Van Dieman Brewing - A Tasmanian Success Story


Publishedon 17/12/2015 - 04:30 am

At an age when most of us were only just discovering wine comes in glass, not just casks, Will Tatchell had developed an extraordinary palate and thirst for good grog. The 33 year-old says he’d sampled every beer on the Australian market by his late teens and was already dreaming up bigger and better brews. 

As to when Will worked out he wanted to make beer his life, a vague fantasy for the general population, he can’t quite put a finger on it.

“There was no defining moment, it was more of a curiosity,” he says fresh from morning coffee and invoices.  

Will Tatchell Van Diemens Brewery

Will would ask his lecturers at the University of Tasmania to help tailor his Agricultural Science degree toward brewing then approached every brewery in the United Kingdom for a job.

A place in Cambridge took him in where Will learned the tricks of the trade and soon became Head Brewer.  He spent winters making ale and summers riding mountain bikes in France but soon a burgeoning craft beer scene lured him home in 2006. 

Along with his dad Robert, Will carefully assessed the market and a few years later, production at Van Dieman Brewing (VDB) began. Will says the timing was perfect, as VDB had got going before the rush. 

“When we started, there were five brewing entities in Tasmania. There are now 19.”

No longer reserved for hipsters and dedicated Beerologists, local craft beer (the preferred term in an industry often labeled boutique), is now offered at watering holes from Strahan to Stanley, Bridport to Bruny Island. This demand by thirsty punters for unique, artisan ale is clearly overflowing which is great for business. But Will is worried some may see the market as a quick chance for cash.   

“I’m sure most operators have good intentions but I do have concerns around a possible lack of skills and knowledge.”

Will clearly has both in spades: his brewing sheds on a sprawling family property just outside Evandale are immaculately presented and managed. What flows from each vat reflects the careful production process and offers a taste of the seasons. VDB has four core brews plus ‘mash-ups’ and limited releases, including the recently released 14% Barley Wine aged in Muscat barrels. 

Van Diemens Brewery

That’s what Will plans to sip on this Christmas Day, after VDB’s zesty White Hills and before the rich, chocolaty Stacks Bluff. He’ll spend the day with wife Kalie and their three boys, Ned, Oscar and Max who Will hopes may one day take over the VDB reigns.

As demand grows interstate, particularly in Sydney, Will remains committed to keeping locals topped up.  

“The Tasmanian market has supported us from infancy so we don’t want to strip them of stock,” he says.   

A dedicated brewer and rather funny bloke, Will has carved VDB in to a Tassie success story. Diving in to an industry dominated by the big guys, he’s created different tastes for changing palates. And he’s lapping up every minute of it.

“I don’t go to work everyday. I come here to do what I love doing.”

We’ll drink to that.

All photos courtesy of Jesse Hunniford from SCOPE