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Australia's oldest continually operating brewery sits on the banks of the Cascade Rivulet high above Hobart. Almost 200 years since it began brewing in 1824, the tapered facade of the rivulet's namesake Cascade Brewery continues to dominate the South Hobart skyline, but it no longer dominates the thoughts of beer-drinking visitors to the Tasmanian capital, with a host of craft breweries now vying for southern attention.
Draw a circle one kilometre around Hobart's CBD and it encloses four craft breweries, with several more - plus their taprooms - sprinkled through the suburbs. Such a weight of numbers in such a small city feels entirely appropriate since hops were first introduced into Australia in Bushy Park, less than an hour's drive up the Derwent Valley from Hobart and still home to the largest hop fields in the country.
Most prominent of the craft breweries is the Hobart Brewing Co, which shares Macquarie Point real estate with the likes of MACq1 and the Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Its big red shed contains the brewery operation and its popular taproom, which pours six core beers and a selection of interesting seasonal brews. The bar space spills onto the adjoining Red Square, surrounded by food trucks and a pair of hairdressing caravans.
Anchored at the city centre's edge, Captain Bligh's is Hobart's oldest craft brewery and doubles as a distillery, making its own wash for the spirits.
It's suitably located in the Tasmanian Brewery Building, which was home to beer-makers as far back as the 1830s. Captain Bligh's tasting bar is an event as much as a drinking space, for it opens just once a month - on the third Friday - when drinkers fill the building's loading dock, sitting among the bags of malt in a space where industrial-chic comes naturally.
Befitting the building's history, Captain Bligh's beers include a Colonial Ale, brewed to the laws of Van Diemen's Land in the 1800s, when all ingredients had to be grown on the island.
Shambles Brewery and T-Bone Brewing Co sit like a pair of drinking companions, just 300 metres apart along Elizabeth Street. Shambles fills an old warehouse, with drinking spaces that sprawl through the building. Grab a table out front by the bar, and tuck into its diverse range of brews and menu of burgers and fried chicken, or weave through to the cavernous warehouse with its concrete table tennis table.
T-Bone's brewpub is a more intimate, bar-like space a few steps from North Hobart's restaurant strip. The taps pour up to a dozen T-Bone beers, and drinking here is a virtual paddock-to-pint experience.
The father of T-Bone brewer, Tom Bignell is the owner of Belgrove Distillery, a rye distillery that grows and malts all of its own grains on the family's Midlands property. The brewery does the same, while spent grains are used as stock feed on the property. Waste cooking oil is used to create steam to power the brewery.
T-Bone's range of beers is as imaginative as its operation, with seasonal brews such as peanut butter porter and pineapple punch IIPA sitting beside four core beers.
Range out from the city's immediate surrounds and there are even smaller craft breweries to seek out in the suburbs. Last Rites in Cambridge opens every Friday afternoon and evening, while Fox Friday opened a taproom at its Moonah brewery in early November.
If you need some beer buddies, or want to delve deeper into the Hobart brew scene, a new Hobart beer tour has also been freshly poured. The three-hour Brew Hop strolls between three of the central craft breweries, providing a look behind the scenes, with suds mopped up over lunch at Shambles or city gastropub Tom McHugo's.
The writer travelled at his own expense.
Hobart Brewing Co, see hobartbrewingco.com.au
Captain Bligh's, see captainblighs.com.au
Shambles Brewery, see shamblesbrewery.com.au
T-Bone Brewing Co, tbonebrewing.com.au
Fox Friday, see foxfriday.com.au
The Brew Hop, see thebrewhop.com.au