Familiar faces rubbed shoulders with first-timers, and industry stalwarts with newcomers onstage at the 2022 Australian International Beer Awards in Melbourne.
The night ended with one of the country's smallest brewing companies – Beerland Brewing, which mainly brews beers for Northbridge Brewing Co shopping mall-based Whitfords Brewing Co in Perth – claiming an amazing second Champion Australian Beer trophy in just a handful of years.
Blueberry Clouds – a pastry sour – followed their win for Beerland Wheat in 2018, with the winners giving a shout-out to WA brewing legend Ken Arrowsmith, who helped get the brewery off the ground. Champion International Beer went to Belching Beaver's Viva La Beaver.
The other major trophies – those for the overall champion breweries – went to Hawkers (Large Australian), Stomping Ground (Medium Australian), and Moffat Beach (Small Australian), with the international winners featuring a couple of familiar faces, including Bavarians Weihenstephan and Deep Creek (Medium – once again, following last year's error), with the new face provided by Art Monster (Korea).
Hawkers' win was reward for years of unrelenting excellence since they burst onto the scene in 2014; they might not attract the hype of some of their peers, but rarely put out anything less than excellent. They also took out Best Victorian Brewery, a weirdly parochial inclusion at an awards portraying itself as global, on a night on which home state brewers hit the heights: eight of the 21 best beer trophies and three of four champion brewery trophies were won by Victorians, with Champion Gypsy Brewer going to Dollar Bill.
It was an evening that started with a tribute to Mark "Wags" Waghorne, the much-loved and respected beer industry figure who passed away earlier in the year after a two-year battle with cancer. The ex-Snowy Mountains, Mountain Goat, Temple and Moon Dog sales guy was just 44 and is survived by wife Nicky and three young sons; a GoFundMe launched by colleagues raised closed to $60,000 for his family.
In the case of Moffat Beach Brewing from the Sunshine Coast, the brewery continue to look more and more like the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s as they pile trophy upon trophy. That said, their swag at the AIBAs represents their first success at the country's biggest awards, with past triumphs taking place at the Indies and awards in their home state of Queensland.
This time around, their Trilogy IPA followed its win at the 2021 Indies with Best Traditional IPA, while one of the more recent arrivals in their lineup, the Shadow Of The Moon Eclipse Strong Pale, claimed Best International-Style Pale Ale. They merely proved the appetiser for the big one – Champion Small Australian Brewery – as Matt and Shaz Wilson's remarkable story continues.
Stomping Ground were another brewery to shine at last year's Indies and found themselves making regular visits to the stage again at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Serial award-winner Bunker Porter must soon warrant a trophy cabinet of its own, while Raspberry Smash – part of the Collingwood brewery's popular fruit sour series – was named Best British or European-Style Ale.
There were plenty of other repeat visitors to the stage too, including one of the stars of 2021. Hop Nation went home with four trophies last year, including Champion Medium Australian Brewery and this time around added Best Modern IPA for Get The Gist, released just this month. Meanwhile IPA winners from last year, King Road Brewing from WA, traded in that gong for another: Best Australian-Style Lager for their Lager.
Stone & Wood marked their first AIBAs since becoming part of Lion / Kirin by claiming their seemingly annual trophy, and it's for a beer in which they've placed much faith since its launch: the lightly-soured, 2.7 percent ABV East Point.
Before claiming the big prize on the night, Beerland Blueberry Clouds was judged Best Fruit Beer. It's a category in which Wayward Brewing have excelled in the past and the Camperdown crew collected more silverware this time around for their beer-wine hybrid Ripasso Bianco in the Best Wood- and Barrel-Aged category.
Completing the club of returnees, at least in the Australian sense, were 3 Ravens for Hugin (Best European-Style Lager), a new take on their Dark Smoke rauchbier – itself a past AIBA champ – created for their 18th birthday celebrations, and Cheeky Monkey, who followed last year's double of Champion Small Australian Brewery and Best Modern IPA for Lefties with a win for Best Australian-Style Pale Ale for their XPA.
As for the newcomers, Brisbane-based Revel backed up trophy success at last year's Indies with Best International Lager for their limited release NZ Pils, Co-Conspirators claimed Best Modern Pale Ale for The Hop Peddler, and Molly Rose took out Best Belgian / French Ale for Nectarined, a beer fermented in barrels on nectarines for nine months, which should give founder Nic Sandery (pictured right with partner Callie Jemmeson of Pacha Mama Wines) fresh impetus as he works on an expansion of their hospo offering in Collingwood.
Big Shed, who've typically enjoyed more success in the public voting at GABS got their hands on an AIBA trophy for their Viscosiraptor barley wine, while two regional Victorian breweries also made their first walk to the stage. Ocean Reach Brewing, based in Cowes on Phillip Island, will be making the journey home with a trophy for Journey Home Black IPA in the Best Amber / Dark Ale category, with Best Amber / Dark Lager going to King River Brewing, the tiny operation brewing in the heart of the picturesque King Valley, for their Mabon Doppelbock.
The Crafty Pint-sponsored Best Media award went to Clare Burnett, editor of Brews News. It's the third win for the publication, following Brews News founder Matt Kirkegaard in 2014 and James Atkinson, who we featured on the site this week; he first won when Brews News editor in 2017 before adding a second trophy last year for his Drinks Adventures podcast.
As in 2021, the number of Best Beer trophies leaving Australia was rather slim, but did include the night's only back-to-back triumph. Snow Breweries saw their Lowen White Beer win Best Wheat Beer for a second year running.
Elsewhere only Bach Brewing (NZ) with Best Reduced / Low Alcohol Beer for All Day, Belching Beaver (USA) with Best Specialty Flavoured Beer and Champion International Beer for Viva La Beaver, Hallertau (NZ) with Best Design – Label / Surface Graphic for The Keeper, and Peroni (brewed by Asahi in Victoria) with Best Pilsner adding to the international trophy haul.
That said, Bold Mariner, from Virginia, were the winners of the Gary Sheppard Best New Exhibitor, as Art Monster from Seoul won their first trophy, taking Champion Small International Brewery back to Korea.
And it was perennial AIBA champs who took out the other champion trophies: Deep Creek from New Zealand and the world's longest-established brewery, Germany's Weihenstephan.
Full list of trophy winners
Champion Australian Beer
Beerland Blueberry Clouds (WA)
Champion International Beer
Belching Beaver Viva La Beaver (USA)
Champion Large Australian Brewery
Champion Medium Australian Brewery
Stomping Ground (VIC)
Champion Small Australian Brewery
Moffat Beach (QLD)
Champion Victorian Brewery
Australian Gypsy Brewer Award
Dollar Bill (VIC)
Champion Large International Brewery
Champion Medium International Brewery
Deep Creek (NZ)
Champion Small International Brewery
Art Monster (KOREA)
Gary Sheppard Memorial Trophy For The Best New Exhibitor
Bold Mariner Brewery (USA)
Best Australian Style Lager
King Road Lager (WA)
Best European Style Lager (excluding Pilsner)
3 Ravens Hugin (VIC)
Best International Lager
Revel NZ Pils (QLD)
Peroni (Brewed by Asahi in VIC)
Best Amber / Dark Lager
King River Mabon Doppelbock (VIC)
Best Australian Style Pale Ale
Cheeky Monkey XPA (WA)
Best Modern Pale Ale
Co-Conspirators The Hop Peddler (VIC)
Best International-Style Pale Ale
Moffat Beach Shadow Of The Moon Eclipse Strong Pale Ale (QLD)
Best British or European-Style Ale (excluding IPA & Pale Ale)
Stomping Ground Raspberry Smash (VIC)
Best Traditional IPA
Moffat Beach Trilogy IPA (QLD)
Best Modern IPA
Hop Nation Get The Gist (VIC)
Best Amber / Dark Ale
Ocean Reach Journey Home Black IPA (VIC)
Best Porter or Stout
Stomping Ground Bunker Porter (VIC)
Best Reduced / Low Alcohol Beer
Stone & Wood East Point (NSW)
Best Non-Alcohol Beer
Bach Brewing All Day (NZ)
Best Wheat Beer
Lowen White Beer – China Resources Snow Breweries Co. (China)
Best Belgian / French Style Ale
Molly Rose Nectarined (VIC)
Best Fruit Beer
Beerland Blueberry Clouds (WA)
Best Wood- And Barrel-Aged Beer
Wayward Brewing Ripasso Bianco (NSW)
Best Specialty Beer
Big Shed Viscosiraptor (SA)
Best Specialty Flavoured Beer
Belching Beaver Viva La Beaver (USA)
Consistency of Excellence Medal
Awarded to products that have been awarded a gold medal for three consecutive years
Beerfarm India Pale Ale (WA)
DESIGN & MEDIA AWARDS
Best Design – Label / Surface Graphic
Hallertau The Keeper (NZ)
Best Design - Outer Packaging
Clare Burnett – Brews News (pictured above)
*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.