MO Brewing, No Problems

When it comes to announcing yourself to the beer world, there's little more you can do than win Champion Australian Craft Beer within months of pouring your first beer. Unless, it seems, you're Modus Operandi, a fledgling microbrewery from Mona Vale in northern Sydney. Having opened their doors in late July, last night they took out the Champion Australian Craft Beer title at the inaugural Craft Beer Awards in Sydney and added, for good measure, Champion Amber/Dark Ale, Champion IPA and Champion Small Brewery too.

The reaction was perhaps most eloquently summed up by brewery co-owner Grant Wearin who broke the silence in the room with a “Holy shit!” after their Former Tenant was announced as Australia’s best Amber/Dark Ale. The Former Tenant is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the former tenant of their brewery – a marijuana grower who was busted by police chasing an escapee from the pub over the road – and is notable for its big Mosaic hop aroma.

As the awards began to pile up, there was a growing sense of disbelief, bordering on the surreal, for Grant, wife Jas and brewer DJ McCready. The latter is as enthusiastic an individual about beer as you’d hope to meet, but he tried to keep the awards in perspective, saying: “At the end of the day we make beer because it’s fun!”

Joining Modus Operandi (pictured above) with new trinkets for their trophy cabinets were some more familiar faces. Two Birds followed up a gold medal for their Taco at the NZ Brewers Guild Awards in August with Champion Specialty Beer, again for Taco, as well as Champion Large Brewery. They shared the second of these titles with Sydney’s 4 Pines, who also beat off 91 other entries in their category to take out Champion Pale Ale for their ESB, a beer that we’ve been banging on about ad nauseum here at The Crafty Pint.

Another Crafty Pint favourite (and not just because their brewery is one kilometre from Crafty Towers), La Sirène Saison took out Champion French and Belgian Style, while fellow Melburnians Moon Dog can aim the twinkling (fake) light from their brewery chandeliers at a new bauble in the shape of the Champion Porter and Stout trophy for the latest iteration of their delicious Black Lung.

Of course, no awards ceremony is complete without a trophy for WA’s Nail Brewing, who were named Champion Medium Brewery. The final award of the night, the CBIA Services to Australian Craft Beer Award went to Willie Simpson, the man who was writing about beer long before pretty much anyone had woken up to the fact there was anything other than heavy or light and who now brews under the Seven Sheds name in Tasmania.

He said: “I’m really very humbled and honoured to be the inaugural recipient of this award. The craft beer industry is really finding its legs in Australia and it’s a great time to be part of it. After writing about the Australian craft beer scene for so long, it’s very exciting to be in it now as a brewer.”

The Craft Beer Awards have been established by the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA), which represents many craft breweries and associated businesses in Australia. Having launched the first Australian Craft Brewers Conference in Melbourne last year, they kicked off their first awards night at the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Sydney, with judging having taken place earlier in the week. This time around, entries were restricted to packaged product only.

The winning beers for each category were determined by 25 judges from craft breweries around Australian and New Zealand, with all tastings conducted blind to ensure an equal playing field. In order to be in the running for a Champion beer trophy, beers needed to be awarded a ‘Gold’ rating. As there were no gold beers in the categories of Wheat, Light Coloured Lager and Dark Coloured Lager, no trophies were given. It was from the category winners that the Champion Australian Craft Beer was chosen.

CBIA chair Peta Fielding, from Burleigh Brewing, feels the awards will help shine the light on Australia’s thriving craft beer industry. “With more than 280 beers from 80 breweries submitted for the Craft Beer Awards, we were blown away by not only the quality but the variety of brewers we have in Australia.

“We really feel the awards offer a unique opportunity for Australian craft breweries to be benchmarked against their local peers and are proud the CBIA can help draw attention to these talented brewers.”

The full list of trophies handed out on the night is:

Kegstar Champion Australian Craft Beer

‘Former Tenant’, Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

AIBA Champion Pale Ale

ESB’, 4 Pines Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Labelmakers Champion Amber/Dark Ale

‘Former Tenant’, Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Champion Porter and Stout

‘Black Lung IV’, Moon Dog Brewing (Melbourne, VIC)

Champion Speciality Beer

‘Taco’, Two Birds Brewing (Melbourne, VIC)

Beer and Brewer Champion IPA

‘Zoo Feeder’, Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Champion French and Belgian style

‘Saison’, La Sirene (Melbourne, VIC)

Hopco Champion Small Brewery (up to 49,999 litres/per annum)

Modus Operandi Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW)

Cryer Malt Champion Medium Brewery (50,000 to 299,999 litres/per annum)

Nail Brewing Australia (Perth, WA)

Bintani Champion Large Brewery (300,000 to 40m litres/per annum)

Joint winners: 4 Pines Brewing Company (Sydney, NSW) and Two Birds Brewing (Melbourne, VIC)

CBIA Services to Australian Craft Beer

Willie Simpson

You can view all medalists here.

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