Scottsdale used to be one of Australia’s most significant hop growing regions. Today, there is just one remaining hop farm in that part of northeast Tasmania, one which is growing the increasingly unfashionable Pride of Ringwood hops. But, thanks to the arrival of a new brewery, there is fresh reason for beer lovers to cast their eyes in that direction.
Little Rivers launched earlier this year, pouring beers at the equally new Saint John Craft Beer venue in Launceston for Craft Beer Rising and quickly attracting the attention of venues across the state. Already co-owner Chris Carins has had to give up his other job, working at Pipers Brook Vineyard, to focus on keeping up with demand for his four beers, demand that has seen him working seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day.
“My partner and I both grew up in the northeast of Tasmania,” says Chris. “We are in a big forestry area and it’s struggling. We wanted to get a bit of a buzz back in town and, since we opened, all the locals have really got behind us. We are already in both local pubs and the bottleshops.
“Demand is just crazy.”
Although he is a Tassie local, Chris learnt the art of brewing at Burleigh Brewing on the Gold Coast after heading there with his partner Jess Coniston when she was studying in the area.
“I did a stint brewing with Brennan [Fielding] and learnt how to brew,” says Chris. “I had been winemaking for four or five years before that. He taught me a lot of things and I got the passion for beer and decided to run with it.”
His training helped guide the four beers that make up Little Rivers' offering to date, with the majority European-inspired: a European dark lager; a Kolsch; Hefeweizen; and a pale ale.
“Brennan is a Hawaiian brewer who learnt from German brewers,” he says. “He passed that on to me. I do plan to release some seasonals when we are not so busy and play around with IPAs and the like.”
Little Rivers is very much a family affair. While Chris handles the majority of the brewing, packaging, labelling and other brewery duties, Jess' stepdad is handling much of the business side of things while Jess learned the ropes – while raising an 11-month-old and working part-time as a nurse.
The brewery itself is something of a homespun creation too. Lacking the funds to purchase a turnkey brewery, they created their own double decoction brewhouse, with Chris' uncle using his welding skills and some winery fermenters repurposed for beer. Originally they intended to build it on a family farm but, when a suitable site cropped up in Scottsdale itself, they snapped it up and now hope to add a cellar door ready for next summer.
As for their flying start and the subsequent long days and weeks, it turns out that there was demand for their beers before they had even got them ready.
“Venues found us on Facebook and social media,” says Chris. “Saint John rang us up and ordered kegs before they had even tasted the beers. I think it was just refreshing to have a another craft brewery in Tasmania.
“It’s a good scene down here. We are lucky to have the sort of community that has embraced us. In this area they are traditional Boags drinkers so it’s great to see them drinking our beer.”