The annual First Harvest ale puts CUB’s considerable marketing resources behind a product that showcases beer’s raw ingredients in a way that lifts their profile and takes the story of beer to a wider audience. The annual celebration of the harvest at Hop Products Australia’s Bushy Park Estate sees a collection of drinks, travel and food writers, and assorted other media personages, introduced to beer as an agricultural product and the effect is quite surprising. It’s fascinating to see their eyes opened to the fuller story of beer and beer making as they walk among the hop bines, soon after to climb to the top of the Cascade brewhouse to empty the freshly-picked green cones into the steaming kettle. It’s an experience that can really change perceptions about beer and, ultimately, the way journalists cover it.
Funnily enough I have said all that before, several times. And that really is the challenge faced by a beer such as First Harvest – finding something new to say about it each year. Finding something to generate interest and coverage.
Over the decade-plus it has been brewed, the craft market has changed and fractured. Given the excitement I recall from beer drinkers a decade ago when First Harvest was released, it’s curious to hear people now say it’s not the most adventurous of the hop harvest ales available these days. Sure, it now competes against fresh-hopped IPAs and all manner of other beery inventions, but its relevance shouldn’t be lost. The beer itself hasn’t changed. It’s still a very good drinking ale, one that showcases the fresh hops to good effect. Isn’t that enough?
If it’s not, they have celebrity chef, Ben Milbourne, on board to create some buzz around it. The Tassie boy is a good fit for the brand and the meal he prepared for a hosted vertical tasting was a treat, by all accounts. It would be great if Cascade published some of his matched recipes for the punters at home to play along…
Anyway, it’s released tomorrow. Look out for it. [MK]
Beer lovers can’t wait to get their hands on the 2013 Cascade First Harvest Ale
Only 5,000 cases available from 15 May
Wednesday 15 May marks the release of Cascade Brewery’s highly regarded First Harvest Ale. Brewed using freshly picked hops and the first barley of the season, Cascade First Harvest Ale is a celebration of the best of the Tasmanian hop harvest, a significant time on the brewing calendar, which is to beer what ‘vintage time’ is to wine.
This year culminates in the twelfth vintage of the Cascade First Harvest Ale, the first craft beer in Australia to use freshly picked hops in its brew.
Overseen by head brewer Mike Unsworth, Cascade’s First Harvest Ale, was truly ahead of its time when it was initially brewed in 2002 using three different ‘experimental hops’ that had never been used in commercial brewing before, each offering different flavour, aroma and bitterness qualities.
Continuing the tradition, each year new hop varieties are used, picked fresh from the bines(equivalent to vines) and are added to the kettle within hours making the beer unique compared to most other beers, which use dried or pelleted hop varieties. This year, the hops are named after the mountains surrounding the Derwent Valley; Wellington – the hop used for bitterness, Belmont – a flavour hop and Field – an aroma hop, and the brewing team is extremely delighted with the results.
“The 2013 First Harvest Ale will again live up to expectations. It has an aroma of prominent fruity notes with smoky overtones, while the palate exhibits flavours of peach, with a spicy finish ensuring a complex but balanced beer,” says Unsworth.
This year, Ben Milbourne from Masterchef (2012) has joined the Cascade team to collaborate on the launch of the 2013 Cascade First Harvest Ale. In March, he joined the brewers at the hop harvest and has since designed a number of bespoke dishes to match the beer, all featuring local Tasmanian produce such as abalone, Huon Valley Salmon, Freycinet Shellfish and Cape Grim Beef.
In addition to freshly picked hops, Cascade First Harvest Ale uses the first barley of the harvest. All of the ingredients are instrumental in creating the fresh hop character, flavour intensity and balance the beer is renowned for. Today, it joins a number of other increasingly popular Australian craft beers, which are helping drive the craft beer phenomenon, a category which has grown (in volume terms) 45.5% in the last year alone*.
A single-batch, limited edition beer, Cascade First Harvest Ale is regarded as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Cascade range and is made exclusively using Tasmanian ingredients. The fresh hops are combined with pale malt, which is malted at Cascade (the only brewery in Australia to do its own malting), a small amount of crystal malt, Cascade’s exclusive yeast and Tasmanian water.
Established in 1824, Cascade proudly holds a revered place in Australia’s brewing history as the oldest operating brewery. “First Harvest is a beer that pays homage to Cascade Brewery’s history and continues to celebrate the brewer’s skills and commitment to brewing quality handcrafted beers,” says Unsworth.
To mark the latest release of the ‘limited edition’ 2013 First Harvest, Cascade has created a short ‘limited edition’ film of the handcrafted brewing process, which can be viewed only 5,000 times before it disappears. It will be live online from Wednesday 15 May.
In addition to watching the film, beer fans are advised to get in quick as only 5,000 cases of 2013 Cascade First Harvest Ale will be available nationally from 15 May at select liquor retailers nationally. It can also be found in draught on tap in a handful of venues in; Tasmania, Victoria.
*Category includes Coopers (excl. SA), Lion (James Squire, Little Creatures) and CUB (Matilda Bay, Cascade). CUB calculation based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its ScanTrack Liquor Service for the Beer Category for the Australian Scan liquor market. (Copyright © 2012, The Nielsen Company.)