This is a difficult topic. Individual palates are different and experiences surrounding the consumption of a good beer can vary immensely. It’s contextual.
A keg of your favourite brew could just as easily (albeit cruelly) be rolled off a cliff by your best mate who hated the sight of it and thinks it’s better off in that strange pit of lava you found around the corner from Tippler's. Is she right? Who’s to say. Where’d that lava pit come from? Don’t question its presence out loud, it’s sentient and craves human sacrifice.
Nevertheless, difficulty aside, here we are, at the end of a batshit insane year, with a short (it’s painfully short) list of some of Queensland’s finest brews of 2016. There’s no shortage of good beer in Queensland, the greatest slab of land on Earth, and it’s a ginuwine delight to talk about these beers and the legends that make it.
The Queensland Panel
- Georgie Levi of The Scratch and The Crafty Pint
- James Graham of The Crafty Pint
- Jared Palu of The Mill on Constance
- Joslyn and Matt of Hop On Brewery Tours
The Top Ten
It's exciting times in Queensland, not just because of the new arrivals on the beer scene and it's steady spread outwards from Brisbane, but also with a number of existing breweries set to expand significantly in 2017. And, as a snapshot of what is being brewed – and brewed well around the state, the beers that the quintet agreed upon as representing the best new arrivals in Queensland this year make for a diverse and colourful bunch.
Croft Brewing Co The Crofter Berliner Weisse
Released in the midst of the sweat fest that was January this year, The Crofter hit home for many across an array of different venues. It’s a showcase of brewer Gavin Croft’s stylistic versatility, with the “acidity and low ABV of a Berliner Weisse, citrus spice of a Belgian Wit and clean ferment and juicy hops of an American Wheat”. The aforementioned citrus spice was a tart combination of lemon, lime and mandarin peel and its crisp, effervescent nature was almost offensively refreshing. Croft Brewing’s dedication to crafting table beers for hard workers shines through in this 2.8 percent ABV cool swim of an ale.
Unofficially, it’s an American-Berliner-Wit, and it didn’t only please punters, it also impressed judges, picking up a gold at both the Australian International Beer Awards and the Craft Beer Awards this year. The Crofter now sits comfortably beside the rest of Croft’s solid core range and its popularity has been noted, with a new batch in the works for release in January 2017.
Newstead Brewing Company 21 Feet of Harvest Fresh Hopped Porter
This fresh-hopped reimagining of their 21 Feet 7 Inches Porter is worth including in this list simply on the basis that they started brewing this before the Hops Products Australia (HPA) delivery had even arrived on the brew day, banking solely on the idea their hops would show up before the boil. Not only is that approach completely badass, it was also a ploy that paid off, with the essential flowers arriving ten minutes before the first and only hop edition. TEN. MINUTES.
Ten minutes is also the total hop to wort contact time that was allocated to hit this brew with 10kg of Ella, 5kg of Galaxy and 5kg of the thus far unnamed HPA-035 release. Flash forward to the end of ferment and the results were ideal: huge notes of melon and tropical fruits, a hop forward bitterness and complex chocolate and coffee flavours.
Launched at the brewery alongside Newstead’s wet-hopped Mayne Thing Golden Ale and an array of other Australian fresh hop ales, 21 Feet of Harvest stood out from the bunch. It was a crowd favourite, a delicious beer, and an exciting insight into the bonds forming between breweries and the companies (most notably HPA) that are the integral agricultural roots of the craft beer industry.
Green Beacon Bourbon Barrel Aged Strong Ale
This year saw the release of Green Beacon’s first ever barrel aged beast, the Bourbon Barrel Aged Strong Ale. A malt forward strong ale base was allowed to house sit some of Kentucky’s finest Heaven Hill barrels for two months, and it picked up some sweet (literally and figuratively) traits from its oak lodgings. An aroma of coconut, dark chocolate and booze was followed by a sweet malt front, a rich chocolate mouthfeel and a somewhat spicy, fruitcake-esque, bourbon heat finish.
It was a treat and, like every goddamn beer that’s ever existed, we were lucky to have it, if only for a while. It sold out quick. Real quick. Too quick. Disturbingly fast.
Brouhaha Raspberry Saison
Split batches are the life force (absolutely not to be confused with the 1983 release Lifeforce, which, even with the presence of cinema angel Patrick Stewart, is an absolute trainwreck of a film) of Maleny brewery Brouhaha’s core range, one of which is the base for the Raspberry Saison. The recipe is built around and for the French saison yeast strain that brewery founder and head brewer Matt Jancauskas admires for its fragrant, fruity aroma and the full body and mouthfeel it creates. With memories of crisp Victorian Christmases in the Dandenong Ranges, in a home surrounded by loaded raspberry bushes, the raspberry addition in this beer is a sentimental one. That’s not to say that its success is carried by sentimentality alone: raspberry fermented ales are downright delicious and in a Queensland summer, actual heaven.
With the raspberry bushes around Matt’s grandparents' home a little too far away for picking, a farm at Palmwoods – a mere 20km away from the brewery – supplies the 100kg of fresh raspberries necessary for every batch. The tart berry on the nose carries through onto the palette, mingling with the dry saison esters and finishing crisp, dry and clean. It’s a corker.
[As an aside, and a sign of the quality of Matt's split batches (not to mention Georgie's comment above surrounding palates), when The Crafty Pint's founder visited Brouhaha it was the Dry-Hopped Saison – the other half of of the same batch of beer – that impressed the most...]
Brewtal Brewers Malted Beast Imperial Stout
One of Brisbane’s earliest gypsy brewing outfits, Brewtal Brewers has been leaping from strength to strength this year, which ended with head Brewtal Brewer Tim Goulding landing a role at Newstead. Malted Beast (think Altered Beast but in beer format) is one of their highlights from a year full of flavour; its presence in this list was strongly contested by their Double Kick Imperial IPA and the 2016 edition of Jack the RIIPA, a red imperial IPA. Nevertheless, this hectic, malty imperial stout won out, and for good reason.
Stuffed with specialty malts such as Munich, Chocolate Wheat, Carafa 3, Biscuit and Golden Naked Oats, the emphasis was on a rich mouthfeel and a high, but relatively hidden, ABV of 10.5 percent. The hop additions were generous for a stout with a solid pitch of Colombus, Simcoe and Warrior gifting the stout a hoppy nose and a well balanced bitterness that interacts really well with the roast notes of the dark malt.
It’s definitely worth mentioning that a portion of the batch was also sneakily split into separate 60l fermenters and, as a result, there are alternate Malted Beast editions, sub genres if you will: a vanilla bean ferment and coffee ferment, plus whisky barrel aged and whisky coffee barrel aged numbers for good measure. Mash and thrash indeed.
Brisbane Brewing Co Auburn Fox Red Ale
Session IPAs are commonplace, but hoppy, sessionable red ales? It exists, and you can get it in Brisbane. Brisbane Brewing Co's Auburn Fox is a 4.7 percent ABV red ale packed with a zesty, tutti frutti addition of Riwaka and US Cascade hops and a formidable appearance on the back of the palate by Nelson Sauvin.
The juicy bitterness of such bold hop characters are well balanced by the sweet malt backbone that stays true to the red ale base. Whether it’s on paper or in a glass, Auburn Fox is a sweet deal for the good beer drinker.
Black Hops Brewing Flash Bang White IPA
The "least covert operation in brewing" has just celebrated the first birthday of its own brewery on the Gold Coast and it's a year in which Black Hops has made some significant waves here in Queensland. Among the many reasons for their appeal is the number of different beers you can find at their cellar door throughout the year.
One cause for the beers turning over regularly was the trio's decision to brew a different IPA for each season. Of those that appeared in 2016, the Flash Bang White IPA – their Spring release – stood out: a tremendous American wheat IPA that ticks all the boxes.
Balter Brewing XPA
Upon opening to the public in April 2016, Balter Brewers, under the guidance of head brewer Scotty Hargrave, released their maiden brew: the XPA. Given the team behind the Gold Coast brewery upon which no expense has been spared includes four of Australia's best known professional surfers, it was little surprise Balter's launch was met with substantial fervour. Satisfyingly for all concerned, the beer warranted the fervour too.
The XPA tinnies spreading around the country are instantly recognisable and are fast becoming a firm favourite with locals on the Gold Coast, surrounding areas and beyond. A smooth, clean, fruity and refreshing extra pale ale, the XPA is an ideal brew to sip under the Queensland sun.
Currumbin Valley Brewing Lookout DIPA
Currumbin Valley Brewing was launched at the end of October 2016 by two well known Gold Coast homebrewers, Pete and Luke. Their first release was a brave decision: an 8 percent double IPA called Lookout.
The Lookout was brewed at Black Hops Brewing and is surprisingly sessionable given its size. An instant hit among the craftier bars of the Gold Coast, it hints at much promise as to where this fledgling brewing company could be heading.
Bacchus Brewing Peanut Brittle Gose
Bacchus Brewing has a bit of a reputation for excelling at GABS (pictured above), a beer festival seemingly designed with the idiosyncratic Capalaba brewery's modus operandi in mind. It started with the Raspberry White Chocolate Pilsner and continued with Sex, Drugs and Rocky Road. Its success in conjuring beers capable of capturing punters' attention over the space of 85ml continued in 2016, when Bacchus Brewing enjoyed a clean sweep of the People’s Choice Awards in both Australia and the festival's debut in New Zealand.
Bacchus' entry for 2016 was the Peanut Brittle Gose, a take on the sour 'n' salty German wheat beer style that delivered on its name: sweet, buttery and with flashes of roasted peanuts alongside a lactic, salty finish.
- Semi Pro M.R. Pale Ale
- White Lies Russian Imperial Stout
- Green Beacon Uppercut Round 4 (2016 Edition)
- Newstead Two to the Valley IPA (2016 Hopback Edition)
The list could go on forever. Literally? No, of course not. That would be absurd.
Thanks to Georgie and James Graham for the write up.
You can view our other Best New Beers lists here:
Don't forget that voting is now open for the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers of 2016 poll where you can pick your own five favourites from the year just gone.
And, if you fancy heading back in time, here's our top ten from Queensland in 2015.