We've been running blind tastings – both with expert panels and as public events – for more than a decade now. Almost exclusively, each has focused on a particular style, although there was one focused on ownership a few years back, as well as our Budget Busters special earlier in the year, that were a little different from the norm.
As we've noted before, it's nigh-on impossible these days – at least outside the confines of a major beer awards where they've scores of judges and several days on their hands – to conduct such an undertaking with many beer styles. And that's simply due to the weight of numbers: there's hundreds of brewers putting out pilsners, pales, IPAs and sours of varying kinds today; in the earlier days of this site, we would struggle to find even a dozen packaged local examples of most beers.
It means that, in recent years, we've tended to focus on emerging or less saturated areas of the beer landscape. Or, in the case of this blind tasting, we've stepped away from a strict focus on styles to look more broadly at a theme: the rise of beer brands associated with personalities known for their endeavours elsewhere, or bands and businesses keen to add beer to their merch offering.
Such beer brands are far from new – famous people were putting their names to beers long before the term "craft beer" came into existence – and they warranted a mention in our Best of 2022 feature a year ago. We were sparked into action, however, by a flurry of new arrivals this year, most notably when we received media releases announcing two new brands on the very same day.
For the purposes of this tasting, we've gone with the umbrella term "influencer beers" but, as you'll see below, there's a bit of diversity within the lineup, and not just in terms of the chosen styles, which cover mid-strength lagers and ale, lagers (including low-carb and low-calorie), and a solitary full-strength pale ale. They are all, at time of writing at least, brewed under license, not least because in the vast majority of cases, none of those involved own a brewery.
While there had to be a little tweaking to take into account the fact that the 18 beers covered a few different styles, to all intents and purposes the judging process was as it always is: a panel of experts from various parts of the beer industry gathering for an evening to assess various flights of beers, presented blind. They were told what style each flight featured but otherwise were left to score the beers based upon the liquid and their senses.
While some of the brands we put to the test will be familiar to most people, some might not, so here's a brief A to Z synopsis of the beers put in front of our panel of three women and three men.
- 4B Session Ale: A collaboration between Sunshine Coast-based Brouhaha Brewery and one of their locals, Jase Andrews, who is the star of Channel 10's All 4 Adventure show.
- Better Beer: Little needs saying here, given the runaway success of the brand launched by The Inspired Unemployed, Nick Cogger and Mighty Craft.
- Bloke In A Bar: A spin-off from the hugely-popular footy podcast created by former NRL player Denan Kemp, who now has two lagers on the market.
- eBEER: New in 2023, eBEER taps into "better for you" messaging, with marketing featuring a branded sports car and former Adelaide Crows captain Taylor Walker, who returned from a six-week ban imposed in 2021 to finish second in the 2023 Coleman Medal.
- Everyday Australia: Another new arrival this year, Everyday Australia is fronted by former AFL player Brendan Fevola and launched with a lager, which has since been followed by a pale ale.
- Kingswood Lager: The newest of all the beers to feature in our tasting is the lager launched by Melbourne band Kingswood.
- Largo Brewing: They're not the only band to feature, however, with Largo Brewing a joint venture focused on "carbon neutral" beers between Lime Cordiale and Pinnacle Drinks, part of the Endeavour Group that also owns Dan Murphy's and BWS.
- Last Man Standing: A brand launched by Steven Bradbury with a name referencing his most famous triumph at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
- Sippy Lager: Another sports connection here, with Sippy co-founded by ex-AFL player and Big Brother runner-up turned online content creator and podcaster Daniel Gorringe.
- Spill: This lager – "The kinda beer for people who don't like beer" – was launched by CUB and media personality Abbie Chatfield in 2022.
- Sydney Beer Co: While the brewing company has been around far longer – and isn't the same as Sydney Brewery – its sole beer appears here due to the fact former cricketer Brett Lee came on board as a part-owner and ambassador in late 2022.
- Steel City: Created by famous Novocastrians, including ex-NRL players and surfers, in partnership with Chuck Hahn, the Lion brewmaster who first made his name in the local beer world with Hahn Pilsner before launching the James Squire brand.
- Tradie: One of the more unlikely debutants in 2023 was Tradie. The underwear brand, which has former rugby player Nick Cummins as an ambassador, released three beers brewed by Brick Lane as the year drew to a close, sold exclusively through Coles Liquor Group's retail chains, and fronted by Essendon ruckman Sam Draper and pro surfers Jackson Baker and Matt Wilkinson.
- Travla: A joint venture between mates Andy Allen and Travis Fimmel, the former a Masterchef contestant turned judge, the latter an actor best known for his role in Vikings.
Before we get to announcing the top ten, we typically offer some comment on the beers or the tasting as a whole. Given the nature of the lineup here, where the intent behind the product is as much about creating something that will appeal to as many followers of said brand / personality as possible as it is about impressing judges' palates, any commentary is less liquid-based than usual.
What we did notice is that orange appears to be the colour of choice for mid-strengths, and blue the lager equivalent. Five of the 18 beers were mid-strengths, one was a pale ale, the remainder were pale lagers of one form or another.
What's more, while there are plenty in the wider industry looking to make beer more welcoming and inclusive for all, many of the beers and much of the marketing in this space leans heavily into beer's traditionally male audience.
Due to the relatively small number of brands in this space, we decided to include multiple beers from those with more than one, as long as they were appropriate for the tasting. As such, we didn't include Better Beer's non-alc (due to it being alcohol-free) or ginger beer. We were also unable to get our hands on a couple, including golfer Marc Leishman's mid-strength lager.
Perhaps understandably, on average the scores were down overall on other recent blind tastings, which have featured beers from breweries making their own beers. However, every beer in the top ten scored better than half marks from the panel, with only 1.5 points out of a possible 30 separating the beers in first and sixth.
The Top Ten
1 Travla (3.5%)
From Liquorland, Brunswick; best before date 18/01/24
2= eBEER (4.2%)
From eBEER; BB 30/08/24
2= Tradie Pale Ale (4.2%)
From Karla Dawes Press Office; BB 30/08/24
4 Bloke In A Bar Middy (3.5%)
From Bloke In A Bar; BB 06/07/24
5 Tradie Lager (4.2%)
From Karla Dawes Press Office; BB 27/08/24
6 Bloke In A Bar Lager (4.2%)
From Bloke In A Bar; BB 12/10/24
7 Brouhaha 4B Session Ale (3.5%)
From Brouhaha; BB 16/07/24
8 Tradie Mid-Strength Lager (3.5%)
From Karla Dawes Press Office; BB 18/10/24
9 Largo Brewing The Dawdler (3.2%)
From Dan Murphy's, Alphington; BB 18/06/24
10 Everyday Australia Lager (4.3%)
From Thirsty Camel, Hawthorn East; BB 16/05/24
Also featured in the tasting, in alphabetical order, were Better Beer – 4.2% (Dan Murphy's, Alphington; BB 10/10/24); Kingswood Lager – 4.5% (McCoppins Fitzroy; BB 18/10.24); Largo Brewing Clean Lager – 4.2% (Dan Murphy's, Alphington; BB 19/06/24); Last Man Standing Australian Lager – 4.5% (BSW West End Boundary Street; BB 04/07/24); Sippy Lager – 4.0% (Vintage Cellars, Carlton; BB 25/05/24); Spill Easy-Going Lager – 4.2% (Liquorland Brunswick East; BB 10/02/24); Steel City Full Strength Lager – 4.5% (Dan Murphy's, Kotara; BB N/A); Sydney Beer Co Premium Lager (Kahibah Liquor Stax, Kahibah; BB 10/05/24).
Thanks once again to the team at Miss Moses for providing space for the tasting, to our panelists for giving up an evening at this hectic time of year, and to our contributors in Newcastle and Brisbane for hunting down some of the beers. If you've got a style or sector of the market you'd like us to take on in 2024, drop us a line.
You'll find all other blind tasting articles within the Beer Styles section of Beer Knowledge.