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Bruny Island Beer

Bruny Island Beer

It may feel sacrilege to speak so crudely about two of the modern world’s greatest gifts, but the simple truth is that beer and cheese are both fermented products of grass.  This is why, Bruny Island Cheese’s Nick Haddow insists, they work so wonderfully together – and why he started a brewery with local brewhound Evan Hunter.

Nick Haddow is a cheese obsessive who grew up in Adelaide. He was mentored by cheese expert and Richmond Hill Café & Larder founder Will Studd in Melbourne, and went on to travel the world to learn his specialty from cheesemakers across England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, France and Italy.

After returning to Australia in 2003, he founded a cheesery on a wild island off Tasmania where shucked oysters cost a dollar. Bruny Island Cheese has gone on to become one of the best known cheeseries in the country. 

Nick's newest project, Bruny Island Beer, wasn’t quite inevitable, but given his zeal for local produce, a brewery dedicated to matching beers with his cheeses has always been within the realm of possibility.

Working with local artisan producers has always been a key ingredient in the Bruny Island Cheese story. Indeed, the cheesery’s Hobart outpost is filled to overflowing with local olive oils, relishes, jams, nuts and spiced fruits, all grown within about a 50km radius of his cheesery.  (They’re so good we’ve created two special hampers dedicated to them.)

So when Nick met local brewer Evan Hunter in 2014, it’s not surprising that a plan was hatched. Evan discovered his passion for brewing as many of the greats do – as a university student in Hobart. He went on to hone his craft at some of Tasmania’s finest breweries and distilleries: Seven Sheds, Moo Brew and Lark Distillery.

With a mutual, fervent passion for fermentation, Nick and Evan went into partnership in 2016 and created Bruny Island Beer Co.  Housed in an unassuming shed behind the famous cheesery, the brewery is fitted out with recycled dairy equipment from local farms and uses traditional brewing techniques to churn out brews that are designed specifically to match the cheeses produced next door.

Open fermented, naturally bottle conditioned, and preservative free, these are beers that redefine local.   The Willamette, Cascade, Enigma and Galaxy hops in the beer are grown and harvested in the Derwent Valley.  The grass that grew the grain that made the beer is the same grass that fed the cows that made the cheese.  Their chocolatey Whey Stout is made using the cow's milk whey left over from making Bruny Island Cheese’s famous Raw Milk C2 cheese, 50 metres across the grass in the cheesery.

“I would say that we don’t make a beer that doesn’t work well with at least one of our cheeses,” Nick Haddow has said.

As if it couldn't get any better, these guys even wash their cheeses in their beer. 

“The results of that have been amazing,” Evan has said. “It’s been interesting to see that if you wash a cheese in a particular beer, that cheese may not necessarily match perfectly with the beer that it’s washed in, but the beery characteristics that go into the cheese may lead to it pairing excellently with a different beer.”

The leap from wine to beer as the best booze to match with cheese makes total and utter sense for the two masterminds behind this project.

“Wines are very high in alcohol, they’re usually drunk too young, they’ve got astringency, they’ve got tannin, all of these things are just the opposite of what is in cheese,” Nick has said.

“And people often buy three different cheeses; a blue cheese, a goats cheese and a hard cheese, and expect one wine to go well with all of them. It just doesn’t happen. There isn’t a wine made for that purpose, whereas the accessibility of beer is far greater.”

In this vein, we’ve created a special hamper that brings the pair’s best work together.  Evan’s dark, rich ‘Oxymoron’ pale ale goes down perfectly with Nick’s soft, washed rind cheese, while the lighter, fresher ‘Farm Ale’ is best with ‘Tom’ - a harder, creamy cheese made in the French Savoie tradition. 

It comes delivered via overnight, refrigerated courier in a special cool box directly from Tasmania, and is designed to be shared with mates.

“If you end up spending $100 on a bottle of wine, it’s almost incumbent on you to take it very seriously, whereas beer by its nature is a bit more fun,” says Nick.

Hear, hear.

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The Bruny Island Beer & Cheese Pack is available now.