The good ship Pirate Life added more swag to its swelling treasure chest last night, picking up the Champion Large Brewery trophy at the Craft Beer Awards in Brisbane. It continues a quite remarkable start to life for a brewery that only released its first beer on March 1 last year.
On the awards' debut in Brisbane, there was hometown success too as Green Beacon collected the Champion Medium Brewery trophy as well as the Specialty Beer trophy for its Bourbon Barrel Strong Ale, a gold for its Pale Ale and a smattering of silvers.
Rounding out the brewery winners was Hope Brewhouse from the Hunter Valley in the Small Brewery category, with a string of silvers for its Robust Porter, Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Munich Lager and Hefeweizen. And Little Creatures repeated last year's Champion Lager award for its Pilsner, with the beer also named Champion Beer overall.
Pirate Life's triumph broke the winning streak of Two Birds Brewing, who had made it back to back wins in the large category in the first two years of the awards.
CEO Michael Cameron said of the 16 month Pirate Life journey, which includes winning the Small Brewery trophy at this year's Australian International Beer Awards as well as last night's Champion Pale Ale, golds for its IIPA and Throwback IPA and silver for the Hopco collaboration NZ Pale Ale: "The team in Adelaide works their arses off and they're well led by Jack and Red.
"We've one ambition and that's to make the best beer we can. If awards come, it's fantastic, but it won't distract us from what we do, which it to make exciting Australian craft beer."
The CBIA's broad church approach to craft beer meant that Little Creatures was able to flex its brewing muscles once more as well. Freo brewer Andy Scade said their success dated back to a trip back to Europe by his boss Russell Gosling.
"We love Jever from Northern Germany so when he went back to the UK two years ago he took his old man there and had a tour.
"When he came back from holidays he said, 'I've seen the light!' and we knew we wanted to change the [existing] pilsner.
"We stripped all the old hops out, only put back Perle, and cranked the bitterness up a bit." And the rest, as they say...
As for the hometown heroes Green Beacon, who came close to claiming the AIBA small brewery title in May and are set to embark on the construction of a large second brewery, delighted owner Marc Chrismas said it justified their expansion plans.
"[Head brewer] Jo has been spectacular," he added. "We've been nervous wrecks the whole week. The competition in our category has been so good."
This year's CBIA award for services to craft beer went to WA brewing guru Hugh Dunn of Edith Cowan University, whose mentorship so inspired Nail Brewing's John Stallwood that he named a beer after him.
With Pirate Life recently announcing plans to add its own distribution arm as well as significant expansion of its Hindmarsh brewery, 2016 is shaping up to be a huge year for the fast rising Adelaide brewery. And they had some words of advice for those keen to follow in their footsteps.
"The key to everybody starting up as a small brewer is never be afraid to ask for help," said Michael (above left with Red Proudfoot and son Jack collecting the Champion Pale Ale tophy). "There's a lot of people who want to help. Red and Jack know the rule at our brewery, that if someone wants to learn we will help them.
"We are in about the position where the US was ten to 12 years ago ... There's a massive opportunity."
THE FULL LIST OF WINNERS
Cryermalt Champion Beer
- Little Creatures Brewing – Pilsner
Kegstar Champion Large Brewery
- Pirate Life Brewing
Bintani Australia Champion Medium Brewery
- Green Beacon Brewing Co.
Hopco Champion Small Brewery
- Hope Brewhouse
Barrett Burston Champion Pale Ale
- Pirate Life Brewing – Pale Ale
Champion Amber / Dark Ale
- Colonial Brewing Co – Pale Ale
Australian International Beer Awards Champion Porter / Stout
- Black Font Brewhouse – Brown Porter
Chill Champion Wheat
- Stone & Wood - Gose
Lallemand Champion Specialty Beer
- Green Beacon Brewing Co – Bourbon Barrel Strong Ale
- Little Creatures Brewing – Pilsner
3M Purification Champion French/Belgian
- Nomad Brewing Co – Long Trip Saison
Gladfield Malt Champion IPA
· Murray’s Craft Brewing Co – Thunderbolt
CBIA Services to Australian Craft Beer
- Hugh Dunn