The winners in the second Drink Easy Awards winners were announced in Adelaide last night, with The Uraidla Brewery landing two beers in the list of Australia's best drinks. And in a sign of the times, Heaps Normal's alcohol-free Quiet XPA made it into the top ten too.
The Drink Easy awards launched in 2019 as a competition with a difference, not just because they focus on all Australian-made beverages, but because entries aren't judged to traditional style guidelines but for their personality, complexity and drinkability. What's more, while there are winners announced for each category, the overall best of list features all top-performing beverages.
In the first awards, beer took out the top spot as Wildflower's raspberry wild ale, St Pheobe, emerged victorious. And while wine won this time – Crittenden Estate's Cri De Coeur 2016 Crittenden Estate Savagnin named best of the best – some of the country's smaller brewing companies will be toasting their success this weekend.
Adelaide Hills-based Uraidla secured spots seven and eight in the overall list with their 2.9 percent ABV pale Future Light and strong pale ale Cosmic Labyrinth. The brewery built next door to the Uraidla Hotel in the small town of the same name first made waves for its punchy IPAs, but founding brewer Oscar Matthews has stated their goal is to create excellent lower ABV pale ales, making the success of Future Light in particular validation for their mission. Their standout session pale ale, Half Moon, also featured in the Beer & Cider top ten.
Speaking to The Crafty Pint the morning after the awards were announced, Oscar said: "I was happy that Cosmic Labyrinth won the best beer but even more excited that Future Light made it into the top ten.
"We put a bit of a mix [of beers] in because we wanted to see how the core range would go. Everyone can make a good highly hopped pale and IPA with a lot of flavour, but when you're trying to do that for your core range it's good validation when they're well received.
"You have to look at [Drink Easy] in a different way to the AIBAs or the Indies because it's not a technical award competition as such, it's more about drinkability and is a bit more reflective of what punters are drinking ... and I guess that's where we're going too."
While Oscar (pictured above) was responsible for all brewing in the first years of Uraidla, he's since stepped back from much of the day-to-day activity in the brewery, adding: "It's really good for the guys, Max and Stefan, that they know they're on the right path, and that the beers they're making are tasting really good.
"I've been working a lot on recipe development, but they're in there executing most of it themselves now, so it's good for them."
Among the other big winners in beer were Canberra-based brewing company Heaps Normal, one of the new wave of Aussie beer brands flying the flag for alcohol-free beer. They saw their flagship beer secure the final spot in the overall top ten for their Quiet XPA, after ranking third among all non-alcoholic beverages entered in the competition.
As for the top ten beers and ciders, Uraidla and Heaps Normal were joined by an eclectic mix: Sailors Grave claimed number two for their Biru Sake Kasu & Satsuma Plum – a beer we described as a "delightfully complex sweet 'n' sour treat" – and Brick Lane landed in number three for one member of their Trilogy of Fear series, the bourbon barrel-aged Leviathan.
The perennial award winners at Exit Brewing and Mismatch also featured in the top ten (see below), as did the cidermakers at Ciderday and New England's good beer proselytisers, The Welder's Dog.
The Full Results
Australia’s Top Drink
Overall Winner: Crittenden Estate - Cri De Coeur Savagnin
- No. 10 Heaps Normal // Quiet XPA (ACT)
- No. 9 Thredbo Valley Distillery // Wildbrumby Baked Apple Liqueur Schnapps (NSW)
- No. 8 The Uraidla Brewery // Cosmic Labyrinth Strong Pale Ale (SA)
- No. 7 The Uraidla Brewery // Future Light Little Pale Ale (SA)
- No. 6 Henschke // Peggy's Hill Riesling (SA)
- No. 5 In Praise of Shadows // Mankai' - Touriga Nacional, Graciano, Garnacha (SA)
- No. 4 Zero Proof Australia // Lyre's Italian Orange (NSW)
- No. 3 Ziggy's Wild Foods // Native Lilly Pilly, Lemon Myrtle & Wild Lavender Shrub (NSW)
- No. 2 Spirit Thief Distilling Co // French Oak Tempranillo matured Whisky (TAS)
Top 10 Beer & Cider
Overall Winner: The Uraidla Brewery: Cosmic Labyrinth Strong Pale Ale
- No. 10 The Welder's Dog Brewery Piney Pale Ale (NSW)
- No. 9 Mismatch Brewing Co Session Ale (SA)
- No. 8 Mismatch Brewing Co Lager (SA)
- No. 7 The Uraidla Brewery Future Light Little Pale Ale (SA)
- No. 6 Exit Brewing Milk Stout (VIC)
- No. 5 The Uraidla Brewery Half Moon Session Pale Ale (SA)
- No. 4 Ciderday Premier (SA)
- No. 3 Brick Lane Brewing Co TOF – Leviathan / Russian Imperial Stout (VIC)
- No. 2 Sailors Grave Brewing Biru Sake Kasu & Satsuma Plum (VIC)
Top 10 Spirit
Overall Winner: Archie Rose Distilling - Single Malt Whisky
- No.11 Spirit Thief Distilling Co American Oak Shiraz Matured (TAS)
- No. 10 Karu Distillery // Morita Chipotle Vodka (NSW)
- No. 9 MORRIS Whisky // Single Malt Whisky SIGNATURE (VIC)
- No. 8 Ambleside Distillers // Small Acre Gin (SA)
- No. 7 Never Never Distilling Co // Juniper Freak Gin (SA)
- No. 6 Never Never Distilling Co.// Stockholm Syndrome Aquavit (SA)
- No. 5 Sullivans Cove // French Oak ex-Tawny Second Fill Single Cask
- No. 4 Never Never Distilling Co. // Southern Strength Gin (SA)
- No. 3 Bass & Flinders Distillery // Ochre - Fine Brandy (VIC)
- No. 2 Wildbrumby // Baked Apple Liqueur Schnapps (NSW)
Top 10 Wine
Overall Winner: Henschke - Peggy's Hill Riesling
- No. 10 Gilbert // Gilbert Petillent Natural Rose (NSW)
- No. 9 Liebichwein // Liebich Classic Frontignac (SA)
- No. 8 Hedonist // Ecology Grenache (SA)
- No. 7 Battles Wine // Blendaberg' Riesling/Gewurztraminer/Pinot Grigio (WA)
- No. 6 Howard Vineyard // Cabernet Franc Rose (SA)
- No. 5 philip shaw wines // small batch/riesling (NSW)
- No. 4 Silent Noise // MF Grenache (SA)
- No. 3 Cri de Coeur // Savagnin (VIC)
- No. 2 In Praise of Shadows // Mankai' - Touriga Nacional, Graciano, Garnacha (SA)
Top 10 Alternative Drinks
Overall winner: Everleigh - Palomita, Spritzed cocktail.
- No. 10 HALO // Mango Peach Alcoholic Kombucha (NSW)
- No. 9 Sunny Eddy // Gin Seltzer Lime & Cucumber (NSW)
- No. 8 Sunlight Liquor // Gums & Roses Sparkling Mead (SA)
- No. 7 Local Beverages // Spiked Iced Tea - Lemon (NSW)
- No. 6 Wavee //Mango hard-seltzer (NSW)
- No. 5 Taylor & Smith x Dier Makr // Hanky Panky (TAS)
- No. 4 Four Pillars Gin // Double Barrel Negroni (NSW)
- No. 3 Sparkke // Hard Lemonade (SA)
- No. 2 NON // NON7 - Stewed Cherry & Coffee (VIC)
Top 10 Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Overall winner: Ziggy's Wild Foods, Native Lilly Pilly, Lemon Myrtle & Wild Lavender Shrub
- No. 10 Lyre's Non-Alcoholic Spirits, Coffee Originale (NSW)
- No. 9 Lyre's Non-Alcoholic Spirits, Amaretti (NSW)
- No. 8 Lyre's Non-Alcoholic Spirits, Rosso (NSW)
- No. 7 T.I.N.A, T.I.N.A 1.0 Iced Tea (VIC)
- No. 6 Edenvale, Alcohol Removed Premium Reserve Sparkling Shiraz (SA)
- No. 5 Edenvale, Alcohol Removed Premium Reserve Sparkling Blanc de Blanc (SA)
- No. 4 Waterhole, Native Citrus Tonic (NSW)
- No. 3 Heaps Normal, Quiet XPA (ACT)
- No. 2 Lyre's Non-Alcoholic Spirits, Lyre's Italian Orange (NSW)