Already this year hundreds of new beers have been released by Australian brewers – many by breweries that didn't even exist until this year. So, while we're not big fans of lists here at Crafty Towers, we felt it wasn't the worst idea to take stock at the midway point of 2016 and reflect on some of the best new releases to date.
We put the feelers out to our merry band of contributors around the country, asking them for their favourite new brews from the past six months. Of a broad and diverse list of responses, just 12 beers appeared multiple times. Four of those made three writers' lists, seven of them clocked up two, while just one collected four, making it top dog of the year – so far – for the Crafty Pint collective.
So, here's a look back at what we reckon are the best new releases of 2016 so far.
Do you agree? Or did we miss out any crackers?
Boatrocker Brewery – Ramjet
What else is left to be said about this palate-pleasuring, barrel-aged imperial stout? Apart from the fact that it now has its own day: 100 people paid $150 each to be at the Boatrocker Barrel Room for Ramjet Day to enjoy the new beer and previous versions multiple ways – and leave laden with cases of it to take home.
3 Ravens – Double IPA
The year started well for lovers of big, tightly constructed hop bombs as 3 Ravens opened its Little Raven limited release account for 2016 with this excellently executed US-inspired Double IPA. The Thornbury brewer – now home to a ten tap bar too – has followed up with a fine Double Black stout and an Aussie twist on this DIPA too.
Hawkers Beer – Imperial Stout
Co-founder Mazen Hajjar loves imperial stouts and his head brewer, Jon Seltin, used to brew a top notch one at Bright, the Stubborn Russian. Their combined efforts produced this impeccably balanced, big (at 10 percent ABV) yet smooth beer with its roots in the English originals. Look out for a bourbon barrel-aged version to follow.
Holgate Brewhouse – Wild Red
The Woodend brewery is well into its teens now and can have produced few finer beers than this beer inspired by Flanders red ales such as Rodenbach. They aged a red ale for months in a number of barrels before sampling and blending the best of them. The result is a beer of great depth and complexity across the board.
Pirate Life – IPA
Adelaide's hop maestros did it again, with their latest hop forward drop slotting into their lineup between Pale Ale and IIPA, adding some Kiwi hops to the mix – as well as another eye-catching can design – and winning approval from all and sundry once more. The brewery also collected the Champion Small Australian Brewery title 14 months after launching.
Bad Shepherd Brewing – Oatmeal Stout
Cheltenham's Bad Shepherd has quickly shown itself to be one to keep an eye on. Its welcoming brewpub has been busy from the off and brewer Dereck Hales' transition from homebrewer to commercial operation has been seamless. His second dark beer appears to be finding as much favour as his first, last year's Hazelnut Brown.
Bruny Island Brewing Co – Farm Ale
About time Tasmania appeared in a best of list; the state, presumably due to the joint tyrannies of population size and a paucity of breweries servicing the mainland, hasn't had a beer in the Hottest 100 in years. One of a plethora of new breweries in the state, Bruny Island's first release, the Farm Ale, drew high praise from our Tassie selectors.
Blackman's Brewery – Reginald IPA
Not technically new in 2016 as it was available on tap when the brewery opened, Reginald nevertheless appeared in a new format and more widely when it became the Torquay brewery's first canned release. A fruity, well balanced take on American IPAs, it also came out top in part one of our IPA Blind Tasting.
Exit Brewing – Saison
We've made little secret of our affection for Frase and Grum's saisons: beers #001 and #006 were variations on a theme before they released their core range. The Saison was the last of the four to appear, and again saw them tweak the recipe. Here, the idiosyncratic Sorachi Ace hop is the key ingredient in a fine New World interpretation of an old style.
Fixation Brewing Co – IPA
Another beer that, technically, first appeared in 2015, this one only started making inroads into some markets – and into bottles – in the past few months, meaning it was new for some of our contributors. And those who've enjoyed its wonderful showcase of US hops, including the judges that awarded it an AIBA gold, won't quibble at its appearance here.
Gage Roads – Little Dove
Speaking of AIBA (the Australian International Beer Awards), there wouldn't have been too many predicting Gage Roads would take out the title for Champion Australian Beer. Yet the reinvention of their beers and brand continued apace with new release Little Dove, a big, hoppy New World pale created by the entire brewery team, taking the top gong.
Two Metre Tall – Soured Wild Plum Ale
We're pretty sure the latest version of this barrel-aged beer from Ashley Huntington's funhouse first appeared last year but it only made it to other states in 2016. In doing so, it snapped up a vote from the east coast and the west. It's been another good year for Two Metre Tall this year, with Noma asking them to create a beer (of sorts) to open proceedings at its Sydney pop-up.
So, two imperial stouts (and a smaller stout), three IPAs (and a bigger one), a couple of New World pale ales, a pair of very different barrel-aged sour beers and a single saison – probably a reasonable summation of where the Aussie craft beer world, and more discerning drinkers' tastes, are right now.
With plenty of votes cast and so many beers to choose from, there will no doubt be some that you'd have liked to see there. If so, we'd love to know which beers have made a mark on you in the comments below.
Others that cropped up in our whip round of the country included plenty of hops – Goat's Japanese Cowboy, Murray's returning Spartacus, Akasha's massive Wooden Leg, Cavalier's Idaho IPA showcasing new hop variety Idaho 7, and Moo Brew's Harvest black IPA to name a few. And there were many beers put forward from some lesser known breweries, including Wollongong's Five Barrel ESB, Rogue Wave's Sea Shepherd beer Moby, Black Hops' Assault Trifle, FogHorn Brewhouse's No Sleep Til Nelson, Shenanigans Brewing's The Dude Abides Ale and a plethora of mentions for new Tassie breweries – Winston's Wet Brown Dog, kick|snare's Raspberry Sour, Double Head's Pilsener and Last Rites / Spotty Dog collab Last Dog.
Special mention to Hobart Brewing Co, whose beers one contributor wanted to nominate en masse, and 4 Pines, who picked up four votes but all for different beers. That said, three of those were for beers appearing in their Black Box of Dark Ales, suggesting that's worth hunting down too.
So, do you agree? Has your favourite brewery been overlooked? Are there beers we simply have to hunt down lest our 2016 be poorer without them?