I just came back from ten days in Hobart. Hobart is a strange place.
It’s summer… but it’s cold.
The sun is out until 9pm (it’s like that Insomnia movie with Robin Williams as a psycho)… but it’s cold.
For a Brisbanite, it felt like the middle of winter. Which is confusing… but it also means one very special thing. While everyone was telling me how it wasn’t like our summer and I couldn’t just wear t-shirts and I’d need to take a coat, all I was thinking was: DARK BEER.
Brisbane weather has been over 30 degrees since about September. And while that hasn’t completely stopped me from drinking dark beers, it certainly hasn’t been the ideal temperature for it. For me, dark beer and jeans are the same—I’d like to drink/wear them all year long, but in Brisbane, that’s really difficult to do. So I drink/wear them for as long as I can, until I feel I absolutely must switch to non-dark beers/shorts. Then I endure the white-hot heart of summer until I can drink/wear my favourites again.
All this to say: leaving Brisbane in late November (35+ degrees) to visit Hobart (3-23 degrees) was a balm for my dark-beer-craving soul.
In the weeks leading up to our trip, we’d asked a bunch of friends where we should go for a good beer in Hobart. And every single one of them said, “Preachers. Go to Preachers.” So we took their collective advice, and headed to Preachers on our first night in town. (It helped that our accommodation was only 400m away.)
I can see why everyone liked it so much. It’s set out like a house… except a house that revolves around the drinking of good beer. That’s my kind of house.
They have an astroturf beer garden (and plenty of people were sitting out there freezing, even though there was room inside… you Tasmanians are crazy). They even have a bus. A full-size, bona fide, wheels-on-the-bus-go-round-and-round council bus, decked out with seating and tables for all your beer-drinking needs. (Although I’m fairly certain the wheels no longer go round and round.) And they play bingo in it once a week. Why wouldn’t you?
But I’m a simple man. I like Preachers because they provided me with a big ol’ mug of Pirate Life Stout. And then because they upped their game further with Captain Bligh’s Wee Heavy, aged in Lark Whisky barrels. That bad boy tasted eerily close to Founders Dirty Bastard, which is one my favourite beers. As it warmed my chest and warmed my heart, I leaned back with a dopey smile on my face. That’s all it really takes to make me happy. (And maybe the burgers and chips helped.)
So. Preachers. Go there. We did. Twice.
The next time we went a-hunting for a watering hole, it was along the waterfront at Salamanca. And while there were several venues with decent beer options, we couldn’t go past Watermans Beer Market. The name says it all.
So we headed in. The walls are all those different-sized-stone-brick type things, and there’s plenty of beaten wood, so it’s gives the feeling of being in the wine cellar of a castle. We kept exploring out the back, and found a smallish astroturf beer garden (ah Hobart, you seem to be having a grass-growing problem) with a secondary bar. A quick peek at the impressive bottle stock in the fridges there revealed a bottle of La Sirène Praline for $20. Score. What a way to start! Before we could do anything about it, the bartender from inside came out and brusquely informed us that the beer garden was closed, and held the door open for us like he was waiting for the dog to come back inside.
“Sorry, we’re just looking at the bottle stock,” we said.
Raising his eyebrows, he said, “We have all the same bottles inside.”
Fair enough. We headed back in and up to the bar.
“So… what sort of thing are you after?” he asked.
“La Siréne Praline.”
At this, he hesitated a second, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. “We only have one bottle of that. … it’s out the back. I’ll go get it.”
Call me a douche, but I got a perverse pleasure out of seeing the slow spread of embarrassment creep across his face. Bet you feel a little bit like a dingus, doncha?
Anyway, after all the back-and-forthing, that last bottle of Praline turned out to be a frother, so we had a good chat with the guy about the taps and ended up going straight to the tasting paddle. And of course, any paddle is amazing when it includes Modus Operandi Former Tenant and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. I say, Tasmania, summer may not make it across the strait to your shores, but I’m certainly glad Former Tenant does.
Before we left, I saw a sign that said, ‘Want discounted beer for life? Ask us how.’
That is definitely something that interests me. So I asked, “Oh barkeep! How would I go about getting discounted beer for life?”
“You register, then once you’ve drank your way through a keg’s worth of beer, you get discounted beer for life.”
“Hmmm. I reckon there might be a few bars back home where I’ve drank a keg’s worth… but it might be difficult here. We’re only here for ten days.”
To which the guy replied: “It’s been done. Record’s eight days.”
Wow. Someone had a very good week… followed by a very bad week.
Towards the end of our holiday, we’d been to some good bars, but were yet to check out a Tassie brewery. Which is completely unacceptable. With a little bit of research, I decided Shambles Brewery was the best looking place in walking distance of our accommodation (I may or may not have made that decision based solely on the fact that their bowls of hot chips were only $4). It’s nestled on one of the main streets of town beneath a huge red sign that says ‘MEATS & MORE’. We might have missed it if it weren’t for the astroturf out front (seriously Hobart, I think we need to talk).
Unfortunately the kitchen wasn’t open yet, which brought tears to my chip-loving soul, so I began the grieving process with a tasting paddle. We picked all of the 6%+ beers (of course), and were not disappointed.
The Pheasant Plucker (I assume they enjoy hearing drunk people order that) was a saison but with some boozy backbone, which suited me just fine.
The Marvin the Marzen introduced me to a new style, which is always fun. I didn’t know what the crazy a ‘Marzen’ was before this, but apparently it’s a seriously sweet malty German lager. Would do again.
Dances with Hops was a solid American IPA—always a good sign when a brewery’s core IPA isn’t boring.
The Barry White Robust Porter drank like a stout—deep, rich, and toasty, with a crema-like chocolatey head.
For a brewery that only opened at the beginning of the year, they’re certainly pumping out some quality stuff.
Also they have pictures of a bear/deer crossbreed. (It’s a Beer! Get it????????!?!?!!?!?!???). Which looks awesome but raises a few questions.
Do they know Anderson Valley already has that?
Did they come up with it separately, or just figure we can have one brewery per hemisphere with a Beer in the branding?
Why is an Aussie brewery using a mythical creature that’s an amalgamation of animals we don’t have in Australia? (Wait… do we have deer in Australia? I feel like we probably have deer somewhere.)
This is where my brain goes when it’s not given chips.
Hobart, your weather and your sunlight confuse me. (As does your inexplicable abundance of astroturf. And ice cream stores! WHY ARE YOU EATING SO MUCH ICE CREAM WHEN IT’S COLD?!).
But you made this dark beer lover happy. Cheers, Hobart (Hobeert?).
Did I miss some amazing beer places in Hobart that I should have checked out? Let me know in the comments.
In my research the American Beer seems to comprise a Bear with antlers, whereas the Tasmania Beer is much more a hybrid Deer/Bear creature.