Black Hops have topped the Australian Craft Beer Survey for the second time running, voted Australia's best brewery ahead of GABS Hottest 100 toppers Mountain Culture and BentSpoke by more than 14,000 people who took part.
It's the sixth time beer retailers Beer Cartel have run the survey since 2016, with the study also revealing a significant rise in alcohol-free beer consumption among respondents, as well as ever-growing popularity for hazy IPAs.
More craft beer drinkers said they were buying beer online too, in the majority of cases direct from brewers and specialist retailers, while post-lockdowns 43 percent said they were going out less than they did pre-COVID, compared to 13 percent who reported they were going out more now than before the pandemic's arrival.
The survey also asked for drinkers' favourite beer bars and pubs, with the 2022 results welcoming a sole newcomer amid familiar faces from past surveys: The Winston in Hobart joined Saint John Craft Beer in Launceston as joint favourite in Tasmania. Thanks to our readers too: The Crafty Pint has now been named Australia's Favourite Craft Beer News Website in six surveys out of six.
Black Hops co-founder Eddie Oldfield told The Crafty Pint that claiming back-to-back top spots was "epic" and hoped it would help bring them to the attention of more drinkers, adding: "It means so much. The craft beer industry has been on a wild ride for the last 12 months and we're only here because of the people who love and drink our beer, and to be voted for by our customers really is the best possible acknowledgment of our craft.
"It means our customers are loving what we do, and that is hands down the most important thing to us as it's what we come to work each day trying to achieve."
Black Hops have been on a wild ride too, with Eddie the sole member of the three founders still at the Gold Coast-based brewing company. Michael "Govs" McGovern left in May last year to work on a number of other drinks projects as well as his own consultancy business, Better Ask Govs, while Dan Norris departed last month as new managing director Nathan Hyde joined from Yarra Valley Dairy.
Of the turbulent period for the local craft beer industry, Eddie says: "While we've seen our fair share of it, we know the whole industry is feeling it at the moment. I am hoping that we can all get through this together and come out smiling on the other side.
"For us, we're excited to have an incredibly experienced leadership team in place now that have come on board over the last couple of months and everyone is settling in really well and working on taking our business from three mates who got together and had a crack at brewing beer to a fully-fledged sustainable company with defined roles and goals.
"It's tough out there at the moment, but the light at the end of the beer glass is keeping us going."
When it came to non-alcoholic beer consumption, 32 percent of respondents said they had drunk an alcohol-free beer in the proceeding 12 months – up from 15 percent in 2020 – while six percent said they consumed such beers at least weekly.
Beer Cartel co-founder Richard Kelsey believes the growth reflects the availability of such beers on shelves as well as the diversity of styles now being brewed.
“I think there has been a seismic shift in the way people think about alcohol-free beer,” he says. “And I think it’s also due to the sheer quality of the products you can get out there now.”
While pale ales remain the most widely-consumed style (82 percent of respondents), hazy IPAs continue their rise, up 13 percent on 2020 to be biting at their heels; 78 percent of people completing the survey say they drink them now.
”I still think that overall sales of pale ale will be significantly higher than with hazies,” Richard says. “But it is definitely an interest in them.”
He added: “There’s been quite a reduction of people going to mainstream liquor stores and also going to specialist craft beer bars and pubs."
Meanwhile, awareness of the Independent Brewers Association's independent seal, and its importance as a factor in drinkers' decision-making, has continued to grow, rising from 33 percent in 2018 (the year it was first included) to 64 percent. With the IBA launching a new awareness campaign this month, they'll be hoping to see that upward trend continue.
“I think that’s really solid and shows the strength of what you can do with a label on a can or a box to convey that message,” Richard says.
From a Crafty Pint perspective, we've got big things going on behind-the-scenes, which will become clear in the coming weeks, so hopefully we'll continue to be the country's favourite beer news site for years to come!
You can view the full results of the 2022 Australian Craft Beer Survey here.