Cascade’s former head brewer, Max Burslem, has retired after 42 years with the brewery.
It was rather daunting to first meet Max. He started brewing the same year that I was born and is a physically imposing man with an even more imposing reputation. Even though I was into my thirties when we met, I had to consciously prevent myself lapsing into long-forgotten schoolboy manners and answering his questions with a “yes sir” when we spoke. Even “Mr Burslem” seemed far more appropriate than the,”I’m Max” with which he introduced himself. I’m not entirely certain that after a beer or two in the Cascade Visitor’s Centre I didn’t inadvertently let a “Mr” or a “Sir” slip at least once.
While more formal addresses may be appropriate given his stature, “Max” is perfectly appropriate for his manner. He is a brewer and a gentleman of the old school and, though carrying more than a touch of a gentleman’s reserve, is a warm, thoughtful and generous host. Based on the stories that some older beer scribes and brewers relate, I have an equal measure of relief and regret that I have never been caught at the bar with Max late at night when some of that reserve has given way to the inner raconteur.
As a brewer Max is one of the rare creatures that balances the commerce and the craft of brewing, making beers that are critically appreciated while at the same time making beers that are widely accessible and popular. In an increasingly corporatised brewing world where brands are all-too-often bland and interchangeable and the brewers anonymous, Max is a rarity.
He has left some very big shoes to fill for his successor Mike Unsworth, the size of which Mike realised from day his first day in Australia in February this year. Mike, who came to his present job from the UK, says that when he first arrived in Australia unheralded and without any fanfare, he jumped into a cab at Hobart Airport and asked to be taken to Cascade Brewery.
“You the new head brewer then,” the cabbie asked.
Max has been as much a part of the identity of the Cascade brewery as the distinctive brew house with Mount Wellington behind it.
Good luck Max. [MK]
Cascade Brewery Co, Australia’s oldest operating brewery will say a fond farewell to local legend Max Burslem after an incredible 42 years of employment at the brewery. A Tasmanian icon and the former head brewer at Cascade, Max will finish up his extraordinary tenure at the end of this month.
For Max, his career spanning four decades has not just been a job – it’s been a lifelong passion and, despite a revolution in beer over that time both in terms of style and drinking trends, Cascade Draught is still his favourite.
“Cascade beers are among some of the best in the world because we use the best Tasmanian hops, the best local barley and the purest Tasmanian water. Even after all this time I’m still a Cascade Draught man,” says Max.
Max has been at the forefront of quality production and innovation at the brewery, most notably being involved in brewing Cascade’s innovative and renowned vintage brew, First Harvest ale. As the name suggests, the beer relies exclusively on the first harvest of Tasmanian barley and hops. Always using three new and experimental hop varieties to produce a limited release ale, First Harvest is highly anticipated by beer lovers every year because of its remarkable intensity, balance and unmistakable fresh hop character. Max’s final involvement in the 10th anniversary 2011 First Harvest brew was a fitting tribute to his inspiring time at the brewery.
Proud to have been a part of the talented and passionate Cascade team for such a long time having first started at the brewery in 1969, Max could never imagine doing anything else. Since that time the local brewing industry, so ingrained in Australian culture, has seen many changes and Max has been there every step of the way.
“A lot has changed, things have come and gone, but my affection for this brewery and the beer it produces remains unchanged,” Max said.
Stepping down from the position of head brewer in February of this year, Max assumed the role of transformation manager at Cascade. Through a smooth transition process Max was able to share his significant experience and knowledge of the brewery’s operations with new head brewer and general manager, Mike Unsworth in the months leading up to his retirement.
Max plans to enjoy retirement at his weekend shack at Bruny Island, enjoying the fishing and sharing some tall tales over a Cascade beer or two with friends. His incredible service to Cascade was officially celebrated with a party where he was joined by family, friends and the team at Cascade in late October.