Best Of British

September 12, 2013, by Crafty Pint

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Best Of British

Speak to those recently returned from Beervana trips to New Zealand and you’ll hear evidence that, for all its recent advances, the Australian craft beer industry still trails a little way behind our nearest brethren, let alone the States. Yet, for an industry that remains tiny – take out Little Creatures, Malt Shovel Brewery and Matilda Bay and every remaining beer sold by every other craft brewer and brewing company in the land makes up no more than one per cent of all beer consumed – it seems to hold its own in international beer competitions.

Since launching The Crafty Pint, we’ve reported on major overseas trophies and medals for the likes of Feral, Stone & Wood, Mountain Goat and Holgate. As for Burleigh Brewing on the Gold Coast, they’ve picked up a series of gold medals at the World Beer Championships and even took out top prize at the preeminent World Beer Cup in the German-style wheat beer category last year – much to the surprise of the Germans.

No one seems to pick up more international awards than Sydney’s Redoak, however, who collected their own gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup and this week added the Supreme Champion title at the UK’s International Beer Challenge. Redoak’s Special Reserve, a wood-aged barley wine that goes through three fermentations and is matured on oak, had already collected a gold when initial results were announced a couple of weeks ago. Now, following assessment of all gold medallists, it has been awarded the top prize too.

“We’re pretty excited,” says head brewer David Hollyoak (above centre with fellow Aussie winners at last year’s World Beer Cup). “Every beer we entered got a medal.

“We’ve entered for the last three or four years. Our Framboise won a trophy a few years ago. The beers we entered are tasting pretty good; we are very happy with them at the moment.”

The International Beer Challenge is the UK’s largest annual competition for packaged beer and has proved a happy hunting ground for Aussies this year. Redoak picked up a further four golds for its Bitter, Old Ale, St Nicholas and Weizen Doppel Bock, Hawthorn came out top in the Best Ale above five per cent category for its Australian IPA and 4 Pines collected Gold for its Pale Ale.

For David, who launched Redoak in Sydney with his sister Janet in 2004, it was particularly pleasing to see a British style win in a British competition.

“We try to send beers to the country of origin,” he says. “For the International Beer Challenge we concentrated on traditional European styles. It’s the best feedback that you can get – sending them back to the homeland of those styles.” 

David-Hollyoak-Special-ReserveThe supreme champion barley wine, one of the most expensive beers to sample in Australia, is now two years old and is a beer that they only brew every couple of years. It spends months in tanks, oak and bottles before it is ready for release. And, like most Redoak beers, it’s not that easy to find unless you order direct from the brewery or head to the Redoak Boutique Beer Café in Sydney’s CBD (now closed).

“We are trying to get our beer out,” says David. “The Bitter has consistently won overseas for the past five or six years, so we try to get it out but it’s quite difficult. The Bitter fits under mid-strength and that’s sewn up by the big boys.”

It’s the sort of issue that led him to form the Australian Real Craft Brewers Association (ARCBA), one of two craft brewers associations in Australia, a couple of years ago. Most recently, ARCBA presented a White Paper to the Government focusing on areas such as excise tax reform, funding for quality training and export support for Aussie brewers.

The association had already contacted Tony Abbott’s office before his recent election and the Hollyoaks this week sent his office an email about their trophy winning beer too. They’re hopeful of making ground as David believes the local craft beer industry is “really getting recognised internationally” but lacks the support given to microbrewers in other countries.

“We are in an awesome position with craft,” he says. “Australia has an awesome palate for wine and food. Craft beer is a natural match and people are starting to get it, and politicians will get there too.

“The real underground ones are going to grow because the craft beer drinker loves the whole philosophy behind craft. The more it grows, the more we become sustainable and the more we can spend on marketing.

“People get it when they taste the beer – they really do.”

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