Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A day in the Derwent Valley

It was a freezing day yesterday, but sunny, and at least the rain held off till later, when Rita took a group of nine on an Eco Tourism-focused trip up the Derwent Valley.

We had two destinations – firstly at the Two Metre Tall boutique brewery just outside Hayes, then on to Hamilton to Curringa Farm. Both venues are exceptional places, with the focus being on, first and foremost, the ultimate in hospitality treatment, then usage of local products, and people.

As these businesses are totally reliant on repeat business (as is every other business in the world, except many don’t seem to capitalize on this seemingly minor fact), they concentrate on what might seem to some as small things, but let me hasten to assure you not only do they do this but they do it way better than many restaurants and cafes I’ve ever been to.

Both businesses are small operations, especially in the case of the Two Metre Tall brewery, which is owned and staffed only by lovely Jane and her cheerful husband Ashley Huntington – two mainland ‘imports’ who lived and worked in winemaking in France for a number of years before returning to Australia to continue their passion. They looked round at what was happening in the winemaking/growing industry round Australia, then decided there was a distinct lack of specific beer growing/making in the country.

With wine being Ashley’s area of expertise and training, it was easy for him to transfer that knowledge and experience to the beer side, so they then looked at the best place in Australia for them to be able to do this – and Tasmania was the obvious choice! And aren’t we lucky to have them here?

They tested the market slowly and quietly at first, using the St Ives brewing facilities in Sandy Bay, then decided to commit so did a deal with Federal, who own St Ives, and now have the brewing outfit that previously graced St Ives at their brewhouse outside New Norfolk.

They are only interested in quality not quantity so small production of specialty beers using local products, as well as growing and developing their own hop plants for the beer is the direction they have taken. That way they have total control of the provenance of their ingredients. They use Lucaston Park apple juice to add body and flavour to one of their beers. They have been experimenting with finding older hop varieties and trying to get them growing again.

They are the most interesting and stimulating people, and their business, even though it is still in fledgling stage, is destined to grow immensely. They are to be admired and respected for what they have already achieved, and the value-adding they are bringing to both the Derwent Valley, and Tasmania.

Curringa Farm involves more people but is principally owned and run by Tim and Jane Parsons. They have three accommodation chalets on the property, offer tourists and visitors a total farm experience, and are doing their ‘bit’ for tourism, as well as running their farm sustainably using the most enlightened methods combined with the previous experience and knowledge of the property having been in Tim’s family for six generations.

They run sheep there; they have the accomodation, and they grow cabbage plants for seed development for Taiwan, as well as poppies.

Tim has to be the ultimate in cheeky boys grown up! I look at most adults and they just seem like adults. I often wonder where the child they used to be went. It’s rare to find an adult who retains, and manages to incorporate, the child they once were, but Tim is one of the rare ones. He is hugely charismatic and personable.

Tim takes on the farm tour aspect of the experience, with Jane superintending the catering side. We ate the most simple but absolutely delicious steak, salad and potatoes, then a Coconut slice, served with cream and drizzled with fruit puree. I picked up that the Coconut slice was actually the old Impossible Pie recipe which I’ve made as THE easiest dessert for the past 40 years, and still people are impressed and love it, as they did yesterday at the farm. We also drunk Jane's special home made lemon drink, which was gorgeous, and dipped our steaks in her beautiful chutney.

The food was unpretentious but perfect, and more than satisfied everyone present. Jane and Tim, along with Christine in the kitchen, did a wonderful job of demonstrating exactly what the word ‘hospitality’ means. I wish everyone in Tasmania could go up there and work a week with these wonderful ambassadors of good manners, charm and innovation – hopefully a bit of that true, dinky-die, home-style, honest, old-fashioned courtesy, friendliness and thoughtfulness would rub off.

Did you pick up that I was impressed? Well done. I was. Both these businesses deserve mega-success, and I wish them well.

If anyone wants a tour of the Two Metre Tall Real Tasmanian Ales brewery, you’ll need to call Jane or Ashley on 6261 1930 to ensure they are there. They are more than happy to open up any time and talk about their product, but can’t wait round all day, every day, on the off-chance that someone might call in! Ditto for Jane and Tim at Curringa Farm. Call them on 6286 3333.
Posted on by Rita
1 comment


Anonymous said...

I saw the farm on TV tonight. Looked like you said Rita and they serve bbq as a meal to all there visitors.