UPDATE (29/5) – Original article follows below as indicated
Serial trophy-winners Deep Creek have relinquished the Champion Large International Brewery title they picked up at the Australian International Beer Awards last week. Upon returning to New Zealand, the brewery team realised they'd used an incorrect unit of measure when entering their beers and were not actually eligible for the Large Brewery category, but should have been in Medium, a title they've won – along with Champion Small International Brewery – in the past.
It means the Champion Large International Brewery title now returns to the world's oldest established brewery, Weihenstephan, from Bavaria. Deep Creek retain their other two trophies from the event, including Champion International Beer for their Sauvage, and have taken the unfortunate error in good humour.
In a post to their social pages, they wrote: "Despite not being the Champion Large International Brewery, we are super proud of our award-winning team and absolutely stoked with all our 2021 AIBA Beer Awards including our two other trophies and five gold medals. Luckily our brewers don’t use incorrect units of measure with the brewing ingredients
Commenting on the new winners, the RASV team that runs the awards said in a statement: "Weihenstephan Brewery is congratulated on winning the trophy for 2021 Champion Large International Brewery. It is wonderful recognition after undergoing a large-scale expansion in 2019, enabling them to now annually produce more than 450,000 hectolitres of beer."
Original article follows...
It's amazing how quickly fortunes can change. The last time we wrote about Dollar Bill was in February when their dreams of opening a cellar door on the outskirts of Ballarat were crushed as the local council rejected the brewing and blending company’s planning application.
Three months on and Fiona and Ed Nolle (pictured above receiving their trophy from Steph Howard of Cryer Malt) return home from the Australian International Beer Awards with the prized trophy of Champion Australian Beer for Gold Teeth, a just-released wild ale. It was a win that received huge acclaim – and a standing ovation – at the awards dinner at the Melbourne Showgrounds, apparently the biggest event of its kind in Victoria since the first wave of the COVID pandemic.
"I think I just lost my mind," Ed told The Crafty Pint of the moment their win was announced. "I stood up and then everyone else stood up and I didn't know what was happening. Everyone was smiling – everyone was so happy.
"That was the most amazing thing. I'm stoked."
Wife, business partner and irrepressible ball of energy Fiona added: "I think I might just freak out soon!" as the magnitude of the moment sank in.
"Everybody here has been so nice. Ed is my world and he's so good at what he does, so to see the whole room stand up and say he's good..."
The tiny producer of wild, farmhouse and spontaneous beers and ciders might have brought out the biggest cheer of the night, but it was also a great one for Footscray's Hop Nation. They picked up trophies for their Rattenhund Pilsner – a beer our writer Will Ziebell has been raving about since its release – and The Buzz (my personal favourite of all their beers, for what it's worth), before collecting the returning Champion Victorian Brewery and then Champion Medium Australian Brewery – trophies that came so quickly the brewery team was still outside taking photos when the second one was announced.
Co-founder Dunc Gibson (above right) was eager for his brewing team to take the glory, with Timmy Ladner saying: "I'm really chuffed. It was pretty special and makes us feel really honoured to work for a good brand and a good company."
Fellow brewer Paul Clarke added: "It's been vindication for all the work we've been doing since we moved to the new brewery. It's good to see the core range beers going well too. It's just been really, really positive."
They claimed the Rattenhund was a "spare no expense" beer, one for which they tied up a tank for ten weeks to allow it to properly lager, with Timmy describing it as "a labour of a lot of people's love."
Other major trophy winners included 4 Pines, who collected yet another Champion Brewery win, this time in the Large category, with Champion Small Australian Brewery going to WA's Cheeky Monkey, whose team celebrated via video link from their brewery by skulling cans of their trophy-winning IPA Lefties.
Champion Gypsy Brewer went to Surf Coast-based Valhalla, who also picked up a trophy for their flagship Obsidian Black Ale, with Best Media, sponsored by The Crafty Pint, going to James Atkinson for a second time. He's the first person to claim the trophy twice, with the media judges saying the standard of entries was the highest ever, and that they debated giving him a second trophy before agreeing the standard of his entries – both for his own Drinks Adventures podcast and website and Good Food – showed significant improvement even on his last win.
James told The Crafty Pint he believed the main reason behind his win was his entry on the Stone & Wood story, adding: "I put so much work into that and I'm very proud of it."
He says things have been tough in the media since COVID hit, with his regular column in Executive Style going when that title was shuttered before Good Food stopped taking stories too, but it meant he refocused instead.
"It made me change my approach," he said. "I thought if they can pull the pin at any time, why am I spending my time on them?
"I spent more time on Drinks Adventures – the podcasts but also the website – trying to build the traffic, which doesn't happen overnight. The support of Bintani, who have supported the podcast from the beginning in 2019 when it wasn't really anything, has been absolutely invaluable."
It was a night filled with stories. King Road Brewing's triumph for their IPA – a beer we judged one of WA's best last year, describing it as "perfect" – brought a huge cheer as owners Dave and Bev McKee (pictured collecting their trophy above) took to the stage in a moment reminiscent of Hepburn Springs Brewing Co's win at the 2020 Indies.
Shawn Sherlock picked up another trophy, this time for FogHorn's Hunter Kolsch. It was the second time his wife Karen had attended the AIBAs and the second time he's won a trophy. Making it even more of a family affair, the beer is one of his old mate Keith Grice's, brewed for years at the Hunter Beer Co before it became part of FogHorn and brewing of the beer was moved to the latter's brewery in Newcastle.
They weren't the only smaller brewery to taste trophy success either. The Central Coast's Six String won for their Coastie Lager, Sunday Road Brewing claimed Best International Style Pale Ale for their Cryotherapy Hazy IPA, while more established names swept up the rest of the beer trophies that didn't head overseas.
Mismatch must feel they were breathing down Hop Nation's necks as their Lager claimed another win alongside a swag of other golds, Fixation claimed their second Consistency Of Excellence medal, BentSpoke's Sprocket (always the Crafty team's pick of their IPAs) won Best Traditional IPA, Stone & Wood claimed their customary gong for Le Petit Biere, as Burleigh won Best Australian Style Pale for Twisted Palm and Two Birds Lager took out Best Australian Style Lager, a win that continues head brewer Ian Morgan's run of form after picking up trophies galore at Mountain Goat. Also worth mentioning is O'Brien Beer, with the gluten free pioneers from Ballarat picking up half a dozen golds in one category.
Above all, however, one could argue the winner on the night was the beer industry itself. This Good Beer Week has been filled with a joyous, heart-warming atmosphere with many in the industry not just reunited, but fighting fit too – little more than a year after many had feared for its future.
It turned out to be a wild and funky night all round at the top of the podium as the Kiwis from Deep Creek took out Champion International Beer courtesy of Sauvage, their barrel-aged Brettanomyces saison – "Well worth testing the bubble for," was how they put it.
That individual success marked another high point in what’s been remarkably consistent upward trajectory for the Auckland brewery as they’ve grown from Champion Small Brewery (2017) to Champion Medium Brewery (2019) to Champion Large Brewery in 2021. See above – there was a human error that has resulted in them handing their Champion Large Brewery trophy back, which instead goes to Weihenstephan.
Sauvage got its shot at the top prize having taking out the Best Wood / Barrel Aged Beer trophy, a category that was only added to the competition in 2019. Taken alongside Dollar Bill’s success, it’s a compelling case for the rapidly rising quality of some of the more esoteric beers brewed in the southern corner of the world.
That said, the slightly-more-north corner as we see it (ie Asia) continued to build on its good form in recent years of the competition; the Champion Medium Brewery trophy is heading to Beijing’s Nbeer Craft Brewing Co, while the Champion Small Brewery trophy is off to South Korea and the taproom of the Goose Island Brewhouse Seoul (itself an offshoot of the considerably larger Anheuser-Busch empire).
China is also now the proud holder of two more individual beer trophies: Best Wheat Beer for the Lowen White Beer (China Resources Snow Breweries) and Best Specialty Flavoured Beer for the Dangge Vanilla Coffee Imperial Stout (Dangge Brewing). What they can’t claim this time is the Best Specialty Beer as that belongs to Taiwan and the Zhang Men Brewing Company for their imperial porter, Heavy Smoker.
Meanwhile, the Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Company made its latest case for being the best thing to come out of Akron post-2000 since The Black Keys, with the Ohio brewery taking out the Gary Sheppard Memorial Trophy for Best New Exhibitor.
2021 CHAMPION TROPHY WINNERS
Champion Australian Beer
Gold Teeth 2021 – Dollar Bill Brewing (VIC)
Champion International Beer
Sauvage – Deep Creek Brewing Company (New Zealand)
Champion Large Australian Brewery
4 Pines Brewing Company (NSW) – pictured above
Champion Medium Australian Brewery
Hop Nation (VIC)
Champion Small Australian Brewery
Cheeky Monkey Brewery (WA)
Champion Victorian Brewery
Australian Gypsy Brewer Award
Valhalla Brewing (VIC)
Champion Large International Brewery
Champion Medium International Brewery
Nbeer Craft Brewing Co. (China)
Champion Small International Brewery
Goose Island Brewhouse Seoul (South Korea)
Gary Sheppard Memorial Trophy For The Best New Exhibitor
Hoppin' Frog Brewing Company (USA)
Best Australian Style Lager
Lager – Two Birds (VIC)
Best European Style Lager (excluding Pilsner)
Lager – Mismatch Brewing (SA)
Best International Lager
Coastie Lager – Six String Brewing Company (NSW)
Rattenhund – Hop Nation (VIC)
Best Amber / Dark Lager
Keller Door-Schwarzbier – 4 Pines (NSW)
Best Australian Style Pale Ale
Burleigh Twisted Palm – Burleigh Brewing (QLD)
Best New World-Style Pale Ale
Cryotherapy Hazy IPA – Sunday Road Brewing (NSW)
Best International-Style Pale Ale
King Road IPA – King Road Brewing Co (WA)
Best British or European-Style Ale (excluding IPA & Pale Ale)
Foghorn Hunter Kolsch – Foghorn Brewery (NSW)
Best Traditional IPA
Sprocket – Bentspoke Brewing Co (ACT)
Best Modern IPA
Lefties – Cheeky Monkey Brewery (WA)
Best Amber / Dark Ale
The Buzz – Hop Nation (VIC)
Best Porter (including Baltic Style Porter)
Valhalla Brewing Obsidian – Valhalla Brewing (VIC)
Best Reduced / Low Alcohol Beer
James Boag’s Premium Light – J Boag & Son Brewing (TAS)
Best Non-Alcohol Beer
Tinnies Ultra Low Alcohol – Coles Supermarkets (VIC)
Best Wheat Beer
Lowen White Beer – China Resources Snow Breweries Co. (China)
Best Belgian / French Style Ale
Le Petit Biere – Stone & Wood (NSW)
Best Fruit Beer
Gold Teeth 2021 – Dollar Bill Brewing (VIC)
Best Wood- And Barrel-Aged Beer
Sauvage – Deep Creek Brewing Company (NZ)
Best Specialty Beer
Heavy Smoker – Zhang Men Brewing Company (Taiwan)
Best Specialty Flavoured Beer
Dangge Vanilla Coffee Imperial Stout – Dangge Brewing (China)
Consistency of Excellence Medal
Awarded to products that have been awarded a gold medal for three consecutive years:
- Captain of the Coast – Pelican Brewing Company, Oregon (USA)
- Obsession Session IPA – Fixation Brewing Co, (VIC)
DESIGN & MEDIA AWARDS
Best Design - Label / Surface Graphic
Stubbie Refreshing Beer 330ml – Pinnacle Drinks (NSW)
Best Design - Outer Packaging
Classic IPA, Craft Lager and Wheat Beer 4 Packs – Specific Gravity Beverage Company (Singapore)
James Atkinson (NSW)
*The Best Media award is sponsored by The Crafty Pint. All judging is carried out by an independent panel of writers working in the wider world of beer and media.
The full list of results will be available here from May 21.