The Year In Beer 2012: Queensland

December 18, 2012, by Crafty Pint
The Year In Beer 2012: Queensland

It’s not too long ago that, during one of our regular discussions with the founder of Australian Brews News, we were admonished for the use of the phrase “craft beer revolution”. Being a generally more grounded chap – and having just witnessed one of his favourite Brisbane craft beer venues pretty much give up on craft beer – he felt that we were getting ahead of reality.

“You only have to step outside the centre of Melbourne to realise that there is no revolution, just minor, localised insurgencies,” was the general gist of his argument.

And, despite the incredible progress that craft beer has made in the 18 months since, there is still a long way to go.

Yet, in Brews News' hometown of Brisbane, the change in that period has been quite astonishing. At one point, it seemed that every other story on The Crafty Pint was about a new venture in or around Brisbane. Today, the likes of The Scratch, Bitter Suite (above) and Tippler’s Tap are bringing the best of the beer world to their taps, while the arrival of Fortitude Brewing and Green Beacon early in 2013 will add to a burgeoning local brewing scene, where Burleigh Brewing continues to go from strength to strength, winning golds seemingly weekly, Bacchus Brewing releases scores of new brews every year, and Four Hearts leads the charge for better beer in Ipswich as well as notching up plenty of column inches. And let’s not forget that 2012 was the year of the inaugural Queensland Beer Week.

So, as the biggest year for craft beer in Queensland comes to a close, here’s what the people behind The Scratch, Bacchus Brewing and the soon-to-open Fortitude Brewing have to say.

Kieran Ryan, co-founder of The Scratch

Artwork inside The Scratch


So, 2012: How was it for you?
Wow. The Scratch has really been smacked in the face with an epic 2012. It would be wrong to say our first year has been anything short of an absolute ball-tearer.

[We’ve] evolved from a shabby threesome to a dozen strong force of beautiful craft beer loving bartenders; sourcing and pouring over 400 different beers in a calendar year; pairing simply amazing ales with anything from molecular degustation menus through to extreme ice creams; meeting the most excellent people at good beery events – brewers to barmen, bloggers to beer nerds, and promptly forgetting half of them with each sobering morning; and ALL THIS culminating in every man’s dream – ferrying 35 people aboard a craft beer bus and drinking imperial stout at 10am en route to QLD’s premiere non-craft-beer-bar-staff-loving-water-based theme park… (But drinking it responsibly, of course – Crafty)

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
The Scratch has indeed had a good year – but in no part without the most appreciated and overwhelming support from a dedicated and resolute Brisbanite patronage, who have clearly stated their preference for choice, in quality, handcrafted and flavourful produce that seems to be growing and flowing ever more and more across our city.

Nowhere in Australia seems to be buttering their craft beer crumpets quite as enthusiastically as Brisbane at the moment, and we are more than stoked to be right here as it happens. With the recent opening of multiple good beer bars, and the imminent arrival of a handful of new breweries in our state (not to mention the brilliant already existent ones), you simply can’t ignore the fact that the Australian craft beer industry has a solid and exciting future, and QLD is going to be a big part of it.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
In 2013, we hope to see less of Woolies and Coles, and more independent bottleshops; less bureaucracy from our beloved government, and more locally made brews; less shaving, more sleep; and here’s a hot scoop – our very own hop and beer ice creams. Pun most definitely intended…

Massive cheers for helping spread the word must go to The Crafty Pint, Aus Brews News – and indeed all champions of the good beer movement for your support this year!

Ian Watson, head brewer at Fortitude Brewing – formerly at Murray’s

Ian gorges on a hoppy mussel post the brewing of the Auld Bulgin' Boysterous Bicep


So, 2012: how was it for you?
It has been a good year for me. A lot of new challenges and ideas have popped up over the last 12 months and personally I feel that I have met them head on and dealt well with all of them.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
Lots of highlights this year. I will have to point out the obvious and say that teaming up with Ged and Jim to form Fortitude Brewing Company and its associated brands is a real highlight. We haven’t got beer to the market yet and there are still a few more months before that all happens but taking the plunge and starting something new is very, very exciting. Queensland is my home state and I have spent a lot of time in the industry here so to be moving back to start a new venture at a time when the market is gaining momentum with new breweries and new venues is… I’ll say it again – very, very exciting.

I did a lot of things and brewed a lot of beer with Murray’s Craft Brewing Company over the last 12 months and being part of the growth of that company has been an awesome experience. In a small brewery environment (I think many don’t realise how small it is) with a small team, the amount of beer and the variety of beer that comes out of the shed in Bob’s Farm is remarkable. So to be a part of that was great, as it was every other year that I was there.

Brewing Libertine and Bob’s Farmhouse Ale was a lot of fun as they are both beers that I really enjoy drinking myself. Spending several weeks brewing almost nothing but Imperial Stouts for the draught and bottled releases of Seasons in the Abyss, Heart of Darkness and Wild Thing was also a lot of fun and not something that brewers get to do that often.

Getting a pretty decent score in NZ for the "Imperial Belgian Smoked Oyster & Mussel Stout" that was brewed with the Crafty Pint Team was also a fun and unexpected highlight.

The Brewers Feast nights at Murray's at Manly were also a big highlight. Basically Sherlock and I were given free rein to come up with a beer concept and act that out through beers from the general Murray's range and beers that were created just for that night. Some of those beers were over a year in the making and ranged from ideas that we wanted to pursue from a basis of examining possibilities and concepts for the general range, to beers that were made in a "what if/ I wonder what" vein. All were fun to make and all were a great experiment. The beers included things like a brandy barrel aged version of Imperious, a 100 percent Brett Imperial Stout, a 100 percent Brett IPA and unblended versions of Anniversary Ale.

The launch of The Beer Academy in Australia was also a positive step forward in terms of beer service education. Hopefully as new courses roll out for 2013 we will see more people look at the role of specialist beer wait staff and what they can do for a business and the industry as a whole. From the perspective of beers that I have consumed this year I would have to say that the charge is probably lead by Wig & Pen Sour Blonde and Black Lung from Moon Dog.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
The industry is moving along pretty well at the moment. Almost every brewery I speak to is experiencing solid growth and the interest is spreading further in to the general community. Craft beer is starting to become not just the beer that is known to and consumed by a select few but something that is a part of people’s general lives just as good coffee, wine or produce is.

Of course there are many things that we need to improve on and address in our industry. However if we are to keep moving forward we shouldn’t forget the positive steps that are being made every day on all fronts of Australian craft beer. Perhaps an important thing is that we all take things one step at a time and keep drinking and supporting good beer.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
Lots of people drinking my beer!

I think perhaps for growth in the industry I would like to see craft beer move deeper into the suburbs and the suburban pub. This is where I feel the real heart of growth for the Australian craft beer industry lies. When we are able to walk into just about any pub in a major centre and find one or two craft beers on tap in the front bar alongside the major players, then we will know we are really getting somewhere.

This might be difficult to achieve in some regional areas due to the great difficulties involved in distributing craft beer in a reasonable and cost effective manner but it is achievable in major centres if we all focus in the same direction.

Ross Kenrick, owner of Bacchus Brewing

Some of Bacchus' beloved barrels


So, 2012: how was it for you?
This year has been very good for us and the personal highlight is seeing our dedicated small team finally turn the brewery around and start making a small profit.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
Other highlights are seeing the small bar license capacity increase from 60 to 100 patrons which has been a godsend and will hopefully help the small craft bars flourish.

Highlights in our beers have been our barrel aged series. Islay barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout “War & Peat” being my favourite, closely followed by our Rum barrel aged Imp Red Ale version of our “Red Bellied Black”.

How do you feel the craft beer industry in Australia is travelling?
The craft industry seems to be doing very well at the moment with demand increasing. Getting taps though for draught beer is still very difficult, with even small craft breweries now installing taps and tying bars up to contracts.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
With the big increase in breweries opening in Queensland next year, my hope for 2013 is that the market will continue to grow and that more small bars will see the value in supporting locally produced, quality, fresh beer, otherwise it could prove to be a very difficult year.

I’d also like to see the overall quality of Australian craft beer improve; there are still too many bad beers making it to market, whereas I rarely taste a bad one out of the US or NZ. We really need to lift our game.

Thanks, guys. You can read the Victorian roundup here. Look out for reviews from the other states in the coming days too.

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