Crafty Pint /
If it’s as much of a mouthful as its name, then a new beer brewed especially for Australia Day should be worth hunting down. The snappily titled “100% Australian Owned Real Craft Brewed Australia Day Ale” has been produced by Sydney brewery Redoak to be launched on Thursday at their CBD venue and a handful of other bars across the country. The idea is to promote the drinking of beer brewed by breweries that are 100% Aussie-owned, with the resultant beer described as “a big Australian ale with a large amount of hops and fresh fruit flavours, a lovely mouthfeel and huge bitterness”, one that weighs in at 6.5% ABV.
It was brewed by Hollyoak on the day he launched the Australian Real Craft Brewers Association (ARCBA), a body designed to unite local craft brewers, shortly after the formation of fellow craft brewing association Craft Beer Limited.
In a statement accompanying the beer’s release, he says: “With the recent sale of Fosters to foreign ownership, now over 91% of all beer sold in Australia is foreign owned.
“While it is sad to lose such iconic brands, not all is lost as 100% Australian owned Real Craft Brewers with real passion for Craft Beer continue to rise to the challenge and fill the void. It’s our very own Real Craft Brewers who are providing diversity, initiative and creating exciting new craft beers.”
If you can’t make it to Redoak to sample the 100% Australian Owned Real Craft Brewed Australia Day Ale – perhaps Aussie ORCBADA for short – you’ll also find kegs at Cookie in Melbourne, Preachers in Hobart, Clancy’s in Fremantle, and 3 Weeds and The Royal Albert Hotel in Sydney.
Crafty Pint /
Each year that the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll has been run, it has doubled the number of votes of the previous year. Each year, voting has also usually been open for around 12 weeks. So, it’s quite something that in just one week the 2011 poll has already broken the record for the most votes ever made. Since being launched jointly last week by its founders, The Local Taphouse, as well as The Crafty Pint and Brews News, votes have flooded in, aided by the new voting system whereby voters select from a drop down list of beers rather than having to enter their choices manually. With more beers added to those lists since it went live, there are now well in excess of 800 to pick from!
Local Taphouse founder Steve Jeffares says: “Last year, voting for the Hottest 100 was open for 12 weeks but this year it has taken just one week to surpass the same number of voters as all of last year. It’s quite phenomenal really and an indication of how many people enjoy the sometimes tortuous task of selecting their favourite five Aussie craft beers of the year.“
The new system has given the man who set it up, Andrew Mitchell, the ability to see where votes are coming from and it seems they’re flying in from all over the world. At the same time, there have been campaigns by brewery staff to try and influence the result in their favour.
“Unsurprisingly, there have been some brewery staff running a campaign to vote for only their beers,“ says Steve. "But through the sheer number of unbiased voters, we are seeing a list perhaps truly reflective of the great beers of 2011.”
Voting closes in a week’s time – at 11.30pm on January 25, 2012 – with results to be revealed at midday the following day, so don’t delay. If you’re still contemplating who to go for, don’t forget to check out the SPECIAL BEERS section of this site for reminders of around 150 of the limited releases to come your way in 2011.
And finally, a confession: we’ve not picked our five yet. But, having failed to find the time to run an article on Crafty’s Ten for 2011 as we did for 2010 due to a particularly hectic end to last year, we thought this poll was as good an excuse as any to put one together; who knows, it might act as something of a reminder too.
So, acknowledging the fact that, despite best efforts, we didn’t sample every beer to come out of Australia’s micros this year, here goes (in no particular order):
Feral Karma Citra (Black IPA)
A relatively new style that took hold of brewers' imaginations Down Under for much of the year, this was debuted at the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular in February and was the first beer to blow at both St Kilda and Darlinghurst. Brewer Brendan Varis promptly declared he was unhappy with it… It’s been tweaked since and, on last sampling, was just how you’d imagine a black IPA should be. Honourable mentions to Kooinda’s Full Nelson, a massively full on take on the style that was improbably likeable, Dr’s Orders Mind Warp and the Thorny Goat. And if Temple had released it a little earlier, who knows whether the Midnight IPA might have pipped them all?
Red Hill Bohemian Pilsner
Such is the consistency of Red Hill’s beers, many of them would have a chance of appearing in anyone’s end of year pick (well, those who are lucky enough to be able to get hold of them). Fresh, this is as good a pilsner as you’ll find: rich, full-bodied and drop dead gorgeous to look at in a glass. What’s more, we had to squeeze at least one lager into the list, surely…
Murray’s Oak-Aged Heart of Darkness
OK, so when a brewer of the quality of Shawn Sherlock tells you he’s brewed probably his best beer yet, you’re bound to be excited. And the result, this, really was a treat. That said, throughout a winter of massive Aussie stouts, the competition was fierce: Hargreaves Hill’s Russian Imperial Stout (RIS); Red Hill’s Imperial Stout; Moo Brew (Barrel-Aged and standard) Stout; Seven Sheds' Whisky Willie Warmer; Feral’s Boris; Murray’s Wild Thing; need we go on?
Bright MIA IPA
A beer that nearly killed its brewer. Well, sort of. Bright’s Jon Seltin went missing in action while indulging in the adventure sports of the Victorian Alps the day before this beer was due to be debuted at the Victorian Microbreweries Showcase. Search parties were sent out, wreaths were ordered (OK, they weren’t, but it did get pretty bad), before eventually Jon reappeared and was banished to the brewery to pack everything up ready for the trip to Melbourne. A gloriously refreshing hop monster that wasn’t actually in any way monstrous, we dearly hope they bring it back and replicate its awesomeness (without the near death experience). As above, it’s a pick that could have gone in many other hop heavy directions, not least Bridge Road’s Galaxy IPA, Hargreaves Hill’s Melanie (sorry, Topaz and Amarillo IPA), Mornington Peninsula’s IIPA (which we preferred to their single IPA), Goat’s Rare Breed IPA and old favourite, the Hop Hog.
La Sirène Saison
“You bloody what, Crafty? What the hell is La Sirène?” This. And in launching their first beer at the end of 2011, along with a promise to only ever brew French and Belgian farmhouse styles, they added a cracking take on what’s becoming an increasingly popular style. See Murray’s Le Natural and Bridge Road’s Saison for two other crackers.
Murray’s Punk Monk
Just as the rise in popularity of saisons is something we welcome with open arms, so is the steady arrival of more Belgian styles. Murray’s is among those leading the way, with this beer one that’s punk by name but actually rather smooth by nature – and one that we’d love see much more of. Running it close in the world of Belgians were Lord Nelson’s delightfully crisp Anniversary Ale, Goat’s Oak-Aged Rapunzel Mark II (much better with the spritzy addition of some golden ale pre-tapping than it had been on its first release), Ninkasi’s Angel, Lobethal’s Devil’s Choice and – other than when they experimented with the ferment temperature and made a batch that was a little solventy for our delicate nose – Little’s Mad Abbot Tripel.
Bridge Road India Saison
Well, we’ve done hoppy beers and funky Belgians, so how about a beer that combined the two? When we first sampled this, it was cold, cold, cold and all we got was a wall of Galaxy and Stella hops. When it warmed, the saison side of things came to the fore in what we can only describe as two beers in one, but two that are co-habiting in a way that Carl Williams and Matthew Johnson could only dream of.
Mountain Goat Skipping Girl
The Pacific Ale might have nailed the market in awesomely-refreshing-and-quaffable-aromatic-as-hell-hop-treats-with-a-decent-percentage-of-wheat-for-dryness-of-finish, but this – one of three Goat summer seasonals – stood up against it brilliantly for the short time it was around at the start of 2011. In fact, side by side in a pub tasting, the Skipping Girl, which used Kiwi hops to the Pacific’s Aussie, won Crafty’s heart.
4 Pines Wee Heavy
It’s probably not right to include too many beers that only appeared as one-offs, but what are you gonna do? Sue us? The beer fridge’s the only thing worth claiming! Among all the wild and crazy beers unleashed at GABS in February, this multi-layered malty marvel was one we kept going back to. OK, we kept going back to the Karma Citra, Two Hills Maibock and Holgate Empress too, but not as much as this one. A lovely rich, British style ale, which was kept good company in its field in 2011 by the likes of the Holgate Nut Brown Ale, Van Dieman’s Little Hell, and 3 Ravens USB.
Little Creatures Pale Ale
Expecting a biggie to end? Well, you got one, the biggest seller of them all. You’ll find plenty who’ll say it’s changed, it’s not what it was, and so on, and indeed the brewers do play around with the recipe. But it’s a beer that has done so much to change the beer scene here in Australia and one that never lets you down. Simply a beautifully balanced beer you can knock back at any time. In the field of tasty, session pales, Mornington Peninsula’s Pale Ale, the first beer they bottled, was mighty impressive too.
So there we go. No room for plenty of others we’ve enjoyed, others as varied as Kooinda’s Karakaberry Witbier, Feral’s King Brown, Moon Dog’s Black Lung and Mildura’s Choc Hops. No mention of a sour beer yet, but that’s going to be the story of 2012, don’t you think? All that’s left now is to work out which five to enter for the poll. Wish us luck…
Crafty Pint /
It’s a new year, so time to add some new listings to The Crafty Pint. While in NSW for Sydney Craft Beer Week late last year, we headed out on the road to visit a few more breweries, bars and a bottleshop, all with the aim of improving our coverage of the state and populating the Beer Finder a little more. At the same time as adding them, we’re also filling a few of the gaps in Victoria too. New on the site today are:
Beer Cartel – a great little bottleshop in Artarmon that grew from an online business and has plans to create an onsite tasting room.
Schwartz Brewery – a well established microbrewery in the bowels of the former Macquarie Hotel, now renamed the Schwartz Brewery Hotel, in Sydney’s CBD.
Pumphouse Bar – a striking looking venue in Darling Harbour that’s undergone a seriously beery reinvention in the past year or so.
HopDog BeerWorks – one of Australia’s newest and smallest micros, this Nowra brewery has been creating some crazy concoctions in its short lifetime.
Little Brewing – the Port Macquarie based microbrewery with a reputation for full-flavoured, true to style beers.
The Albion Hotel – the pub that, along with the Warners at the Bay bottleshop, is leading the craft beer revolution in Newcastle.
Temple – the much-admired brewing company finally opened its brewery, bar and brasserie just in time for Christmas.
Woodlands Hotel – a truly unique venue, packed with Victorian beers and wines, excellent food and some seriously out there decor.
Goldmines Hotel – part of the sudden upsurge in craft beer appreciation in Bendigo and a darn pretty hotel to boot.
Next up we’ll be adding more venues from Tasmania and South Australia following recent trips, with yet more gaps to be filled in Victoria. Then, with WA on the agenda for later this week, look out for more listings from the home of craft beer in Australia in the near future.
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering why we’re not adding listings faster, it’s because our policy is to visit every brewery, bar or bottleshop first and spend time with the owners so we can offer what we hope is a genuine reflection of what to expect from an independent viewpoint. We write the copy and take pretty much all of the photos you see on these pages rather than asking brewers or venue owners to supply their own. It’s a time-consuming way of doing things but we believe it means you get a better experience.
Anyway, check out the new boys and girls and, as soon as you get the chance, go visit them and show your support for what they’re doing.
Nick O /
In Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby Dick, Captain Ahab spent a lifetime on rough seas pursuing the elusive white whale, a journey that ultimately consumed him. To follow Ahab’s journey today there are two options: (1) smuggle yourself on board a ‘scientific whaling’ vessel, or (2) hop on a ferry to Manly where, in an infinitely more favourable twist on the tale, it will be you who will be consuming the white whale. To the great relief of animal rights activists the latter option does not mean there is a restaurant serving hari-hari nabe and to the great relief of craft beer lovers it does mean that Murray’s is now pouring its flagship Whale Ale on the peninsula.
That Murray’s has opened their own restaurant at one of Sydney’s most iconic beachside locations is perhaps the clearest indication yet that the craft beer scene has moved from dimly lit back sheds towards the mainstream. Murray’s at Manly is the newest addition to the burgeoning craft beer fraternity and as Murray Howe, owner and founder, says “in terms of location, this is the premiership”. It’s hard to argue.
Sitting directly opposite the beach on prime real estate and a prime people-watching position in the sunshine, you can now enjoy a beer good enough to match the surroundings. In fact you can, and probably will, enjoy much more than one beer. The whole Murray’s range is available, which means up to 18 craft beers on tap plus those in bottle and whatever seasonal releases happen to be, well, in season.
A dingy boozer this is not. A wholesale revamp has made the interior naturally bright and airy, with particular attention paid to making the most of the sea views – just so you remember you’re at the beach and it’s OK to kick back and enjoy yourself. That probably explains the cushy seats which make you more inclined to recline. Indeed, such is the relaxed ‘beachy’ vibe of the place it feels more like going to a friend’s modern beach house for a meal – albeit one which can accommodate 300 diners. That’s a lot of people but it’s necessary because, despite the obvious beer connection, this is a restaurant first and foremost. Scratch that, this isn’t a restaurant at all: as the menu states, it’s “a real beer and food adventure”.
What Murray’s at Manly aims to do is introduce craft beer – something not everyone loves – to people via food – something everybody loves. They’ve put together a comprehensive food menu where each item has been carefully matched with one of their beers. From the relatively simple – Fish & Chips with a Whale Ale (Wheat Beer) or Pork Spare Ribs with the Angry Man Pale Ale – to the more complex – Belgian Beef Carbonade with a Heart of Darkness (Imperial Stout) or Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee with a Grand Cru (Trippel/Golden Strong Ale) – there genuinely is something for everyone in terms of both sustenance and liquid refreshment. By serving quality food with a beer of equal quality, the overall dining experience is enhanced and customers head home with a better understanding of the virtues of quality craft beer.
As remarkable as it seems, not everyone knows about craft beer. Not yet anyway. With this in mind, dining at Murray’s is designed to be as approachable as possible to the newcomer. In addition to the beer and food matching, staff will happily give recommendations, explain curious terms like ‘IPA’ and ’hand pump’ and provide samples. Removing some of the intimidation about beer – yes, it can be intimidating – helps to get people talking about the beer which in turn is a good starting point to getting them interested in it.
Murray Howe (left) with head brewer Shawn Sherlock
Having only reopened in late December 2011 following the refit the venue is still very new, so the real test of converting the masses lies ahead. Among planned events are regular Beer & Cheese and Beer & Chocolate matching classes, as well as Meet the Brewer sessions. Pushing the quality craft beer message is something Murray’s is particularly keen to get behind, not solely for their own business but for craft brewers and craft beer in general. To that end, they also have plans for Tap Takeovers where smaller Australian craft brewers will get exposure to a market that would otherwise be virtually impossible to reach.
Murray’s enthusiasm and passion for craft beer has taken the business from dreaming of selling a keg of IPA a week in rural NSW to having a venue at one of the more prominent foreshores in Sydney. Even for an industry on the rise, setting up shop at Manly is a bold statement of intent, one which should be wholeheartedly encouraged by anyone interested in seeing quality craft beer make it into more hearts, minds and pint glasses.
Whale watching on the east coast has always been a popular activity but, thanks to Murray’s, it’s gotten a whole lot better.
Thanks to Nick Oscilowski, the man behind Water & Hops & Malt & Yeast, a blog about Aussie and Kiwi beer. A Kiwi craft beer lover who moved to Sydney a few months and was initially shocked at how little good beer he could find, Nick began to dig a little deeper and gradually found what he was looking for. That inspired him to start his blog, then he found The Crafty Pint, got in touch and here’s his first article for us. Hopefully, there will be more to come.
Crafty Pint /
Yes, it’s back – the Hottest 100 Australian Craft Beers poll returns for a fourth run, giving you the chance to tell us which beers amazed you in 2011. Since its launch by The Local Taphouse in 2008, the annual poll has doubled in size each year – in keeping with the rapid growth in popularity of craft beer. As you may recall, last year The Crafty Pint sponsored the poll and, this time around, in the spirit of togetherness, Australian Brews News is joining the action too.
As in past years, all you have to do is cast your mind back over 2011 and try to recall which beers were the standouts for you. And in an improvement on past years, the voting process has been made more user-friendly. Taphouse Ale Star Andrew Mitchell has put together a voting form – here – that allows you to pick your favourite beers from a drop down list rather than having to type them in yourself. There are around 750 in the list (yes – 750!), but if there are any you’ve had and loved that aren’t there, you can enter them in a box on the voting form and we’ll get them added pronto.
If you want a reminder of what’s been on offer this year, we ended up putting nearly 150 limited releases in our SPECIAL BEERS section in 2011 – not bad considering we’ve still got a long way to go before we’ve got listings up and running for every Aussie brewery (look out for a few new additions this coming Monday – January 16). If you visit the BREWERIES directory, you can access descriptions of all the year round beers for the breweries that are listed on the site, while brewers, bar and bottleshop owners picked some of their favourites in our state by state end of year roundups here, here, here, here and here.
Alternatively, if you already know your top five and are ready to vote, simply head here and click away.
Once again, the top 100 will be revealed on Australia Day, which means there’s less time to vote than in previous years. However, because of the spiffing new automated system, voting will be open right up until 11.30pm on January 25, just in case you need to revisit a few favourites before casting your votes. And, in keeping with past polls, one voter will be selected at random to win a case of each of the top five beers, provided those beers are available in packaged form. Where a beer isn’t available, we’ll move to the next one in the list.
“The Hottest 100 is a great idea,” says Australian Brews News founder Matt Kirkegaard. “With beer awards, there are any number of formats and ways of deciding who’s in, but sometimes it is the people’s choice approach that unearths some overlooked gems. The Hottest 100 looks at beer consumed the way it is naturally – not under award judging conditions that are usually very technical and can take beer out of its natural context.
“We often debate the merits of various beers as we convene for a cold one with our friends. This gives everyone with an opinion about a beer the chance to vote for it and see how it stacks up against the favourites of others. What’s more, Australia Day has, unfortunately, come to be associated with some of the least attractive aspects of drinking. I want to reclaim the day for beer’s best characteristic: flavour. The Hottest 100 is a popular celebration of the best beers from the best breweries in Australia and puts the most positive face of our national drink forward on our national day.”
Taphouse co-owner Guy Greenstone says: “The Local Taphouses in Sydney and Melbourne have run a Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Brews poll for the past three years with the results always causing much debate.
“We’re not necessarily looking for the number one selling craft beer nationwide. Rather, what are the favourite craft beers people have tasted this year? For the purposes of this fun poll, the beer must have been brewed in 2011 in Australia by anyone other than macro-brewers' main operations. The beer must have been commercially for sale (even if it’s just at the cellar door) on draught or in bottles.”
So there you go. Will Vale Ale follow up on its surprise victory from last year? Will an old favourite rise to the top once more? Will a newcomer appear from nowhere to surprise us? Will you find 120 awesome beers landing on your doorstep soon? Either way, grab your matres, crack a few of your favourite beers and some mates and get voting!
For last year’s countdown, head here.
Crafty Pint /
It’s time for brewers to put their beers to the test, with submissions opening today for the Australian International Beer Awards. This year the country’s largest beer awards celebrates its 20th anniversary and hopes to attract the biggest number of entries yet. Last year, almost 1,200 beers from 34 countries were entered and this year a number of new categories have been introduced to keep pace with the fast-changing beer world. Among the new categories are Champion Large Australian Brewery and Champion Small Australian Brewery, plus Champion Large and Small International Brewery. With a handful of new beer trophies introduced too, there are now 24 titles up for grabs.
The changes have come about following the appointment of an advisory group drawn from all quarters of the Australian beer industry, which has been meeting regularly since the last awards in May 2011. The committee features Bill Taylor of Lion Nathan, Brad Rogers of Stone & Wood, Chris Badenoch of Josie Bones, Leif Ryan of Phoenix Beers, Peter Aldred from the University of Ballarat and AIBA Chief Judge, Peter Manders.
Ann Houlihan, manager of Epicure Events at the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, says: “Now in its twentieth year, the Australian International Beer Awards is one of the most highly regarded awards in the industry, attracting incredibly high quality and inventive beers from Australian and international breweries.
“With the Australian International Beer Awards growing in reach and prominence each year, the introduction of the new advisory group will ensure the awards maintain relevance to the Australian and International brewing industry."
As in 2011, the judging panel will include a number of prominent overseas judges, with judging taking place at the Melbourne Showgrounds in April and results to be announced at a Gala Dinner on May 17. The dinner is one of the keys events in the 2012 Good Beer Week festival, which runs across venues in Melbourne and Victoria from May 12 to 19.
Submissions for entries to the awards close on February 10, 2012. Full details on how to enter, as well as information on the new categories and how the judging will be carried out, can be found here. Good luck, everyone!
For last year’s winners, head here.
The 2011 Judging Process
Beer Awards from The White Tree on Vimeo.
The 2011 Awards Dinner
TheCraftyPint - Australian International Beer Awards from The Post Project on Vimeo.