“Is there a reason to go to Hobart Tasmania in June?” we asked. We were planning our trip to Melbourne when we had the good fortune to meet a hop salesman from Hobart. He startled us by blurting out, “Dark MOFO!”
We were asking because we were keen to go explore the beer and whisky scene and the MONA art museum, but the weather might be too much of a tradeoff. MONA and David Walsh, the clever man behind it, had apparently foreseen that concern and then created a winter festival to overcome it.
Dark MOFO is 10 days of art, food and music events culminating with a nude dawn river swim on the solstice. Hobart, a city of around 200,000 people, absolutely comes alive, the streets teaming with local families and tourists out to take in the celebration of darkness.
From a beer perspective, the highlight is the Winter Feast which takes over a pier for 6 nights. This colourful banquet of local food and drink producers set in a carnival of music, fire and performance gave us easy access to a wide range of Tasmanian breweries.
Minutes after entering a kind stranger pointed us to his favourite brewer, Launceston’s Morrison Brewery Morrisonbrewery.com.au, who were augmenting their more traditional ale range with the likes of chilli IPA and chocolate porter. Both were very well made and gave us a delicious start, pairing nicely with deservedly acclaimed fresh Bruny Island oysters.
Our next foray through the dozens of stalls led us to the newer Devil’s Brewery. While proudly hawking a fun apple brandy spiked bitter ale, we found their red rye IPA a suitably flavoursome match for the MONA kitchen mixed plate, piled up with four scrumptious saucy Asian and Mediterranean dishes.
Before switching to cocktails for dessert, our last beers were two phenomenal sours from Two Metre Tall. The barrel cherry was more about Brett than fruit, but we were hardly complaining. The original sour was temptingly complex and wild. (We love the Google review “…sour taste which worked very well and in fact what the Brewer intended.”)
There was just no way to take in so many enticing offerings in one night so we went back for a second round. These breweries again stood out,though we also spent time exploring the Tasmanian Chilli Beer Company’s offerings. The name is somewhat misleading as the current offerings are a series of alcoholic and nonalcoholic fruit and sugar drinks. That said, owner Craig shared his intensely gingery but well balanced alcoholic chilli ginger beer and hopped ginger beer with us while describing plans of brewing chilli beers in the future.
This was our first trip to Hobart, so we wanted to explore the normal beer scene as well. Our first stop was Jack Greene, a two storey craft beer bar in one of the historic stone rowhouses along Salamanca Place. Aside from the superb Two Birds Fresh Hop, we recognised none of the tap beers listed, so ordered two tasting paddles and a magnificent American burger loaded with french cheese, beetroot and more delicious non american goodies. Standouts included Matilda Bay’s Alpha and Fox Hat’s Phatmongrel.
We wanted to return Friday for the dark beer tap takeover but ended up too exhausted to go out. Luckily when we went back on Saturday, they still had the Alpha, and a number of dark beers. Our favourite was the seasonal Moo Brew Velvet Sledgehammer imperial stout, which paired quite nicely with the best warm chocolate fudge sundae we’ve had in the southern hemisphere.
Speaking of Moo Brew, we haven’t yet mentioned that most of the Dark MOFO events were accompanied by a MONA bar and that MONA has its own winery and brewery. Moo Brew was everywhere in its striking brooding bottles adorned with MONA artworks. The beer inside was very nice, especially the Belgian, just not the most exciting things we tried, apart from the imperial stout.