There would be a danger of it becoming boring if it weren’t for the fact that not only are his beers brilliant, but Feral head brewer Brendan Varis is also as unassuming, generous and humble a guy as you’ll find in the brewing industry. And given it’s an industry low on ego and high on humility, that’s worthy of a trophy in itself. Not that he’d have anywhere to put it in his pool room in Perth after collecting the latest swag of gongs at last night’s 20th anniversary Australian International Beer Awards.
Brendan, fellow brewer Will Irving and – as he’s keen to point out in his acceptance speech for Champion Large Australian Brewery – the brewery driving force, wife Gab Varis, were the big winners, collecting the trophies for Scotch & Barleywine and International Pale Ale as well as the big one. The last went to Hop Hog for the third time in four years. The beer is so good that in a category that attracted a large number of entries yet only three golds were awarded, Feral won two of them in both draught and packaged categories.
There was as big a cheer for Canberra’s Wig & Pen, with brewer Richard Watkins collecting Champion Small Australian Brewery at a time when the original brewpub is due to be demolished and a new venue is yet to be secured. Other Australian victors included Illawarra for its Koelsch – a win that brought tears to one of its shocked brewer’s eyes, 4 Pines for its Stout in a category that attracted the largest number of golds, Matilda Bay for the country’s original wheat beer, Redback Pale, and Toohey’s for Hahn Super Dry in the International Lager category.
No one headed to the stage more often than Bob Pease from the American Brewers Association, however. Having brought the association’s Export Development Program to Australia for the first time, he found himself collecting multiple trophies on behalf of Caldera, the Pelican Pub Co and Deschutes. Kjetil Jikiun, from Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø, was also in Australia for the first time so was able to collect the trophy for Best Specialty Beer for the collaboration he made with New Zealand’s Garage Project.
The awards ceremony, hosted by 3RRR FM’s Cam Smith, also included a poignant moment as beer writer and brewer Willie Simpson was invited onstage to pay tribute to Geoffrey Scharer, founder of Scharer’s Little Brewery in Picton, who passed away last week. He gave a touching and heartfelt tribute to a larger than life character; later in the night, Richard from Wig & Pen dedicated his win to the craft beer pioneer too.
With guests getting to taste the Collaborator, brewed by Feral and 2 Brothers for the 20th anniversary, and tuck into a menu designed by Chris Badenoch from Josie Bones it made for an enjoyable and successful evening. More than 500 of the beers submitted for the awards will be on tasting at Fed Square today for the AIBA World of Beer event. There are still tickets available on the door for an event that also offers the chance to sample some of the beers brought to Australia for the first time by the American Brewers Association. The public tasting starts at 4pm.
Full list of winners
- Champion Large Australian Brewery: Feral Brewing Company, Western Australia, Australia
- Champion Large International Brewery: Deschutes Brewery, Oregon, USA
- Champion Small Australian Brewery: Wig & Pen Brewery & Tavern, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
- Champion Small International Brewery: Pelican Pub & Brewery, Oregon, USA
- Best New Exhibitor: Cervejaria Bodebrown Ltda, Paraná, Brazil
- Best International Lager: Hahn Super Dry, Tooheys, New South Wales, Australia
- Best Pilsner: Croucher Brewing Pilsner, The Croucher Brewing Co, Rotorua, New Zealand
- Best Amber / Dark Lager: Weltenburger Asam Bock, Klosterbrauerei Weltenburg, Kelheim, Germany
- Best International Pale Ale: Hop Hog, Feral Brewing Company, Western Australia, Australia
- Best European Style Ale: Koelsch, Illawarra Brewing Company, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
- Best IPA: Caldera IPA, Caldera Brewing Co, Oregon, USA
- Best Amber / Dark Ale: Doryman's Dark, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Oregon, USA
- Best Porter: Akkevit Porter, Haandbryggeriet Brewery, Drammen, Norway
- Best Stout: Stout, 4 Pines Brewing Company, Manly, New South Wales, Australia
- Best Wheat Beer: Redback Pale, Matilda Bay Brewing Company, Victoria, Australia
- Best Beligan & French Ale: Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel, De Halve Maan, Brugge, Belgium
- Best Scotch & Barley Wine: Razorback, Feral Brewing Company, Western Australia, Australia
- Best Speciality: Summer Sommer, Garage Project, Wellington, New Zealand