Catherine Stark is Managing Director and Co-Owner of Seven Sheds Brewery based in scenic Railton, Tasmania. Since its inception in 2008, Seven Sheds Brewery has maintained its original backyard premises where visitors can meet the brewers, see hops growing and of course taste the delicious brews.
A tourist trail afficionado and advocate for women in the brewing industry, Catherine has been instrumental in developing the Cradle Coast tourism industry over the last 20 years. Her enduring contribution to the region’s economic development has been holistic, far surpassing the boundaries of agri-tourism.
How have you helped shape the region you live in?
My region is Tasmania’s North West, also known as Cradle Coast. Driving through the region you will see Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail signs, Northern Forage signs and several local government visitor centres and attractions that I’ve been involved in developing or managing since arriving here in 2002. I also helped to establish the Taste of the North West as an annual event in Sheffield and with my partner established Seven Sheds Brewery and Base Camp Railton visitor accommodation.
I planted the seed that brought Saturday morning parkruns to Railton and have contributed to the Wild Mersey Mountain Bike Advisory Group as a community representative. I’m also a volunteer director on the board of Kentish Financial Services Ltd, which owns the Community Bank Sheffield & Railton Districts and a member of the Cradle Coast Authority’s Regional Economic Development Steering Group.
Why should people visit Tasmania’s North West?
There’s something for everyone! Tasmania’s North West is the premium food and beverage touring region in Tasmania and is also home to fantastic activities ranging from rugged wilderness areas such as Cradle Mountain to family-friendly beaches including Turners Beach and Boat Harbour, activities ranging from gentle to extreme including walks, mountain biking, horse-riding, mazes, wildlife, canyoning, caves and water sports plus beautiful road-trip scenery. The climate is mild with four distinct seasons: gorgeous spring flowers, lovely mild summers, autumn leaves and snow-capped peaks in winter.
How visible are women in the brewing industry?
Many of the smaller breweries are co-owned by husband and wife teams who each work as hard as the other in different roles but generally it’s the head brewer who is recognised and that is still most likely to be a man. There are some fantastic examples of women in the industry including pioneers Sam Füss from Philter Brewing and Jayne Lewis ex-Two Birds Brewery (which was recently sold to Stone and Wood), Corinna Steeb from Prancing Pony, Jaz Wearin from Modus Operandi, industry advocate Kirrily Waldhorn and Independent Brewers Association CEO Kylie Lethbridge. Women are a bit more visible on the Independent Brewers Association Board – three out of seven!
During COVID-19 I attended a Zoom session with the Tasmanian chapter of the Independent Brewers Association where I was the only woman. I have noticed at food and beverage events that consumers (men and women) still tend to look for the male brewer and assume the female is hired help for the event. I had a recent experience in my own cellar door when a male customer, after many questions directed at my partner, then turned to me and asked “And are you just along for the ride?”!
What is your vision of how the Tasmanian tourism industry could evolve?
There’s still a lot of room for growth in food and beverage, particularly for food producers who can step into the niche agri-tourism space and chefs keen to offer creative menus based around local produce. We’re seeing a lot of demand when travel is unrestricted and the challenge going into the future will be retaining what is special about Tasmania.
Before COVID Tasmania was starting to see impacts from mass tourism, including huge cruise ships and applications for hotel developments that exceeded height limits in Hobart’s CBD. It would be great to focus on how we can prosper sustainably, without buying into the continuous growth mantra. Do we want another Gold Coast, or can we evolve into a truly special place to live, work and play?
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.
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