The Year In Beer 2012: NSW

December 24, 2012, by Crafty Pint
The Year In Beer 2012: NSW

Is the sleeping giant finally waking? It might seem a churlish thing to say when New South Wales has been home to the Lord Nelson’s brewery for a quarter century (pictured above) and counts the likes of Murray’s, Stone & Wood and 4 Pines among its number, all of whom have sizeable and growing national reach. Yet the craft beer scene in NSW had appeared to be treading water as other states raced ahead, hampered undoubtedly by the prior domination of trade by the megaswill barns.

In 2012, however, things appear to have been transformed hugely, with stalwarts like Little Brewing and Redoak joined by all manner of new breweries and new brewing companies and the small bar scene in Sydney giving smaller brewers the chance to get their beers on tap and into fridges. Sydney Craft Beer Week and Newcastle Craft Beer Week both returned for a second bite of the cherry, while there were many other festivals across the state, from Trainworks at Thirlmere to the long established Bitter & Twisted.

It all bodes remarkably well for the future, so without further ado, here’s what a few of the figures from the NSW craft beer scene (and the loquacious Richard Watkins from ACT’s Wig & Pen) made of the past 12 months.

Ashur Hall and Shaun Blissett, brewers at Illawarra Brewing Company

Australia’s tallest brewers


So, 2012: how was it for you?
We moved the brewery to a bigger venue in early February 2012. We did a lot of the moving work ourselves and it turned out to be a massive learning curve in terms of brewery set up and installation. We’re brewing more now than before but with much greater ease given the larger venue and more logical layout.

We’ve managed to get our beer on tap in a few Melbourne and Newcastle venues too which we hope to continue this coming year.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
The biggest personal highlight of the year would have to be winning the Gold medal and Trophy for the Koelsch at the Australian International Beer Awards. It was a humbling experience and we were thrilled to have gone so well as two young brewers in a fairly new company.

Otherwise, the Melbourne Good Beer week and the events surrounding it were great fun and really looking forward to next year’s.

The progression of our core range of beers this year and the creation of our seasonal range has been significant and we’re always looking forward to new creations and a little experiment. The number of different styles of beers being produced by Australian brewers is another big highlight.

Personal favourite beers from Australia this year have been Bob’s Farmhouse Ale from Murray’s, Barry Cranston’s Brown Dog and The Raging Flem from Feral. International beers that stood out were the Brooklyn Black Ops Imperial Stout, Mikkeller & 3 Floyds BooGoop, Green Flash Imperial IPA and Renaissance Barley Wine.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
I reckon the Australian Craft beer industry is really healthy. In the last year there have been plenty of new bars pop up in Sydney and New South Wales that have an extended range of taps showing that people’s desire to drink craft beer and its demand here is ever increasing. The turnout of people keen to flood us with questions about what we do with our beers and how we go about doing it at the beer festivals has been really exciting.

I’ve also seen and drunk more saisons and sour beers this year than ever before with more Australian brewers willing to do these styles.

What do you hope to see in 2013?
I hope to see ever more challenging and interesting beers being produced locally and the continued interest in the Australian craft beer scene. Basically, we hope to see the trend continue.

It’s great to see the big bottle shops stocking craft beer from around the world but what is more encouraging is coming across an Aussie beer in a bar fridge or independent bottleshop. On that note we’re hoping to get a bottling line ourselves which gets us all excited about the possibilities that will open us up to.

Richard Watkins, head brewer at the Wig & Pen

Richard (left) receives his AIBA trophy from David Cryer


So, 2012: how was it for you?
It was 188 brews!! That was 2012!

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
Obviously, winning Champion Small Brewery at the AIBA after entering 15 brews!!

Also doing our eighth year of sour beers and having six on tap at once is something I’m pretty pleased about!

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
It seems to be getting bigger and bigger – start ordering more tanks everyone!!

What do you hope to see in 2013?
Sour beer fest!!

Craig Wealands, founder and brewer at the Thirsty Crow



So, 2012: how was it for you?
2012 was our second year of trade; it was another busy year of brewing at capacity but with a lot more consistency and an improvement in quality. I also managed to escape Wagga and get to a couple of beer events to see what else is happening on the craft beer landscape. All in all a busy, challenging, bring on another, year!!

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
Without question the personal highlight of 2012 was surviving Good Beer Week. Ryan from Bootleg Brewery and I were there for a good part of the week in an increasingly smelly apartment – to air it out each day we definitely visited a lot of the GBW venues, although that only exacerbated the problem...

Thirsty Crow spent some dollars to develop our branding. The new logo, slogan and our soon-to-be-released packaged product are designs that I am very proud of and can’t wait to officially release early in 2013.

In regards to beers, personally I think that our Black IPA was the best beer we have produced and will brew this more often next year. Our Road 2 Ruin Imperial Stout was a close second, and we’ve saved a few kegs to tap for Good Beer Week 2013.

Other microbreweries' beer highlights were the releases of several, balanced and tasty sour beers. Also visiting Bright Brewery for the first time and tasting their range, I was thoroughly impressed with all of their brews. Overall, there are some phenomenal Australian craft beers out there and even some that are not out there – a homebrewed stout and the "magic potion" from the brewers of White Rabbit I still rave about!!

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
I feel it’s travelling great although Sydney and NSW are a bit behind. Hopefully we will catch up through the opening of 4 Pines 50hL brewery, Young Henrys, Riverside and via other suburban breweries as most of Sydney’s beer destinations are CBD based. I think this will be a catalyst for the general Sydney beer drinking public to absorb and develop craft beer advocacy of some form.

I also believe all of us who are associated with craft breweries need to take a step up and work as a more consolidated unit – to improve buying power, increase bar industry beer knowledge and many more aspects – but I’ll try and avoid the soapbox for now...

What do you hope to see in 2013?
I hope to see Beer Servers not tipping out beers at the cut off time of the Beer Awards Exhibitor Tasting: watching people dump out just opened bottles of Samuel Adams 1994 Triple Bock, Firestone Walker Barleywine, DogFish Head 120 and every other craft beer – this was disgraceful to see as a brewer.

At Thirsty Crow I hope to see two of our beers in the bottles by late January – with growlers to follow after that. I hope to see our expansion kick off early in 2013, which will triple production volumes.

Finally I hope to see our recently resigned Head Chef making waves. Alana is about to embark on her own venture under the roof of Barossa Valley Brewery and with her kitchen called Black & Wolf, which will create another must visit Beer & Food destination in Australia.

Nick Oscilowski, creator of Water & Hops & Malt & Yeast and now Mr Crafty Pint NSW

Nick-ABBB-brewSo, 2021, how was it for you?
Pretty fucking unbelievable really (can I write that?). Could hardly have picked a better time to move to Sydney and be immersed in beer – metaphorically, of course. Mostly.

Any personal highlights, both in terms of beers and happenings?
The obvious one-off highlight was going to Murray’s and being involved in brewing the Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep, which was an awesome experience. 

Then having that beer go to Beervana in Wellington and win the Media Brewing competition was, frankly, hilarious – especially when you look down the list of breweries competing. Makes you realise there’s really nothing to this brewing game: just chuck in a bit of malt, some hops, a few dozen molluscs and voilí ; award-winning Belgian Smoked Imperial Seafood Stout!

Other than that, just learning about Australian beer and meeting the people involved remains an ongoing pleasure. Doesn’t matter what their role is – brewing, selling, whatever – I’ve never come across an industry full of such wonderful people. The enthusiasm they have is very contagious.

How do you feel the Australian craft beer industry is travelling?
I probably haven’t travelled interstate enough to judge the wider industry, but NSW seems to be exploding with beery goodness.

Thinking back, Young Henrys, Riverside and Morpeth all kicked off this year, while New England seems to be getting set up and Six String have just had their license approved. Casella opened an absolute monster of a brewery, though they’re probably on the limits of even the most liberal definition of craft beer. Still, they’re one of the largest Australian-owned breweries so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there.

The likes of Stone & Wood, Black Duck, Murray’s and 4 Pines all upgraded their capacity. Then there are those giving it a go with their own brewing companies, Grifter, Dennis Beer Co., Wayward, Red Tape, Rebel Ant, Grainfed – it’s difficult to keep track of them all (so apologies to any I missed). Plenty happening on the production side with the promise of more to come.

I think it’s well worth acknowledging the rise of the small bars of Sydney. Their support of craft beer is wonderful, as is the relief they provide from macro-swilling, pokie playing corner pubs. People who’ve lived in Sydney much longer than I regularly comment on the level of ‘sophistication’ small bars have brought to parts of the city and its drinking culture. Long may that continue.

Add to that all the craft beer festivals of varying shapes and sizes across the state, plus the number of bottle stores paying more attention to their beer selections, and I think there might be something to this craft beer thing…

What do you hope to see in 2013?
More beer and more breweries is a great thing, but further growth in consumer numbers is utterly imperative. If that doesn’t happen, at some point we’ll just end up cannibalising our own already small market share. And that’d put an awful lot of pressure on beer nerds to have to drink more!

Would love to see more restaurants paying attention to their beer selection. It’s not a hard thing to do and the stubborn refusal to even acknowledge it is often frustrating.

Oh, and the tax thing – gotta fix the tax thing.

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