Interesting fact: Back in the mid 19th century Hobart was notorious amongst sailors worldwide as place where you were most likely to catch something awful from the ladies whom plied their trade along the busy docks. The Tourism Tasmania pamphlets which gleefully tout the Salamanca area as a precinct for dining and culture never mention the fact that the whole dockside was once a true hive of scum and villainy, full of brothels, opium dens and legions of pubs serving thirsty sailors with beer brewed in the many small breweries which were scattered across the emerging city.
Luckily, the 21st century visitor is unlikely to be accosted by drunken sailors and the only diseases you’ll catch are from the inclement weather, but drop by Salamanca now and you are in serious danger of being waylaid by good beer. Many old pubs survive here including the Customs House (amongst the veterans, this is the true finishing line of the Sydney to Hobart) and the Squire’s Bounty, but if you really want to try the best the Island State has to offer then head a little further up the hill and you’ll find Preachers.
Quaint is the only word which comes to mind when you turn the corner and see the double story, white brick cottage which is home to this aptly named bar. I do not recall ever noticing the building before I heard it had opened as a bar, I like to think that, sensing the need for a place to drink good beer in Hobart, Preacher’s just popped into existence, Tardis-style. In reality this is the result of the vision of one Chris Cooper who, inspired by the Local Taphouse in Melbourne, decided to open a new front in the war for good beer in his home town.
Walk up the steps and in the front door and you are greeted by a cheerfully lit main room decked out with a few tables, some couches and two fireplaces which, judging from the ash in the hearth, are for more than just show. Copies of Beer and Brewer and few other books on beer are cunningly laid about the room and I also noticed a chess table. I’m a mediocre player but the thought of a game in front of a roaring fire with a pint of Moo Brew Imperial Stout appeals immensely. There is another small room at the back with a few more tables but most of the seating area is outside in the beer garden which features a mini-bar in a small shed.
The quality of beer on offer at the bar belies its small size, twelve taps pour forth some of Tasmania’s best including Moo Brew, Seven Sheds and Stacks Bluff and includes what must be the only hand pump in the state. The interstate visitor will find many beers on tap here which simply cannot be found on the mainland, the Seven Sheds Hellfire ESB and the Wineglass Bay Ale being two notable examples while I was there.
That vanguard of the Craft Beer Armada, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale is always on offer while many micros from the over the Bass Strait are on constant rotation, which is good thing as the bottle shops around Hobart are still a bit slow to catch on. Kooinda, Prickly Moses, 3 Ravens, Red Duck and Holgate have all featured at some point while even Brew Dog has been known to put in an appearance. A decent selection of Tasmanian wine is on offer as well as the Rekorderlig range of Ciders, presumably for those whom have not yet experienced the Pacific Ale.
The focus here is on the beer, and the menu reflects that. Tapas sized and styled dishes such as tempura mushrooms, dumplings and calamari are on offer and are perfectly suited to an afternoon’s drinking session. Food critics may scoff but when it comes to bars I find the quality of chips on offer is of vital importance, the humble chip being the best way to line one’s stomach if you intend to have a few drinks, a solid line of defence against the inevitable beery blitzkrieg which follows a viewing of the tap list. On this front Preacher’s does not disappoint, the golden beer battered chips come as a generous serve and are fried to perfection.
In summary Preachers is a must for the beer lover in Hobart, the only other place that compares for range and ease of access is the New Sydney Hotel further up in the CBD. So sit yourself down, have a sip of your chosen brew and consider what Preacher’s represents. When I left Hobart a few short years ago, it was a desert of Lager, where exotic meant an establishment had Stella Artois on tap. It is people like Chris, those with the courage to turn their visions into reality, to push an appreciation of good beer beyond the main centres, whom are the driving force of this movement. It is up to people like you and I to enjoy the fruits of their labours and to help them thrive.
Address: 5 Knopwood Street Salamanca Hobart 7004
Phone: 03 6223 3621