Darren Magin /
It was only a matter of time before something like Band of Brewers happened in Brisbane. There’s an unfathomable amount of beer love around town so it should be no real surprise that local craft brewers have taken the community spirit one step further and come together as one.
Spearheaded by Fortitude Brewing Co’s national sales manager Dan Rawlings, the Band of Brewers is a new collective of brewers from South East Queensland that plans to release a collaboration beer every few months. And it’s one that will evolve too because the representative craft breweries – and their brewers – will diversify every so often.
The plan is that every participating brewery will take a turn in hosting and producing a batch of beer. The first brew took place recently at Fortitude’s Noisy Minor brewery. In the driving seat were Ian Watson (Fortitude – above left), Simeon Bonetti (Brisbane Brewing Co – above right) and Mark Howes (Newstead Brewing – above centre).
The next brew will take place at Newstead and the third will be hosted by Brisbane Brewing Co.
As the foundations are laid and the Band grows, more breweries will come into the mix and others will take a step back.
"There are no set rules with the Band of Brewers,“ says Dan. "It’s supposed to be fun with no set timeframes and certainly no boundaries. It’s a great opportunity for local production brewers to stamp their name on a beer and shine.
“This time around, for brew number one, three head brewers have taken the reins. However, next time there’s absolutely no reason why somebody that works in the background at, say, Newstead for example, can’t devise the concept for our second beer.
“It’s also a fantastic chance for everybody to learn new techniques on different, unseen brewing systems. It really is all about sharing the love that is craft beer in Brisbane.
As for the beers that will bear the Band of Brewers banner, Dan hopes that they will explore new avenues or experiment with new ingredients rather than plunder reserves of hops or aim for massive alcohol content.
"We all want to use the Band of Brewers as a platform to explore things that we’ve never tried before such as brewing with ingredients that aren’t used everyday,“ he says. "This will be a common theme. We aren’t out to set records with big ABV beers. We want to show Brisbane what can be achieved by funnelling our communal desire to brew good, craft beer.”
Mark, the appeal is very much around engaging with his crafty comrades.
"The whole concept of Band of Brewers is very exciting. We get to share ideas and thrive on each other’s perspectives,“ he says. "We want to give something back to Brisbane that we – as a craft beer community – can be proud of. As a collective with a single identity we’re able to showcase what we can do at a different level.”
With such an enthusiastic beginning to what promises to be an adventurous journey, Brisbanites can certainly expect a few treats. At present, there are no immediate plans to bottle any of Brisbane’s free flowing beer love; instead each brew will generate a limited amount of kegs which will be tapped at selected venues across Queensland’s capital.
The brewing of the first batch appears to have passed without incident.
"We had a blast!“ says a jovial Sim. "The hosting brewery was super hospitable. Special thanks to the Dan Rawlings personal taxi service up and down the mountain complete with cock-rocking beats and corny jokes! Everyone enjoyed an eye-opening exposé of the brewery and went home with a new trick for their own kit. Beery ideas and anecdotes were thrown around like paper planes in a playground.
“It was such a good feeling being surrounded by like-minded people who share, love and care for the good beer industry."
Details surrounding the inaugural Band of Brewers beer are currently a closely guarded secret. What we do know is that it will feature at the Band’s official launch at South Bank’s Tomahawk Bar on a date yet to be finalised. To maintain an air of suspense in the lead up to this and future releases the Band of Brewers are urging those with an interest to keep an eye on social media for clues.
Follow the Band of Brewers of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@bandofbrewersbrisbane).
Darren Magin is the author of the increasingly inaccurately named 250 Beers blog.
Crafty Pint /
A new competition that will allow Australian craft brewers to pit their beers against each others launches next week. The inaugural Craft Beer Awards: the Best of Australian Brewing is a new venture by the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) that will focus its attention solely on beers produced by smaller Australian breweries. Entries open next week with judging set to take place over two days during this year’s Sydney Craft Beer Week before awards are presented at a ceremony on October 24 at which beer lovers are encouraged to join brewers at the Giant Dwarf Theatre for a night of Aussie craft beer, canapes and BBQ food.
The awards are open to any brewery or brewing company based in Australia that is eligible for CBIA membership, which includes those with an output of up to 40 million litres per annum.
“We are very excited by this,” says CBIA chair Dave Bonighton. “The CBIA’s purpose is to be the independent voice shaping and driving the future of Australian craft beer and holding our own awards has always been an important part of achieving this.
“Competitions have many benefits for the industry: quality improvement, professional development for participants and providing further marketing opportunities for the successful beers among them. Being able to put Champion Australian Craft Beer on the side of the bottle will be a major coup for one Australian brewer.”
The awards will slot in alongside a number of existing commercial beer competitions in Australia. The Australian International Beer Awards is now a quarter century old and pits the best of Australia – craft and otherwise – against hundreds of entries from across the globe. Then there are a number of state-based awards, such as the the Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show, the Perth Royal Beer Show, the Royal Adelaide Beer Awards and the Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show Beer Competition.
The aim with the Craft Beer Awards is to offer something that is exclusively Australian and craft by CBIA’s definition and also truly national.
Says Dave: “Up until now the Australian brewing industry has been lucky enough to have had the Australian International Beer Awards and the respective state based competitions but we have never had a national competition focused solely on craft beer. The Craft Beer Awards will allow Australia’s craft brewers to have their beers benchmarked against those of their peers."
The lineup of judges features a host of experienced faces, many of whom have judges overseas as well as at Australian competitions, including two from overseas (see below for full list). The CBIA is also establishing an Associate Judges programme to “bring on the next generation of judges”; details to follow soon.
Entries will be judges in nine categories (to be confirmed next week) with trophies awarded to the best beer in each category. The trophy winners will then be judged against each other with the winner taking the title of Champion Australian Craft Beer.
Awards will also given out to the best performing Large (300,000 to 40 million litres per annum), Medium (50,000 to 299,999 litres per annum) and Small (up to 49,999 litres per annum) breweries .
A new award is also being introduced: the CBIA Services to Australian Craft Beer award, which “will be the chance for the industry to recognise one of the many individuals whose tireless efforts have helped build this fantastic industry,” according to Dave.
Entries open on August 4, with judging taking place on October 21 and 22 and awards being presented at a ceremony on October 24. Full details of the Craft Beer Awards including style guidelines, entry fees and the judging system will be available on the Craft Beer Awards 2014 page of the Craft Beer Industry Association website from August 4.
The awards presentation ceremony will be held at the Giant Dwarf Theatre, 199 Cleveland Street, Redfern. Guests will be able to sample from a wide range of beers that have been entered in the awards while dining for the evening will be provided by David O’Brien of Food Rascal: a range of canapés and a BBQ serving Ranges Valley Wagyu brisket and Kurobuta pork-shoulder rolls.
Tickets cost $95 and are available through the Sydney Craft Beer Week website. The full program for this year’s festival is now live too.
CRAFT BEER AWARDS JUDGES
Pia Poynton /
There is an American style India pale ale brewed in the heart of WA’s Swan Valley that took home the trophy for Champion Australian Beer at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards. By name it’s an animal, but it’s probably not the beast you think it is…
Mash Brewing, based in WA’s Swan Valley, took out the top beer trophy for Copy Cat, an American style IPA (AIPA) first brewed earlier this year as a draught-only release but now out in bottles too. Head brewer at Mash, Charlie Hodgson (above left at the brewpub), named the beer as a tongue in cheek reference to the proliferation of AIPA beers being released by craft brewers across the country.
“We thought we would play copy cat with the style and essentially turn our Pale into something big and brash and go to town with some of our favourite hops,” he says.
It is Charlie’s first stab at an AIPA and not too shabby for that, whether according to the AIBA judges or those hop-loving drinkers who have been lucky enough to try the beer. Normally someone who favours traditional English style beers – the ones with which he cut his teeth as a home brewer – Charlie found the buzz around heavily hopped pale ales hard to ignore and decided to challenge himself to create his own.
“I love designing and refining beers and get a huge amount of job satisfaction out of what I do here,” says Charlie of his two-and-a-half years at Mash, the brewery he joined after time spent at fellow WA brewery Gage Roads. Already a fan of Mash beers when he started – and the man the brewery’s owner had wanted to install as head brewer from day one before he opted for Gage – when he finally arrived at the brewery in West Swan Road, he felt it needed a little focus and began working at putting his own spin on the beers.
“We are fairly traditional brewers with a subtle twist,“ he says. "We love to throw in old school raw materials like peat and rauch [smoked malts] and always have something with rye in it.”
The latest rye brew is a 4 percent ABV rye porter which Charlie describes as “a classic, subtle new age spin on a beer style that originated a couple of hundred years ago – without going nuts on it."
Charlie and his AIBA trophy haul
With the release of their new rye porter just around the corner and their Copy Cat AIPA unleashed in bottles it feels like Mash are about to make a little noise. It’s a noise that should be heard on a much wider scale than it would have been just a couple of years ago. After some earlier, less than successful, attempts to send beer across the Nullarbor to the east, Mash owner Brad Cox had been looking for a second brewery on the East Coast where the brewery’s beers could be brewed fresh for the country’s largest beer market.
When Melbourne’s 3 Ravens was put up for sale following a dispute between its owners, he stepped in, Mash became the new owners and the brewing team in Melbourne added some of Charlie’s recipes, such as the Challenger English IPA, to their schedule.
It’s a combination that has delivered results Brad could never have imagined. As well as Mash taking home the Champion Australian Beer, 3 Ravens took out Best British Ale and Champion Small Australian Brewery this year. The hook up means that Copy Cat isn’t just been brewed in greater volumes for the West Coast but is now being brewed, kegged and bottled at 3 Ravens for the rest of the country too.
“We need to make hay whilst the sun shines and while our name and brand is in the spotlight,“ says Charlie, "and show the public how good and consistent all our beers are.
“Mash in my opinion is and has been a bit of a sleeper in the craft beer drinkers' opinions. Hopefully this will earn us some cred and we can show off what we can and have been doing week in and week out since the brewery opened in 2006.”
Mash Copy Cat is available at Cellarbrations at Carlisle, Mane Liquor, Aubin Grove Liquor and Cellarbrations at Willagee in WA already with more stockists to come and deliveries of the East Coast version (whose hops pretty much destroyed the filter at 3 Ravens) began to craft beer venues last week.
Pia Poynton writes the girl + beer blog and handles the Crafty Pint WA Twitter account.
Crafty Pint /
New figures just released from a nationwide survey seem to support what we know: craft beer is on the march. Figures from a pool of approximately 20,000 Australians questioned about a range of habits by Roy Morgan Research indicate that the number of people in Australia over 18 drinking a “craft beer” in any given four-week period rose from 3.5 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent in 2014. They believe this means the number of Australian adults trying craft beer has crept past the one million mark for the first time.
Before we go on – and without wishing to be drawn into any debate over exactly what craft beer is or isn’t – a little clarification as to how the research was carried out. The questionnaire completed for Roy Morgan by 20,000 people includes questions on a whole range of topics, including habits surrounding alcohol. In both 2010 and 2014, respondents were asked if they had consumed any of the following five beer brands in the preceding four week period: Matilda Bay Beez Neez and Fat Yak, Cascade Pure (now discontinued), James Squire and Little Creatures.
Leaving aside how “crafty” you might consider some of these, that the same spread of people responded to the same questions about the same brands four years apart and the results indicated an increase of more than 60 percent over the four years is a positive sign. What’s more, respondents told researchers that those of them consuming mainstream beer had declined from 36.7 percent to 31.9 percent, with imported beer consumers up from 14 per cent to 17.3 percent. This research is different from that measuring volume of beer consumed, where total “craft beer” consumption is believed to have crept beyond 3 percent, including Matilda Bay, James Squire and Little Creatures, with approximately 1 percent of beer volume consumed in Australia produced by the country’s small, independent breweries.
According to the report from Roy Morgan, entitled “Nothing bitter about craft beer’s rising popularity”, the growth is strongest among 25 to 34-year-olds:
“The growing popularity of local craft beer is being driven predominantly by those under 50, with 25-34 year olds leading the way. In 2010, 7.9 percent of 25-34 year olds drank craft beer in an average four weeks, but this has since grown to 10.7 percent.
People from New South Wales and Queensland have taken to craft beer with particular zeal. Between 2010 and 2014, NSW’s craft beer drinkers grew by 186,000 people, while in Queensland an extra 99,000 developed a taste for it.
Lead researcher Angela Smith told The Crafty Pint: “You are seeing most alcohol in decline, so it’s a nice story to see [craft beer] is growing. There is a lot more interest. The good news is that it’s got over that one million mark.”
You can read more about how they carried out their research – and find out how to order more detailed reports – here.
The rise and fall of Aussie beer habits
Dave Bonighton, co-owner of Melbourne’s Mountain Goat and head of the national Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA), says: “Those figures don’t seem crazy. It’s really hard for me to speak with any certainty [without knowing more about the research] but I’m really optimistic about where craft beer is going. We’re still working off a low base and still have a long way to go to catch up with countries that we compare ourselves to, such as New Zealand and the US.
“But if we can double the number of people drinking craft beer and double it again then we can start talking about good numbers.”
In Spring, CBIA will send out its own surveys to all Australian breweries as it looks to assess the size and growth of the local industry, measuring employees, total output and the like. The first survey was sent out in September last year.
*Anyone wishing to find out more about the Roy Morgan research can reach Angela Smith on (02) 9021 9101 or by emailing Angela.Smith@roymorgan.com.
Crafty Pint /
Several of Melbourne’s top craft beer venues were among those honoured at the inaugural Time Out Melbourne Pub Awards. Pub of the Year went to The Terminus in Fitzroy North, People’s Choice went to The Local Taphouse St Kilda and Best Beer List went to the startling success story that is The Park Hotel in Werribee. Other gongs on the night went to Fitzroy’s Rose Hotel, which picked up the Legend Award, the Builder Arms took Best Pub Food and the owners of Footscray’s Reverence claimed Publican of the Year, with Best Family-Friendly Pub going to the Edinburgh Castle in Brunswick, Revival Award to the Savoy Tavern in the CBD and Best Entertainment to Mick Thomas' Yarra Hotel.
The awards took place last night (Monday) at the Gasometer, opened by Time Out editor and recently published author of Cherry Bomb, Jenny Valentish, before the mic was handed over to Good Beer Week co-founder Miro Bellini for the remainder of the evening, which, in a neat touch, ended with him handing the top prize to the owner and manager of the pub that has been Good Beer Week’s Festival Hub for the past two years.
Being named Pub of the Year continues a fantastic run for The Terminus. Long renowned for the quality of its restaurant, it was transformed little more than a year ago when a drive-thru bottleshop was demolished and replaced with a “craft bar” and beer garden. Now it has 32 taps pouring 16 frequently changing beers, two kitchens offering differing cuisine and staff that know their stuff – yet remains a pub where you go and watch the footy too. In the space of six months, it has been named Melbourne’s best by both the Herald Sun and Time Out Melbourne.
“I was shocked,” said owner Russell Griggs (pictured above holding the award), who teared up while accepting the award with manager Edward Harley. Having invested heavily in improving the pub over the past four years, he said: “It’s great to win it against a fantastic list of pubs; I said beforehand I thought it would go to the Great Northern.
“We invited a load of the staff along, not because we thought we were going to win but as a thanks, so this is great for them. At the end of the day, as good as the beer is and as good as the food is, the main thing people take away is the type of experience they have and that is down to the staff – they make the place.”
The Park crew celebrating Best Beer List
For the team from The Park, which opened in nothing less than a craft beer desert less than two years ago promising to bring 16 taps of quality beer to Melbourne’s west – plus heaps more in bottle – it was yet more confirmation that there was method in their apparent madness. Seriously, who would have forecast a pub in Werribee winning Best Beer List in Melbourne two years ago?
“I’d have said, ‘Bullshit!’,” says Park co-owner Isaac Zietek.
“We’ve had as many as 500 beers on our list and they fly out the door. With each week that goes by we sell more of the good stuff.
“People [in that area] were asking for a good place to go and have appreciated what we are trying to achieve and enjoy the variety of what we offer.”
The People’s Choice Award will have to squeeze into the trophy cabinet at The Local Taphouse alongside all their others, with co-owner Guy Greenstone saying: “It means that people are enjoying what we’re doing.”
Another gong for The Local Taphouse
It’s no mean feat, with the venue opening as a dedicated 20-tap craft beer bar seven years ago – well before the craft beer scene took off in earnest and south of the Yarra where the beer scene lags well behind the north – and it has continued to blaze a trail, coming up with a host of firsts in terms of events, tap takeovers and more. The secret to keeping things fresh, says Guy, is “encouraging our staff to come up with new ideas, whether that’s in the kitchen or behind the bar.
“Ultimately, it’s about great craft beer, great food and a great environment but also about having fantastic staff.”
The winners appear alongside other pubs in a new publication from Time Out Melbourne: a guide to the city’s 50 Best Pubs according to their writers.
The full list of winners from the Pub Awards is:
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
The Rose Hotel
Best Pub Food
The Builders Arms
Highly Commended – The Fitzroy Pinnacle
Best Beer List
The Park Hotel
Highly Commended – Gertrude Hotel
The Yarra Hotel
Highly Commended – Northcote Social Club
Highly Commended – Reverence Hotel
Highly Commended – Prahran Hotel
Publican of the Year
Highly Commended – The Terminus
Crafty Pint /
Technology has been used to enhance beer tastings in Australia before. Venues such as The Local Taphouse St Kilda have beamed in brewers and experts via Skype or other means to take part in their appreciation sessions from wherever they are in the world. But now a Sydney bottle shop is planning to take things a step further and beam a brewer into the homes of anyone around the country wishing to take part.
Beer Cartel has long been at the forefront of using technology smartly on its award-winning website and now plans to use the site to run beer appreciation / meet the brewer sessions that anyone can attend without leaving the comfort of their armchair. The first of their Sofa Sessions will feature David Padden from Riverside Brewery (pictured above), who will be filmed at Flat Rock Brew Cafe – where there will be a live audience – discussing his brewery and the four beers being showcased on the evening, with the video streamed live over the Beer Cartel website. Those wishing to play along at home just need to order a mixed pack of said beers from the bottleshop, which will arrive on their doorstep in time for the event.
We posted a listing for the event a couple of weeks ago but figured we should find out a little bit more about what the guys at Beer Cartel hope to achieve with this new concept so posed a few questions to one of the store’s owners, Geoff Huens.
Where did the idea come from?
Geoff: A couple of years ago I was on a beach in Fiji thinking of ways we could do things differently with our tastings utilising technology. The idea of ‘Skyping’ in brewers who were in situ in their breweries to an audience sitting in our tasting room came to mind. However, within a week of being back, The Local Taphouse in Sydney announced their first Ale Star Skype session with Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery!
Fast forward a couple of years and the initial idea had stuck with both Richard and I. Building on this, Richard suggested instead of ‘Skyping’ brewers in, why don’t we ‘Skype’ them out to peoples' homes and mail them out beer packs prior to the event using our existing relationship with Australia Post. We then went about approaching Riverside and Flat Rock to see if they would be interested in being part of the first Sofa Sessions Tasting event.
Has it been done before elsewhere?
As far as we can tell this is the first time in the world this format has been done, i.e. a live in-venue and in-home online beer tasting run concurrently with beers sent out prior to the in-home audience, encouraging those at home to host friends for the event to make it more social. The format will also be very interactive for participants and we will be recording it too so that anyone can then view it afterwards.
How interactive will the sessions be?
In a nutshell: very interactive! During the event the platform will not only allow us to broadcast live audio and video but it also comes with the following functionality:
- Q&A board for the home audience – they will be able to type questions that we can ask Dave live during the event.
- Voting polls during the event, e.g. how they rated each of the beers they are tasting or ask them what they thought of the overall event
Further to this we will be:
- Encouraging attendees to ask questions via Twitter – this can be from either the live audience or the in-home audience
- Encouraging attendees to send photos via Twitter or post them to our Facebook page. For those hosting a few friends on the night at their house and participating in the event we’ll have a prize to give away which they can enter simply by tweeting us a photo on the night of the group enjoying the beers.
- We will have a roaming microphone allowing the live audience to ask Dave questions which will also be broadcast live.
Home from home for the Sofa Sessions
Do you think people will set up their own groups at their homes?
Yes, we’ve already had people buy a couple of packs to be delivered to the same location indicating that there are multiple people heading to the one person’s home to participate. Also, initial chatter on social media has also indicated people will be getting together to make a night of it, which is great as craft beer is better when shared with like minded people.
If it goes well how often do you plan to do them?
After this event we have another one already in the works for Sydney Craft Beer Week with an innovative international brewer. Once the SCBW team have listed the events online (July 28), tickets for this will be available – we’ll keep the brewer under wraps for now!
Once these two are done we’d be looking to make it a regular thing, with the main consideration being lead times to ensure we can get beers out to people before the event, so it’d probably run every two months.
The first Sofa Session kicks off at 7pm on August 19. Anyone wishing to take part can order packs of beer for $25 via the Beer Cartel website here, where they’ll also find details of what technology is required – essentially a working computer with internet connection and sound should get you where you need to be. There are tickets available for anyone wanting to attend the event at Flat Rock Brew Cafe too.