When Ashley was awarded the Churchill Fellowship in 2012 the brewing industry in Australia was quite different. There were just half a dozen small brewers in Tasmania (now there are more than 20), and the general understanding of wild fermentation and souring of ales was in terms of faulty brewing. It was a hard time in the life of the business; the trip to Belgium and the USA was a watershed moment for Two Metre Tall. Without this opportunity to talk with brewers on the other side of the world who were also working in the field of natural and wild fermentation, Ashley believes he would not have had the confidence to follow the same path with his brewing project on a farm in the Derwent Valley.
In the two and a half years since the trip, Two Metre Tall has fully embraced natural fermentation and developed a better way to communicate their message to the consumer and the beverage industry. Raising the public’s awareness of sour brewing and wild fermentation, really engaging with them both at the Farm Bar and on social media, and expanding sales further across mainland Australia has seen a growing interest from people keen to enjoy beverages with at least as much complexity as wine – and maybe more.
Winemaking was Ashley’s life for nearly a decade in the Languedoc region of France before he moved to the Derwent Valley with his wife, Jane, and their two children in 2004. Now he spends all his time in the fermentation of grains and fruit other than grapes.
The most recent new interest in the business has been international, with Ashley’s first container of ale and cider being sent to the USA – an opportunity that emerged from direct contacts made during his Fellowship trip.
Closer to home but also with an international twist, world-class Danish restaurant NOMA relocated for a ten- week ‘pop-up’ to Sydney, opening on Australia Day 2016. The restaurant’s head sommelier commissioned Ashley to brew a beverage that would be served on their Wine Degustation menu instead of champagne – which has turned wine industry convention on its head! Ashley came up with a blend of cider and ale called ‘Snakebite’ – an imaginative reinterpretation of an Australian classic.
Ashley believes he is extremely fortunate to be working in a field that he is passionate about. Somehow, going to work each day does not feel like work when you are so intellectually absorbed and fascinated by what you are doing.
When he is not at work, though, he will be cooking up a storm in the kitchen at home. His passion for his beverages extends to anything else that tastes wonderful and he spends much time fermenting and baking sourdough bread or home curing his hams and salamis. Of course, the latter are made using his own farm-raised Wagyu/Angus beef and Berkshire pork.
Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016)