So, there you have it: a new winner in the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers as BentSpoke finally make the upgrade from bridesmaid to bride. Their flagship Crankshaft IPA moved ahead of the winners of the past five polls as Stone & Wood Pacific Ale moved to second, with Balter XPA in third in another record year for votes: almost 40,000 people cast close to 200,000 votes for 1,951 beers.
I spoke to BentSpoke co-founder Rich Watkins for the ACT entry in our 2020: The Year In Beer series at the start of the week. When conversation turned to the poll, I said I figured Crankshaft was going to go well again (this was before I'd been sent the embargoed results by GABS), but he was having none of it, citing reasons why a number of others would do better.
"I think our cycle is over," he said.
He couldn't have been more wrong, with the cycle-referencing brewery reaping the rewards for brewing great beers across the board and campaigning smartly for each year's Hottest 100 poll. Crankshaft is one of five BentSpoke beers in a poll that saw consolidation on one hand, and some surprises on the other.
There were highly impressive showings from fellow Canberrans Capital (seven beers), Black Hops (seven beers including G.O.A.T. as the highest new entry at five), and Balter, Your Mates (whose Larry Pale Ale rose one spot to fourth) and Modus Operandi, all of whom saw five beers make the 100.
Further down the list, Hawke's Brewing – launched in partnership with the late Bob Hawke – debuted with no less than four beers, Sharks-related startup Cronulla Beer Co came from nowhere to land at 52, while pale, hop forward beers made up around 75 percent of the top 100.
We'll have more on the stories and trends we spotted in this year's poll in our analysis article, with Queensland and the ACT enjoying another stellar year and Victoria's brewers stemming years of falling numbers to claim one-quarter of the spots.
Mike Bray, who bought the GABS Festival and the Hottest 100 poll from founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone in 2019 and has since gone on to create the first Summer GABS events in Queensland, told The Crafty Pint more than 200 breweries received votes in 2020, describing it as, "absolutely fantastic to see the how craft beer becomes such a conversation in January each year with fans and breweries alike."
He added: "The more people talking craft beer, the more people drink craft beer, and to have record numbers voting in the GABS Hottest 100 again this year – and see the incredible movement on this year’s list with 36 changes from last year – just shows how strong the market is and how hard it is to stay in the top 100."
In his first full year at the helm, he said he was impressed by the creativity levels from brewers in activating their fans bases. In terms of punter involvement, they received well over a thousand requests to add beers the country's beer lovers wanted to vote for.
"There is no downside to being part of the GABS Hottest 100," he added. "It’s a celebration of Australian craft beer for brewers and fans."
You can check out the full rundown, including our comments, insight and live analysis below, or check out an unadulterated version of the table here. You can find our analysis article here, and look out for the stories behind the story next week. Thanks for taking part. Congrats to all the brewers that got involved. Same time next year?
Crafty's Live Countdown Breakdown
1. BentSpoke Crankshaft IPA – Read our take on the winning beer here.
2. Stone & Wood Pacific Ale – Read our deep dive into the story of this game-changing beer.
3. Balter XPA – Read our take on the beer here.
4. Your Mates Larry – Read our take on the beer here.
5. Black Hops G.O.A.T. Hazy IPA – Read our take on the beer here.
6. Ballistic Beer Hawaiian Haze – Read our take on the beer here.
7. Balter Hazy – Read our take on the beer here.
8. Bridge Road Brewers Beechworth Pale – Read our take on it here.
9. Young Henrys Newtowner – Read our take on the beer here.
10. BentSpoke Barley Griffin – Read our take on the beer here.
OK, things are starting to get serious now as we head towards the pointier end of the poll. Plenty of familiar faces, but also a new one from a bunch of WA legends in another ten featuring nothing but hop forward beers.
- Canberra’s Capital have managed to improve on their 2019 showing with seven beers in the top 100 now – up from six last year. Here, it's their new core range XPA and one of their earliest releases, Coast Ale.
- Good mates and fellow Canberrans BentSpoke are coming on hard too with two of their delicious IPAs – Sprocket and Cluster 8 – appearing alongside each other.
- We now know where Feral’s big-selling Biggie Juice has landed; some had tipped it for a rise in 2020, but instead it’s dropped a handful of spots and exited the top ten.
- There’s great news for another WA hazy, however, as Beerfarm’s Royal Haze – highly thought of among the state’s more knowledgeable drinkers – storms into 18th and no doubt catching many an IPA fans’ eyes.
- This clutch of ten also sees Black Hops notch up their fifth and sixth with two of their best-loved core beers.
- KAIJU! Krush continues to be one of the most consistent performers of recent years, slipping two spots from its 2019 placing.
With 4 Pines Pale Ale back for another year at number 30 and Balter’s Captain Sensible returning at 42, that run of indie brewers in a clutch that’s all about the hops: seven pales / XPAs, two IPAs and a mid-strength.
- Both the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast have continued their impressive runs; who’d have predicted those two regions becoming known as craft beer powerhouses a few short years ago? 10 Toes register yet again, as do near neighbours Your Mates, now up to four beers and suggesting last year’s showing was no accident.
- Two of Balter’s beers have dropped since the last poll, with IPA appearing on the outskirts of the top ten at spot 11 last year and Captain Sensible moving down four spots. That said, they don’t appear to be suffering the fate of other former indies since becoming part of CUB / Asahi.
Read our piece on the changing picture when it comes to ownership from our Ten Years Of Crafty series here.
- Stomping Ground didn’t enter beers until last year due to shared ownership between the brewery and GABS. Now GABS is under new owners, they’ve been free to enter and their flagship Gipps St Pale Ale has enjoyed a climb of 12 places since its debut last year.
- It’s turning into Moon Dog’s best ever year with Old Mate making it four beers in the 100 so far.
- They’re among familiar faces, including Philter, whose XPA is a rare non-mover at 21.
It’s another straight run of beers from independent breweries, including the lager lovers at Heads of Noosa who make their first appearance.
- This bracket also sees the first appearance of regular podium-hoggers BentSpoke and Stone & Wood. Will they be battling it out at the top again as we approach 5pm?
- Big Shed’s Boozy Fruit is another GABS Festival beer to make the top 100, with the Adelaide brewers’ New England IPA named People’s Choice in 2018.
- Ballistic Beer’s Oaked XPA (a Crafty Towers favourite) is a rarity of a core range beer and an uncommon site on the list so far; while it’s not barrel-aged, it’s the only beer to feature oak in any way to make it into this year’s 100. The Citra-hopped XPA fermented on toasted American oak chips makes it four for the brewery in what’s turning into one of the stories of this year’s countdown.
- Gage Roads are now WA’s largest brewery and Single Fin is their flagship. The beer drops from 15 in 2019, in what's set to be a big year for the brewery as they open a major brewery venue on the Freo waterfront.
- They might have waited until 59 to make a first appearance, but that’s now four for Modus Operandi as Modus Pale returns after missing out for a couple of years, rejoining their banging IPA Sonic Prayer.
It’s time for the indies to shine, with this bracket the first in 2020 to feature none of the brewing companies now owned by multinationals.
- Black Hops are among those doing rather well, with no less than three IPAs appearing in this clutch along, including the limited release Neverland and the rum-soaked Caribbean Haze, which was first released as a GABS beer.
- Hop Nation’s J Juice has fallen significantly since last year, when it was still known as Jedi Juice. The brewery’s since changed the name of the beer due to an ABAC finding.
- It looks like Brick Lane’s celeb-studded campaign has paid off as One Love makes it four beers in the H100 so far, up from three in 2019.
- They still trail Canberra’s Capital Brewing, however, who are up to five beers with Rock Hopper and their Trail Pale Ale. Capital and BentSpoke both had six in the 2019 H100; who will claim bragging rights in the ACT this time around?
- The serial trophy-winner, Former Tenant from Modus Operandi, is here flying the flag for big red beers, while the quiet achievers at Grifter score a second spot with their fruited pilsner, Serpent’s Kiss, and recently-rebranded fellow Sydneysiders Akasha also make it two in the H100 with their flagship Hopsmith IPA.
You can check out the hop-focused live stream we hosted with Akasha and Hop Products Australia late in 2020 here.
And it’s time to welcome Black Hops, Balter, Modus Operandi, Mountain Goat and tiny startup Cronulla Beer Co to the Hottest 100 of 2020. They enter in a bracket with heaps more hops, haze and a sweet, spicy stout.
- Balter landed a whopping eight beers in the 2019 H100; here Dry Haze marks the brewery’s first appearance in 2020, which they’ve done with their excellent collab created with New Zealand’s Garage Project.
- Dainton’s Blood Orange NERIPA is the second hazy IPA featuring blood orange on the list and it’s the third NEIPA variant to chart in the H100. It appears alongside the newly core range and pitch perfect NEIPA Jungle Juice from serial trophy-winners who just keep on kicking goals after claiming Champion Large Brewery at the 2020 Indies.
- Cronulla Beer Co’s appearance might be a surprise to many, with the brewing company only launching in November last year. They don’t have their own equipment yet, but count Chad Townsend from the Cronulla Sharks among their founders.
- Another appearance for Ballistic with a beer that stands out amid a field of pale, hop forward offerings.
- Mountain Goat appeared on the podium back in 2008 with their Hightail Ale. This time around, it’s their increasingly ubiquitous GOAT lager, a favourite for many beer drinkers on a budget.
Time for some more lager love as we hit 61 to 70 in the 2020 GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers; three more make it into this ten, alongside more pales, another sour and Australia’s first ever milkshake IPA.
- It’s looking like a mighty impressive year for Hawke’s Brewing Co, the brewing company launched in partnership with the late Bob Hawke. And 2021 is set to get even better for them as they open their own brewery in Sydney’s west.
- They’re not the only familiar faces for the day, with Coopers, Capital, and Your Mates already registering multiple beers. Your Mates gatecrashed the top five in 2019 – can the good time crew from the Sunshine Coast maintain the pace in 2020?
- Ballistic Beer launched with a bang just a few years ago and now operate three venues around Brisbane. There’s been much chatter about how well they might fare in the poll, with Lager at 65 meaning they’ve already doubled their 2019 performance.
- Such beers might be everywhere now but Moon Dog’s Splice of Heaven was the country’s first milkshake IPA, melding lactose (since replaced by vanilla in this beer) and hops back in 2015. We explored the rising use of lactose in beers in this article.
- Past winner Little Creatures Pale proves to be a stayer – the trailblazing beer has now appeared in every H100 since 2008.
There’s yet another appearance for poll stalwarts Bridge Road and Coopers (who only missed out when they didn’t enter any beers one year) plus another couple for Canberra’s Capital in a bracket that sees hops continue to dominate.
- Pirate Life have reappeared in the Hottest 100 after missing out last year. It’s with a rather different beer to those with which they stormed the poll in their early years, back when they landed their 8.8 percent ABV IIPA on the podium; South Coast Pale Ale is an easy-drinking modern pale.
- Beechy XPA is a beer that’s continually evolved, with its origins stretching right back to the brewery’s start. Then it was called Australian Ale, before becoming Golden Ale, having a brief flirtation as Summer Ale, then transitioning to the beer it is today.
- Deeds have enjoyed a big year or two, rocketing up the charts in the Beer Cartel Australian Craft Beer Survey and becoming one of the best-loved local brewers within online beer communities. They make their H100 debut in 77 with Juice Train, a beer first brewed for the GABS Festival.
- This bracket sees another appearance for the Gold Coast pioneers at Burleigh Brewing who have been mainstays in list, appearing in the very first Hottest 100 more than a decade ago, when an earlier iteration of Colonial’s IPA also landed in the list.
It’s a diverse opening bracket featuring two mid-strengths, two sours, two-and-a-half IPAs (Hop Hog was once classified as one) and even a dark beer, something that’s become ever more rare over the years.
- Bad Shepherd first appeared in the H100 at 100 with the cult favourite from their debut lineup, Hazelnut Brown, and they return after a break with a beer that could be seen as its heir. Peanut Butter Porter was first released as part of the brewery’s Brew Crew series in 2019 before moving into the core range and becoming their top seller for the cooler months last year. It even spawned offshoots and a day in its honour. You can read about the beer’s origin in this story we ran last year on the brewery’s first five years.
- Furphy clings on for another year, although the beer that has proved to be a runaway success for Lion drops a massive 61 spots from 37 last year.
- Also continuing to make its way down the 100 is a past superstar: Feral’s Hop Hog is the only beer to have topped the poll three years running – from 2012 to 2014 – and is one of only a handful to appear every year since 2008; can you think of the others? The beer slips from 51 in 2019, and has been replaced in terms of significance in the Feral lineup – and the hearts of many Western Australians – by their Biggie Juice; how will that beer fare today?
- There’s a double debut for Hawke’s Brewing Co, the brewing company launched in partnership with the late Bob Hawke which donates a portion of profits to Landcare Australia.
- And the appearance of Little Bling means Bridge Road Brewers and Feral have landed a beer in every poll since 2008.