The Year In Beer 2012: WA

The Year In Beer 2012: WA
December 21 2012 by Crafty Pint

Western Australia: it’s to craft beer in Australia what Iraq is to human civilisation. Home to dozens of craft breweries, including some of the country’s very best, as well as some spectacular bottleshops and, slowly but surely, a growing number of bars getting on board the craft beer bandwagon.

The past year has seen ups and downs, with WA brewers collecting their usual swag of awards, many celebrating significant milestones and others expanding significantly. At the same time, Lion took the decision to close down the Swan Brewery and also bought up the remaining shares to give it 100 per cent ownership of the state’s flagship Little Creatures, a decision whose impact beer lovers will be watching with keen interest in 2013, especially with the head brewer having decided to pursue other opportunities at Camden Town Brewery in London – one of many parting company in recent months.

WA also celebrated its biggest WA Beer Week in 2012 as well as hosting the first South West Craft Beer Festival in the Margaret River, a festival that returns in a few weeks time. Still, enough of our words, what were the past 12 months like for those on the ground…?

Darcy Travers, manager at Clancy’s City Beach

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Clancy’s City Beach – jealous much?

So, 2012: how was it for you?
I imagine it was the same for the most part of the craft beer industry in 2012: we had a pretty explosive time. Being in our second year of trade and having a smoothly running venue I was able to spend a little bit more time focusing on building our beer list from the 12 strong stubby list we started with to the 70-plus stubbies that we now have in the fridge as well as working on the three rotating guest taps that have seen some 60plus beers; perhaps not the greatest amount of beers rotated through a venue’s tap points this year but a list I am proud of.

Looking forward to 2013 I can’t imagine what’s going to happen, 12 rotating taps and a list of 400 stubs…? I’ll start dreaming and scheming.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
Obviously it would be impossible to discuss 2012 beer highlights without mentioning Good Beer Week, with a multitude of beerific events at such a variety of venues and GABS taking craft beer events to an international level. I think it really set in place a precedent for the following countrywide explosion of beer festivals. All of a sudden, like a bed of sunflowers, there seemed to be craft beer festivals popping up everywhere. I thought it was a fantastic sight to see so many people get behind craft beer and spreading the good word.

A little closer to home we saw WABA get a slight re-shuffle and although sad to see John Stallwood leave the seat as President it was nice to have a new breath of life breathed into the organisation. The appointment of Steve Brockman as the events and media co-ordinator, a man with an exceptional amount of energy, ideas and gusto for the industry who managed to lead WA into our biggest beer week yet. It showed a lot of promise for future festivals in the state and brought a few obscure venues into the fore of the beer world as well as bringing together the already established beer culture we have in the state.

With respect to beer I think that WA has really picked up its boots with regard to single batch beers with Charlie Hodgson out at Mash Brewing, Jan Bruckner at Last Drop, the boys at The Monk, Mal of Colonial Brewery (pictured above) and obviously the gents of Feral fame all producing some interesting beers this year. It was also good to see Will from Feral named young brewer of the year and receive some recognition for his part in the success of Feral as well as seeing Nail Brewing getting their beers out and about now that they have the capacity to do so.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
It is obvious that the craft beer industry in Australia has grown substantially over the past year with breweries opening their doors nearly monthly and brewery after brewery trying to push the boundaries of style guidelines and create beers that test the palate and keep the industry interesting.

There seem to be a few breweries out there at the moment that are willing to create beers simply because they want to brew what they want to drink rather than letting market forces dictate which style to brew (insert lager here); some of these beers are a bit experimental and could potentially sit on bottle shop shelves for quite some time yet still a handful of brewers are prepared to make them. I think this is a big part of what makes the craft beer industry what it is and allows brewers to call themselves artisans and craft brewers.

My utopian craft beer industry is full of innovators not market researchers and I think there are a few people in the industry that fit the bill. Albeit frustrating at times to watch internationally owned ‘craft breweries’ imitate real craft breweries or incorrectly market mass produced beer as craft, I think it shows that the small breweries that battle it out day to day and produce what they want are definitely onto a good thing and they have a fair future ahead of them. Soon enough we will all be able to sit around with glee and watch iron men and bogans drink berliner-weisse.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
Besides iron men and bogans drinking berliner-weisse? Nothing really. Although a full strength craft beer at the footy would be nice; we could be waiting a while longer than 2013, however. Alternatively, perhaps a shift in the beer lists in more venues. The ball has started to roll and I hope 2013 will see another wave of venues putting craft beer on their menus. I still find it annoying to go into a venue and find three pages of wine and then three lines of pale lager.

I would also love to see some more experimental brewing: wine barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels, watermelons, peaches, wasabi peas, coffee beans, black/white/red – saison/ipa/…, waffles, peated malt, wacky yeast, wild yeast, candy sugar, smoked malt, chocolate, 2 per cent, 12 per cent: I love things that sound stupid and somehow work.


Steve Brockman, as of now “former” joint head brewer at The Monk and WABA Media & Events Co-ordinator

Paul_Left-and-Steve_Right

Steve (right) with fellow Monk brewer Paul Wyman

So, 2012: how was it for you?
STEVE: 2012 was a pretty damn good year, to be honest. The first full calendar year of brewing for both Paul and myself down at The Monk was an eye opener to say the least, but I think we weathered the storm and put out some pretty good beer. It was great to attend Good Beer Week in May; having so many great brewers in the same city is always going to be fun.
WA’s industry and the Western Australian Brewers Association have been as active as ever; the 11th annual WA Beer Week (November) was more successful than the last couple of years. This year has been a opportunity to get to know more of the brewers and the craft beer people within WA and further afield who make up our great industry. To pinch a much used phrase from GBW: “Beer People are Good People”; it’s never more true than in 2012 for me.
PAUL: 2012 has to be one of my best years yet. It was my first full year of full-time brewing after completing the Post Graduate Brewing Degree at ECU. Having all that spare time to focus solely on the brewhouse has been amazing, tweaking our recipes, keeping on top of our processes and making sure we are creating the best beer we can. Clearly, all of this dedication must have paid off with us securing a bag of medals this year and one trophy. All in all, 2012 has been spectacular and can’t wait to bring on 2013 for big and better adventures!

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
STEVE: So many! But if I had to name a few…

Attending my first AIBA awards in Melbourne at the end of a very big GBW. A big cheers to everyone I met during the week, and to everyone involved behind the scenes in putting on a wonderful beer week.

Having our second batch of The Monk’s winter seasonal – The Bounty Coconut Stout come out even better than last year’s lot, despite the technical difficulties in doing a double batch of it.

Due to lack of Citra, our American Style IPA, The Chief, was brewed with a revolving door of different American feature hops. We called it the ‘Superhop’ Editions, and there were some cracking beers. Centennial was a personal favourite, while Amarillo found favour with most of the public.

Our 250th batch as The Monk went through in June(ish) so to celebrate we decided we’d invite as many friends, regular customers and ex-employees of the Monk to cram in and have a party. After a long 14 hour brew day, we produced a huge 250 IBU American Style Imperial IPA, and we were pretty worried about it straight up after ferment because it was just so big. Five months worth of cold ageing saw it mellow out, and the resulting Three Fires IIPA became one of my favourite beers I’ve brewed.

The Perth Royal Show beer awards was a personal highlight. Although we won quite few medals and a trophy, my highlight of the night was the raucous cheer from the crowd when we won Best Ale Draught. The roar of approval and congratulations from fellow brewers to me is more of a slap on the back than the trophy itself. You don’t brew beer for awards, you brew beer to put out the best beer you possibly can, because you’re passionate about great beer. The big cheer was more of a recognition that fellow brewers, who I respect and admire, see our passion and encourage it.

And last but not least, WA Beer Week this year was personally very satisfying. It showed, without much prompting, WA could come together and put on a great beer week. The whole thing was free for breweries to enter, run by people volunteering their time and a vast majority of events were free or very cheap, which resulted in lots of passionate beer people doing beer events because they really wanted to, and punters being exposed to that level of passion. It was very much a community effort, and excitingly one that I see growing organically over the next couple of years.

There were also a heap of small moments in there – people met, beer tasted, events – all of which continue to remind me that I’m in the right job.
PAUL: Personally, to re-medal all of our beers at AIBA was a highlight for someone who was fresh out of the ECU Brewing Course. Then to take that bout of confidence into PRBS and get a trophy for Best Draught Ale in WA was just mind blowing! I am still in shock that our Chief IPA was put above breweries like Feral, Mash, Gage Roads and Matso’s when we only run a very hands on 600L kit with not much automation.

On the beer side of things, it was enjoyable to redo our ‘Bounty’ Coconut Stout again and see so many people enjoy it on so many levels. It has a real cult following now and it’s what makes you get up at 6am in the morning to do those long days. Also brewing the Sweet Potato Porter for GABS was a lot of fun, thinking we need to go a little crazier next year though after seeing this year’s entries.

The beer of the year for me though, has to go to our 250th Brew. What a monster, 12 malts and 13 different hops, 250IBU, 250min boil etc etc… turned out be an absolute gem and scored us another Gold Medal at PRBS. On the lager side of things, we had another stellar year with our Marzen coming up a treat after being ‘lagered’ in tank for two months and now our new Mexican ‘Vienna’ Lager should be hitting the taps anytime soon. It is tasting delicious and the perfect way to start the hectic Summer months for us.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
We’re pumping along quite nicely I reckon. While there may be a bit to do on a national scale to get ourselves organised across the board (a beer events calender would be nice, to avoid the festivals on top on festivals we’re beginning to see more and more of), the work being done within the national bodies is definitely improving the industry. I think everyone across the board is experiencing growth, or at least a increased demand for their product and I like the fact that Aussie drinkers are starting to question what goes into their glass.

If you ever needed confirmation at craft beer is here to stay, Lion’s takeover of Little Creatures, an acquisitions to bolster their craft beer stocks, was, for me, a big barometer of how big craft beer is getting. In the same calender year, Lion has made the very sad decision to close Swan Brewery. When it closes in March, the book closes on 175 years of brewing history. A lot of very good brewers have also been made redundant, but I just think this provides a great opportunity for craft breweries to step forward and fill the void left.

Gage Roads and Little Creatures will duke it out for the official title of WA’s biggest brewery, but it’s the fact we no longer have a ‘big commercial’ brewery left in WA means it’s going to be a very exciting time in WA for the next couple of years. Already we’re seeing beer starting to blur state lines more and more; a couple of WA breweries are continually pushing for national coverage, and east coast breweries are regularly popping up on West Aussie taps.
PAUL: I feel like the Australian craft beer industry is going from strength to strength every day. After travelling all the way from Queensland to WA last year, it has been such a joy to be stuck right in the middle of a true craft beer state and see it firsthand. Plus to travel across to Melbourne for Good Beer Week and to see all of its happenings was just such an eye opener.

It really makes you feel proud to be part of such a special industry, which has so many niches to it. You don’t have to look any further than Queensland to see how the industry is growing rapidly, since I have been gone some six or so small craft beer bars have opened up with great success and it is paving the way for a hand full of microbreweries to have a go as well. It is a really exciting time for our industry, fingers crossed we can all come together as one and keep it growing so the craft beer scene just isn’t another fad that dies out.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
Well it’s going to be a very big year! As of this week I’m no longer at The Monk. My girlfriend, Steph Cope, (former brewer at Gage Roads) and myself have a exciting little project going on, stay tuned for more details around Christmas/New Year’s.

For the Australian industry, more good beer in more places. It’s as simple as that. More craft breweries producing more beer, with more ‘megaswill’ being replaced by local, craft brewed beer and more punters drinking craft. A national level education program for both hospitality and consumers would go a long way in helping this happen.

For WA, a continued push to engage all members of the craft beer world over here should be WABA’s focus. We have Edith Cowan University’s brewing course and pilot malting facility, two or three very strong home brew groups, a fantastic group called the Beer and Beef Club (WA) which continually supports the ECU course and a growing number of craft savvy hip bars and restaurants in Perth’s gigantic redevelopment. Engage all of these people and add this on top of a well established brewing community and the current roster of great craft beer pubs and I have no doubt WA will be one of the best spots in the world for craft beer.

I’m looking forward to a a very big year!
PAUL: Hmmm I haven’t thought that far ahead, still just trying to see out 2012 at the moment. An all out fantasy would be to see the Monk finally get out in to the wholesale market and get out beer flowing across some the best craft beer bar’s in Australia.

Secondly would have to be having another strong showing at the AIBA and PRBS so I know we are still at the top of our game and ready to take our beers to market without the worry of harsh critics in Twitter world (Ha ha!). I might just bite my tongue and go with the old additive that if you expect nothing, then you get everything!

I just look forward to being part of another gigantic year for craft beer no doubt and watching it all unfold in the comfort of my brew house in Fremantle and hopefully with a beer or two. Plus sharing it with all you awesome beer loving people out there, that keep us motivated to keep being better at what we do. Cheers!


Brendan Varis, head brewer at Feral

Feral-1

So, 2012: how was it for you?
2012 was a huge year us. With our new brewery getting started mid year it meant we had transitioned from being a predominately brewpub based business to a distributing microbrewery.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
We turned ten this year but didn’t have time for any major celebration. The biggest highlight for us though was being able to get the brewing of our bottled Feral White back under our own roof. I’d say the biggest mistake we’ve made in our ten years of operation was letting that beer be contracted brewed so when we first saw it roll off the end of our little bottling line and it was tasting just as it should there was a real sense of righting a wrong.

Personally, I really enjoyed getting up to the UK and brewing an IPA at Banks Brewery in Wolverhampton. We used all Australian hops in real high dosing rates in their ancient open square fermenters. The beer that came out was just great and was really well received.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
It’s a great time to be in craft beer. At times it feels like there is an almost insatiable thirst for the stuff. Just about every brewer I talk to is increasing capacity or upgrading equipment to help quality or something like that. It’s not a time to get complacent though; brewers need to keep up all the efforts in educating beer drinkers and managing quality and everything else that has been done to get to the industry to the point we have today.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
A HOLIDAY!

We’re with you there, Brendan! Congrats to all involved in a massive year for craft beer in WA. And massive thanks also to Pia and Jeremy, who have been supplying The Crafty Pint with a steady stream of articles on the WA scene.

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