The Best Of Beer 2023: The Territories

December 29, 2023, by Will Ziebell

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The Best Of Beer 2023: The Territories

And now the end is here, and so we post our final roundup...
Yes, 19 days on from publishing our analysis of the trends and moments of 2023 in The Year In Beer, and after paying visits to every Aussie state in the meantime, we wrap up The Best Of Beer 2023 with a look at the past 12 months in ACT and the Northern Territory.
Thanks to all of the contributors around the country for helping us pull it together. Here's to great things to come for the local beer scene in 2024!


Standout Moments

The Big Top (End)

 

It’s more than 11 years since Stuart Brown and Bardy Bayram launched One Mile Brewery: the first craft beers of the modern era brewed in Darwin. Over that time, they’ve moved and grown, with arguably their biggest upgrade to date coming to fruition at the start of the year.

They improved and expanded their bar, put in a new coolroom with greater capacity, and looked to make the visitor experience a more comfortable one. Among the changes was the expansion from eight to 22 taps (pictured above), which has allowed for more seasonal and limited releases, although they’re still working towards all of them pouring something different; at time of writing, there were 15 different products on tap, with their hazy pale, XPA and dark lager starting to take off.

Away from their own bar, One Mile were part of the Darwin Street Art Festival, inviting featured artists to create labels for their beers, and back involved in The Darwin Festival too.

“We’re confident going into next year,” Stuart says, “aiming to bring out some new beers, do more events, and get locals in.”

They’re not the only Top End brewers making progress despite the challenges facing the beer industry. You can read about Beaver Brewing’s plans below, while the former Nightcliff Brewing Co has been renamed Darwin Brewing Co with beers starting to pop up on tap around the city.

 

Purple Mango co-owner Adam Asanovski (right) with brewer Jamie, who joined the tiny bush brewery team this year.

 

Out bush, on the way to Kakadu, Purple Mango have hired a young brewer and, equipped with the 500L Braumeister that once made beers at Alice Springs, have been both widening their range and the number of venues in which they’re pouring, including some for whom they now provide the house lager.

“We’re kicking goals,” is how co-owner Adam Asanovski puts it, not least as he knows what lies ahead in 2024, including the opening of five new accommodation units on their bush block, as well as becoming a stop on helicopter tours of the region – once he’s got around to clearing space for a landing pad, of course. James Smith


Canberra’s New Kids

 

To outsiders, Canberra can easily look like a two-horse town when it comes to craft breweries. While there have been plenty of other operators over the past decade – many of whom we’ve featured on these pages – and Zierholz has been around far longer than both, BentSpoke and Capital have a reach that stretches well beyond their backyard; and, as recent GABS Hottest 100 polls show, they regularly garner plenty of support for their beers.

They’ve been joined by more operators in 2023, with Ale Mary – who launched in late 2022 – expanding their presence and Mountain Yeti, founded by mates with shared Nepalese heritage who look to blend Nepalese and Australian beer cultures, also debuting this year. Early releases include their Honey Hunter Pilsner, brewed with wild Himalayan honey.

Arguably the most exciting new arrival of 2023, however, was that of Cypher Brewing. The team opened the doors to their Gungahlin brewpub in April, with a strong community focus, pairing their regularly-changing lineup of beers with live music, pub fare and plenty of family-friendly activities. 

All in all, there’s plenty to explore beyond the big two when it comes to local beer in the country’s capital.


Alice Springs' Half Decade Of Beers

 

They weren’t the NT’s first brewery of the craft beer era but Alice Springs Brewing Co have certainly set out to raise the profile of the territory’s beer scene more than any other. They sell their beers interstate and, in 2023, significantly expanded their brewpub home in the Red Centre so it’s now capable of holding 700 people.

The beers continue to diversify and pick up medals at major beer awards and, despite the highly-publicised issues facing their hometown – just one of many significant hurdles faced by Kyle Pearson and his team over their first half decade of operation, they continue to look forward with a smile, and have some fun ideas they’re eager to unleash in 2024.

The high point of their year came as they celebrated their fifth anniversary with typical style: headlined by a Regurgitator gig and with a stellar lineup of comedians taking to the stage over the four nights of celebration.

Check out their Five Years In Five Beers feature from earlier in the year hereJS


Standout Beers

BentSpoke Bent Brewer

 

Mat Farrington of CanBEERra keeps a closer eye on the ACT’s beer scene than anyone else, and his favourite BentSpoke beer of the year was one the brewing team themselves didn’t design.

Bent Brewer was an American IPA initially brewed by homebrewer Stephen Lawford and crowned Champion Beer Of Show at the 2022 ACT Amateur Brewing Comp. It was brewed on a commercial scale at BentSpoke at the start of the year, with Stephen (pictured above) getting to pour it for punters at the Multicultural Festival Canberra Brewers stall.

Rather more people will have got to enjoy Muthur Funker in 2023, as the barrel-aged golden sour that appeared at the first ever Good Beer Week Mega Dega way back in 2013, appeared as part of a twin tinnie release alongside this year’s Flemm. While it didn’t hold back on the sweaty horse blanket characteristics, its sweet-sour-funky trifecta was delivered with excellent balance. JS


Cypher Brewing Eternal Return

 

Cypher’s head brewer Matt Thiele is a big fan of big beers and he’s wasted no time delivering some impressively balanced beers of that nature. The double IPA Eternal Return, brewed with Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra and Strata, delivered a delightful mix of guava, sticky mango and pine while being resinous, dry and built upon the kind of solid malt backbone not seen all that often in beer these days.

Speaking of things we don’t get to drink often enough in Australia, Cypher also teamed up with the winner of the Canberra Brewers Club Competition, Anthony Ween, to brew British Bitter, capturing the essence of the classic style with aplomb.


Capital Brewing Johnny Utah

 

Although technically a 2022 debutant, when the beer passed through Capital's pilot brewery and the brewpub taps, Johnny Utah came to a wider audience as a limited release in cans in the first half of 2023.

The Point Break-referencing hazy pale ale set out to deliver smooth, juicy, tropical flavours and nailed the brief. As CanBEERra Mat put it simply: "It was fantastic. Definitely worthy of the list." JS


Alice Springs USA, USA, USA

 

Part of the brewery’s ever-changing ASP IPA range of beers, USA, USA, USA was brewed as a nod to Alice Springs Brewing Co's nearby military base – one which may or may not house aliens underground. What is certain is that its presence means many Americans call Alice home and have become regulars at the brewpub. 

Clearly, they like classic US IPAs, as this one featuring Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic hops, sold out in a few days.

Designed to be a single release, the brewery ended up brewing three batches of the 6.5 percent ABV beer after customers kept on asking for more.


Beaver Brewery Lady Bug XPA

 

Like the Alice Springs beer above, Lady Bug was a runaway success for Darwin’s Beaver Brewery. It was the first brew designed by Nayana Patmore (pictured above and featured below): an XPA using the Pink Boots hop blend from Yakima Chief Hops.

The entire batch disappeared in a matter of days and, as with all Beaver beers, there’s a story behind the name. Nayana chose it in reference to her grandfather’s promise that he’d send ladybugs to look after her when he passed.

Fortunately, the brewery secured enough of the hop blend to bring the beer back in 2024, so keep an eye out if you’re a local or passing through.


Breakthrough Brewery: Cypher Brewing

 

The locals behind Cypher Brewing picked the name for their brewery because they liked the idea of unlocking the secrets to great beer – and they’ve certainly cracked what makes an excellent brewpub. Located in Canberra’s northern suburb of Gungahlin, the light rail literally goes right past Cypher's front door, and you’d be hard pressed to find local beer drinkers who don’t pop in for a quick beer on the way home.

With former Capital brewer Matt Thiele leading the charge, the brewery’s lineup includes both an approachable core offering and just about anything else he feels like brewing. And the feedback on the fast-growing catalogue of beers from the local community is that he's doing it damn well.

But brewpubs aren’t just about beer. Cypher was launched with their community in mind, and an ethos that means you can enjoy live music there, while there’s a play area to keep little kids happy while the big kids are enjoying Matt’s latest offerings.


How Was 2023 For You?
Nayana Patmore

 

Twenty-year-old Nayana Patmore made the move to Darwin a couple of years ago, where she started working behind the bar at Beaver Brewery.

She quickly fell in love with the brewing process and, six months later, became a brewer, making her one of the youngest full-time brewers in the country and Beaver’s first full-time employee in their five year history. It’s a story that’s picked up national media attention, while Nayana’s position has enabled Beaver founder Chris Brown to focus his efforts elsewhere and help the brewery’s beers gain traction more widely in the NT.


How was 2023 for you and Beaver Brewery?

This year has been a blast for the Beaver Brewery team and me. I came on board as an assistant brewer in March, and the support has been unreal. I've been soaking up all things brewing and getting more confident in the role as time goes on.

The business has thrived in 2023, thanks to a surge in production, allowing us to welcome many fresh and exciting brews. We’ve expanded our reach in the Darwin region and beyond, and it has been great to see the engagement within our community grow.

It hasn't been without challenges and a lot of hard work but, overall, we can celebrate a positive and successful year.


Which beers from NT have you enjoyed most in 2023?

NT craft beer has a lot to offer. I have enjoyed many of the beers produced in the Territory but simply can't go past the ales coming out of Alice Springs Brewing Co. They set such a high standard up here, which we all admire and aspire to.


What can people expect from you and Beaver in 2024?

The future for Beaver Brewery is incredibly exciting! We're planning to expand on our current model and roll into 2024 with a lineup of exciting events. 

I personally hope we deliver some more beer dinners because it is so fun to see what food pairs well with different beers and always makes for a fun – and delicious – night. My most recent favourite combination was our Sammy Saison and a beef tenderloins dish produced by the Hilton Darwin.

Collaboration will be a key focus for us in the future as we aim to partner with other local businesses. As we continue to prioritise beer quality, we will look at enhancing our brews and experimenting with different styles. This year, we brought to life the Mad About Coffee Stout with Darwin espresso business, Mad About Coffee, and proved to be a very popular beer.


And what's your one wish for Aussie beer in 2024 and beyond?

I share the hope for a continued focus on local products and an increased demand for small businesses in the effort to strengthen the independent landscape of our industry. Supporting local not only adds character to our products but also contributes to a vibrant and diverse community.


You can view the rest of The Best Of Beer 2023 here. Additional coverage as indicated.

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