THE EXAMINER, Wednesday, August 18, 2010 — 21
A barrel on the gates of the brewery.
Brewery tour guide Simon gives visitors the good oil.
An old delivery truck near the brewery’s museum.
I vant to drink your beer The Examiner’s travel writer, DAVID SCOTT, acquires more than a thirst for history at Australia’s oldest brewery.
HE sense of history is strong when you wander around Cascade Brewery. Whether it’s a story about Errol Flynn, a holly tree planted in the 1800s or how the brewery kept its ‘‘oldest continuous’’ tag after the 1967 bushfires, there’s no containing the pride staff feel about South Hobart’s iconic producer of the frothy life enhancer. ‘‘You may go into other larger, more modern breweries,’’ Cascade events co-ordinator Les Sharp says, ‘‘but this is the oldest brewery in Australia.’’ Drive up Cascade Road from Hobart and when you are about 300 metres away the convict-built brewery looks postcard perfect, even if that postcard is coming from Transylvania. The imposing Gothic building, framed by miststrewn Mount Wellington, evokes thoughts of bats and vampires. But instead of hearing ‘‘I vant to drink your blood’’ the more likely phrase is ‘‘I want to drink your First Harvest’’. The visitor centre across the road has that highly sought fluid
IF YOU GO Cascade brewery tours last 90 minutes and operate several times a day, seven days a week. Tours cost $20 for adults, $15 concession, $10 for children. Under-fives cannot attend for safety reasons. For the good oil on the good oil call 6224 1117 or visit www.cascadebrewery.com.au/visitor.html on tap and is a significant part of the overall business. Up to 25,000 people come to Cascade a year, taking tours, buying merchandise, eating in the cafe or enjoying an ale. Mr Sharp starts showing me around. The gardens host corporate functions and weddings, which Mr Sharp says are popular with both bride (beautiful heritage garden) and groom (hey, it’s a brewery). We meet gardener David Spaulding, who says one of its holly trees is the oldest in the southern hemisphere. Cascade is developing a museum, where photos of brewery luminaries adorn the walls. Among
Victorian visitor Doug MacKinnon celebrates his 36th birthday with his photo on a label. them is Fatty Appleton, a worker of the 1900s who could carry a Firkin barrel under each arm and had a girth that suggested he approved of the company product. Another such character was former boxer Court Oakes, who was grounds ranger for the Cascades forest reserve around the brewery. Oakes would catch a young trespassing Errol Flynn and ‘‘take him back to mum with his ear between Court’s thumb and forefinger’’. Sawmiller, architect and jailbird Peter Degraves started building the brewery in 1824 using convict labour. It had a second layer added in 1927 but was gutted by the 1967 fires. The vats survived so bottling
was done in Launceston while employees worked frantically to revive the grand old operation and save their jobs. ‘‘It took 12 weeks and one day to resume on-site bottling,’’ Mr Sharp says. Cascade is owned by Foster’s but still has the feel of a family company. After my unofficial wander, I join 17 others on the brewery tour. You need covered, flat shoes and long trousers to qualify. We start by inspecting varieties of barley, including one that was popular as a substitute for coffee during the Great Depression. Those starving, jobless masses could still crank out a decaf. We are about to tour a working industrial site and in these days of nanny-state ultra insurance, it’s a wonderful opportunity. Our guide Simon shows he’s on a perceptive wavelength by asking: ‘‘Is anyone afraid of heights? Is anyone afraid of admitting they’re afraid of heights in front of a group of people?’’ This brewery tour made Lonely Planet’s coveted Blue List in 2008, an honour putting Cascade in the company of the Czech Republic’s Staropramen and Germany’s Weihenstephaner, the oldest brewery in the world. Hobart’s fine drop became the hop heard around the world. Simon leads us to the front
entrance and tells the story of early Hobart and its killer beers and the demand for a decent, preferably non-lethal, grog. As we advance through the workings, Simon advances through the history, from Degraves to the 1927 extension to the huge wooden vat that held enough post-bushfire beer to enable Cascade to keep its ‘‘oldest continuous brewery’’ claim. We return to the visitor centre for a tap sample of First Harvest, a limited release ale that uses the first hops of the season. Venue manager Shaune Reilly says that future tours will increase the emphasis on heritage and that a beer-and-food degustation menu is about to be released. Another interactive offering at Cascade is a personalised beer label with a visitor’s photo. We ask if any of the tourists would like to feature and Victorian Doug MacKinnon steps forward. Turns out it’s his 36th birthday. He poses for a photo and about five minutes later his birthday gift arrives, a two-pack of beer with Mr MacKinnon on the label. Now there’s a souvenir to savour. — firstname.lastname@example.org