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Chuck Hahn’s 50 Years in Brewing

Everyone who was ever anyone in brewing at Lion celebrated Chuck Hahn’s 50 Years in Brewing at Squire’s Landing in Circular Quay on Monday evening.

Delayed twice this year but third time lucky, the event went ahead to celebrate the man widely considered the forefather of craft brewing in Australia. An “entrepreneur in a brewer’s body”, the evening’s tributes to him painted a picture of someone who transformed the way Australians drink beer.

A craft brewer with an international vision, last night’s video messages came from his colleagues in Colorado where he first started brewing as well as from the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese who was also in attendance. Mr Albanese’s federal seat in Sydney’s Inner West encompasses Camperdown where Malt Shovel Brewing is located.

Lion’s outgoing Managing Director, James Brindley said, “When I arrived, the job description said I was his boss but it was really the other way around.”

While son Scott Hahn acknowledged that it is not he and his four sisters who are Mr Hahn’s legacies, but rather Hahn Premium, James Squire and Mt Kosciusko.

“The beer is his legacy. And the friendships, mentorships, his shared learnings and moments of joy and refreshment that we have all come to share with you, Dad,” said Scott Hahn.

Lab technician Rob Greenaway, a colleague and friend of Mr Hahn’s for 35 years, was at the party with his wife Ros who had made their way up from Melbourne. Mr Greenaway leads the Victorian Beer Label Collections Society and presented Mr Hahn with a book filled with labels from all of the beers he has ever produced in Australia.

Brewery Manager, Haydon Morgan presented Mr Hahn with a gift from Malt Shovel -the bottle lifter off the old Simonazzi  – assuring Mrs Margaret Hahn that it is not intended to reside at the family’s home in Coogee.

Poet Tim Knight’s tribute was another highlight of the evening. The whole room was captivated as he rhymed his way through Mr Hahn’s life as a brewer, friend and mentor to many.

When he arrived in Australia in 1984, Mr Hahn described the Australian beer drinking culture as “drinking for effect: Let’s get pissed tonight”.

The petrochemical engineer was already a brewer when he emigrated from the US to New Zealand in 1981 before coming to Australia three years later, wooed by Lion’s Doug Myers who had a controlling interest in six breweries at that time.

Mr Hahn had worked with the Coors family in Colorado where he was integral to developing low carb Coors Light (before low carbs were even a thing!). At Coors, Mr Hahn said, the goal was “to make good beer which was designed by process rather than by recipe”.

In 1988, he founded Hahn Brewery and it was bought by Lion in 1993. The Hahn brand that was integral to the “development of craft beer society and culture,” in Australia, said Mr Hahn.

At Hahn, he created Hahn Premium Pilsener, Sydney Bitter and Hahn Super Dry 3.5 – “an easy drinking copy of Australia’s first pale ale: Coopers Pale Ale” he joked with Coopers’ Cam Pearce in the audience last night. A beer which, for the record, Mr Hahn noted, “is still going strong”.

In 1998, Mr Hahn renamed the former Hahn Brewery site in Camperdown: The Malt Shovel Brewery, taking its name from James Squire’s original brewing tavern ‘The Malt Shovel’.

The first beer brewed here was James Squire and he has since produced Mt Kosciusko, both of which have proved to be hugely successful for Lion. At Malt Shovel, Mr Hahn continued to mentor and support a generation of young brewers, many of whom attended the evening. They are a little older now and running their own micro-breweries. (He is pictured below with the Malt Shovel team.)

Mr Hahn has pursued innovation, excellence and transformed the way Australians consume beer. He is trying to retire but there is a brewery on Lord Howe Island in development…Brewing beer in one of the most beautiful places on the planet? An excellent retirement plan if ever there was one!