Cascade First Harvest launched

Cascade Brewery’s annual harvest ale was launched in Tasmania on Wednesday night at a party at the brewery’s visitor centre.

With the ranks of harvest ales growing each year (not to mention the regular attention-grabbing excitement of international brewing names collaborating with our craft brewers and every other single release brew) it is easy to overlook this annual beer from the Fosters-owned Tasmanian label. However when Cascade’s First Harvest Ale was launched 11 years ago, it was one of the few times that our large breweries was genuinely ahead of the curve during the current beer revival.

The launch last night continues to show that, at least as far as Cascade is concerned, someone in CUB’s head office might actually understand one of their brands. While nominally about Cascade’s own beer, the celebration generously shared the stage with a number of Tasmania’s other gourmet producers. Barilla Bay Oysters, Bruny Island Cheese, Companion Bakery, Sorell Fruit Farm, and Wursthaus Farm were all present to showcase their wares in the Cascade visitor centre in a celebration of Tasmanian gourmet produce. Rather than taking attention away from Cascade’s seasonal offering, the products complemented it and, in many cases, the pairings elevated it.

With other brands in the CUB line-up, stretch Hummers and girls in short skirts have been the hallmark. At other Fosters networking lunches you would be forgiven for wondering whether it was still a wine company rather than a newly ‘beer-focused’ business. But at this launch beer was the hero, or at least beer was first among gourmet equals, something that sent a very positive message to the assembled guests about beer’s potential as a culinary companion. It also signalled that the brewers and their brand managers actually have confidence in their own product.

This continues Cascade’s recent approach which included the Cascade Brewers Nose iPhone app*, another initiative that was more about growing and elevating beer’s broader brand and capitalising on that growth rather than merely ramming a narrow brand message down a declining number of beer drinkers’ throats. (Of course, the agency behind that campaign was recently replaced in favour of the agency that gave us the subtlety that is Carlton Dry’s Hello Beer Campaign, so it is even more pleasing that Cascade has stuck to its guns.)

As for the beer itself, don’t approach the First Harvest as you would others in the one-off, American-influenced hop bomb department. Don’t go looking for immediate sensory overload. This beer is subtle and worse things could be said about it than “it’s very drinkable”. While hops are the feature, the beer also uses first harvest barley, malted at Cascade’s own maltings, and hops and malt play out in equal measure. The result is a soft and balanced ale, with an interesting fruity, fresh hop character that can inspire enthusiasm, if not out and out excitement. It paired very well with the Trevalla wrap and Bruny Island cheese served at the party (see menu below) and would work well with stronger flavoured fish and English style and harder cheeses.

The good news for Cascade is that with Foster’s recent loss of some of its licenced international brands and Fat Yak’s transfer to Brisbane’s much larger Yatala brewery (that seems to have finally occurred despite repeated denials by Matilda Bay that this move was impending or even being considered), there is talk of an increasing focus on occasional beers being brewed at Cascade. These could include the return of the brewery’s short-lived seasonal range from a decade ago. Launched around the time of the inaugural First Harvest, the Four Seasons range involved four brews designed to be released to coincide with the seasons. If this did occur it would be a welcome development.

This year’s First Harvest also marks the first time that the beer will be available on tap outside of the brewery’s visitor centre. Tap venues are listed below in the media release. The tap version was well worth trying.

The 11th anniversary release of Cascade First Harvest will be available for a limited time only from the first week of May at premium retailers nationally.

The menu

  • Terrine on beer damper (supplied by Wursthaus Kitchen)
  • Mini Stout Pies (made with Cascade Stout)
  • Leek & Prune Tart
  • Trevalla wrap with pancetta & sage tempura buttter
  • Bruny Island 1792 with freshly-baked Cascade Companion Bread (supplied by Bruny Island Cheese Co. and the Companion Bakery.)
  • First Harvest Oysters served with crispy bacon (Supplied by barilla Bay)
  • Cascade Stout Icecream with Strawberry Shortbread (Strawberries supplied by Sorrell Fruit farm).

Media Release

Mike Unsworth brews his inaugural Cascade First Harvest

Today marks the release of the highly-anticipated Cascade First Harvest Ale with head brewer Mike Unsworth taking the reins for the first time brewing the 11th anniversary vintage.

Regarded as the ‘jewel in the crown’ in the revered Cascade Brewery Co. range, Cascade First Harvest is a celebration of the freshest and best of the Tasmanian harvest, using only the first hops and barley of the season. Well ahead of its time, it was the first beer produced in Australia to use freshly harvested ‘green’ hops in its brew and is still the only one of its type crafted in Tasmania.

The ‘First Harvest’ hops for the 2012 vintage were picked at Bushy Park Estate in the picturesque Derwent Valley on 14 March, and added to the kettle by hand back at the Cascade Brewery on the very same day.

This labour intensive, time dependent and hand-crafted brewing philosophy results in the creation of a beer that is truly unique. Cascade First Harvest is made in a single batch with three experimental hops never used before in beer production and historically sells out before the full snap of winter sets in. The 2012 vintage marks the first time Cascade First Harvest will be released and available on tap, excluding NSW and SA. In addition to this there are 2,850 cases available for sale.

Continuing with tradition and in a nod to the history of the Tasmanian beer industry, Unsworth has personally named the three new experimental hops; Campania (bitterness hop), Triabunna (flavour hop) and Ellendale (aroma hop) after historical hop growing areas in Tasmania, where hops were produced for local beer production throughout the 19th century.

These fresh, green hops in the 2012 vintage all release unique floral aromas with characteristics of peeled fruits and blackberries over nettles, green leaves and ground spices. The finish delivers a resinous bitterness which blends in with the malt base to give a well-balanced hoppy beer.

With the 2012 Cascade First Harvest release his first as head brewer, Mike Unsworth says, “Working with hops that haven’t been used in brewing before was a fun experience and we have again been able to craft a unique tasting full-flavoured beer. Cascade First Harvest is truly a celebration of Tassie produce and is a highlight every year for us here at Cascade. I’m excited to have brewed my first vintage and to continue the tradition of giving our fans a beer that is so distinctive.”

“This year’s brew has again provided the characteristic dense foam, resulting in Cascade First Harvest’s signature thick, creamy head when poured,” Unsworth continues.

The History behind the hop names:

About Campania
Campania is a region in the Coal River Valley, an area more associated with wine but originally settled to mine the local coal. The valley was used as grazing land and for pastureland, including the growing of hops which was supplied to the early breweries around Hobart in the 1820s and 1830s.

About Triabunna
Triabunna is a region the East Coast of Tasmania where hops were produced successfully in the late 1800’s with mild, sunny summers producing good crops. Hops were grown here on a small scale, manually picked and dried in small timber and brick kilns and supplied to local beer producers.

About Ellendale
Ellendale is found in the upper reaches of the Derwent Valley, above the larger hop growing areas in the region. Hop growing increased in popularity here from the 1870s with 42 growers being listed by 1910. Hop kilns of various sizes have been built in this area, some of which are still standing today.

The Barley

New season Tasmanian Gairdner barley was malted to make pale malt for First Harvest, and a small amount of crystal malt was also added to give the brew a full-roasted flavour and slightly darker colour. The pale malt was malted at the Cascade Malt House at the end of February. Cascade is the only Australian brewery to still malt its barley on-site. The barley begins the malting process when the moisture content of the grain is increased to 44 per cent to commence germi nation. The grain is then grown under controlled conditions of temperature and moisture during which time the starch in the grain is converted to sugars. The green malt is then transferred to the kiln in the malt house where it is dried; reducing moisture to less than 5 per cent (this stops the growth). The malt ends up soft and friable before it is crushed in the malt mill providing grist ready for brewing.

The 11th anniversary release of Cascade First Harvest will be available for a limited time only from the first week of May at premium retailers nationally.

RRP: $18.99 per 375ml four-pack. Each 375ml bottle contains 1.6 standard drinks/5.5% ABV.

2012 Cascade First Harvest Draught will be available on tap at the following venues around Australia:

VIC – St Kilda Local, Royal Hotel, Woolshed Pub @ Central Pier, Great Northern Hotel and Three Below

QLD – Plough Inn, Pig N Whistle Riverside, Pig N Whistle Tavern Indooroopilly, Victoria Park Gold Club Function Centre, Ice Works, Spotted Cow Hotel

WA – Leederville Hotel, Freemasons Hotel Bridgetown, The Byrneleigh, Wembley Hotel, The Aviary, The Craftsman Bar & Brasserie, Tambrey Centre

TAS – Country Club Casino, Freycinet Lodge, Cascade Brewery Visitors Centre, Henry Jones Art Hotel, Strahan Village and West Coast Wilderness Rail, Pepper Cradle Mountain Lodge and Wrest Point Federal

Cascade Brewery Co is one of Australia’s most iconic beer brands, its diverse range of brews holding a significant place in Australia’s brewing history. All Cascade beers are brewed the traditional way, from a brewing team with handcrafted credentials, and with a commitment to providing Australians with refreshing and approachable beers that offer great value and availability.

To become a fan of Cascade on Facebook search for Cascade Brewery or follow Cascade on Twitter – @cascadebrewery.

Cascade has also launched a free iPhone app, the Brewer’s Nose, featuring more than 600 Australian and international brews and is a one stop guide for any beer fan with tasting notes, food matches and information on the art and tradition of brewing. Search Brewer’s Nose in the Apple App Store to download the app free.

*Disclosure: I was paid to write some copy for the iPhone app and compile a list of beers for inclusion, so there could be some bias. Then again, I agreed to get involved in the first place because the idea was about beer not simply brewery branding. I was also the guest of CUB at the launch of First Harvest in Tasmania this week.

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