BentSpoke Top The GABS H100 Again

BentSpoke have gone back-to-back in the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll, with their Crankshaft IPA holding onto top spot in the 2021 countdown. The Canberra brewery's flagship beer finished ahead of the perennially popular former winner Balter XPA – and was one of five BentSpoke beers to make the list.

They'd already proven themselves consummate campaigners in 2020 – appropriate given their home in the country's capital – and showed it was no fluke this time around. Balter once again proved themselves to be impervious to the fate that's befallen many of their indie peers in this poll over the years; their XPA was one of five beers to make the Hottest 100, with their Hazy the next highest at 13.

There would have been a period of what Sir Alex Ferguson used to call "squeaky bum time" on the Sunshine Coast when the top three was approaching and Your Mates Larry hadn't appeared. The pale ale has been inching up the charts since debuting, and this year made a first podium appearance in third – a fine achievement for a brewery not that well known outside its home state outside these countdowns.

For those keeping an eye on how Stone & Wood would fare following their high profile sale to Lion/Kirin, there was no dramatic fall, even if they did exit the top three for the first time.


FIND ALL TOP 100 LISTS & POSTERS HERE


Arguably the biggest story, however, is found at number six. Better Beer, a "zero-carb" lager launched in November by ASX-listed craft drinks accelerator Mighty Craft in partnership with Instagram comedians The Inspired Unemployed and a Torquay-based producer of hard seltzer and hard coffee stormed into the top ten.

Over its 14 years, the Hottest 100 has grown significantly in terms of reach, votes, and marketing value for brewers that fare well. And that's been matched by a tendency for beers with the greatest market share from breweries with huge social and mailing list audiences – and, of course, high profile H100 campaigns – to dominate the upper reaches. Now it seems you needn't have spent long in the market – or indeed have a brand many have heard of – to compete, with the vast Instagram following of The Inspired Unemployed's Jack Steele and Matt Ford landing them between two H100 high achievers: Capital and Black Hops, the breweries with the most beers (six each) in the 2021 top 100.

Better Beer might only have 46,000 followers on Instagram, but The Inspired Unemployed have 1.3 million. In comparison, BentSpoke have 25.6K, Stone & Wood 78.3K, Balter 76.4K, Capital 36.8K and Black Hops 30.7K.

It's the latest fillip for a brand that has commanded widespread media coverage in recent weeks, both for the rate of its growth and scope of its ambitions – they're targeting three million litres in the 2022 financial year, which would dwarf the annual output of most independent brewers in the country – and for the legal battle the company is in with Brick Lane over claimed similarities with that company's Sidewinder range.

 

Heaps Normal's Quiet XPA flew the flag for the growing no-lo alcohol space – the highest of three such beers in the top 100.

 

As for the poll as a whole, it once again attracted a record number of voters – a 20 percent increase on last year. And there was a record number of brewing companies involved too: 281 brewers nominated more than 2,200 beers.

The top 100 was dominated by familiar faces and popular styles, but with a few notable inclusions. Pale ales / XPAs / Pacific ales in their various forms were again by far the most common presence – close to half of the top 100 – followed in number by the diverse category that is IPA.

Reflecting the rise of no- and low-alcohol beers, three made the top 100: Heaps Normal's Quiet XPA landed in the top 20, with Sobah's Pepperberry IPA and Brick Lane's Sidewinder Hazy Pale also representing the fast-growing sector. A record three ginger beers made the grade too, just one shy of the number of sours to feature. 

A couple of high ABV "hype" beers snuck in: One Drop made their H100 debut with Double Vanilla Custard Pancake Imperial Nitro Thickshake IPA at 67 and Deeds' Once More Into The Fray bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout snuck in at 94. Meanwhile, a couple of beers that had taken up residency in the top ten over the years slipped out this time around: Bridge Road Brewers' Beechworth Pale and KAIJU! Krush.

At the bigger end of the industry, the country's largest and longest-established independent brewing company, Coopers, enjoyed their best outing in years, with their Original Pale Ale almost crashing the top ten and three others appearing in the top 100. Only Black Hops (6), Capital (6), BentSpoke (5), Balter (5), Your Mates (4) and Ballistic (4) landed as many or more beers.

CUB/Asahi edged Lion/Kirin 11 beers to five, while the brands owned or with investment from Mighty Crafty featured six times in the 100.

When it comes to interstate / territory rivalry, Queensland romped home with 30 beers in the Hottest 100, followed pretty much neck and neck by New South Wales and Victoria (if you allocate Little Creatures and Colonial's beers to WA, where both businesses were born, even though most of their beers are now brewed in Victoria).

 

Capital continued a fine run of form, with the equal most beers in the top 100 with Black Hops, a couple of months after claiming the champion Indies trophy for the Territories (pictured).

 

With Bridge Road's Beechworth Pale Ale having dropped to number 14, it saw Victoria's brewers fall from the top ten, unless you include Better Beer: the Torquay Beverage Company is based in Victoria while their beer is brewed in New South Wales. 

Once again, when it comes to beers per capita, Australia's capital was far and away the standout as Capital and BentSpoke secured no less than 11 spots between them (one of those shared with Mountain Culture) and you could include Heaps Normal there too, even though they're now eyeing up locations in Sydney. Meanwhile the brewers of Tasmania and the Northern Territory once again missed out. Only Darwin's One Mile Brewery from either place have broken into the 100 in recent years: they scored four H100 beers in 2018.

"It's been fantastic. It's absolutely gone off," GABS owner Mike Bray told The Crafty Pint, citing "improvements to the consumer voting process" that made voting a more visual experience as one of the key changes his team had implemented in the third poll since they acquired GABS and the Hottest 100 poll from its founders.

"All in all, it's been a great one," he added. "Over one-third of the beers are new entries to the list.

"I think it was a welcome relief for some people – a nice distraction [from the pandemic]. A lot of people were back into self-isolation, slowdown, not-a-lockdown, so there was more time to sit and reflect and put some time into the voting."

He also praised the campaigns run by many brewers, who blanket-bombed social media platforms and mailing lists, and often took their chase for votes further still.

"Many of the campaigns were witty and creative, which is in the spirit of what we were looking for," he said.

As for the outcome, for the most part the top 100 in the 2021 poll isn't too different to the 2020 lineup – particularly in the upper reaches – which wasn't too different from the 2019 lineup. It's testament to the ability of those brewing companies and their marketing teams who keep performing well to rally their troops year in, year out, and to the importance they place on a high ranking.

Better Beer's appearance at number six – the highest new entry of the year – is only likely to harden the opinions of the poll's critics, yet it's merely the most potent manifestation of the Hottest 100's evolution over the years. While we have no doubt there are still voters who spend time working out which five beers they've loved most over the previous 12 months, even a cursory look at the beers regularly appearing at the top shows how closely they reflect the beers the breweries behind them are asking people to vote for. This suggests it's increasingly a case of fans supporting their local / favourite brewery and voting for beers in the order the breweries suggest, as much as it is a case of people voting for the beers that have wowed them.

But, as we've said in the past, the answer is in the poll's name. It's never been about finding Australia's best beers – whatever "best" means – rather than its hottest.


THE HOTTEST 100

Top ten photo supplied by GABS.

 

  1. BentSpoke Brewing Co - Crankshaft IPA
  2. Balter Brewing - Balter XPA
  3. Your Mates Brewing Co - Larry
  4. Stone & Wood Brewing Co - Pacific Ale
  5. Black Hops Brewery - G.O.A.T.
  6. Better Beer - Better Beer Zero Carb
  7. Capital Brewing Co - Capital XPA
  8. Ballistic Beer Co - Hawaiian Haze
  9. Capital Brewing Co - Coast Ale
  10. Young Henrys - Newtowner
  11. Coopers Brewery - Original Pale Ale
  12. BentSpoke Brewing Co - Barley Griffin
  13. Balter Brewing- Balter Hazy
  14. Bridge Road Brewers - Beechworth Pale Ale
  15. Beerfarm - Royal Haze
  16. Pirate Life Brewing - South Coast Pale Ale
  17. Gage Roads Brewing Co - Single Fin
  18. KAIJU! Beer - KRUSH! Tropical Pale Ale
  19. Black Hops Brewery - East Coast Haze
  20. Heaps Normal - Quiet XPA
  21. Heads Of Noosa Brewing Co - Japanese Lager
  22. Brick Lane Brewing Co - One Love Pale Ale
  23. Little Creatures - Little Creatures Pale Ale
  24. Moon Dog Craft Brewery - Old Mate
  25. Philter Brewing - Philter XPA
  26. Mountain Goat Beer - GOAT Very Enjoyable Beer
  27. Feral Brewing Co - Biggie Juice
  28. Brookvale Union - Ginger Beer
  29. 4 Pines Brewing Co - 4 Pines Pacific Ale
  30. Big Shed Brewing Concern - Boozy Fruit
  31. Hawke's Brewing- Hawke’s Patio Pale
  32. Bright Brewery - Alpine Lager
  33. Grifter Brewing Co - Pale
  34. Blackflag Brewing - Rage Juicy Pale
  35. Green Beacon Brewing Co - Wayfarer
  36. Stomping Ground Brewing Co - Gipps St Pale Ale
  37. Akasha Brewing Co - Hopsmith IPA
  38. Dainton Beer - Blood Orange NEIPA
  39. Revel Brewing Co - Strawberries & Cream Sour Ale
  40. Coopers Brewery - Sparkling Ale
  41. BentSpoke Brewing Co - Sprocket
  42. Capital Brewing Co - Hang Loose Juice Blood Orange NEIPA
  43. Coopers Brewery - Coopers XPA
  44. Your Mates Brewing Co - Sally
  45. BentSpoke Brewing Co - Cluster 8
  46. Black Hops Brewery - Neverland
  47. Balter Brewing - Eazy Hazy
  48. Ballistic Beer Co - Hawaiian Haze IPA
  49. Capital Brewing Co  West Coast NEIPA – Mountain Culture Collab
  50. Coopers Brewery - Coopers Pacific Pale Ale
  51. Bodriggy Brewing Co - Speccy Juice
  52. Colonial Brewing Co - Colonial Pale Ale
  53. Grifter Brewing Co - Serpents Kiss
  54. Sunday Road Brewing - Cryotherapy
  55. Deeds Brewing - Juice Train
  56. 10 Toes Brewery - Pipeline Pale
  57. Burleigh Brewing Co - Bighead No-carb Lager
  58. Hop Nation Brewing Co - J-Juice
  59. Range Brewing Co - Lights + Music
  60. Black Hops Brewery - Hop Swap
  61. Black Hops Brewery - Black Hops Pale Ale
  62. Your Mates Brewing Co - Macca
  63. Balter Brewing - Captain Sensible
  64. Capital Brewing Co - Trail Pale Ale
  65. Hawke's Brewing - Hawke’s Lager
  66. Burleigh Brewing Co - Twisted Palm
  67. One Drop Brewing Co - Double Vanilla Custard Pancake Imperial Nitro Thickshake IPA
  68. Cronulla Beer Co - Next Level XPA
  69. Sobah Beverages - Pepperberry IPA
  70. Jetty Road Brewery - Jetty Road Pale Ale
  71. Brouhaha Brewery - Strawberry Rhubarb Sour
  72. Stone & Wood Brewing Co - Cloud Catcher
  73. Blackman's Brewery - Juicy Banger
  74. 4 Pines Brewing Co - 4 Pines Pale Ale
  75. Brick Lane Brewing Co - Sidewinder Hazy Pale
  76. Hop Nation Brewing Co - Rattenhund
  77. Sunday Road Brewing - Enigma Ale
  78. Otherside Brewing Co - Anthem IPA
  79. Bad Shepherd Brewing Co - Peanut Butter Porter
  80. Ballistic Beer Co - Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout
  81. Black Hops Brewery - Hornet
  82. Little Creatures - Pacific Ale
  83. Your Mates Brewing Co - Eddie
  84. Dainton Beer - Jungle Juice
  85. Bodriggy Brewing Co - Utropia Pale Ale
  86. Young Henrys - The Unifier
  87. Hawkers Beer - West Coast IPA
  88. Mismatch Brewing Co - Mismatch Session Ale
  89. Gage Roads Brewing Co - Side Track All Day XPA
  90. Little Bang Brewing Co - Face Inverter
  91. BentSpoke Brewing Co - Red Nut
  92. Tumut River Brewing Co - Ginja Ninja
  93. Eumundi Brewery - Eumundi Alcoholic Ginger Beer
  94. Deeds Brewing - Once More Into the Fray
  95. Akasha Brewing Co -  Mosaic IPA
  96. Ballistic Beer Co - Low Ha
  97. Capital Brewing Co - Rock Hopper IPA
  98. Wayward Brewing Co - Raspberry Berliner Weisse
  99. Willie The Boatman - Nectar Of The Hops
  100. Balter Brewing - CryoHaze
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