Look, we know what you all started thinking as our Advent Calendar and Best New Beers Of 2019 series drew to a close: if only we could get one more list-based article from The Crafty Pint then our lives would be complete. And who are we to deny our readers such pleasure?
So, just as we felt the end of the 2010s deserved celebrating with a spot of reflection in the company of 25 people who contributed to its momentousness, we agreed the beers that helped shape the decade deserved acknowledgement too.
Ten beers from ten years would make sense, but we couldn't agree on just ten so there's a few more than that. Max Allen managed to keep it to ten for his piece in the Australian Financial Review – now that's a professional. Four of his beers were the same as those we selected and four of the other featured breweries are the same too.
But let's not get distracted. We've got a list to write...
Stone & Wood Pacific Ale
We can keep this entry brief, not least as we've written about this beer at length in the past, but also because you likely know plenty about it anyway. Pacific Ale (or Draught Ale as it was initially known – see above) has built the biggest independent brewery in the country (other than Coopers), defined a new Aussie style of beer, launched a thousand imitators (and a long-running court battle), and helped popularise Aussie hops globally. Nuff said. James Smith
Feral Hop Hog
That was the reaction of most first time Hog Hog drinkers and, while it may be hard for some to imagine now, this beer stood apart from almost everything else when it first appeared. For many years, Hop Hog was many Australian drinker’s introduction to the IPA style and it’s worth noting this was probably Australia’s first commercially dry-hopped beer too; an insane notion given the multifaceted lupulin regimes of the present day.
Although it debuted in 2008, omitting Hop Hog’s long shadow over the Teens, awards and all, would be careless but that’s not why it’s here. Hog Hog changed Australian palates, most often at the pub, and did so with an intensely myopic view of quality that makes it a wonder that, for the greatest portion of its influence, Hop Hog was handmade and bottled by two blokes in a Swan Valley shed.
With interest and growth came a production facility, and then another. All the while Hop Hog anchored everything Feral, including 2011’s Watermelon Warhead, one of Australia’s first consistently available sour beers, until that crown was passed to a different expression of Feral’s hoppy passion, Biggie Juice. But, for many drinkers, when there was nothing else, there was Hop Hog and that was more than enough. Guy Southern
Nail Brewing Clout Stout
For a non-barrel-aged beer with a hefty price tag, the legacy of Clout Stout goes beyond the rich, labyrinthine liquid; its greatest influence is intent. It’s a belief that beer is worthy, complex, sexy, decadent and deserving of contemplation, the ruminations of which now echo in barrel programs, wild ales and more. Clout Stout pushed the idea of beer forward in Australia, regardless of whether you had tried it or not.
Celebrating the brewery’s tenth anniversary, Nail’s award-winning Stout recipe was trebled and only the first runnings used to create a massive, bittersweet Russian Imperial Stout. Pouring a light-absorbing black and contentiously worth more than a carton of beer, John’s family hand bottled Clout in champagne bottles, bestowing it with a faux-pewter label and presentation box before bottle conditioning for months at a time; in short, this was a beer to be taken seriously.
And it was. More awards flooded in and although plans for an annual release proved challenging as the decade progressed, many will still recall their first Clout experience – they are special occasions, not usually reserved for beer. Mine was split with friends to celebrate the arrival of a baby and, most recently, with the founder of this site in the small hours of a Monday morning to sign off on a wonderful weekend. These are moments that deserve something opulent, something rarefied, something with Clout. GS
La Sirène Saison
When we moved into our rental in Alphington back in 2010, I turned to my wife and announced: "We've given up on life." A little dramatic, perhaps, as we'd had to find a bigger place than was available in Collingwood with Crafty Pot Sr on the way and also because it's not that far from Melbourne's lively inner north 'burbs. Still, it was a quiet, leafy spot and we no longer had Chopper Read living across the road or a rotating lineup from The Panics and Oh Mercy! living next door.
What we did end up with, a few years on, was a brewery 800 metres from the house that specialises in my favourite style of beer. Sure, I drink more pales and IPAs, but saison – straight, barrel-aged, Bretted – give me as much joy as any other beverage. And Costa Nikias makes them as well as anyone.
The brewing company he initially launched with James Brown, a mate with a shared passion for farmhouse ales, is closing in on a decade of beers now and has taken that initial Saison – brewed with a yeast they sourced from Northern Europe – to myriad places, both the liquid and the ethos that infuses their urban farmhouse brewery. Wild saisons, hoppy farmhouse ales, fruit sours, barrel-aged and blended beers of immense depth and complexity, koelschip beers, beer-wine hybrids... the list goes on.
Their Saison wasn't Australia's first but the brewery Costa now runs with wife Eva was the first to embark on such a singular mission, one dedicated to the celebration of farmhouse style beers and, increasingly over time, nature. And they're in Alphington. How damn lucky am I? JS
Moon Dog's Magnificent Mullets
For the vast majority of local drinkers to have tried them, The Magnificent Mullets will only have come into their hands when they re-appeared last year. By that point, soured and, in some cases, lactose dosed fruit beers were available at pretty much every decent bar and bottleshop and there would barely be a brewery out there that hasn't brewed at least one.
Yet the very first Magnificent Mullet – Melon Gibson – appeared on tap at the Royston in Richmond way back in February 2012, soon to be followed by McGuava and Billy Ray Citrus. They didn't stick around long – the brewery didn't do core range back then – and, in a lineup that kicked off with a Cognac barrel-aged double IPA and a wild ale with cherries, soon to be followed by beers with names like Nordic Saddle Buffer, they wouldn't have made as much of an impact on the nascent craft beer cognoscenti's conscious as other Moon Dog beers. What's more, Feral's Watermelon Warhead is likely the first local beer that introduced many to the Berliner Weisse style.
Yet, looking at the market today, it's clear they were an early foreshadowing of what was to come. And given Moon Dog's outré oeuvre has included what we believe was the first local milkshake IPA (Splice of Heaven) and first Brut IPA (last year's Abbey Collabby or, maybe, Bay Boy Bubbly) and their ongoing ability to keep surprising people, they deserve a place here as madcap disruptors as much as anything. JS
We took a trip down Memory Lane with Moon Dog's founders when they opened Moon Dog World last year.
Mountain Goat Summer Ale
If you were to look back at the beers Mountain Goat released through the 2010s, there would be many you'd pick ahead of Summer Ale when it comes to the liquid (although the beer picked up a trophy at the 2019 Australian International Beer Awards). But this beer is arguably the most influential.
Why? Because it was the first canned craft beer to go off.
The Australian Brewery was the first small independent to put beer into cans but it was the Melbourne operation's Summer Ale that showed there was interest. They said they were unsure if it would work at the time and just put one batch through at their partner brewer (and later owner) Asahi at the start of summer 2013/14; within a week they'd ordered a second. Then a third.
Looking back, it seems remarkable there was so much doubt as to whether craftier drinkers would take to cans in such a lifestyle-orientated country. And, when you consider Cam and Dave decided to launch the beer in Cairns (think about it), complete with tasting at a local ten pin bowling centre, you have to believe they were at least reasonably confident.
Part of their reasoning was to have something they wanted to drink at the Meredith Music Festival pretty much the whole brewery team attended every year. Now the array of cans in people's hands at music festivals (those that allow you to BYO, at least) is as colourful as the characters in the crowd. One of the most remarkable changes in drinking habits of the decade. JS
Boatrocker Miss Pinky
Two fruit sours in the list? Go on then...
There's a strong argument for including Ramjet here, given the pedestal it occupies even among imperial stouts in this country, and the fact it's spawned multiple offshoots, an annual Ramjet Day and the ongoing collaboration between Boatrocker and Starward. Yet, if the Magnificent Mullets were among the first such beers to appear in Australia, Miss Pinky – the third Berliner Weisse released by Boatrocker after Mitte and Orange Sherbet (a To Øl collab) was the little lady who took the baton and ran with it.
Not only is the beer an utter delight - exploding with fresh raspberries, possessing a fine balance, and feeling remarkably full and soft for a beer of such low ABV – but it was the first locally brewed sour beer to be ranged nationally by Dan Murphy's (just as Ben Kraus scored the first local saison on their shelves with Bridge Road's Chevalier Saison), something that felt like a significant milestone – a sign of how innovative small brewers were making a different at even the biggest retailers. JS
Read our article on the first ten years of Boatrocker.
Modus Operandi Former Tenant
On a balmy October evening in 2014, Modus Operandi blew up the beer world.
It had been barely three months since a young Aussie couple opened the doors to their brewery in Mona Vale, an outpost on Sydney’s glittering Northern Beaches. On this night, as many of the most distinguished faces of the beer world crowded into a Redfern theatre to crown new champions at the flagship awards for Australian craft brewers, their newness afforded rare anonymity in an industry whose social obligations mean degrees of separation are measured in fractions. Soon everyone would know their name.
Of the eleven trophies awarded, they won four: Champion IPA, Champion Amber/Dark Ale, Champion Small Brewery and Champion Australian Craft Beer. The jaw-dropping haul set a standard for a brewery that, in the intervening years, has proven smart, ambitious, innovative and a byword for quality.
It’s easy to forget they were first in Australia – second in the world – to retrofit a turn-of-the-century food seamer and serve takeaways off tap in one litre cans. You don’t realise how long their voice has been shouting from the frontline of the fight for freshness and packaging dates. You take for granted their efforts to create an end-to-end, self distributed cold supply chain that treats the beer and consumer right. You lose track of the ferocity with which they threw themselves into a once-fledgling movement for hazy beer. But you’re never allowed to forget just how good their beer is.
And none shine so bright as Former Tenant, the red IPA which won Champion Australian Craft Beer and helped put them on the map that famous October night. Now, as then, this ruby red gem is little short of revelatory. A relentlessly rich riot of passionfruit, mango and citrus hop character sliding into sweet and sticky caramel malts. Proper strong. Perilously drinkable. Canned magnificence. Nick Oscilowski
Read our look back at the first five years of Modus here.
Pirate Life IIPA
It wasn't Australia's first double IPA, nor is it Australia's biggest IPA. It's not Pirate Life's biggest seller either, won't even be close in terms of volume. Yet, of all the decisions that helped them storm the local beer world and send hop fiends weak at the knees, it was the one to put an 8.8 percent ABV, 120 IBU IIPA in their core range from day one.
And not just core range. Their "normal" beers at launch – the mid-strength Throwback IPA and their Pale Ale – were sent out in 355ml cans. The IIPA was 500ml in shades of black and dark grey, the sort of beer where one was enough to have you merry, a four-pack a recipe for an early night.
It shot to the top of the Hottest 100 straight away, helping build hype around a brewery that was snapped up by AB InBev just 33 months after releasing their first cans. Today, the relentless focus on hop forward beers has been replaced by an anything goes approach; they released 50-odd new beers in 2019 and ended the year with a mid-strength Hard Green Tea on tap. What this says about their future direction remains to be seen but, as with many of the beers in this list, do you remember your first time? JS
KAIJU! Krush first made it into bars and bottleshops right at the end of 2016 and, looking back three years on, its release feels like a watershed moment for the Melbourne brewery and beer in cans generally. Sure, it wasn’t the first local craft beer in a tinnie, not by some years, and it was a sidestep into the realms of the normal as a liquid compared to the beers with which they'd made their name. But where Krush stands out is how KAIJU! used the full can as a canvas for their artwork and created something truly eye-catching and humorous at the same time.
Beer fans already knew the brewery had a knack for design, with American designer Mikey Burton – who brewery co-founder Carla Reeves had always wanted to work with on computer games – turning the madcap ideas of brothers Nat and Callum Reeves into a family of monsters (and the odd hero) unlike anything we'd seen on an Aussie beer before. But, with Krush, the can with a stoned-looking giant pineapple in the sand, set against a pastel backdrop and with plenty of other little details to discover, they took things to another level.
The beer has been a runaway success for the brewery too, helping KAIJU! push into more parts of the country and a major reason behind their brewery expansion at the tailend of 2019. Will Ziebell
Talking of beers helping breweries expand... The photo above was taken in October 2015 – just over four years ago. There's Scotty Hargrave in an empty shed in which a team featuring four surfers was about to build a brewery going by the name Balter. I'm pretty sure you know what happened to those guys...
The beer that took them into the arms of CUB was Scotty's XPA, a beer he'd been working on at home for a while before it became Balter's first white tinnie. It wasn't Australia's first XPA and, as a pale, hop forward, balanced and very sessionable ale, it wasn't exactly radical in concept. But it had everything in its right place, winning over drinkers seeking refreshment after a day on the Gold Coast beaches just as it won over beer judges everywhere it went.
Combined with their social and traditional media-friendly story, a great brand, hard work and their ability to give people a good time, XPA was the main driver of one of the local beer world's most remarkable recent stories. Many of you won't be enjoying its latest chapter, but you can't deny its impact. JS
3 Ravens Juicy & Hop Nation Jedi Juice
New England IPAs – or hazy IPAs as they've become – are so ubiquitous in craft beer circles now it’s easy to forget that, just a few years ago, so much attention was focused on how they were just a fad that would pass, how they were just the result of poor brewing techniques. Three years on, it seems less haze craze than part of the furniture (with other "styles" with tenuous claims to be part of the increasingly Addams-esque IPA family claiming fad status). Two of the beers that have helped cement such beers in drinkers' affections are Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice and and 3 Ravens Juicy.
They weren’t the first – Sydney’s Batch and Tasmanian operation Ocho were among those to release such beers early, while Hop Nation had already been playing in that area before Jedi Juice arrived – but they did more than any other to help popularise the style and take up permanent residency in a brewery's core range.
3 Ravens’ original Juicy was first brewed late in 2016, with head brewer Brendan O’Sullivan developing a fascination in the style; at the time, he said it was the most technically involved beer he'd brewed – quite the opposite from the lazy / bad brewing accusations hurled – sometimes with justification – at other examples. The recipe was tweaked (and has been further since) before the beer became a year-round offering, complete with myriad fruited and single hop variants, in hip-hop-meets-juice-box cans midway through 2017.
Before debuting Jedi Juice at GABS 2017, Hop Nation had released IPAs with a degree of haze in both The Dawn and The Chop but Jedi quickly became the beer for which they're best known (with ABAC adjudicators too), landing in the GABS Hottest 100 top ten for 2017 and 2018. The two Melbourne breweries even got together to celebrate their distant relos, brewing two collabs – Jedi Juicy and Juicy Jedi – which combined elements of each others' beers. WZ
Topher Boehm and Chris Allen of Wildflower Brewing and Blending have always strived to create truly Australian beer. Problem is, the way they go about it is essentially at odds with almost every other beer brewed in Australia. Taking inspiration from traditional Belgian breweries and American wild ale producers, Wildflower wanted to create beer truly unique to their little corner of the world.
Waratah started as a conversation with Stu Whytcross of Voyager Craft Malt. He proposed producing a beer comprised entirely of ingredients from New South Wales, something that had never been done before. Voyager could provide single origin malted barley from the Riverina, Ryefield Hops could provide Cascade and Fuggles hops grown in Bemboka, Wildflower could produce a yeast culture 100 percent native to NSW and the water would come from the mains at Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville.
First released during Sydney Beer Week in 2017, Waratah has now become a celebration of independence, sustainability and the importance of producers. The annual release day at the Wildflower barrel room is highlighted with talks from farmers, fellow brewers, vintners, academics and writers, all coming together to recognise beer as an agricultural product, produced by a chain of people who each deserve recognition.
Topher and Chris are far from alone in their approach: Ashley and Jane Huntington have been highlighting the destructive impact of modern retail practices on traditional farming for years at Two Metre Tall, there are farm-based breweries like Rocky Ridge and Pioneer looking to use as much homegrown produce as possible, and others working with local producers to obtain fruit – fresh, second use, or destined otherwise for landfill. We talked about including Van Dieman here too in recognition of Will Tatchell's Estate Ales, the first commercially released beers in Australia to use hops, malt, water and yeast all sourced and processed on the same land where they were brewed and packaged.
All are helping drive new conversations, while Wildflower's recent triumph at the inaugural Drink Easy awards, where they claimed Best Drink In Australia, will help beer enter the conversations of more people outside the beer bubble.
As punters continue to place greater value on local and independent brewers, perhaps the time is coming for those very same brewers to place the same value and importance on their raw ingredients. Judd Owen
OK, that's it. Promise. No more features looking back at 2019 or the 2010s or looking ahead into the 2020s. They've been fun, though, eh?