There have been homebrewing competitions we've written about in the past at the end of which the champion amateur gets to brew a bigger batch of their winning beer for commercial release. But not one on this scale.
From this Friday drinkers across the country will be able to get their hands on cans of Fruits of the Woods, an IPA brewed with honey created by Chris Woods from Karratha (pictured above). The homebrewer came out on top in Coopers' Master of the Brewniverse competition, which landed him an invite to brew at their Adelaide home and the chance to have a beer he'd been honing on his garage set hit shelves and fridges in Dan Murphy's.
That beer is based on a recipe Chris submitted to become one of the finalists for his state before his overall victory was declared by a judging panel that included GABS festival director Craig Williams, Fil Kemp and Ryan Davidson from Little Bang Brewing, The Beer Diva Kirrily Waldhorn and the Coopers team among others.
So what impressed the judges?
As per the competition rules, Fruit of the Woods was built from one of Coopers’ homebrew products, the Australian pale ale malt extract. Using that base for his partial grain recipe, Chris added crystal and carapils malts, quick oats courtesy of Uncle Tobys, a mix of new world hops like Riwaka, Amarillo, Simcoe and El Dorado, and some raw honey.
“I’d wanted make something with honey for a while and potentially make a mead, but I wanted to see what it would impart into a beer,” Chris says.
“It took it from what would have been just a hoppy New England IPA and gave it something different.”
The beer is something of a new direction for the brewery too, one whose connection with homebrewing stretches back to when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister. Not only is it one of the first IPAs Coopers have released, it's also the first time the they've used either oats or honey in a beer.
Chris, who has been homebrewing for about a decade on an off, says he was spurred into entering the beer by a mate who told him he couldn’t tell the difference between his beer and one bought from a bottleshop.
“That was probably the first really good beer I made,” he says. “I started about ten years ago but they were all rubbish. But about two years ago I started to do a bit more and experimenting with recipes.”
In March, Chris made the journey from Karratha to Adelaide to brew the substantially scaled up version of a beer that had started out as 20 litres on a stovetop.
“I’ve never been to a brewery that big before so being there and seeing it was a real eye-opener,” he says. “Pouring these massive bags of hops into a vessel like that was quite something really.”
Having moved to Australia from the UK in 2008, Chris says he’s promised to send some of the beer home, while seeing his beer on shelves hasn’t yet sparked the desire to go pro.
“That’s a whole new level isn’t it? I think I’m more likely to keep it as a hobby.”
That said, like all brewers, the quest for perfection goes on.
“I think it’s a slightly more refined version of what I brewed," he says of the new brew. "It’s really good.”
The beer is available for pre-order now and hits stores from May 15.