Asahi revisits First Harvest

In an interesting move, Asahi’s Cascade Brewery has reintroduced its First Harvest beer.

Cascade First Harvest, arguably Australia’s first commercially available wet hop beer, was first brewed in 2001 inspired by the Beaujolais Nouveau race to Paris. To make it, head brewer Max Burslem had to reengineer processes so the lauter tun could be used as a hop back, an unusual technique for a major brewer at the time.

While the Four Seasons range that Hop Harvest formed part of didn’t survive beyond its first year, arguably because it was a few years ahead of its time, the First Harvest survived until 2016. During its 15-year lifespan, the Cascade brand went through a number of refreshes as Carlton & United Breweries attempted to make it a national craft brand, with First Harvest as a halo offering.

While the beer never really broke commercially, it was very influential beyond its actual production scale, both on brewers who adopted the approach and also driving the narrative around beer as an agricultural product.

The surprise reprise of the beer is interesting as the brewery itself has no current dedicated brand manager, and it appears to have been launched unconnected to any wider brand strategy. The relaunch doesn’t appear to be an attempt to once again reinvigorate the iconic Tasmanian brewery. This announcement itself makes more of the partnership with HPA than the Cascade brand or the beer’s provenance, and follows Asahi’s recent announcement about working more closely with Australia’s barley growers.

Asahi Group head brewer, Jaideep Chandrasekharan, told Brews News that while the keg-only release was limited to Tasmania this year, they would see how it performs with a view to possibly expanding to the mainland next year. In the meantime, he had sourced some bourbon barrels to play around with aging some of this year’s beer.

Chandrasekharan said the beer remained at the 5.5% ABV, though had included more coloured malts in the form of Munich, cara-red and crystal malts, and came in at around 30 IBUs.

By Matt Kirkegaard

Articles published under the media release byline are news produced by the relevant business and remain unedited by Brews News. The media release below was circulated by Asahi/CUB.

HPA Sales and Marketing Manager, Owen Johnston (credit Natalie Mendham)

Media Release

Vintage Cascade beer brews fresh bonds with Tassie farmers

Cascade Brewery and Asahi Beverages are strengthening their relationship with Tasmanian farmers by brewing a new beer with them, using fresh hops picked straight from their farm.

The return of Cascade First Harvest means Tasmanian beer lovers can once again enjoy a beer like very few others on the Australian market.

Using some of the season’s first hops picked just hours earlier, it features uniquely vibrant and season-dependant flavours. And the use of fresh hops – picked from Hop Products Australia’s farm Bushy Park Estates outside Hobart – means the beer can be brewed only once a year and is something most drinkers have never tasted before.

First Harvest was among Australia’s first fresh hop beers when it was first brewed in the early 2000s. We’re delighted to be relaunching First Harvest in 2021 in recognition that Tasmanian drinkers are increasingly interested in the story behind their beer.

This year’s First Harvest is a well-balanced IPA with fresh hop characters complemented by biscuity malt character and a crisp ale yeast. It was brewed under the watch of HPA’s farmers because of the unique characteristics of fresh hops, making it a collaborative brew.

It will be available only in Tasmania and just 350 kegs will be brewed as part of a trial, which if successful could become an annual event and see kegs of First Harvest
exported to the mainland.

Hops are like the spice of beer, giving it bitterness and aroma while balancing the sweetness of the malt.

Cascade Brewery plant manager Jesse Cartwright said:

“Beer is usually brewed with dried hop pellets for consistency and the ability to brew all year round. Using fresh hops is an ancient method and creates a herbaceous and particularly vibrant beer with woody, piney and floral characters. We think people will love the taste, particularly as it’s the first-time fresh Cascade and Enigma hops have ever been used together in a Cascade beer to create a truly one-of-a kind drop.

“Cascade was perhaps a bit ahead of its time when we launched a similar beer nearly two decades ago. But the growing interest among Tasmanian drinkers in the provenance of beer and different tastes means we think the time is now right to again launch this amazing beer.”

Made using Cascade’s world-class brewing techniques, First Harvest is a rare opportunity for beer lovers to taste a beer that can only be brewed once a year at harvest time and in limited volume because of fresh hops’ short shelf life.

“Our team is passionate about brewing this kind of beer, it’s an exciting challenge and allows them to work directly with the hop farmers,” Mr Cartwright said.

“The opportunity to directly support Tassie farmers with this beer, is something we are very proud of.”

Owen Johnston from Hop Products Australia said First Harvest is a rare sensory experience because it accentuates any seasonal differences in flavour, much like a
wine vintage.

“Fresh hop beers tell a great story about the connection between Aussie brewers and Aussie agriculture,” he said.

“Beers like First Harvest are a true demonstration of ‘bine to bottle’, in the same vein as ‘paddock to plate’, with only hours between the hops being harvested and
arriving at the brewery. It’s a special opportunity for beer lovers.”

Cascade Brewery and Asahi Beverages are dedicated to working closely with Australian farmers. First Harvest is a showcase of high-quality Tasmanian hops – a key
raw ingredient in all Cascade beers.

For almost 200 years, Cascade has been perfecting its craft with water from kunanyi / Mount Wellington behind the brewery.

Cascade First Harvest is available now from the Cascade Brewery Bar and in pubs around the state.

Cascade will host a First Harvest day on Easter weekend, with tastings and free live music on the lawn.

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