It's a lesser known piece of Australian history that the secret ballot – the way most states, countries and high school student councils now elect leaders – was first put to test on these shores.
Voting privately had been done on and off in parts of the world for centuries, but it wasn't until halfway through the 19th century that those practices became enshrined. It was then that the colonies of Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria decided that, in order for government elections to be fair, the best practice would be making sure people could vote without feeling someone's warm breath on the back of their neck.
Other countries soon caught on to the idea and the secret ballot – or Australian ballot – became standard practice for places hoping to hold – or to look like they were holding – fair and proper elections.
Even after voting, Australians often like to keep their decision quiet to avoid any awkward conversations about politics at the water cooler or the next family dinner. But when it comes to voting for your favourite song or beer secretive isn't the operative word. If you don't post your top ten tracks of 2018, will your Hottest 100 votes even count?
Many beer fans are also quick to take to Instagram right after the submit button has been hit for the GABS Hottest 100 so they can show off – and sometimes even dissect – the list they've selected.
But how do drinkers end up with their top five? Is whittling a list down to just five beers becoming harder and harder in a country where more and more good beer is available year after year? Do they prefer to focus on the latest and greatest or cast their votes for stone cold classics? If they've totally fallen for a great beer from a tiny brewery, is there any point voting for it when it's unlikely to even crack the top 200, or must you stay true to your conscience?
With little more than a week to go until the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers voting closes, we asked some avid beer fans from around the country what they like about the annual poll, how they vote and which breweries they think will do well when the results are revealed on January 27, 2019.
We posed questions to some of the most dedicated beer fans around Australia.
- Matt Brown - The Sydneysider who started the popular Facebook beer group CBC (Australian Craft Beer Crew).
- Katrina Carlos - A Tasmanian whose posts about both local beers and those from further afield through her Instagram account Hammia.
- Rosemarie Ensink - A Melbourne beer fan and avid homebrewer whose colourful hair makes her tough to miss at beer events.
- Mat Farrington - Based in the nation's capital, Mat covers the beers of Canberra and its surrounds through his CanBEERra social channels.
- Amy Lowe - Manager at the West Thebby Social Club, a pub in Adelaide's inner-west with a top selection of local beer.
- Jamie Reeves - The person behind South West Craft Beer Bogans (SWCBB), a Facebook group dedicated to promoting the good beer scene of West Australia's South West, and the 2018 Mayor of WA Beer Week.
- Dave Walls - Currently a resident of Melbourne's inner north, Dave's frequently called Tasmania home in the past, regularly frequenting the breweries, beer bars and events of both states.
Why do you vote in the Hottest 100?
MATT BROWN: Personally I find it fun to enter my favourite beers into the Hottest 100. It gives you a bit more interest in the results and it's good seeing a beer you voted for being on the list.
It's also a chance to help the lesser well known breweries out there – who have been making absolutely amazing beer – get the recognition they deserve.
KATRINA CARLOS: To contribute and to have my tastes included.
ROSEMARIE ENSINK: The beer community is so diverse and I enjoy being a part of it and putting my two cents in. I enjoy seeing if my beers get in (which they usually don't) and I enjoy seeing how our community is shaping up and the changes year to year. I'm also excited to see more breweries and more different styles being acknowledged.
MAT FARRINGTON: It’s such a large and influential poll. I want good beer to be well represented in it. The best way I can do that is to participate and to encourage other drinkers to participate as well.
AMY LOWE: Its a bit of fun, just like Triple J's hottest 100: beer and music are good mates.
JAMIE REEVES: To add a South West Australian feel to the craft beer poll.
DAVE WALLS: I love voting in the Hottest 100 because, while it is a popularity contest, won by distribution, it also allows the average punter to have their say on the craft beer industry as a whole.
Do you enjoy the process of picking five beers or find it a challenge? Is it becoming easier or tougher over time?
MB: The process is always a bit of a challenge as it’s like picking you favourite child. And thank god for Untappd as I would have no idea what I drank this year without it.
KC: I find it’s becoming much tougher and is a challenge due to how many new brews are out there now.
RE: I enjoy it but I do find it a challenge and it's nice to think back on the year that was. It's definitely getting tougher too.
MF: It is enjoyable but also a challenge. The number of beers to consider each year grows as I get across more beers, but against that I keep records and my palate develops and experience grows.
AL: I've only been voting for a couple of years. It's definitely got its challenges; as we produce some pretty epic beers in Australia it's hard to put it down to just five.
JR: I think it's becoming easier because of the huge amount of craft beer out there. When one stands out for me it instantly goes on my beer shelf and I don’t have a big shelf so I’m forever knocking cans off to make room haha!
DW: I do sometimes feel that five beers is a challenge as there are so many great beers being released so frequently, but also that the beers at the start of the year are also forgotten about over the year. Styles don’t come into it for me, though I know the hop-heavy beers often get a big run, they aren’t the ones that we always drink.
How do you approach which beers will be in your top five?
MB: I basically go through Untappd and see what I rated high, and then see why I enjoyed that beer. Was it a lager on a hot day or a warming stout on a cold day? Or was it an amazing beer that I would rate no matter what the weather? Then finally I see if they are from a smallish brewery. Sorry, Balter, Feral and Stone & Wood – those guys are going to get on the list without my help.
KC: I like to include a few different styles and breweries and yes – they need to be new releases.
RE: I think of which beers come to mind straight away that are memorable, then I made a list and had to cull from there. I go back over Untappd and see how I rated it and any comments I made.
I usually pick new releases that have had something that really hit me, such as a flavour that's really on point or different – a beer that I want to go back to again and again sometimes because it's a style I enjoy but the flavour just has something extra.
MF: I look back at my previous Hottest 100 votes for a bit of a reflection and I then have a look at what I have been drinking in past 12 months to get my candidates.
I don’t go too technical or Untappd about it, though. Instead I approach the GABS Hottest 100 like the Triple J Hottest 100 and think about the beers that I would want to line up in a mix representing my 2018; beers linked to important times or events in the year might get more of a look in for that reason. I don’t have to force a diversity of styles into the mix though as Canberra’s contrasting seasons do that for me.
My voting isn’t tactical. I admit that my votes can look parochial, but that is only a side effect of me caring about drinking fresh and seeking out local region beers throughout the year.
GABS doesn’t restrict voting to new releases. It’s like pre-1993 Triple J. So sometimes an older release gets on my list. But it won’t get on my list purely because it’s a hall-of-famer. It’ll get on there because it worked well for me this year too. Old favourites become old favourites because they’re still suiting me year after year.
I like that GABS doesn’t draw attention to new versus old releases. It puts all beers up for consideration by drinkers new and old. Every beer is potentially a new beer for someone.
AL: This year I picked five beers that really stood out to me, some were new and some have been around for a while. Either way, they were great examples of the style and beers I go back to frequently.
JR: I always go for a beer that I’ll drink more than one of. So, say I buy one to try and then I'll go back and grab a six-pack of it, it doesn’t matter the style or a old favourite.
DW: I try and think about the beers I’ve had frequently throughout the year, and my favourite breweries, when I’m working out my votes.
GABS Hottest 100 is now in its 11th year; if there was an all-time H100 poll covering 2008 to now, which beers would make your top five Australian beers?
MB: Wow, that’s a hard one. The complete list would be:
- Feral Watermelon Warhead – Such a delight to drink in summer. So complex yet so easy drinking.
- Doctor's Orders Cephalopod – Was such a mindwarp of a beer looking like something which was radioactive with the squid ink but tasting divine.
- Little Brewing Death Between The Tanks – One of the first DIPAs I had, which was so well balanced with malt and hops.
- Bacchus Brewing Islay Reserve – After dinner sipping this 16 percent ABV smoky beer is just a heavenly way to end the night.
- Redoak Framboise – Was the beer that turned me into enjoying craft and showing me that beer was something more than what was in a VB or a Tooheys new.
KC: La Sirène Praline, Little Rivers East Coast IPA, Hop Nation The Chop IPA, Modus Operandi Future Factory Imperial IPA and KAIJU! Krush.
RE: This is a hard one because beers change over time and so do my tastebuds and I would probably change my answers when asked again but for now:
- Holgate Empress (original version not the new one)
- Hop Nation Black Rhino Cherry Lips
- Mountain Goat Bigfoot Stout
- 3 Ravens Bock
- Moon Dog Jumping The Shark
MF: I might make my approach similar to that of The Chosen Brew Podcast and look for beers that mark milestones or turning points on my beer journey over the eleven years. So here they are, some are still in production and some aren't. They aren't ranked:
- Five Barrel Brewing Session Red IPA
- HopDog BeerWorks SuperBeast 2016
- Illawarra Brewing Co Chuck Norris (Single Hop American Amber)
- Zierholz Premium Brewery Hefeweizen
- BentSpoke Brewing Co Black Tyre (Black IPA)
- La Sirène Imperial Praline
- Hawkers Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
- Feral Tusk April 2018
- Hop Nation Jedi Juice
- Boatrocker Dramjet
JR: Feral Hop Hog, Balter XPA, Feral Tusk, Nail VPA and Bootleg Speakeasy IPA.
DW: My top five ever:
- Colonial IPA
- Colonial Inquest
- Hawkers Rover Henty St Ale
- Two Birds Sunset Ale
- La Sirène Citray Sour
Who do you think will take out the podium spots this year?
MB: I think Balter XPA will win the gong again as they have brilliant reach with their product line and it’s a bloody good beer. You’ll always have breweries with huge reach of product out in front of breweries with better beers.
Every year, in CBC you see people become outraged that their beloved small batch beer which was brewed with the oak of a sunk pirate ship is rated lower than James Squire 150 Lashes. You have to take this list for what it is and read it a certain way. You should be excited when that small batch beer which was brewed for a single event rates on a list at all as it shows people celebrating and try new and exciting beers.
One thing I’m not a fan of is when breweries give away free beers for votes or greatly incentivise people voting for them. This was quite obvious last year with some breweries taking pages out in their local newspapers and that just doesn’t sit right with me. [Offering incentives for people to vote for your beers, other than asking them to vote, leads to breweries being excluded from the poll so if you see anything like this, get in touch with the GABS team – Editor]
KC: Hop Nation Jedi Juice, Balter IIPA and 3 Ravens Acid.
RE: I think Stone & Wood will be up there and so will Modus Operandi, Balter and Young Henrys. Hopefully, Bridge Road and Boatrocker too.
I think people care about ownership so it will be interesting to see where Feral and Pirate Life end up but I think they will be lower [than in previous years].
MF: BentSpoke Crankshaft, Balter XPA, Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, simply because I see no erosion and only strengthening in these three beers and brands in the last 12 months.
AL: Hop Nation Jedi Juice, Modus Operandi Former Tenant, BentSpoke Crankshaft.
JR: Nail's VPA by half a fairy's wing.
DW: I do think this will be the year of the mainstream sours so:
- Colonial South West Sour
- Stomping Ground Watermelon Smash
- Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
You can check out our roundup of the best new beers of 2018 by heading here.
If you haven't yet voted for the GABS Hottest 100, voting closes on Friday, January 18.