Australia has always done beer well; we make a good beer and have always been very noble at consuming that good beer that we make. It’s the Australian thing to do!
Cascade Brewery at the base of Mount Wellington in Hobart is Australia’s oldest brewery, dating back to 1832. Anything dating back that early in Australia has some serious history and the brewery is arguably one of the most attractive in the world, with its stunning gardens and early convict architecture nestled in Hobart’s green foothills.
Cascade is unique among Australian breweries and rare among breweries worldwide in that it operates with its own maltings, producing malt for its mainstream beers from locally grown barley. This makes the Cascade brewery tour one of the better ones going around in Australia.
Cascade is a relatively tiny brewery making approximately three per cent of Australia’s standard heavy beer that’s consumed. That’s still 36 million litres a year mind you! Cascade Premium Light Beer is Australia’s most popular light beer, however it outgrew its Hobart home sometime back and is now brewed in Melbourne using all the unique Tasmanian ingredients, which are now shipped into Carlton United Brewery.
The brewery still utilises the same clean water from the Hobart Rivulet, which snakes down from Mount Wellington and runs through the property. The brewery tour is thirsty work! Going for around an hour and a half, it’s well worth the $25 to gain a good insight into the history and brewing processes.
Like any good tour it ends in some tasting. It’s worth paying particular attention to their Tasmanian range of beers, which are only available in the state. Cascade’s premium range found nationally has been growing in popularity and is available on the mainland through most good bottle shops. With the beer market actually shrinking in Australia thanks to the popularity of wine and spirits, Cascade is one of the few brands to be showing huge growth in a declining marketplace.
Cascade Lager ‘Blue’ and Cascade Bitter ‘Red’ are the other popular local beers available in bottles with slightly higher alcohol content than the tapped draught. The Blue has a bit more bite and flavour while the Red is a traditional bitter.
Of all the Cascade beers, the one worth keeping an eye out for each year is their First Harvest Ale. First Harvest is the result of the very first brew of the day at the iconic brewery. It’s a big deal for the brewery where they use wet green local hops to deliver a unique fresh fruity flavour. Only a limited amount of these bottles are produced each year and they sell out very quickly, so if you come across it, give it a try. It was also the first beer of its kind in Australia to use green hops and they are very proud of its limited release each year.
What goes into making a Cascade beer?
Malting: Cascade hand selects the best ingredients from local Tassie farmers. The grain (barley) is soaked and germinated to convert the insoluble starches into sugars that the yeast can turn to alcohol. This “green malt” is then dried at varying temperatures to create the different malt colours and flavours.
Mashing: Water is added to the malt at just the right temperature to convert the starch from the malt into natural fermentable sugars that the yeast can “eat”.
Lautering: Separating the sweet malty liquid (wort) from the grain husks which is collected.
Boiling: The wort is then transferred into a brewing kettle where fresh local hops are added by hand during boiling. It takes an hour or so to concentrate and sterilise the liquid and to allow the many biochemical changes to take place. The hop alpha acids impart bitterness and the hop oils give the beer characteristic hop aromas. Think of it as ‘beer seasoning’.
Fermentation: By now the liquid has a malt character balanced with bitterness; But a crucial element is still missing: Alcohol! Yeast is the agent of fermentation. Without yeast, there would be no alcohol. Cascade yeast strain has remained unchanged since the 1820’s. It’s one of their great secrets.
Maturation: The ‘green beer’ is stored at cold temperatures to mature. This step is especially important for lager style beers because they are more delicate, needing time for the complex flavours to develop.
Filtration: The beer is then filtered to remove any unwanted proteins and yeast. At this stage, it is called “bright beer”.
Packaging: Lastly the beer is filled into bottles, cans or kegs and sent around Australia and the world.
The historic brewery gardens are an idyllic atmosphere to sit in the sun and enjoy your beer while waiting for some good quality pub food. With main menu options for as little as $18 you’re served generous portions of food to help soak up your beer…… or beers.
The food is good value for money and the equivalent of a decent pub feed, however combined with the beer, history and ambience of the gardens/buildings it really is a must visit for anyone who enjoys drinking beer.
140 Cascade Road, South Hobart, Tasmania
Telephone: (03) 6224 1117