The tyranny of distance became WA’s blessing in 2020 – bad for beer logistics, but good for humans. As a result, the year became a reminder for many West to check in with what’s local. Being geographically isolated equally fosters a unique personality, the mobius rhythm of which played out in the largest – and most diverse – new beer release stream ever.
West Aussies like to travel, so, with nowhere to go, other than inside something a quarter the size of Europe, many a brewpub, craftier retailer and venue was "discovered".
As were cans, and haze, and sours. And hype. But, for all of the finger pistols and hashtags of scoring the latest release, plus increasingly naïve frustration at being reminded there was a global pandemic playing out elsewhere, the most interesting aspect was the shift.
Dank is dying, or may well be dead. Sure, this year saw some of the best 2013 style black IPAs, and a punchy, bitter West Coast IPA resurgence, however WA beer looks forward to barrels, cuddle tartness, milk and fruit – often together, and session hazy beers, the last of these a reflection of consumption in open venues, more than beer in package.
However, that’s at the pointier end of the beer pyramid. Elsewhere, WA Gage Road’s Single Fin and, increasingly, their Side Track 3.5 percent ABV XPA continue to gather sizeable momentum, which will likely continue as stadiums reopen in 2021. Not that the rest of WA beer hasn’t noticed. A closer look at most breweries shows a session beer supporting fleeting hedonism in 1,000 litre batches – and more than many would expect.
In the manner of outward-facing, secessionist house cats, WA beer will likely continue to do its own thing: informed, and curious about the world, but very happy playing at home.
Five Standout West Australians
Otherside & Garage Project Bubbles
This Carwyn Collaborational collab between Otherside and Garage Project nailed the brief, in complex circumstances: a cross-continent, COVID-challenged, juicy West Coast double IPA.
The James Simmons artwork popped (one member of The Crafty Pint team has kept a can for a pot plant). A vision of future IPAs.
King Road IPA
Strata shines within this beautifully made, straight ahead IPA. A beer which quickly became the WA brewers' beer. Perfect.
Nowhereman Mr Otter’s Barleywine
The oldest of rich, high gravity, malt driven beer styles, now clad in pink. This otter-ified can was deliciously very much of this, or any year. Ta, Maris.
Rocky Ridge’s Big Dumb Beers
Maple Bourbon Barrel-Aged Quad with Vanilla. But, really, who would have tried a drop of this?
Or the TDH Triple West Coast IPA. Or Rararaspberry. Oh, and Chunky Dates, and probably Rock Juice v7, or Dayman.
Check out our streamed event with Rocky Ridge for Crafty Cabal members here.
And Tied For Fifth...
Very honorable, alphabetical, mentions below. Perhaps a reflection of WA’s relative freedom that these all tied for fifth place? Normally, we would have had a Top 10 after all. C'mon, Editor!
- Artisan Quad 2020
- Beerfarm & Mane Liquor: The Mane Event Double Hazy IPA plus Shirazzaweiss 2020 and Fervor collabs
- Bright Tank Uncle Brett (Whisky Barrel-Aged Imperial Sour Stout)
- Cheeky Monkey Hazy (East Coast IPA) and Santa’s Secret Spot (Double East Coast IPA)
- Innate Cloud 8 (Oat Cream IPA) and Heirloom series – every release was bang on, even with so many styles.
- Margaret River Brewhouse Panther Cream 2020 (Whisky Barrel-Aged RIS)
- Feral West Coast IIPA (18th birthday beer)
- Seasonal Brewing Co Grapefruit & Rosemary Gose
- Wild Hop Strange Uncle Nelson Gose.
Breakthrough Brewery – Blasta
Blasta. There’s no doubting the name, the unicorns, the largesse fruit additions or the energy. And, despite 2020 putting a sizeable hole in the 500-plus capacity Burswood brewery venue’s normal rhythm, the thrill of beer still garnered Champion Beer with Chainbreaker IPA at the 2020 Perth Royal Beer Awards.
Blasta pulsed, relentlessly, and continued to welcome with Helles, while pushing forward with Pastry Sour.
Standouts Of The Year
A lengthy hard border closure reminded many West Australians what’s been brewing in their backyard, particularly south.
Urgency and pressure has seen remarkable growth on many fronts. Let’s see where this lands in 2021.
Big new arrivals
Shelter, Bailey Brewing and Running With Thieves openings, with Pirate Life Perth and more coming soon, prove there is still plenty of growth in WA.
In 2021, look out for ....
- WA beer – urban, regional, and online – It’s never been a secret, however the opportunity now glistens, for all of Australia. *insert waving emoji*
- Fremantle’s beer renaissance – In 2021, the port city will be home to new brewery venues from Gage Roads, Running with Thieves, and Slake Brewing, plus Old Faithful Fremantle with a substantial beer offering. They'll join Little Creatures, Freo.Social, Union Brewery & Distillery, Clancy's, the Norfolk, Beerpourium, and Piggy Food Co. North Fremantle – all within three kilometres of each other.
- A beer podcasting boom – The accessibility for podcast creation has never been higher; with many losing income and finding themselves isolated in lockdowns throughout 2020, many a creative opportunity has been considered and acted upon. With social media platforms losing relevance and seriousness among beer and brewing communities, podcasting is potentially a steadier ground for those who want to express opinions and to have discussions about the things they love and hate.
You can read our look back at 2020 from a national perspective here, check out our thoughts on the year in beer in Tasmania, NSW and Queensland, and look out for more state and territory-based roundups over the coming days.