Tassievore Eat Local Challenge: Week 2: Support local business

I started to write a post that summarised what I’ve done this week for the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge and quickly realised it was going to be pretty much all about one local business. So for the first part of Week 2, I’m writing about we did on Saturday night.

We went to the Two Metre Tall Annual Beer-Fed Brisket Dinner, held at the Two Metre Tall Brewery in Hayes.

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Two Metre Tall hosts several themed dinners during the year and this was our fourth one – last year we went to the Brisket dinner, the Spring Lamb dinner, and the Christmas dinner.

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It’s local eating at its best – the beef is raised organically on Two Metre Tall’s farm (“beer fed” on spent grains from the brewery) and the vegetables were also locally sourced.

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(These were some of the vegetables served with the first course – the white vegetable is a salad turnip, which I’ve never heard of and am now on the look out for.)

It was, as always, a fantastic night, and the food was just amazing. The photos don’t do it justice. (I only had my iPhone, which doesn’t perform well in a candle-lit brewery shed.)

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I love everything about Two Metre Tall.

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(It’s OK, it’s raspberry cordial.)

Two Metre Tall’s vision statement (if that’s the right term) sums up everything I love:

Fiercely independent, we seek flavour, sustainability & truth of origin in the food we grow & make.

If you’ve ever heard Ashley speak about large food and beverage businesses, you’ll know that the term “fiercely independent” describes Two Metre Tall perfectly.

If you aren’t familiar with Two Metre Tall, then you probably don’t know me, because it’s one of my favourite places to go.

Briefly – Ashley and Jane came to Tasmania about 10 years ago to start a winery and ended up building a brewery. Ashley has pointed out more than once that the Derwent Valley is a major hop-growing region, yet there wasn’t a brewery here.

So they started brewing beers, with a view to sourcing everything locally – either from the farm or from local suppliers. The names of some of their original ales reflect their region of origin – Derwent, Huon and Forester (which has Pride of Ringwood hops from the last working hop farm in the Forester River area of North East Tasmania).

The Huon is an interesting ale. It’s a dark ale that includes 20% apple juice from Huon Valley apples. I really like it. I might be* drinking it now while I’m writing this.

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From ales, Two Metre Tall moved into apple and pear cider. The apples are an old cider variety called Sturmer Pippin, which are grown in the Huon Valley and the pears are from the Tasman Peninsula.

Two Metre Tall’s ciders are real ciders in that they are just fermented fruit – unlike many mass-produced “ciders”, they aren’t made from fruit concentrate.

Ashley has also been developing a range of soured ales, which he has gradually unleashed on his customers, to our great excitement. So far we’ve had the “original” soured ale, sour cherry, sour wild plum, oh and a sour cherry cider.

Recently we’ve been treated to the one-off “Respect Your Elder” ale, which was one of the ales (Derwent I think) with elderflowers added, and another one with mulberries.

None of this is anything like commercial beer production. It’s real, it has flavour and complexity (do I sound like a wine expert now? Probably not.) and each brew is slightly different to the previous one, just like each wine vintage is different. It’s a living, breathing beverage. (Maybe not breathing. That would be weird.)

It’s one of the things I love – the experimentation and Ashley’s willingness to admit that everything he does is a learning process and his openness about what he does and why.

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Ashley was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 and spent a month last year touring breweries in the UK, Belgium and the USA to find out more about sour and natural fermentation and about traditional brewing methods. His report is on Two Metre Tall’s website and it’s a very interesting read.

After visiting more than 30 breweries and looking at what they do, he concluded that the approach taken by Two Metre Tall is unique.

His report touched a nerve with me with his comments about how too much of what happens in the Australian market has become dominated by large interests, and about the loss of old skills that are no longer required by large industry.  He talks about how this ends up with everything being homogenous, instead of food and beverages displaying a natural variety and seasonality.

“. . . whilst it may be true that a consumer can purchase many more different types of vegetable from a country supermarket than they could many years ago, the truth is that these often plastically uniform, industrial, largely flavourless, gassed ripe, energy- guzzling cross continentally distributed imitations of the real thing present a mirage of choice and a very poor substitute for the very fresh, highly nutritious, harvested at peak ripeness and flavour, but slightly more limited numerically offerings of yesteryear.”

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The way I see it, the result of this is also a disconnect between consumer and producer – and I suppose tightening those connections is part of what the Tassievore challenge is all about.

And it’s one of the things that’s so great about Two Metre Tall. We can see the beer as it’s being brewed. We can see the beef wandering around the hills and then hanging in the cold room. We can talk to Jane and Ashley and find out exactly where everything comes from, what’s in it and how old it is.

We can come to a Friday night or Sunday afternoon Farm Bar and cook the best tasting beef I’ve ever had on a wood fired BBQ, accompanied by ales that are unique and full of flavour.

It’s a model for keeping food real and keeping it local, and is truly inspiring.

Thank you for a wonderful evening Ashley and Jane – and thank you for doing what you do.

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