Balter Top 2018 Craft Beer Survey

September 12, 2018, by Crafty Pint
Balter Top 2018 Craft Beer Survey

The mantle of craft beer's top dog appears to have been passed, with the 2018 Australian Craft Beer Survey placing Balter as the country's best. It follows the Gold Coast brewery's number one spot for its XPA in the most recent GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll, making it back-to-back victories in the local beer world's biggest public votes.

This was the third time the survey has been run by Sydney retailer Beer Cartel. It was completed by more than 18,000 beer lovers, up from 17,000-plus in 2017, with the combined votes placing Modus Operandi in second, an impressive result for an operation dwarfed in size by the breweries either side of it.

"It's a wonderful feeling," says Balter co-founder and brand directory Stirling Howland (front row, second from right above). "When we started Balter, it was always about the beer we were making for people – not gold medals or champion trophies – so the fact we've topped the poll is a really cool feeling."

What's perhaps most impressive about the success of the brewery launched by the famous surfing foursome and their mates, which includes plenty of gold medals and trophies too, is that it doesn't turn three until next March.

"We've built a really awesome community," Stirling says. "There's an amazing goodwill towards what we're doing and it's a reflection of what we do... We go after the consumer experience. We want people to go away with a good taste in their mouth, both literally and philosophically."

The survey included a number of questions surrounding independence, following a spate of acquisitions in recent years and the launch of the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) seal. It's an issue that appears to be of importance for craft beer drinkers, with 56 percent of respondents saying they now buy less or no beer from the multinational owned brands. What's more, the brewing companies that are now part of larger beer businesses lost ground; 2017's best brewery, Pirate Life, still maintained a podium finish in third, while the inaugural winner, Feral, placed eighth.


Jaz Wearin, co-owner of Modus Operandi (and new mum), the Mona Vale brewery that continues to punch above its weight, following Indies success (above) by being named Australia's second best brewery in the survey.


Richard Kelsey, from Beer Cartel, says: "If you go back to last year, there was a lot of people that indicated they really strongly preferred to buy beer from independent breweries."

He believes asking the same questions of beer drinkers in the US would lead to similar responses.

"It's an industry that's quite different from other industries," he says. "You wouldn't get the same thing with coffee beans. It's probably part of the move from mainstream beer to craft beer – people want to support independently owned breweries and want to know the face behind it. It really is about people.

"There's a lot of good things that happen in the craft beer industry, such as Karma Kegs; there's a lot of good aspects that fit with how people want to live their lives."

But he believes those breweries bought in recent years will have gained in other ways, whether it's access to greater resources and knowledge or, in the case of Pirate Life, being able to move ahead more quickly with their second brewery in Port Adelaide.

"[Those within] AB InBev have all these taps pop up that they can utilise," Rich says. "So they'll be going from strength to strength."

The survey addressed far more than just drinkers' favourite breweries. There was good news for the team at The Crafty Pint, voted the number one beer news source for the third year running and with our new app already the second most popular beer app behind Untappd less than four months after going live.


Newcastle's Grain Store was the only craft beer venue outside a capital city to be named best in its state or territory.


The Grain Store in Newcastle scored a significant achievement, claiming the title of New South Wales' favourite craft beer venue – joining Saint John Craft Beer as one of only two venues outside their state or territory capital to take top spot. In terms of favourite brewery venues, the list was the same as in 2017 other than Big Shed taking over from Prancing Pony in SA, while GABS and Good Beer Week remain the favourite festival and beer week respectively (based on attendance).

And, for the local industry as a whole, that 94 percent of respondents believe quality is improving and an impressive 85 percent are buying more Australian and less international craft beer will come as welcome news in these competitive times. The IBA will be reassured to know one-third of the 18,000 already know about their seal too.

The survey also looked at buying habits, from preferences in packaging to the current obsession with the new. Those brewers who have invested heavily in bottling lines in recent years will be pleased to read 33 percent of respondents still preferred bottles, as opposed to 30 percent favouring cans.

For those observing the industry closely, the fact half of all beers bought by respondents are new will come as little surprise; there are breweries for whom their business model is based upon releasing new beers every few weeks, often to never brew them again. That said, four-packs and six-packs were the preferred format at 51 percent, ahead of cases (27 percent) and single bottles or cans (21 percent). 

As for beers themselves, while pale ales and XPAs are the most consumed beers, IPAs and double IPAs are the preferred choice of most drinkers.

Given Balter has an XPA, IPA and IIPA in its lineup, it's certainly delivering what the people are after. And Stirling says there's much more to come.

"We've got to this point and we're not out of second gear yet," he says. "There's a massive road ahead for us."

It's one that includes a quartet of 300 hectolitres due to arrive soon, ready to be filled with XPA, thus allowing more freedom for the brewers to develop more limited release too. And, for Stirling, who spent 19 years at Billabong before moving into beer, it's one he's enjoying travelling down.

"I feel like I've found a loophole," he says. "If you're in an agency, to work on beer is the greatest gig you can get. Now I own a brewery with my mates; I just feel so lucky and grateful."

You can find the results of the survey in full here on the Beer Cartel website. Below are some of the key results.

Balter brewer Scotty Hargrave and Stirling enjoy another celebratory beer at their Gold Coast brewery.

Australia's Best Brewery

  1. Balter (QLD)
  2. Modus Operandi (NSW)
  3. Pirate Life (SA)
  4. Stone & Wood (NSW)
  5. Bridge Road (VIC)
  6. BentSpoke (ACT)
  7. Little Creatures (WA/VIC)
  8. Feral (WA)
  9. 4 Pines (NSW)
  10. Black Hops (QLD)
  11. Hop Nation (VIC)
  12. Akasha (NSW)
  13. Green Beacon (QLD)
  14. Young Henrys (NSW)
  15. Batch (NSW)
  16. Coopers (SA)
  17. Boatrocker (VIC)
  18. Big Shed (SA)
  19. KAIJU! (VIC)
  20. Two Birds (VIC)

Find the full list here.

Favourite Craft Beer Venue By State / Territory

Find the full results here.

Favourite Brewery Venue By State / Territory

Find the full results here.

Favourite Craft Beer News (By Usage)

  1. The Crafty Pint
  2. Beer & Brewer
  3. Beer Advocate
  4. Australian Brews News
  5. RateBeer

Find the full results here.

Favourite Beer App (By Usage)

  • Untappd
  • The Crafty Pint
  • Now Tapped
  • RateBeer
  • The Happiest Hour

Most Consumed Beer Style

  1. Pale Ale / XPA
  2. IPA / Double IPA
  3. Amber Ale
  4. Golden Ale
  5. Stout / Imperial Stout

Favourite Beer Style

  1. IPA / Double IPA
  2. Pale Ale / XPA
  3. Stout / Imperial Stout
  4. Lager
  5. Wheat Beer

Thanks again to the Beer Cartel crew for their sterling efforts over the past few months running and making sense of the results. This is a wonderful yet unpredictable time for beer in Australia so any worthy snapshot of where we are and where we might be heading is invaluable. 

And thanks to all the beer lovers that keep supporting what we do here at The Crafty Pint. It's good to know we're not yelling into a void. Cheers!

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