Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers Of 2019: The Countdown

The countdown for the twelfth GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers is done and dusted and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale is back on top. A record 35,500 people cast votes for their favourite five beers in what's grown into the biggest people's choice vote in the country.

Congratulations to Stone & Wood, the team behind the poll at GABS, all the brewers who featured and the beer lovers that voted.

Ben Summons, CEO of the Fermentum family of businesses of which Stone & Wood is part, told The Crafty Pint that coming in at number one was a joyous moment for him and the crew at their Byron Bay home.

“We’re proud to be at the pointy end any time so it was pretty cool to get the top spot,” he says. “I think what’s held us there is a steady building of distribution and more drinkers trying us and putting us in their repertoire as one of their favourites. We’ve reached a kind of scale where there’s a lot of people who enjoy our beer regularly.”

As to whether Pacific Ale can remain on the list for another decade, you won’t find Ben gazing into a crystal ball but he says the list showed breweries that make great beer and really connect to their communities will do well. 

“We’ll always do our hardest to try and grow the brand the right way and keep investing in quality and the brand so we can keep introducing it to more and more drinkers,” he says.

“It was really cool to see a lot of other breweries shoot up the list and that’s a testament to the strength of these new breweries opening up over time and making great beer and connecting with their local communities.”

Now it's all over for another year, it's time for our analysis, infographic and more. Below you'll find the full 100 plus some fun stats drawn from the poll's past. We've also spoken to the new team at GABS for their thoughts, which you can find here. Our epic annual Infographic is here. And our in-depth analysis is here!

Don't forget you can still vote in the NZ poll until 11.59pm on January 27.


The Hottest 100

THE TOP TEN


1 – STONE & WOOD – PACIFIC ALE
2 – BALTER XPA
3 – BENTSPOKE – CRANKSHAFT IPA
4 – YOUNG HENRYS – NEWTOWNER
5 – YOUR MATES – LARRY
6 – BRIDGE ROAD BREWERS – BEECHWORTH PALE
7 – FERAL – BIGGIE JUICE
8 – BALTER – HAZY
9 – KAIJU! – KRUSH
10 – HOP NATION – JEDI JUICE


11

Balter – IPA
BentSpoke – BARLEY GRIFFIN
Burleigh – TWISTED PALM
Black Hops – PALE ALE
Gage Roads – SINGLE FIN
Coopers – XPA
BentSpoke – CLUSTER 8
Capital – HANG LOOSE JUICE
Coopers – ORIGINAL PALE ALE
Balter – CAPTAIN SENSIBLE

20

  • Balter’s IPA and Captain Sensible make it six beers in the 100 so far for the Gold Coast brewery, with Capital also now on six and BentSpoke on five. No one has landed more than seven in the top 100 since the very earliest years when a tiny pool of voters and a far smaller number of brewing companies made it easier. Holgate (2008), Bridge Road (2009) and Murray’s (2009 and 2010) scored eight in that early period but seven has been the best in recent years – Bridge Road in 2012 and 2013, Mountain Goat in 2014, 4 Pines in 2015, Feral in 2016 and Pirate Life in 2017. Will someone push past seven in the top ten? 
  • Another two from Coopers makes it their most successful H100 since 2009 when they featured six times. They didn’t enter their beers in 2016 but have been getting the vote out more in recent years. 
  • The four beers from Balter, Burleigh and Black Hops in this bracket make it thirteen so far for the Gold Coast spread across five breweries. We should be well used to it by now but, still, who seriously predicted the Gold Coast becoming a craft beer powerhouse?!?
  • Burleigh’s Twisted Palm is a rarity too: it’s one of just seven beers in the countdown so far that isn’t in a can (or both can and bottle). The first canned beers to appear in the poll were Australian Brewery Pale Ale and Mountain Goat Summer Ale in 2013. Of course, we knew back then they’d never take off in a big way…

21

Philter – XPA
Black Hops – HORNET
Stone & Wood – CLOUD CATCHER
4 Pines – PACIFIC ALE
Balter – DAZY
Balter – HAZY DC
4 Pines – PALE ALE
Modus Operandi – SONIC PRAYER IPA
Colonial – PALE ALE
BentSpoke – SPROCKET

30

  • Show. Me. Your. Hops! Four pale ales / XPAs. Three IPAs. One hazy IPA. One double hazy IPA. One hoppy mid-strength. Ten hop-forward beers out of ten. As Prince might once have said, Sign o' the Times.
  • Talking of hop-forward, with Sonic Prayer joining Former Tenant, Modus Operandi continue their record of landing at least two beers in the Hottest 100 since launching more than five years ago. Former Tenant has twice made it into the top ten, while 2017 was their best year overall with no less than five beers making the 100.
  • On the other hand, unless they’ve improved their showing from 2019, it looks like some of the big stories from last year – One Mile in Darwin (four beers in the top 100), The Welder’s Dog (three in the top 50), for example – haven’t backed up their impressive debuts in 2018.

31

Capital – COAST ALE
James Squire – ONE FIFTY LASHES
Black Hops – SUPER HORNET
Grifter – SERPENTS KISS
Moon Dog – OLD MATE
Grifter – PALE
Furphy – FURPHY REFRESHING ALE
Colonial – SOUTH WEST SOUR
Stomping Ground – GIPPS ST PALE ALE
Your Mates – SALLY

40

  • GABS and Hottest 100 founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone sold the and poll festival to a group led by entrepreneur Mike Bray in November, which meant Stomping Ground were eligible to enter the countdown for the first time ever. Prior to that, they chose to stand aside to avoid any conflict of interest. As a result, there’s been plenty of discussion as to where Stomping Ground might land a beer, with the brewery focusing promotion on their flagship Gipps St Pale.
  • Last year’s countdown was something of a breakout year for the Sunshine Coast with Your Mates, 10 Toes and Brouhaha all polling well. This year, that trend looks set to continue, with three Your Mates and 10 Toes beers in the H100 so far and Heads Of Noosa having joined the party with their Japanese Lager at 45.
  • One Fifty Lashes and Furphy make it three beers so far for Lion/Kirin in the Battle Of The Big Beer Brands. They’re currently one ahead of Coca-Cola Amatil with Feral’s two, one behind Asahi (Mountain Goat and Green Beacon with two each) and on level pegging with CUB (two Balter, one 4 Pines, Pirate Life yet to make an appearance). It’s likely to be the last year this will be worth following; if Asahi’s takeover of CUB is approved, they’ll have Mountain Goat, 4 Pines, Pirate Life, Green Beacon, Balter and Matilda Bay under the one roof.

41

Coopers – SESSION ALE
Brick Lane – ONE LOVE
Coopers – SPARKLING ALE
Dainton – BLOOD ORANGE NERIPA
Heads Of Noosa – JAPANESE LAGER
Bondi Brewing – BEACH BEER BONDI
Ballistic – OAKED XPA
10 Toes – PIPELINE
Feral –  IMPERIAL BIGGIE
Balter – IIPA

50

  • Could Dainton’s Blood Orange NERIPA be setting out its stall to be one of those cult beers that doesn’t sell a heap but always takes up residence in the H100? That’s three years running for the brewery that releases a new can every week and has claimed two Indies Champion Beer trophies in three years (for a Cherrywood Smoked Baltic Porter and the Triple Dry-Hopped Double Red Eye Rye).
  • What’s that? Some oak? Back in 2014, there were no less than seven barrel-aged beers in the top 100; in 2015 and 2016 four. Since then… zip. Will Ballistic’s delicious Oaked XPA – holder of the equal highest score this site’s founder has ever given in a blind tasting and fermented on oak chips rather than barrel-aged – be the sole woody wonder here or are there barrel-aged beauties lying in wait?
  • On the other hand, lagers do appear to be making a comeback after all. It’s been a topic of discussion for years – craft lagers are gonna be big, baby – yet, when it comes to this poll at least, that’s not what punters are voting for. Yet the debut by Sunshine Coast lager specialists Heads Of Noosa makes it ten lagers of one form or another in the first 60 – that’s as many as 2017 and 2018 combined, while there were just two in 2015 and 2016.

51

Feral –  HOP HOG
10 Toes – HAPPY DAYS
Capital – ROCK HOPPER IPA
Little Creatures – PALE ALE
BentSpoke – RED NUT
Young Henrys – NATURAL LAGER
Modus Operandi – FORMER TENANT RED IPA
Jetty Road – PALE ALE
Mountain Goat – GOAT
Moon Dog – SPLICE OF HEAVEN PINE-LIME

60

  • Like the former heavyweight champ now in their 50s but refusing to hang up their gloves, within one bracket we find two number ones from H100s gone by. Little Creatures Pale Ale was the people’s choice in the poll’s first two years and spent additional years on the podium until being replaced by 4 Pines Pale in 2014. The trailblazing beer, inspired by American pale ales like Sierra Nevada, first dropped out of the top ten three years ago. 
  • Feral’s Hop Hog came in at 72 during that first poll in 2008 despite only being available on tap in WA, reached seven the following year and had risen to the top by 2012. It went on to become the first beer to claim a hat-trick of consecutive top spots. Following Feral’s sale to Coca-Cola Amatil in 2017, it suffered a couple of sizeable drops but appears to have steadied in the 50s and remains, like Creatures Pale, a beer that helped change the character of the Australian beer world.
  • This is the second year Moon Dog’s Splice of Heaven has featured in the top 100, first landing at 81 in 2015. Back then it was the first commercially released milkshake IPA in the country. Today, it’s one of two such beers in the lower half of the H100, with Stone & Wood’s Counter Culture Sticky Nectar the other.

61

Big Shed – BOOZY FRUIT
Young Henrys – MOTORCYCLE OIL
Balter – STRONG PALE ALE
Colonial – IPA
Wayward – RASPBERRY BERLINER WEISSE
Currumbin – GRAPE BUBBLEGUM SOUR
Capital – TRAIL PALE ALE
Brick Lane – BASE LAGER
Stone & Wood – THE GATHERER
Fixation – FIXATION IPA

70

  • Two beers in this bracket that debuted as GABS Festival Beers: Boozy Fruit from Big Shed and Grape Bubblegum Sour from Currumbin Valley Brewing. Despite the close association between GABS and the Hottest 100* no more than six Festival Beers have appeared in the 100 in the previous five years. With three recorded already (Black Hops Caribbean Haze the other), maybe that’s set to change.
    (*Founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone started calling it the GABS Hottest 100 in 2015 after initially launching the poll at their first venue, The Local Taphouse in St Kilda.)
  • Brick Lane had never made the H100 before this year, despite brewing more beer than most in Australia – admittedly, mostly for other people. But Base Lager represents their second beer in successive groups of ten.
  • Motorcycle Oil makes it three dark beers so far (with Vanilla Milk Stout and Your Mates Donnie). While the beer world is in many ways more colourful and diverse than it’s ever been, you could argue it’s more colourful and diverse only in certain ways. Most Old World beers – classic English, Belgian and German beers, for example – have pretty much disappeared off the radar and how often do you see a stout or porter on tap outside a multi-tapped brewpub these days? How many will appear before we hit number one?
    As an aside, Young Henrys teamed up with Mapo Gelato in Newtown to make a Motorcycle Oil gelato. It wasn’t dark and it didn’t taste like dark beer, but the lychee hop flavour and bitterness came through loud and clear. Given the joy that can be found in a stout spider, perhaps ice cream is the gateway for getting more Australians into dark beer…?

71

Young Henrys – IPA
Thirsty Crow – VANILLA MILK STOUT
BentSpoke – HOW'S IT GOSEN?
Bridge Road – BEECHY XPA
10 Toes – LAGER
Green Beacon – WAYFARER
Bondi Brewing – BONDI DRAUGHT
Capital – BIG DROP DOUBLE IPA
Your Mates – MACCA
Brick Lane – RED HOPPY ALE

80

  • If you’re asking who Beach Beer Bondi are, you’re likely not alone. The contract brewing operation launched a few years ago under the name Ben Buckler Brewery and their Beach Beer Bondi came in at 131 last year. Looking through their social media channels the brewing operation has been actively encouraging voters (although not as actively as others) but with less than 500 followers on Facebook and 2,000 on Instagram the team obviously has a knack for cutting through the noise.
  • Once again, Thirsty Crow’s Vanilla Milk Stout has made it onto the list, having registered every year since debuting at 29 in 2011; it made the top ten in 2012 and 2013 too. The Wagga Wagga brewery has little in the way of distribution, their beers rarely make an appearance in the capital cities but have a cult following, particularly for the Vanilla Milk Stout – one that picked up an AIBA trophy within months of Craig Wealands opening his brewery – and retains a place in the hearts of many voters.
  • Like counting the rings on a fallen tree, tracing Bridge Road’s Beechy XPA’s journey to today tells a story of how the craft beer industry has changed and how styles transform. The beer has roots dating back to Bridge Road’s Australian Ale, the Beechworth brewery’s first ever release in 2005. Since then, the recipe’s been tweaked and the name changed, first to Golden Ale, then Beechy Summer Ale and now Beechy XPA.

81

Hemingway's Brewery – 7TH HEAVEN TROPICAL ALE
Stone & Wood – STICKY NECTAR
Capital – EVIL EYE RED IPA
Burleigh Brewing – BIGHEAD
Beerfarm – ASAM BOI GOSE
Black Hops – CARIBBEAN HAZE
Hop Nation – DREAMFEED
Nail – VPA
Young Henrys – STAYER
Moon Dog – BEER CAN

90

  • It’s a second appearance for Hemingway’s after their Pitchfork Betty’s Pale featured at 34 in 2018. They’ve been leading the way for craft beer in FNQ and picked up an AIBA trophy for The Prospector’s Pilsner in May 2019. Check out our feature on the beer scene in and around Cairns.
  • Mid-strengths: like light beers, they were once something of a punchline for craft beer drinkers but today are found in an ever-growing number of brewery’s lineups and deliver increasingly impressive flavour, aroma and body in small packages. But are they popular enough for many – indeed any – more to join Young Henrys Stayer in the top 100?
  • Hop Nation’s Dreamfeed was a big hit with hazy fans when it came out in 2019 [And I reckon it’s their best hazy IPA to date – Editor] and the Footscray brewery – with big plans for 2020 – fared well in past H100s. The Chop, a hybrid IPA that was one of Australia’s earliest hazy IPAs (even if it wasn't tagged as such), came in at 63 in the Hottest 100 2016, the first time such a beer appeared in the list. With three beers classed has Hazy IPAs or NEIPAs by their brewers already in the first 20, will this be the year it’s not just hoppy beers that dominate, but hazy, hoppy beers?
  • The appearance of VPA at 88 continues Nail’s impressive H100 run – other than a fallow year in 2012, the WA operation has featured every year since 2008, with beers as varied as the original Nail Ale, the epic Clout Stout, and WA fave Red Ale. It's Nail's 20th anniversary in 2020 too so expect more deliciousness from John Stallwood in the coming months.

91

4 Pines – INDIAN SUMMER ALE
Akasha – MOSAIC IPA
Green Beacon – WINDJAMMER IPA
Brouhaha – STRAWBERRY RHUBARB SOUR
Akasha – KORBEN D. DOUBLE IPA
Mountain Goat – SUMMER ALE
Bridge Road – BLING IPA
Range – PARTICIPATION AWARD (MR BANKS & MR WEST COLLAB)
Your Mates – DONNIE
Batch – PASH THE MAGIC DRAGON

100

  • That's two fruit sours in the first ten. Despite their ubiquity in craft beer circles these days, sours haven’t yet made much of an impact in the H100 even though the first Berliner Weisse to crack the list was Feral’s Watermelon Warhead – number 9 in 2012. That said, Feral – always trailblazers – had already seen their mixed ferment sour Funky Junky share 90th spot with Grand Ridge’s Moonshine in 2010, and there was a greater presence for farmhouse ales such as saisons, as well as other Belgian style beers, in the earlier years before hops took over.
  • There’s also two beers here from Akasha, the Sydney brewery that’s been ever present since launching in 2015, when Hopsmith IPA landed at 72. Prior to launching Akasha, brewery founder Dave Padden was co-owner and head brewer at Riverside, where he achieved his highest H100 ranking to date: number 12 with the 77 IPA in 2013.
  • It’s a first appearance for Range with their collab with Mr Banks and Mr West in at 98. Despite being taken to the hearts of Brisbane’s beer lovers from the off, becoming a must-do destination for beer tourists, and always appearing in our Best New Queensland Beers of the Year features, their lack of a core range and ever-changing lineup makes it likely their vote will be widely spread, so cracking the top 100 is no mean feat.


Thanks to Marie Claire Jarratt for this year's podium shot, ably assisted by new GABS owner Mike Bray who met her at the photography spot to collect podium and beers, picked up the beers in the top ten she'd been unable to source before moving to Melbourne, then returned – twice! – to get the family shot, even with the tides against him.


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