Beer And Loafing In Van Diemen's Land: Part One

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of spending a week in and around Australia’s foremost island state - Tasmania. As such, I made it my duty to cram more Tasmanian beer into my face hole than would otherwise be considered healthy.

I should stress first at this point that the purpose of this trip was not in fact some kind of beer odyssey, but more of a relaxing getaway with my wife, Al. However despite ourselves, we had pulled up outside the property of Van Dieman Brewing within about 20 minutes of landing at Launceston Airport.

I had unfortunately neglected to do my homework and on arrival realised that this was purely a production facility and there wasn’t much chance of getting stuck into a tasting paddle. The scenery was pleasant enough though, I suppose.

I can only assume all brewing is conducted inside that letterbox.

I can only assume all brewing is conducted inside that letterbox.

Our accommodation in Launceston happened to be directly adjacent to the Boag’s Brewery; however, given that the brewery seems to take up something like 14 city blocks I dare say almost everything in Launceston is adjacent to the Lion Nathan-owned behemoth.

Block 1 of 14.

Block 1 of 14.

Despite my disappointment earlier in the day, a helpful and no doubt very attractive person from Van Dieman Brewing pointed me in the direction to a craft beer bar in Launceston that would have their beers on tap. So as the sun set at 1:00pm (or whatever obscene time in the afternoon it was) we traipsed our way through almost completely deserted streets to the Saint John Craft Beer Bar.

They've even got the beards right!

They've even got the beards right!

It was immediately apparent why the streets were so devoid of humans. The entire population of Launceston appeared to be jammed inside the Saint John – a newish venue with six taps offering good quality craft beer and cider, and a decent range of domestic and imported bottles. After seeing nothing but Boag's signs for miles, it warmed the cockles of my heart to see so many people drinking good beer. Even the fancy-schmancy steak restaurant we went to for dinner had a good range of craft beer! Although I was there less than 24 hours, Launceston left a very lasting impression and proved to be one of the major highlights of my trip.

The second highlight came mostly as a result of luck, as opposed to any actual planning on my part. In deciding on a route to take from Low Head on the north coast to Bicheno on the east coast we thought that we might as well take as scenic a route as possible instead of heading back through country that we had already seen. It was a fortuitous happenstance that this road took us directly past The Weldborough Hotel (which I had not an inkling about) and the Iron House Brewery, which in my permanent state of bungling I had forgotten to look up.

Can confirm, toilets are completely operational.

Can confirm, toilets are completely operational.

The Weldborough Hotel is located on the side of the road precisely in the middle of nowhere in particular. Were it not for a painfully urgent need of using the water closet I probably would have driven past without a second thought. Road signs proudly boasting eight taps of all Tasmanian beer and cider convinced us to stay for at least one beer after using the amenities. The pub itself was warm and comfortable, with a pretty little beer garden out the back probably best left until summer. I left Weldborough cursing myself for not being able to stay longer, but the road and drink driving laws are harsh mistresses.

That sunlight isn't nearly as warm as it looks.

That sunlight isn't nearly as warm as it looks.

We next stopped at the Iron House Brewery which is located within the somewhat strange White Sands estate on the very east coast of the island. Having already sampled a couple of Iron House beers earlier in the trip it was great to see where the magic happens. While we were able to taste a few more beers at the bar, we were once again unable to see any brewing in action or speak to any brewers.

Couldn't someone just pretend to brew something for me?

Couldn't someone just pretend to brew something for me?

There were two stand out beers from the first half of our trip:

  • Paddy's Head Stout (Lark Barrel Aged) – Iron House Brewery – On tap @ Saint John Craft Beer

Weighing in at 7% ABV and aged in Lark whisky barrels.  Very smooth with roasted coffee and vanilla flavours and medium bitterness.  This stout was an excellent match to the harsh Tasmanian winter and the first beer I tried on arrival to Launceston.

  • Stacks Bluff Oatmeal Stout – Van Dieman Brewing – Bottle @ Black Cow Bistro

Went delightfully well with some oysters Kilpatrick and a large bloody rump steak. Slightly sweet, creamy and everything you'd expect from an oatmeal stout.  I’m an absolute sucker for oatmeal stouts and this one fit the bill nicely.

For a full list of beers consumed you can check out my Untappd profile.

Part two will involve me blundering my way through Port Arthur and Hobart's MONA and Salamanca Place.