40-42. Tasmanian Trilogy

July 26, 2011

In Hobart

cricket ground behind me

I’ve been lucky enough to get to Hobart twice with work, but unlucky enough for both times to be in the dead of winter. Winter in Tasmania means daytime temperatures of 10 degrees celsius and the nights reaching freezing point. Mind you, the summers are hardly the blazing hot sunfests that are seen as typically Australian, so it doesn’t make much difference really. The small corner of Tasmania I’ve seen leads me to believe that it’s a very pretty island, with geography not unlike the softer parts of the north of England. Hobart itself is more like a regional town than a capital city, but it has a pretty harbour and the mountains form an attractive backdrop, laced with snow both times I was in town. When I visited for the first time, in June 2009, I was lucky enough to have a meeting at the Bellerive Oval, which has one of the most beautiful backdrops of any Test cricket venues in the world. It also has a very ugly oil painting of Ricky Ponting and a statue of David Boon in its grounds, proving that for each positive there’s at least one negative.

I don't think this is how Moo Brew is produced. But you never know.

In late May 2010, heavily delayed flights on Boganair had caused NFFEF and I to arrive at our harbourside hotel, the Grand Chancellor, tired, cranky and too late to face walking out into town for food, so we hunkered down in the hotel bar for a couple of stress-relieving beers and whatever snacks could be provided. I was really pleased to see that one of the beers on tap was 40. Moo Brew Pilsener. Moo Brew is a range of beers from the Moorilla Vineyards in Berriedale, Tasmania, some of which I’d seen before on my travels as they come in very distinctive bottles. My impression of their Dark Ale, drunk a year previously, had been good and the draught Pilsener didn’t disappoint either – not overpoweringly hoppy but nicely bitter and refreshing. Moo Brew’s range is becoming easier to find in NSW but is still a bit of a rarity up on the mainland. However, it’s worth a taste if you can find some.

Once we’d finished moaning about budget airlines and finished our respective beers (she drank Corona, you won’t be surprised to hear) we headed off to our respective rooms and I decided to hit the minibar for a nightcap. The best choice in the fridge was 41. Boags Draught (erm, in a bottle), a reliable if dull 4.6% lager from one of Tasmania’s duopoly of brewers. Boags (independent until 2000 but now part of the Lion Nathan conglomerate which in itself is part of the Japanese Kirin company) is brewed in Launceston, Tasmania’s “other” city and home town of the only Tasmanian I know well enough to call a friend. The other big brewer in Tasmania is Hobart’s own Cascade (independent until the nineties and now owned by Fosters) and there’s quite a rivalry between the two. My Tasmanian friend ducks out of all this by drinking only Coopers Pale Ale. A wise choice as far as taste goes, but he may find himself in trouble next time he goes home. Mind you, he is as big as a house and knows martial arts. I think he’ll be ok.

Anyway, the Boags Draught was a bit of a let-down after the Moo Brew, being only a notch above Tooheys New, but it did the job. I was relaxed enough to sleep.

The next day we went to our meetings and then endured the long cab ride out to Hobart airport, which appears to have been built far enough out of the town to allow for a lot more development than has actually happened. It’s a funny old airport too, in that the Qantas Lounge is actually situated before you go through security, which means that when the flights are called there’s a flurry of businesspeople trying to get through the metal detectors in time while normal people, who’ve had to pay for their beer and newspapers in the normal departure lounge, get to the front of the queue to get on the plane for a change. The other odd thing about the Q Lounge there is that it’s the size of someone’s front room and has no bar staff – there’s a fridge with beer in it and you can help yourself. Still on the quest to get something I couldn’t get elsewhere I chose 42. Cascade Draught (erm, in a can) as this is not available on the mainland. I can report that residents of the other five states and two territories are not missing anything, despite it being Tasmania’s biggest selling beer.

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2. Knappstein Reserve Lager

January 5, 2010

knappstein reserve lager

Julian put me onto this stuff a while ago and thanks to Jim’s Cellars, one of five bottlos (that I know of) in Crows Nest, I have a handy supply should I need some. Which I felt like I did today.

Sometimes you want something cool, crisp and refreshing but also with a distinctive taste. Knappstein Reserve Lager is that animal, a pale Bavarian style beer made with sauvin hops that are grown in New Zealand, not far from some classic Sauv Blanc vineyards which, it’s suggested, affect in some way the taste of the hops. I guess it’s something to do with the (I can’t believe I’m going to use this word) terroir. There’s certainly a citrussy, slightly floral taste to the beer, leavened with a smooth bitterness which stops the fruit and flowers from cloying. It’s very drinkable but, in true boutique style, it only comes in (expensive) 4-packs so a full-on session on these is difficult.

The beer is a spin-off of the Knappstein Winery in Clare, South Australia, and the promotional material suggests, a little too strongly in my opinion, that beers are better with a master wine-maker’s attention to detail. Bit patronising and patently not true, as there are countless great beers made by people who have never made wine at all. But this is definitely one of my top ten Aussie beers so they must be doing something right. There’s unlikely to be any of my 4-pack left tomorrow morning.