Meet the Godfather of Australian Brewing: Chuck Hahn

Written by
Vintage Cellars
September 1, 2017
Share Share to Instagram

Chuck Hahn has been an iconic member of the brewing industry since the 1980s when he first discovered the science of hops, yeast and grains. In many ways, Chuck’s the man to thank for developing Australia’s beer palate. His continuing support of the craft beer industry has transformed mere drinking brews into a strong beer culture and industry in Australia.

Chuck’s start and creating a beer culture in Australia

Chuck began his career with a degree in Chemical Engineering but came to his passion in a surprising way. ‘I went to university in Colorado, across the street from the Coors brewery,” he says. “We used to visit the tasting lounge to write up our lab reports, and I discovered I had a sensitive palate for beer tasting.”

He cites “personal enjoyment and lifestyle” as major factors in his decision to take up brewing and calls his career path “only logical to go into brewing better beers”. His other option after finishing study was petrochemical refining in Texas. Now with more than 45 years under his belt, he still loves what he does. And the best part?

‘Being able to create unique beers,” he says. “To then sample and enjoy them, and to watch others enjoy the fruits of your labour.”

Chuck’s expertise has taken him across the world but he’s most proud of his work here in Australia. “We’ve played a role in the creation of a real beer culture in Australia,” he says. “Where people are enjoying beers, tasting them rather than just drinking them and enjoying beer with food. A genuine beer culture is important.”

Slam It Down Slow

It’s an exciting time for beer drinkers, with small brewers popping up around the country and beer festivals dominating the cultural calendar. But whether you’re a sometimes drinker, or a seasoned brew-lover, there’s a proper way to tuck into a pint. Chuck explains:

“Don’t serve it too cold, or one will lose out on the beautiful hop aromas and flavours. Pour it properly into a nice glass with a firm creamy head. Experience the presentation, enjoy the aromas and savour the flavours. Slam it down slowly.”

But don’t worry, he’s not suggesting you trade in that summertime coldie. “Beers like Hahn SuperDry are brewed for refreshment and relaxation,” he says. “These can be enjoyed at cooler temperatures (3 - 5 °C) and poured into a chilled glass. On a hot day, nothing can be more refreshing than a very cold beer.”

Brewing the perfect beer and Chuck’s top three

For Chuck, the perfect beer all starts with the brew house. It’s “the most important part,” he says. “The malted grains must be cooked up properly; the wort boiled up with the appropriate fresh hops and then cooled down to fermentation temperatures.” He says while this part of the process only happens on the first day of a two- to three-week cycle, it’s the thing they must do properly right off the bat.

Brewing the perfect beer and brewing his favourite beer, are one and the same for Chuck, who says they “[they] only brew styles of beer that [they] enjoy drinking.”

“My favourite beer is the pilsner-style lager: it’s highly drinkable and refreshing. Unique hop flavours are possible using special aroma hops from all over the world. We have brewed some very special lagers over the years.

“The original Hahn Premium lager in the brown bottle in 1988, and the slightly modified Hahn Premium in the special green glass bottle in 1997/98, were both special pilsner-style lagers more in the European-style. Our Squire ‘Four Wives’ pilsner – [which is] more in the Bohemian Czech-style - is still one of my favourites.”

Ready to whet your whistle? Chuck weighs in on three of his best brews:

Hahn SuperDry

“The best of the reduced carb beers on the market. Extended time in the brew house breaks up most of the carbohydrates into fermentable sugars, which the yeast ferment away into beer. With European and Australian hops, a spicy floral aroma and character are produced. This is a fantastic beer for pure refreshment and drinkability on a hot day - or any day.”

James Squire Swindler

“A more complex and fruity finish from the ale fermentation and use of malted wheat. Late hopping in the kettle, and dry hopping in the storage tank with Eldorado hops, create a delicate watermelon, peach-like aroma.”

Kosciuszko Pale Ale

“Created in 2009 at the Kosciuszko Brewery at Banjo Paterson Hotel in Jindabyne. We brewed it to reflect the spirit and refreshment of the Snowy Mountains. Late kettle hopping with Australian Galaxy hops create that beautiful passion fruit and citrus character. We like to think it’s brewed for enjoyment after a hard day of skiing or hiking in the mountains, but it’s an ale that’s always in season.”