There was more international awards success for Australian brewers at the weekend as a trio of Victorian brewing companies left the International Beer Cup in Japan clutching multiple medals. Holgate Brewhouse led the way with four medals, including a gold for its Sour Brett Ale, while Mountain Goat picked up two silvers and gypsy outfit Edge Brewing Project collected a silver and a bronze for its two imperial stouts.
Unlike Australian beer competitions such as the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), where medals are awarded to any beers achieving a certain score, the International Beer Cup uses the same format as the World Beer Cup: only one gold, silver and bronze are awarded in each category, making medals harder to come by.
It's an international competition that's been running since 1998 and this year attracted 554 entries, 262 from outside Japan. Judges were drawn from 18 countries, with a number of Australians, including Paul Holgate, Ian Morgan (Mountain Goat), Ash Hazell (Colonial), Brendan Varis (Feral), Jon Seltin (Brick Lane) and Hamish Reed (Hawthorn), invited to take part.
While none of the Australian breweries that entered took out major trophies, Holgate's haul also included silvers for its Temptress Chocolate Porter and Beelzebub's Jewels Barrel Aged Belgian Quad plus a bronze for Road Trip IPA, which was the highest rated beer in the American-style Strong Pale Ale category.
Paul Holgate says the judges had been particularly enjoying the Sour Brett Ale, Beelzebub's Jewels and this year's Wild Red Ale (bottled too late to be entered) since judging ended and the Great Japan Beer Festival started.
"I try and judge at most opportunities I can," he says. "It’s a way of keeping your palate trained, keeping up with trends, keeping abreast of faults and so on, and also great for networking and connections. Since I was judging, I thought, 'Why not enter our beers?'.
"We have an importer in Japan who is developing Holgate sales here. It's still quite small and [has been] a slow burn, but coming here judging and participating in the festival is a way of supporting our importer and helping develop sales. Will the medals help sales? Sure, it won’t hurt. How much mileage we get out if it is always uncertain, but our importer is very happy!"
Mountain Goat head brewer Ian says his experience there was that judging was "pretty harsh", meaning he was particularly pleased to see the two beers entered by the brewery, which these days is owned by Japan's Asahi, both collect silver.
They entered this year's Barrel Breed Imperial Stout and the Silence of the Reed Coconut Porter, with Ian adding: "The timing of AIBA means our winter releases can be long in the tooth by the time that competition arrives – and we thought these beers would perform well."
Edge's barrel aged imperial stout Don't F*ck With Joe took bronze in the same category as the Barrel Breed and, with no gold awarded in its category, the silver for its little brother, Stagger Lee Imperial Stout, meant that beer was the highest scoring in its category.
Edge founder Adam Betts (pictured top right with partner Michelle Vanspall at the beer festival) told The Crafty Pint: "It's great to get the recognition, knowing we are consistently producing very high quality beers at an international level."
He plans to start exporting to Japan early next year, joining Singapore, The Maldives, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Denmark as export markets for the Melbourne-based operation.