Hometown brewery 4 Pines starred at the 2023 Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show, claiming both Champion Packaged Beer and Champion Draught Beer as well as Champion NSW Beer. The packaged trophy was award to their Japanese Style Lager, which featured in our recent Budget Busters blind tasting, with the other two titles going to one of the oldest beers in their lineup: Extra Special Bitter.
The beers helped the Northern Beaches operation, one of the craft brands owned by CUB/Asahi, to 22 medals in total: six of them gold.
Chief of judges Ian Kingham, who has judged at every awards sine their inception almost two decades ago, told The Crafty Pint: "It's always good to see a different style of beer come through.
"I had the luxury of tasting and judging [the ESB] and it was pretty phenomenal. There was no doubt on the top table – and there were some good palates on that table. It had to win gold, then win the highest gold in its class, and then front up against a lot of other good beers."
The other trophy handed to a beer on the night went to Blue Mountains-based Mountain Culture. They won Champion Experimental or Specialty Beer for their Hill People oat cream hazy IPA – the standout performer among the brewery's haul of 18 medals. It was the first time they'd entered the awards, ending the night with five golds and ten silvers.
If you're wondering why those are the only four trophies awarded to beers at the competition, as opposed to most of the other major awards in Australia in which there are multiple style-based gongs, it comes down to how the awards have evolved over the years.
When the competition started receiving entries in the experimental and specialty categories, the feeling was that such beers shouldn't be eligible for the overall champion trophies, which should instead be awarded to more "traditional" beers. As such, a new trophy was created for those less conventional entries.
Looking ahead, however, The Crafty Pint understands there will be changes to the awards for 2024, so watch this space.
Back to the present and other breweries to enjoy a golden night at The Star Sydney included BentSpoke. The Canberra brewers racked up a mighty eight gold medals, while three golds were awards to each of Sydney Brewery (who picked up 19 medals from 19 entries), Jervis Bay Brewing (out of a haul of 14 medals), and Six String Brewing, who marked a decade of brewing earlier this year.
In total, despite a slight drop in the number of submissions, a record 155 gold and silver medals were awarded, representing by far the highest percentage of medalists in the competition's history, with Small Acres Cyder Pink Lady taking out Champion Cider.
In a release accompanying the results, Ian said: “The Sydney Royal is one of the toughest beer and cider competitions in Australia, and yet we have seen an outstanding quality of entries this year that have been more than deserving of the high-level of medals awarded.
“Over the past decade, the Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show has seen a steady increase of entries and a steady increase in medals, which I believe is reflective of the growth and quality of the Australian beer and cider industry. Back in 2013, we were handing out one gold medal, ten years later we’ve awarded 42 gold medals – it’s a completely different game now.
“Some of the standout classes included stout, which was a particularly strong category this year, with every entry achieving either gold, silver, or bronze status. Equally impressive is the diversity of location: we have medal winners in six of the eight states and territories, and 27 percent of exhibits are from regional areas.”
Check out the full list of medalists here.