February 13th, 2014 by Crafty Pint
Anyone that has visited Hobart in the past year or two will be aware that the craft beer scene in the city has really come alive. Its annual Tasmanian International Beer Fest is one of the largest and most successful in Australia and in 2013 was augmented by the inaugural Beer Lovers Week, which saw a number of events take place at venues throughout the capital.
The Tasmanian microbrewing scene is also well established, with a number of brewers each with their own unique style and character. Yet, when you step outside of Hobart, it hasn’t been as easy to find places selling craft beer other than the breweries themselves. There are oases, such as the idyllic Weldborough Hotel in the northeast, which stocks beers and ciders from every local producer, and Crown Cellars in Launceston, plus some taps and decent bottle lists at the likes of Launceston’s Pizza Pub, Newstead Hotel, The Cock n Bull, Alchemy, Dickens Cider House, Mud Bar, Black Cow and Stillwater.
And now the city has a new dedicated craft beer venue. Former Crown Cellars head honcho Luke Dempsey opened Saint John Craft Beer on January 17 and already it’s going great guns.
“We offer six rotating taps: five beer and one cider,” says Luke, who is also the Northdown Craft Beer rep for the state. “We try to have a balance of styles and regions on at any one time. We also have a selection of approximately 100 bottled beers and ciders available to drink in or takeaway plus growler fills and a BYO food policy.
“We try to support as many local producers as possible. We make sure a third of our taps are local and always have a big range of local stuff in bottles.”
He reckons an uncertain local economy and the domination of Boags may have played a role in craft beer’s slow take up in Launceston but sees that changing.
“Launceston is a big country town at the end of the day, so things happen at a different pace around here,” he says. “Small businesses and licensed venues have been in decline so it’s probably not the best environment to want to start up as new business, especially in Boags heartland! A few local venues have dabbled in craft over the years but no one has really done it with enough gusto to change their offering completely.”
The city is home to Morrison Brewery, with Van Dieman just a few kilometres away in Evandale and Seven Sheds a slightly longer drive west towards Devonport in Railton. Dickens Cider, which produces some of the most unique craft ciders in the country, is also based there and has one of its two Cider Houses in Launceston too. What’s more, another new microbrewery is launching. Little Rivers from Scottsdale will be pouring its first beer at Saint John’s Craft Beer Rising event on February 22.
“The Tassie scene is buzzing along at the moment,” says Luke. “For such a small population we have so much great beer to choose from, and more on the way. I’m really looking forward to being one of the first to showcase the beers from our newest producer Little Rivers.
“It was a little disappointing to not have any [Tasmanian] beers in the Hottest 100 beers of 2013. Maybe our guys need to start knocking out some more IPAs. Hint hint!”
With most Tasmanian brewers selling almost all of their product within their home state it is perhaps unsurprising that the impact on the national poll was small, yet, as with many brewers in South Australia, if there is a voracious appetite for your beers close to home then why go to the trouble of seeking markets further afield? Certainly, Luke says the early enthusiasm for his new bar suggests there are plenty of locals eager to get their hands on as much good beer as possible.
“[It’s been going] really well. Very encouraging stuff,” he says. “The locals are really getting into it. It’s just what Launceston needed! So everyone keeps telling me…”
Saint John Craft Beer is at 133 St John Street, Launceston.