It was a storied night at the 2017 Craft Beer Awards. Champion Large Brewery was awarded to 4 Pines, the Northern Beaches brewery that only agreed to join the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) earlier this year after the association's membership voted to exclude brewing companies with big brewery ownership.
At a time when IPA is all the rage within the craft beer world, it also felt fitting that Fixation, the brewing company launched by former Mountain Goat rep Tom Delmont and the Stone & Wood Group with the intention of releasing nothing but IPAs, took out Champion Medium Brewery – even if it had to cede Champion IPA to Pirate Life's smash hit Mosaic.
With the awards coming to Adelaide for the first time, there was hometown glory in the Champion Small Brewery category. Better still, it was won by the Wheaty Brewing Corps, launched in 2014 by the team at The Wheaty, the pub run by the ladies who have arguably done more to promote independent craft beer in South Australia than anyone else and who paid tribute to Emily Trott, one of the venue's founders who passed away last year, when collecting their award.
And, with Little Creatures choosing not to defend its Champion Beer trophy following the Association's decision to relaunch as the independents-only IBA, the winner of this year's Champion Beer couldn't be much further in character from last year's top dog. The trophy passed from Little Creatures Pilsner to a just-released seasonal from Dainton Family Brewery, the Cherrywood Smoked Rye Baltic Porter.
The award for Service to Craft Beer went to Blair Hayden, founder of the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in The Rocks, which last year celebrated 30 years in operation (read our feature written to mark the anniversary here).
Meanwhile, there were awards for brewing companies at the opposite end of their lives. Philter, the brewing company launched recently by well-travelled brewer Sam Füss, took out Champion Pale Ale and BlackFont Brewhouse, the tiny Marrickville operation we're hoping to write about if the owner agrees to publicity, collected the Champion French & Belgian Styles trophy for its Organic Saison de Ville.
A pair of trophies are headed west too with Champion Amber/Dark Ale going to Eagle Bay Brewing’s Black IPA and Champion Wheat the latest gong to be snaffled by former overall champion Watermelon Warhead from Feral.
There was good news for Rocks, just weeks after its brewery was put up for sale, as Champion Specialty Beer went to its Conviction Pale Ale while the Champion Lager trophy is headed to New South Wales too in the hands of the Australian Beer Company for their Yenda Crisp Lager.
The awards took place at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night and brought to a close the IBA's big week in Adelaide, which kicked off with judging last week and has taken in the Australian Craft Brewers Conference, a trade expo and brewery tours. Reflecting on the awards, which received 682 entries from 115 breweries, IBA executive director Chris McNamara said winners represented a diverse range and wonderful cross-section of the craft industry, from the small to larger operations.
Award season in Adelaide isn't done yet, however, as the Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards take place on July 28 as the Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival kicks off. We'll have the results on the site as soon as they're announced.