Such is the popularity of IPA in Australia right now that even spread over two sessions, focusing solely on New World style "straight" IPAs and with a few examples we were unable to source, part II of our Blind Tasting still saw 22 beers presented to the panel. Taken together with part I, which focused on IPAs between 5.8 and 6.4 percent ABV, that meant 40 beers were assessed under our version of competition conditions.
If you were to take into account beers tagged IPAs that come in at less than 5.8 percent ABV (the point we chose for the cutoff as it's the strength of the country's best known IPA, Hop Hog, which Feral now packages with a cross through the India of India pale ale) plus those carrying a prefix such as session, double, imperial, black, red, white, rye and so on, it's clear that, just as in the States, plenty of Aussie beer drinkers love their hops.
So what did we make of the bigger beasts – those clocking in at between 6.5 and 7.7 percent ABV?
Before we reveal the results, you can check out the article on part I of our tasting for some background on how these tastings were approached and also learn how we operate the panels here. And, if you'd like to learn about IPA through history, check out Chris Brady's excellent article here.
Other than one commercial brewer replacing another on the panel, the six tasters were the same as for IPA part I. There were two exceptions among the beers that were tasted too; we'd been unable to source a couple of Queensland beers that should have been in the original tasting so had picked some up while in Brisbane recently. These were included in the tasting and are presented below where they would have finished, but italicised to indicate they were outside the criteria for the panel. We felt this made our efforts more complete and will allow us to pass feedback on to the respective breweris.
Every beer was purchased from retail, rather than sent by the brewery as in beer awards judging, with particular thanks to Matt King, AKA Crafty Pint SA, for sending bottles from South Australia and getting them to Crafty Towers in perfect condition.
Having commented on the higher than usual overall average score last time around – hoping that this was a sign of improving standards in the Australian beer industry – there was a downturn here in terms of overall quality. That said, in many cases, it would appear that poor scores were due to age on the beers; comments such as "Was probably once a good beer" were relatively common. Indeed, there was one beer that was accidentally included in the last tasting when it was outside the ABV range, went on to score really well but then scored much lower this time. Presumably, this has to be the result of an additional seven weeks in bottle.
That said, if brewers are willing to put their beers into retail, including places where they'll sit in ambient warehouses or on shelves rather than in fridges, then you'd hope they're being brewed to a standard where they stand up for several months without fading significantly or falling apart.
Those at the upper end of the table – like last time – were generally among the freshest. And, pleasingly, the highest scoring among the top ten (plus two) presented deliciously. If anything, it reemphasises the importance of trying to obtain such beers as fresh as possible and from a trusted source where you know the beer is well looked after.
We had our first ever podium tie, with Pirate Life and KAIJU! achieving the exact same score. Meanwhile, just days after its Thunderbolt was named Champion IPA at the Craft Beer Awards, Murray's hoppiest ever beer came out on top, scoring a full one point out of 25 more on average than those in second.
As a side note, we discovered that after the last set of results was published, one of the stores stocking the top scoring beers sold out of IPA within a couple of days while orders for beers from Blackman's (who topped that list) went ballistic, so if you want to try some of these, especially the limited release beers, get in quick!
The Top Ten (plus ring ins)
2= Pirate Life IPA – Slowbeer – BBF 09/04/17
4. Brewboys Hoppopotamus – Goodwood Cellars – No date
5. Hawkers IPA – Wine Republic Northcote – BBF 06/06/17
6. Mountain Goat The Zymurgist – Beer Mash – 04/04/17
7. Big Shed Brewing Concern Californicator – Goodwood Cellars – No date
Newstead Brewing Two To The Valley IPA (only 5.9 percent ABV) – Next Door Cellars – BBF 28/02/17
9. Mash Brewing Copycat AIPA – Nillumbik Cellars – BBF 22/04/17
Other beers that were presented to the panel were Bad Shepherd New World IPA,Boatrocker Brewery Hop Bomb, Burleigh Brewing Figjam IPA, Cavalier Idaho IPA, Exit Brewing IPA, Fox Hat metric IPA, The Little Brewing Co Fastidious Bastard, Merchant Brewing Co Hasselsloth, Riverside 77 and Smiling Samoyed IPA.
It's also worth a special mention for Green Beacon. The Brisbane brewery's beers have come on immeasurably since its earliest days, culminating in last month's Champion Brewery title in its hometown. If only we could go back in time to include it – and Newstead's IPA – in the 5.8 to 6.4 percent ABV panel given how well it's fared against bigger beers here...
Thanks once again to Temple Brewing for hosting and to the panelists and stewards who gave up several hours to take part.
Look out for our next blind tasting in a few weeks. You can check out previous ones here and if you have a style you'd like us to consider, feel free to suggest it in the comments below.