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Big Years In Beer – 2018


It's been a big year for beer in Australia, but some have had bigger years than other. Here, we invite people from each state and territory who've had momentous years in one way or another to reflect on the past 12 months.

ACT – Richard Watkins & Tracy Margrain of BentSpoke Brewing Co

 

Awards success overseas. The striking of more partnerships outside the beer world. A series of cracking seasonals. A top three spot in the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll. It's fair to say the couple behind Canberra's BentSpoke have enjoyed a pretty good 2018.

Describe your 2018 in five words...

Tracy: Where did the year go!!

Rich: Mateship, success, sustainable, rewarding, hoppy!!

What was the highlight for BentSpoke in 2018?

Both: Getting rewarded for quality brewing with a World Beer Cup medal, getting recognised by the punters through GABS Hottest 100 and seeing our team grow to 70 enthusiastic champions!!

Any disappointments?

Rich: Na, not really. Maybe that the WBC medal wasn’t a Gold or Silver!!

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home territory?

Tracy: It’s fantastic – Canberra has really embraced the notion of locally brewed, locally loved. Canberrans really get quality, local, full flavoured products. With Capital and Zierholz doing their thing along side BentSpoke, Canberrans really have plenty of quality choice.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

Rich: The hazy IPA thing, I guess. Most of these beers are hazy via yeast or grist make up, not the hop haze like the good New England IPAs of the US.

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

Rich: That beards make way for short silver-haired fat blokes.

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Tracy: To continue an unrelenting focus on quality and to do ourselves proud.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?

Tracy: Stomping Ground's Watermelon Smash. [Which made The Crafty Pint's Best New Victorian Beers list]

Rich: Balter’s Strong Pale Ale – Poor man's Crankshaft. Just joking, Scotty!!


Queensland – Black Hops Brewing

 

You could argue that no local brewery has had as momentous a year as Gold Coast's Black Hops Brewing. They're building a large second brewery, snagged a Champion Brewery trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards in May then were at the centre of a controversy that split the Queensland beer community and saw them withdraw their nominees from The Beeries. 

As the year ended, they were back knocking out cracking beers like the Super Hornet double IPA and talking of stepping up to be leaders within the craft beer industry. Here's co-founder Dan Norris.

Describe your 2018 in five words.

Epic in every way imaginable.

What was the highlight for Black Hops in 2018?

I'd say building an amazing team is our biggest achievement. This time last year we had four full time staff, we now have 11 and they are all superstars. But, as far as highlight moments, winning the AIBA Champion Small Brewery trophy was definitely it.

Any disappointments?

We've made a few mistakes for sure, as we have every year, but we can't honestly say we are disappointed with 2018; it's been one hell of a year for us.

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state?

It's exploding. The Queensland government has just released their craft beer strategy and breweries and bars are opening left and right. Our wholesale beer sales have tripled this year and we still sell almost all of our beer in Queensland and northern NSW.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

The quality of Australian beer is on a very rapid upswing. We are a few years behind the US in terms of mainstream uptake but, from a quality point of view, the beers coming out here are right up there. It feels like that's happened very quickly.

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

Breweries need more support from councils for their onsite taprooms. The more taprooms that open up and the more time they can open, the more people will fall in love with the craft beer experience.

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Get our second brewery up and running and start selling a shitload more beer!

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?

You’d get a different answer from each of us; my favourite might be the Stone & Wood Prequel.


New South Wales – Brad Rogers

 

Stone & Wood co-founder Brad Rogers has been on a long, slow road to recovery from a series of serious health issues that started when he was involved in a car accident. Yet, while he might be taking more time away from running Stone & Wood, he's still found time to "get back on the tools" in creating the new Forest For The Trees brand that will focus on producing farmhouse style beers.

So, in the year his most famous creation, Pacific Ale, turned ten, here he is with his thoughts on the past, present and future.

Describe your 2018 in five words. 

Happily Back In The Brewhouse!!

What was the highlight for you / Stone & Wood in 2018? 

Easy – would have to be that 2018 celebrates ten years of Stone & Wood and our original Pacific Ale. As we celebrate our ten years, I also launched Forest For The Trees, which has been a brewing project I’ve wanted to do for many years.

Any disappointments?

Not one; I'm forever upbeat these days.

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state?

I don't like to think about the beer community by states, but our local region has been fantastic, as has the entire country for Fermentum, across Fixation, Granite Belt and our new sibling, Forest For The Trees.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

After more than 25 years of working in the Australian beer industry, not much really surprises me these days.

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

The continued success of independent brewers as we increase market share across the country.

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Again, that’s an easy one, taste as much unique farmhouse, sour, barrel-aged, wild/mixed ferment beer from around the world as possible and learn from their makers as we share a beer. Learning from others via a shared fascination is the key.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?

Haha, other than our Forest For The Trees Saison, would have to be either Will’s Van Dieman Early & Late cans, or Dave's Moo Brew Stout in Archie Rose barrels.


Northern Territory – Alice Springs Brewing Co

 

The local beer scene in the Northern Territory is starting to come into its own, as we covered in this article. And, while Kyle Pearson's new brewery wasn't the only one to launch there in 2018, it was the first to open in Alice Springs.

Describe your 2018 in five words.

Learn, Work, Eat, Beer, Repeat. No time for sleep.

What was the highlight for Alice Springs Brewing in 2018?

Watching our first beer get poured in a venue was definitely the highlight. I never thought I’d find so much satisfaction in paying for one of our own beers over the bar but it has soothing qualities! 

It’s also a great feeling to watch people seek out and enjoy our beer.

Any disappointments?

A few. Not getting our own bar open this year was a lesson in patience. We also had some equipment issues which were made worse by being in the middle of nowhere. All in all, the highlights outweighed the disappointments.

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home territory?

It's currently a challenging environment, especially from a regulatory perspective. We talk to the guys from One Mile and Beaver Brewing in Darwin a fair bit and we all have some stories. Thankfully, the NT Government is talking with us and wants to see the NT craft beer market grow. There are some changes coming in the new year around Liquor Licensing that should make things a lot easier. 

Aside from that, it is relatively early days for NT craft beer and I think the future looks bright.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

The accelerated creep of craft into mainstream and the acceptance of so many different styles is huge. For the longest time, craft in Australia seemed to mean pale ale and now more and more people are accepting of different styles – even ones they can’t pronounce!

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

The addition of another Australia wide wholesaler with cold transport who gets the industry would be great – just for my own drinking pleasure more than anything! It’s a common story that breweries find it hard to crack into major distributors and it’s definitely evident when you look at most bottleshops. We find it hard to get craft beer up here that is not from the multi-nats and if we do it generally goes quick!

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Once we have the bar open, the next stage of our plan is to get into packaging. If we can get this done by the end of next year we will be very happy.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?

I really enjoyed Big Shed’s Boozy Fruit NEIPA. One Mile Brewing Co’s No Limits IPA was also a standout for me – NT represent!


South Australia – Big Shed

 

Speaking of Boozy Fruit... One of many SA breweries to embark on significant expansion in 2018 was Big Shed, who took out the People's Choice vote at GABS for that NEIPA after a few previous high-ranking finishes. Here's founders Jason Harris and Craig Basford (pictured above with one of their brewers, Ben Johnson).

Describe your 2018 in five words. 

Craig: Holy shit, pedal like hell.

Jason: Boozy Fruit, Hazing & Bigger Shed 2019.

What was the highlight for Big Shed in 2018?

Craig: Boozy Fruit winning GABS easily the coolest thing. That and "borrowing" the GABS trophy for ten months. I don’t think that’s ever happened. If fact, I need to drive it back over the weekend. ROADTRIP!

We did our first Shedfest, which was our birthday party turned up to 11. It was a delicious little taste of the sort of shenanagoats we are planning for BSBC v2.0.

Jason: The GABS win was right up there, but for my mental wellbeing I would say securing the funding and land for BSBC v2.0 is hard to beat. Roll on 2019 with the setup of a brewery good for one million litres with canning lines (Stage 1). The eventual capacity of three million (Stage 3) and cranking venue onsite like no other.

Any disappointments?

Craig: We got burned on a property for the new brewery which added six to eight months to our plans. Other than that, we’ve been going well.

Jason: Having the plans for our new site stop and start about five times during the 12 months up until now. It’s hard to keep getting up and going again with something so intense and detailed as this.

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state?

Craig: SA beer is going off. Mismatch, Little Bang, Pirate Life and us all building new/bigger facilities with great retail spaces that look to show each brand's personality. There’s new gypsies appearing everyday and they are bringing some quality booze. Punters are demanding local craft which is in turn getting venues onto it.

Jason: SA is growing really well. We have recently put on another salesperson, Matt McCarthy joined Tom Becker, who is managing all of Australia for us. The scene welcomed a few new start-ups and we even helped brew a couple inside the Big Shed walls. Sadly, we lost a good mate in Libation Army’s Marco Bona.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

Craig: The speed at which styles become the "next big thing" – NEIPAs, Brut IPAs seem to come out of nowhere and are suddenly everywhere. The ability to pivot and go with these types of things has always been the strength of craft beer.

Jason: I don’t think much shocks or surprises me as much as it did in year one. But the rapid explosion of NEIPAs, considering we all strived early on to make [beers that were] clear and visually appealing, it's funny how quickly that turned on its head.

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

Craig: If the "I just want me beer to taste like beer!" guy could think about their beer a little more and the hardcore beer nerd could think about their beer a little less that would fill my heart with joy.

Jason: Decent beer at major sports events would be a good start.

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Craig: Get the new brewery and tasting bar rolling. We have big goals for this.

Jason: Goal #1: The building of our new brewery, venue and home in the #westside.

Goal #2: Making sure #1 doesn’t kill me.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?

Craig: I really enjoyed Sauce Brut IPA; I wasn’t really a fan of the style, but theirs made sense.

Jason: I don’t buy anywhere near as much beer as you think. But Hawkers Fig and Maple Stout was bloody banging. I dislike that Mazen bloke but!


Tasmania – Van Dieman Brewing

 

With his Estate Ale project finally completed with the commissioning of a small on-farm malting, Will Tatchell of Van Dieman Brewing is now able to increase the rate at which he produces beers featuring ingredients all sourced and processed on the family farm.

Describe your 2018 in five words. 

Groundbreaking. Eye-opening. Friends. Farming. Hectic. 

What was the highlight for Van Dieman in 2018?

Finally succeeding in implementing our own malting facility at the brewery, which, in turn, allowed us to brew the third in our series of Estate Ales – Oscar – a farmhouse IPA. I’m a glutton for punishment, and the malting side of beer production adds a whole host of responsibilities and targets for each week that engages us and rewards us with the results we’re seeing. 

We’re now starting the phase of incorporating our own malts into our full range of beers as we continue to learn more about how our grain performs in the malting and brewing phases of beer production. And we’re harvesting right now so we’ll have another batch of full silos to utilise.

Any disappointments?

Tipping sub-par, barrel-aged beer down the drain always hurts. 

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state?

For potentially the first year in five or so, the reins seems to have been yanked upon in the Tassie scene, with most settling into a groove and punching out some great beers. We’re still the best state in the country to be producing with locality to fine ingredients, and I can’t see that stopping anytime soon.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months?

Is Untappd still at thing?

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?

Beers become popular because they are great beers, not because of marketing, social media or fads. Also, independent beer in more sports stadiums, events and festivals – I’m so fed up with over-priced, sub-par refreshment. 

What's your biggest goal for next year?

Next year, we’ll celebrate ten years in operation, so we’ve got a few surprises up our sleeve. Continuing to incorporate our farming operations with brewing production is a major objective. Challenging drinkers to learn more about the products they're drinking, where they’re from, educating themselves on a specific style to shift from being a ticker to an informed drinker.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018? 

Sailors Grave Summer Farmhouse Ale.


Victoria – Hotel Lincoln

 

The beer world is about far more than brewers, of course, so at the end of a year in which they picked up major trophies and made their Pint of Origin debut as the home of Tasmania, we invited Iain Ling, one of the owners of the Lincoln in Carlton, to tell us how it's been.

Describe your 2018 in five words. 

Crazy, Proud, Enlightening, Thought-provoking, Full-on.

What was the highlight for the Lincoln in 2018? 

Definitely getting recognised for what we do and nominated for all sorts of state and national awards, and especially winning national Pub/Hotel of the Year at the Australian Bartender Awards and the ALIAs.

Any disappointments? 

Not really! That the year's coming to an end? 

As with all things, it's a good time to take stock of what's happened and plot our path for the future to make sure we continue on this trajectory.

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state? 

Pretty good. There is a great sense of cooperation and togetherness in a growing market. Not just between suppliers but all groups in the market.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months? 

Customers and their insatiable thirst for more products and information and their knowledge of brewers and processes.

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be? 

More collaborations, conversations and communication between all parties in the market from hop growers to the consumer, and more conversations about sustainability and environmental impact of the industry. 

The more "cool" stuff we can do, the more new guests and awareness we can bring to the industry. Too many people still think beer is one-dimensional. We can change that.

What's your biggest goal for next year? 

Meeting and exceeding expectations by giving our guests the same service and products every time. Consistency is key to our industry so our goal is to continue on the path we're progressing on. Word of mouth is our best PR weapon – everyone talks about what they did the previous weekend or the night before.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018?  

Mate! That's not fair, there's way too many. 

There are always breweries who pique your interest when you hear they have something new coming, and we have great relationships with so many, it wouldn't be fair to single just one out. There's one for every occasion! 


WA – Rocky Ridge Brewing Co

 

Heaps of hype, topping our Best New WA Beers Of 2018 list, having demand grow so fast they've had to temporarily alter part of their ethos and more collaborations than you can shake a stick at... For Hamish Coates and the team at farm brewery Rocky Ridge, 2018 has been little short of insane.

Describe your 2018 in five words. 

Crazy, Insane, Sleepless, Stupid, Fucking amazing. (Sorry but "Fucking amazing" is one word, right?)

What was the highlight for Rocky Ridge in 2018? 

The people we met through the year at events, bars, pubs and our own bar. Specifically, how amazing and supportive our community is. 

Any disappointments? 

Shifting focus away from our original ethos, realising that while beer can be amazing and fun, it's a business. (I'm naive, right?)

How’s the beer scene travelling in your home state? 

Strength to strength. Some amazing beers from old and new breweries alike, with plenty of fantastic new support venues/small bars opening along the way.

Has anything in the beer world surprised you over the past 12 months? 

How accepting the market is to new styles and flavours. How willing even people new to craft are to try all sorts of different beers. In for a penny, in for a pound seems to be the new approach. 

Perhaps that's just 'cause we brew some really weird beers...

If you could see one thing happen in the local beer world in 2019, what would it be?  

A relaxation of red tape around craft production and sales. It would be great to see a more fair system that, while still controlling alcohol, takes away some of the (archaic) rules surrounding its sale in different states. Let's put the onus back onto people to be responsible. 

That and tap contracts. They need to go. 

I guess we could mention tax here and how, without such a burden, we could all grow and employ way more people? Newstead posted an interesting blog earlier in the year about the exact costs... for their size, $1 million in excise here, in the US it would be $22,000... small difference, much? 

I know for us we could employ another five people full-time (on a bloody good wage) for less than we pay per month in excise. Maybe even I could get paid?

What's your biggest goal for next year? 

To be better.. To re-centre our ethos, bring (raw ingredient) production back in house. That's really a two year goal, but we can only try.

And what's been the standout new release from an Australian brewer in 2018? 

That's a huge question. Obviously, I haven't tried every release and I'm certain I've overlooked someone here along the way, but for me, it would have to be Wildflower Waratah 2018 – I love this beer not just because it's delicious, but I love the ideal behind it – it's about NSW and showcases the best of local ingredients. The fact that it supports awareness of mental health is fantastic, and really just the icing on a beer that I would buy anyway. 


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