Trip to Tassie

Beautiful Tassie - Home of Boags and Cascade

A bit like WA, Tasmania (or Tassie as she's known) is one of those places most Australians would love to visit, but rarely do. To visit it other than by plane, you have to get yourself to Melbourne and then travel a good 10-12 hours by boat. While it covers an area of 65,000 square kilometres only 460,000 people live there (cf England's 50,000,000 people in an area double that size).

How then can such a small number of people have any impact on the world of Australian beer, pubs and culture?

Well, we can do no more than quote the Queen of Australia (and England), Elizabeth II (March 2000):

Tasmanian beer has an international reputation

What's more, Tasmania has a history that is particularly demonstrative of the cause of the Australian approach to life.  Initially established in response to a fear of French colonisation, Tasmania's first leader, Colonel Davey, was a 'jovial but eccentric man' man who, in the Australian spirit, liked a drop. 

He would frequently carouse with boon companions, including convicts, and he revelled in rough, horseplay frolics. With those who pleased him he would drink deep; those who offended him he would flog or hang. He required plenty of rum and rope.

A Short History of Australia, 1929

Of course, as with other areas of Australia, Tasmania initial growth was due almost solely due to the transportation of convicts. But, unlike Sydney, Tasmania was renound for being a particularly nasty place even in those days. 

Throughout its history as a convict settlement Van Diemand's Land [ie Tasmania] was the scene of such a degree of callous brutality as can hardly have been equalled in any other country within civilised times... slavery was accompanied by a degree of degradation and torture surpassing what prevailed in New South Wales.. from the beginning the convicts were a worse class than those who were detained in New South Wales...

A Short History of Australia, 1929

Such was the horror of the Tasmanian treatment of convicts it was common for groups to attempt to escape and 'go bush'. Most were captured and flogged or hanged - but some made it into the unforgiving wilderness only to starve. Cannibalism was a terrible reality, and on more than one occasion escapees were found delirious carrying with them half eaten hunks of flesh from their unfortunate mates

In search of paradise... 

The native aborigines did not escape the wrath of the English overlords. As our very own rummie Colonel Davey wrote in a proclamation in 1813:

The resentment of these poor, uncultivated blacks has been justly provoked by a most barbarous and inhuman mode of proceeding, viz. the robbing of their children. Let any man put his hand to his heart and ask, which is the savage, the white man who robs the parent of this children, or the black man who boldly steps forward to resent the injury and recover his stolen offspring.

Within 50 years the brutality of the English system had decimated the original Tasmanians.

All efforts to keep the race alive failed. They sickened and pined and died. Some half-casts still remain, but the last pure blooded homo tasmanianus died in 1860.

A Short History of Australia, 1929

Despite its beauty, it was a particularly difficult time and place to be alive. The tough men who did survive appreciated simple pleasures such as grog and the companionship of other males. The descendents of these men still live on the island today, and it was them, as well as their beer, drinking holes and language, that we sought out one cold Tasmanian winter. 

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