We have all seen the yearly competitions for best Australian beer judged by a public opinion poll (see GABS Hottest 100) which give us the most popular beers of the year.
There is a problem with these though. Namely that for a beer to perform well it needs to have a wide distribution and recognisable brand. Often beers from huge multinational owned breweries like James Squire and Little Creatures (both owned by Lion Nathan, which is in turn owned by Japanese giant Kirin) take many of the top spots.
While companies like these undoubtedly produce some great beers that please the masses and can be an entry point into the world of craft beer (I think 150 Lashes for instance is a pretty good sessionable beer) they can also often be compared to airline kitchens. The ability to produce a million meals a day tends to leave the results formula driven crowd pleasers by default and producing one off or seasonal brews becomes much more uncommon…
GABS Hottest 100 is a fantastic idea and takes hundreds of hours of work to administer and produce each year. When you see how many tiny breweries are taking home top positions you can imagine just how hard they are working to compete against the big players.
For our list list we decided to do things a little differently.
We have approached breweries from around Australia and asked them what beer they were most proud of producing in 2016. What we are hoping is to start a list of beers that the people who know best, the brewers, think we should try.
We will do this in a series of posts, each of which will have 5 breweries responses to our questions about their best beer of 2016 along with a couple of hints about what to expect from them in 2017.
So without further ado, presented in no particular order I give to you...
From Five Barrel Brewery in Wollongong, NSW we had a chat to the head brewer Phillip O’Shea (who also fills just about every other position in this great little microbrewery).
He told us he was most proud of his Hoppy Amber. This American Amber Ale with an ABV of 6.5% and IBU of 55 is a core product and is available at the cellar door for tasting and growlerfills as well as hand bottled from good bottle shops and on tap at select venues.
In Phillips words, it is “hopped like an IPA but smooth like an Amber Ale. We’ve taken a unique and interesting combination of hops and malt to create a strong and flavoursome beer to suit everybody’s tastes.” he also gave us a little head's up that we will be seeing a lot more in the way of barrel aged beers coming from him in 2017 which is some exciting news indeed!
Next up we heard from the guys at Hargreaves Hill Brewing Co. from Yarra Glen in country Victoria.
Their head brewer Kai Dambergs pick of the year was "A Gose style sour that was brewed with the addition of gin botanicals and aged in a gin barrel"
The Gin Barrel Gose was, unfortunately for anyone who didn't already try some, a limited edition, one off brew with a ABV of 4.3% and 15 IBU.
However we can happily share the news that these guys are going to producing a lot more speciality beers this year and for the 1st time they will be bottling them so that those of us that can't get in to see them at the brewery will have a chance to find them closer to home.
Brad the head brewer at Left Barrel Brewing is passionate about Farmhouse style brews and says that he is typically know for making beers that are a little "left of centre".
The beer he most wants us all to get our laughing gear around in 2016 was the Rocky Rye Pale Ale, a Rye Pale Ale produced on site at their Balhannah, South Australia brewery with a fruity ester profile introduced through the use of Brett Trois Yeast.
It is one of their core range, being the 1st beer they produced commercially and named after the families first pet, a Golden Retriever named Rocky. It has an ABV of 5.5% and IBU of 40.
Brad's hot tip was letting us know that they will have barrel aged beers ready for release in mid 2017, which considering their typical brews are guaranteed to have some pretty amazing flavours!
Generally open Friday to Monday 11am to 7pm, Mike Holden and the crew at Kangaroo Island Brewery are making an exception on Australia Day with what sounds like a great backyard cricket tournament but for now lets talk beer!
Mike reckons that the best beer going into glasses at their Kingscote, SA venue is the Amber Ale, only available to consume or takeaway from the venue he says the 5.5% ABV "awesome amber coloured brew" will satisfy nearly anyone with it's "fruity note on the head thanks to galaxy and cascade hops and an almost warm home-like depth provided by Amarillo hops. This one is for the beer lover and is our earthiest brew yet."
In 2017 these guys tell us they will be expanding their range and also adding a mid-strength,perfect for making it through a long afternoon of cricket!
Richard Chamberlin head brewer at Bright Brewery in Victoria made MIA IPA with one goal in mind. Craft an American IPA that was "all about the hops!"
Although with a 7% ABV this seasonal limited edition brew will give you a good buzz too!
He says "This limited release American-style IPA is a celebration of juicy, tropical, floral hops, with a nicely balanced bitterness and a malt structure that does just what it needs to let the hops sing. Discover lingering aromas and flavours of mango, passionfruit and lychee"
The guys at Bright are in the middle of building a production brewery around the corner from their current cellar door which will handle most of their core range moving forward, freeing up the current brewhouse for a lot more experimental and limited release batches. Exciting times indeed!
So there we have it, 5 of the best beers in Australia in 2016 according to the people who made them. Now it's time to stop reading about them!
Get into your local brewery, bottle shop or bar and support these Aussie heroes so this industry that brings so much joy to so many of us can continue to grow. Craft beer, like wine is a learning experience you may find that these recommendation aren't to your taste at all but if you get the chance to have the brewer or your passionate local booze slinger explain what it is that makes it great you may just learn to appreciate it and finally to love it!
Come back next week to see the next 5 breweries in our series!
Cheers and Beers
Dave @ iKegger
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