?
Well, my love for Fox Friday beers runs deep, and I think the crew in the brewery have been putting out some world-class beers, but I also have to give a huge shout out to Hobart Brewing Co and Shambles who have been putting out some great limited releases.
What can people expect from you in 2024?
I think we have the best opportunity to engage with our community in our venue. It feels like we could do anything and people would come.
I would like to do more small producer tastings around our table in the cellar and continue to bring in different breweries from the mainland that haven’t yet made it to Tasmania.
What's your one wish for Aussie beer in 2024 and beyond?
More West Coast pilsners please!
You'll find all articles in the series here. Coverage by Will Ziebell and Matthew Fielding of Science Made Beerable, who recently announced the recipient of their first Pils Of Wisdom Scholarship: Emma Penny.