For anyone closely involved in the Australian beer scene, one notable absence from this year's normal way of life has been beer awards. The Australian International Beer Awards usually take place during Good Beer Week in May and herald a steady stream of similar events, but COVID-19 put paid to that.
Things returned to some sort of normality last night in Perth, however, as the brewing community from across the state gathered for the Perth Royal Beer Awards. And there was much for hometown brewers to celebrate too, not least Blasta, the Burswood brewpub-based operation launched by expat Scot Steve Russell who we featured on the site yesterday as they celebrated a different kind of win.
They took out six medals and four trophies in total, including the coveted Champion Beer title and Champion IPA (Draught) for their Chainbreaker IPA, deemed the best of the hundreds entered by a panel of experts. Blasta – Scottish slang for delicious – also won Champion Small Brewery and Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Draught) for their "quad fruited" sour Rampant Raspberry.
Steve thanked his team, saying: "All we do is try to make the best beers possible. Just like every other brewery in WA."
Denmark's Boston Brewing continued their recent run of success with three major gongs: Best Amber / Dark (Packaged) for Devilslide Red IPA, Best European Style Beer (Packaged) for Afterglose and Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Packaged) for their Cherry Porter.
There were twin trophies for some, as Otherside picked up Best IPA (Packaged) for Headliner IIPA and Best Porter / Stout (Draught) for their Russian Imperial Stout, and Beerfarm claimed Best Lager (Packaged) for their IPL and Best Porter / Stout (Packaged) for Milk Stout. And, as they prepare to build a brewpub in Perth, Pirate Life doubled up in the Best Low Alcohol Beer category with Throwback IPA and Açai & Passionfruit Sour.
Otherside GM Steve Finney said: "The team have put it a massive amount over COVID, and this reflects our team culture".
Other trophies claimed by WA brewers included Best Lager (Draught) for Esperance brewery Lucky Bay's Lockdown Dark Lager, Best Pale Ale (Packaged) for Cheeky Monkey's newly released Sherby, Best Pale Ale (Draught) for Beerland Brewing Co, Best Amber / Dark (Draught) for serial trophy-winners Nail and their impeccable Red, with Artisan collecting their annual piece of silverware for Best European Style Beer (Draught) with their Quad 2018.
The Champion Large Brewery title was claimed by Lion and Best New Exhibitor went to King Road Brewing Co, the family-run operation south of Perth that's in the midst of expansion, with Best Packaging and Design won by Feral for Dirty Biggie in a category in which designer Jarrod Fuller of Zendoke won a remarkable seven golds for his work with Margaret River Brewhouse and Boston Brewing.
Speaking ahead of the awards evening, chief Judge Will Irving said that the competition across all categories had been incredibly strong.
“We’ve seen big growth in the number of pale ale and IPA entries winning gold medals this year," he said. "It shows that hops are still king and there is still a huge drive across all brewers in producing those great, expressive hop-driven styles.
“We’ve also seen a steady increase in the number of sours being entered, though not the huge boom that many were expecting.
“All in all the quality and consistency across categories in 2020 has been pretty exceptional, especially when you consider all the challenges the industry has been facing this year with COVID-19."
He described Blasta's year as "incredible", with "quality there throughout all their entries", adding that Boston "deserve the recognition they've received for their three trophies and five gold medals across a wide spread of categories."
Judges worked through 395 entries across 104 separate classes in a competition that's part of the Perth Royal Food Awards programme.
- CRYER MALT TROPHY for CHAMPION BEER: Blasta Brewing Company
- HOPCO TROPHY for CHAMPION LARGE BREWERY: Lion
- THE SAIL AND ANCHOR TROPHY for CHAMPION SMALL BREWERY: Blasta Brewing Company
- LITTLE CREATURES TROPHY for BEST NEW EXHIBITOR: King Road Brewing Co
- COPPER & OAK TROPHY for BEST LAGER PACKAGED: Beer Farm IPL
- CRYER MALT TROPHY for BEST LAGER DRAUGHT: Lucky Bay Brewing Lockdown Dark Lager
- HOPCO TROPHY for BEST PALE ALE PACKAGED: Cheeky Monkey Sherby
- TROPHY for BEST PALE ALE DRAUGHT: Beerland Brewing
- COPPER & OAK TROPHY for BEST INDIA PALE ALE PACKAGED: Otherside Headliner
- TROPHY for BEST INDIA PALE ALE DRAUGHT: Blasta Brewing Chainbreaker
- TROPHY for BEST AMBER - DARK ALE PACKAGED: Boston Brewing Devilslide
- TROPHY for BEST AMBER - DARK ALE DRAUGHT: Nail Brewing Australia
- TROPHY for BEST PORTER - STOUT PACKAGED: Beerfarm Milk Stout
- TROPHY for BEST PORTER - STOUT DRAUGHT: Otherside Russian Imperial Stout
- CONTAINER REFRIGERATION TROPHY for BEST EUROPEAN STYLE BEER PACKAGED: Boston Brewing Afterglose
- TROPHY for BEST EUROPEAN STYLE BEER DRAUGHT: Artisan Brewing Quad 2018
- BINTANI TROPHY for BEST HYBRID & SPECIALTY BEER PACKAGED: Boston Brewing Cherry Porter
- HOP PRODUCTS AUSTRALIA TROPHY for BEST HYBRID & SPECIALTY BEER DRAUGHT: Blasta Brewing Rampant Raspberry
- LION TROPHY for BEST LOW ALCOHOL BEER PACKAGED: Pirate Life Throwback IPA
- GAGE ROADS BREWING CO. TROPHY for BEST LOW ALCOHOL BEER DRAUGHT: Pirate Life Açai & Passionfruit Sour
- MENU MAGAZINE TROPHY for BEST PACKAGING AND DESIGN: Feral Brewing Dirty Biggie