For the second year running, Rocky Ridge have claimed the Champion Beer trophy at the Perth Royal Beer Awards. And, again, they've done it with a rarely-seen style: their barrel-aged barleywine Jindong Balling following in the footsteps of 2022 winner, the Polish-inspired grodziskie Polski Pivo.
The brewers from the South West (pictured above collecting one of their trophies) were also named Champion Large Brewery on a night when their Ace IPA took out Best India Pale Ale (Packaged).
Brewery co-founder Mel Holland told The Crafty Pint: "We're so proud of how hard the team continues to work, and these awards give us confidence what we're doing is on the right path.
"We've invested a lot into our quality program and it's encouraging to know that in our core range and limited releases the quality is there."
She added, with a laugh: "Also, some of the weird shit that we did is now somewhat justified. We can do weird shit, but we can do quality weird shit."
Plenty of familiar faces took to the stage at the 2023 awards, with King Road Brewing continuing their seemingly unstoppable march. Their IPA won Best India Pale Ale (Draught) as they picked up the Champion Small Brewery title too.
Champion Medium Brewery went to their near neighbours, Whitelakes Brewing, who are heading back to Baldivis with a trophy for their Dark – deemed Best Lager (Draught).
Head judge Will Irving said Jindong Balling's success was well deserved: "What got it through was how well it was balanced but also how well it hid the alcohol – it was balanced down to a tee."
The number of entries at WA's long-running beer awards night rose by 100 to around 575, this despite dropping the trophy for packaging. And there was a colourful mix of old and new, big and small, among those to claim trophies.
Indian Ocean Brewing are one of the oldest craft operations in the state and won a trophy for their Fruitulus Lupulus – one of the first NEIPAs to really hit the mark in the state back in 2018, when we named it in our Best New WA Beers of the year. Cowaramup Brewing Company, who have been brewing at their small brewpub home in the Margaret River region for nearly 17 years now, claimed Best Porter-Stout (Packaged) for their Chocolate Porter; the draught version in the same category will be on display not far away too, with Black Brewing's cult fave Bao Bao Milk Stout taking that honour.
Sticking in the South West and Beerfarm's iconic IPL picked up yet another gong (Best Lager Packaged), while Denmark-based Artisan continued their award-winning ways with Best European Style (Draught) for Abbey B, and Wilson Brewing, a short drive east in Albany, took to the stage to pick up Best Low Alcohol (Draught) and Light House Session XPA.
There were a few trophies left for brewers in the Greater Perth region, however. It's rare for Otherside (pictured above) to walk away without silverware and this time around it was for Vinyl (Best Amber-Dark Draught), with their neighbours Innate Brewers taking out Best Pale Ale (Packaged) for their DDH American Pale Ale.
Relative newcomers Golden West were among the winners too – Best Hybrid & Specialty Beer (Draught) for Smooth Bourbon Vanilla Porter – with Thorny Devil's Vienna Lager named Best Low Alcohol (Packaged).
The trophy for Best New Exhibitor went to Boundary Island, the WA operation that won the same trophy at last month's Australian International Beer Awards*.
Commenting on the awards, Will said one notable change this year was the lack of IPAs making it through to the later stages of judging for Champion Beer.
"I'm not sure why it's happened, " he said. "People are getting better at making higher ABV beers."
He said the standard was generally high across the board, adding: "I don't think you can be inconsistent these days. You'll see breweries go under if they don't have drinkers' trust – that's everything with your brand."
He believes the level of knowledge within breweries is higher than ever too, as brewers move between roles and take experience and ideas with them.
"We're doing well in WA," he said. "The number of golds is on a par with last year and there are companies that didn't do well in the past coming through with trophies now.
"Competition is tough so it's no surprise that breweries have to do what they can to get those sales."
FULL LIST OF WINNERS
Rocky Ridge Jindong Balling
CHAMPION LARGE BREWERY
Rocky Ridge Brewing Company
CHAMPION MEDIUM BREWERY
CHAMPION SMALL BREWERY
King Road Brewing Co
BEST NEW EXHIBITOR
Boundary Island Brewery
Moffat Beach Brewing Co
BEST LAGER PACKAGED
BEST LAGER DRAUGHT
BEST PALE ALE PACKAGED
Innate Brewers DDH American Pale Ale
BEST PALE ALE DRAUGHT
Indian Ocean Brewing Co Fruitulus Lupulus
BEST INDIA PALE ALE PACKAGED
Rocky Ridge Brewing Company Ace IPA
BEST INDIA PALE ALE DRAUGHT
King Road Brewing Co IPA
BEST AMBER - DARK ALE DRAUGHT
Otherside Brewing Co Vinyl
BEST PORTER - STOUT PACKAGED
Cowaramup Brewing Company Chocolate Porter
BEST PORTER - STOUT DRAUGHT
Black Brewing Co Bao Bao Milk Stout
BEST EUROPEAN STYLE BEER DRAUGHT
Artisan Brewing Abbey B.
BEST HYBRID & SPECIALTY BEER PACKAGED
Rocky Ridge Jindong Balling
BEST HYBRID & SPECIALTY BEER DRAUGHT
Golden West Brewing Company Smooth Bourbon Vanilla Porter
BEST LOW ALCOHOL BEER PACKAGED
Thorny Devil Brewing Company Vienna Lager
BEST LOW ALCOHOL BEER DRAUGHT
Wilson Brewing Light House Session XPA
* The article originally stated that this trophy was shared with Moffat Beach Brewing as they were included in the full list of trophy winners we were provided. However, the trophy went to Boundary Island as "Moffat Beach was equal on points, but on a countback it went to Boundary Island."