Tasmania’s Seven Sheds brewer, Willie Simpson, is attempting to re-create beer history today by installing two wooden casks of ale on board Spirit of Tasmania II for a month-long experiment.
The casks will complete 23 trips across Bass Strait, and produce 400 unique, limited-edition bottles of Bass Strait India Pale Ale.
Willie was inspired to create his India Pale Ale due to its history dating back to the 1800s when attempts to ship beer from England to India often resulted in yeast spoilage. The beer did not keep well on the long, hot voyages and British troops and other ex-pats would often go months without a decent pint of beer. Eventually a new recipe was formulated – one with higher alcohol and more hops which was able to withstand the long sea voyage.
“The beer will travel a total of 23 trips between Devonport and Melbourne on Spirit of Tasmania, roughly equivalent to the original 10,000km voyage to India via the Suez Canal,” he said.
“My gut feeling is that the motion of the ship on water will accelerate the wood-aging maturation. Hopefully, there will be more lovely woody characters in the final beer than if the casks had been sitting on land somewhere.
“Seven Sheds is small enough to do experimental brews like this. I had a couple of 100-litre wooden casks from Lark Whisky Distillery sitting around, so this idea has been ‘brewing’ for some time.
“The beer will be mellowing during the sea journey and sharp flavours will become well-rounded. There will also be an uptake of wood flavours as the beer interacts with the cask. This is all guesswork until we taste the final beer!”
When the beer is ready to be bottled, Willie will individually number the 400-odd bottles and sell them through the Seven Sheds tasting room.
“This is the start of many local Tasmanian initiatives,” Spirit of Tasmania Retail & Hospitality General Manager Nick Harriman said.
“We are committed to supporting Tasmanian suppliers and offering a great Tasmanian range of produce and beverages on our ships. Passengers will also be able to enjoy a new beer on board from Willie’s brewery – Seven Sheds Paradise Pale.”
Willie is an award-winning home brewer who turned his hobby into a family business. A working journalist, he has written four books about beer and the Australian beer brewing industry and has visited around 90 Australian breweries and many more overseas.
Seven Sheds Brewery is located in Railton in north-west Tasmania, with a cellar door open five days a week, attracting more than 5,000 tourists a year.