Perhaps the most striking aspect at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards was the level of success enjoyed by many of Australia’s most established microbreweries. OK, two trophies for Korea’s Oriental Brewery and seven trophies heading Stateside was notable too, but the appearance onstage of many of the local industry’s stalwarts certainly made for a fun night. Among those heading home with trophies for their beers were Nail Brewing (est 2000), Grand Ridge (est 1988), Moo Brew (est 2005) and 3 Ravens (est 2003).
The trophies collected by 3 Ravens head brewer Adrian McNulty (above centre) capped a remarkable turnaround for the Thornbury brewery. Two years ago, it looked like one of Melbourne’s longest-established micros could be wound up when it was put up for sale. Thankfully, Mash Brewing, who collected Champion Australian Beer last month as well, rode to the rescue, 3 Ravens had a new lease of life, investment started coming in to improve the brewery and, alongside fellow brewer Wilson Hede (who has since moved to Two Birds Brewing), recipes were tweaked.
Further changes are afoot, with new beers and new equipment on their way and a new member added to the brewing team. The new signing is quite a coup as well with Ian Morgan moving from Holgate after six years, six years in which the Woodend brewery has expanded significantly and during which time many new beers have been released and many old ones have been enhanced significantly.
Ian, who completed a Crafty Pint Brew & A while at Holgate, has made the move in order to be able spend more time with his family and rejoins Adrian, who studied brewing with him several years ago.
“I went through the University of Ballarat brewing course with him, and we’ve shared a few beers since,” says Ian of the decision to reunite. “I knew he made great beers, and it’s good to see the AIBA agrees! The fact that he wouldn’t mind my putting Double Nickels on the Dime on high rotation on the brewery stereo didn’t hurt either…”
He’s confident Holgate is in good hands and appreciates he’s stepping in to the role at 3 Ravens at a time when expectations have never been higher. As for his plans…
“Champion Small Australian Brewery two years running?” he says. “At this point it is very much watch and learn. We have some new tanks coming so I hope my experience during Holgate’s growth comes in handy. We have a couple of wee little fermenters banging around the place too so, once I’ve found my footing, I look forward to having a play with those. And I’m excited about all these barrels, too…”
As for the new Champion Small Australian Brewer himself, who delivered once of the most enjoyable and F-bomb laced speeches of the night at last month’s beer awards, here’s what he has to say about himself…
Favourite Australian beer (other than your own)?
Like almost anything, I think it’s impossible to have a definitive âfavouriteâ, only favourites at the time. Recently, the Boatrocker Ramjet and the India Red Ale from Mountain Goat are probably the beers I’d spray over myself suggestively but in the past I’d have been covering my body in everything from Knappstein Reserve Lager to the Kooinda Full Nelson. When the time is right, I am also not shy around a can of Melbourne.
Epiphany beer – the one that set you on the road to becoming a brewer?
Coopers Best Extra Stout. No question. I was fortunate enough to steward at the AIBAs as a student and I was exposed to a world of fantastic beer but the Best Extra Stout (pre ABV reduction) was the first to excite me.
Desert island beer – the one to keep you going if you were stranded for the rest of your days?
Southern Tier Crí¨me Brulee. I don’t know how long I could survive on a des(s)ert island with diabetes but that beer makes me want to try.
Favourite beer and food whisky match?
Octomore and XerreX. It was peaty, but I am not sure it was peaty enough. If that doesn’t count, then the 3 Ravens Dark with a quarter chicken and chips with gravy in a red and yellow take away box.
What are we likely to hear cranking from the stereo on brew days?
Doom, drone & punk rock.
Favourite place to enjoy a drink?
Anywhere with a decent beer selection, with friends, before and after a concert. Especially in a beer garden in summer.
Apart from that, I am looking for a replacement Josie Bones, with a beer and food list that makes me want to blast away an afternoon in a delirious, giddy grandeur.
If you were a beer style, what would you be?
Probably a porter. Whiskey barrel aged.
The best thing you’ve ever traded for beer?
Other beer. I’ll be pretty keen to swap beer with anyone with a healthy liver too, at some point.
When I’m not making or drinking beer, you’ll find meâ¦
Buying and listening to records, working on my manifesto.
Your hope for beer in Australia?
My main hope is that the camaraderie between small brewers continues to grow and that we can continue help each other grow. Or something equally maudlin.