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Beer & Brewer Awards 2020: Best Brewer

This year, the Beer & Brewer Award for the Best Brewer goes to Will Tatchell, head brewer at Tasmania’s Van Dieman Brewing.

Tatchell, who started brewing as a “distraction” while studying Agricultural Science, has since become one of the Apple Isle’s most innovative and intriguing brewers.

“It’s terrific recognition in an industry that’s absolutely brimming with amazing brewers and creative minds,” says Tatchell. “I certainly don’t set out to brew for awards, but simply produce honest and enjoyable beers that capture our unique pocket of the world in liquid form.”

Tatchell founded Van Dieman Brewing way back in 2007, having gained extensive brewing experience working at a number of breweries in the UK. This, and his agricultural education, has stood him in good stead to become a leading figure in the Australian craft brewing scene.

“I’ve arguably come full circle with my career, having never entered the agricultural field until we began growing ingredients for the brewery here on the farm,” notes Tatchell. “Being able to draw upon a tertiary degree for
knowledge, practical brewing experience for production and a litany of great friends I’ve met throughout my brewing journey holds us in good stead for the next 30 years.”

While most of the crafting brewing trends over the last decade have focused heavily on the glories of the hop and the variants of IPA that can be created, Van Dieman has also been perfecting an increasingly popular style, the wild ale.

The rural nature of Van Dieman has nurtured a farmhouse family of beers, built not just around farmhouse yeast varieties and wild brewing techniques, but a wholesale farmhouse approach.

“My (our) focus in recent years has evolved into a holistic on-farm approach heavily influenced by the farmhouse ales originating in the agrarian borderland shared by France and Belgium,” says Tatchell. “The rustic nature of making beer in a more simplistic and authentic environment drives my process.

“We’re creating totally unique and completely brewerygrown, single origin beers in Estate Ales (using our selected house yeast) and Australian Spontaneous Ales using a coolship (koelschip) vessel for indigenous yeast inoculation.

“We’re utilising grains and hops grown on the brewery farm and subsequent malting and kilning on-site, a spring-fed water source, and foraging the countryside for wild flora and indigenous wild yeasts; we are returning to how local farmhouse brewing existed in a previous life, back to its agricultural roots.

“This concept drives my focus day to day from a brewing operations perspective and also on-farm decisions for brewing purposes. Our ability to actively control, influence and manage the entire process from ground to glass is incredibly rare in any industry these days, and something we’re proud and protective of, and something that I believe matters to drinkers.”

As well as continuing his work integrating the brewing process with the growing process – growing hops and barley, and malting that barley – Tatchell is installing a cellar door/taproom facility at the farm.

He hopes to have it open in late 2020, giving fans the chance to visit and explore the world from which these beers come. And what does he hope to see from the brewing industry as a whole?

“I’d love to see more industry engagement from breweries in order to continue to develop the industry as a whole. We can become so engrossed in our own businesses that’s sometimes it’s great to step away, albeit briefly, and gain some perspective of what’s happening outside your four walls and how contribution to the industry as a whole can be achieved – even if it’s as simple as a regular catch-up with a group of local brewers.

“The single greatest part of the beer community, and by far its biggest asset, is its people. There’s simply no other industry that’s as welcoming, hospitable and nurturing than ours.”

The winners of the 2020 Beer & Brewer Awards can all be viewed in the Summer Issue of Beer & Brewer. To subscribe, click here.

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