January 26th, 2011 by Crafty Pint
Well I never. WTF! Knock me down with a feather. And other assorted idioms. Who saw that coming? That being the news that Little Creatures Pale Ale has been usurped at the top of The Local Taphouse’s Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll for the first time in three years by McLaren Vale’s Vale Ale. The beer didn’t make the top 100 in 2009 but came out on top in by far the biggest poll to date. What’s more, their Dry Lager also made the top ten.
It means Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale (formerly Draught Ale), which The Crafty Pint figured was the only beer with a chance of toppling the Freo favourite, finished in third – still a big leap from its 14th place in 2009. Feral took another top slot for WA with its Hop Hog rising from 7th to 4th while, rather splendidly, the one and only beer from Kooinda – the brewery originally built by a group of friends and their families in a suburban Melbourne backyard that used swimming pool water for its cooling system – rounds out the top five.
The Local Taphouse’s Steve Jeffares, who began the annual poll in 2008, says: “Brilliantly utilising social media and its extensive email database, McLaren Vale ran a great campaign and came out on top as a result. Little Creatures Pale Ale remains phenomenally popular while Stone & Woodâs Draught/Pacific Ale came in with a bullet (as Molly Meldrum would say) to third position. As the number of voters around the country skyrocketed beyond the hardcore craft beer fans, it is not surprising that the more widely distributed craft beers are rising to the top. But there are some wonderful exceptions. Feralâs Hop Hog IPA and Kooinda Pale Ale enjoyed a staggering rise in popularity, the latter particularly notable given such humble beginnings in a Melbourne garage only a few years ago. Further down the results makes for captivating reading as some one-off beers received strong support given their very limited availability.”
As Steve points out, the upper echelons of the list have a greater number of more mainstream craft beers than in previous years, with the likes of James Squire, Little Creatures and Cooper’s faring particularly well. Consequently, a few past favourites from smaller micros have slipped out of the top ten, such as Mountain Goat’s Hightail, Hargreaves Hill’s ESB and Murray’s Icon 2IPA.
This year’s top ten is:
1 McLaren Vale Ale
2 Little Creatures Pale Ale
3 Stone & Wood Draught/Pacific Ale
4 Feral Hop Hog
5 Kooinda Pale Ale
6 Matilda Bay Fat Yak
7 White Rabbit Dark Ale
8 James Squire Golden Ale
9 McLaren Vale Dry
10 Hawthorn Pale Ale
With three times as many voters as in 2009, the poll sponsored by The Crafty Pint drew by far its biggest response yet. And among the old favourites and occasional shock, it’s great to see so many beers that have only had one limited release, often in very short runs, appearing on the list as Aussie brewers push the envelope and – when they get it right – find drinkers more than willing to reward them for their creativity. We’re talking Nail’s Clout Stout at 21, Murray’s Spartacus at 28, Bridge Road’s B2 Bomber at 32 and many more. And, with breweries from all over Australia represented on the list, signs are positive for the future growth of craft beer.
“We were stunned by the response to this year’s poll,” says Steve. “We had three times as many voters as last year (which was double the first poll) proving that an ever growing number of craft beer lovers are enjoying the fun – yet challenging – task of listing their five favourite craft beers of the year. Reading on The Crafty Pint how hard brewing identities found it to name their favourite five beers of the year made me feel much better about how long I took to cull and organise my list!”
It’s not just McLaren Vale celebrating today, however. Victoria’s Leigh Camilleri is going to prove pretty popular with his mates as he’s the lucky voter selected at random to receive a case of each of the top five. Enjoy!
So, what do you think of this year’s poll? Did your favourite beer fare better or worse than expected? Do you think the beer scene is Oz is looking healthy? Any surprises on the list for you? If you’ve got any feedback, either email firstname.lastname@example.org or add a comment here and we might print the best in an end of week roundup. And, if you missed the link above, you’ll find the full 100 here. Cheers!