Beer Oscars 2013 – a good year for Australian beer?

2012/13 has seen the Australian craft beer scene continue to mature with a number of emerging breweries expanding their range, and some old favourites continuing to do what they do best.

The Award for the Best Brewery

The nominees are:

Murrays – perennial contenders, they went through some changes in packaging but there’s still no doubt that these guys produce some classy beers, their Belgian golden ale Libertine and Barrel-Aged Heart of Darkness were highlights of mine this year.

Feral – another one who are always one of the best breweries in Australia. Their cracking Smoked Porter hit shelves and the Warhead, was one of the best from the Great Australian Beer Spectapular.

Mountain Goat – In the year, Mountain Goat turned 15, they were also the best in my books. Hightail and Steam Ale might be the moneymakers but it’s the constant stream of Rare Breed releases that give these guys the win for me.

Holgate – still have the best winter beer in the biz with Temptress and a solid range of good to great beers. Liking the potential of these new 500ML bottles, including a more affordable Empress.

Red Duck – Any brewery that tries to imitate beers from thousands of years ago that are sour and complex and unlike anything else, tugs on my heartstrings.

And the winner is…

Mountain Goat – their Black Pepperberry IPA collaboration received plenty of plaudits and with good reason; Rapunzel was an elegant Belgian-style ale, and the Triple Hightail Ale was just packed with flavour.

Best Emerging Brewery

The nominees are:

La Sirene – They carefully built out from their foundational saison, producing refined tasty beers that hit the spot, none more so than the wild saison.

Temple – These guys aren’t new, so much as they are reborn. After a couple of years off the scene, they opened up a new bar/brewery in Brunswick and I’ve made a good few trips there already. Every time, discovering a new tasty beer.

Hop Dog – I like the cut of their gib. Experimental nano-sized batches of really good beer. I need to try more of their beers.

Mornington Peninsula – expanded their range and continue to pump out solid to great craft beers. They don’t get too creative, but they are reliable as they come.

Kooinda – opened their brewery to the public and offered some of the best ‘go-to’ craft beers in the land with the Pale Ale and the Milk Porter.

And the winner is:

Temple – this year the Midnight Black IPA was a standout and their other beers have delighted and excited, the Oatmeal Stout, the Unifikator and the Scarlet Sour were all right up my tastebuds’ alley.

Foreign Breweries in Australia

Nominees are:

Birra Del Borgo – there was some great Italian beers to arrive in Oz and the Italian Spectapular had exceptional quality. My Antonia is a damn fine sexy thing in liquid form.

Nogne O – those crazy Scandinavians always seem to be out here in Australia and collaborating and brewing generally fantastic beer that makes me part with way too much of my hard-earned cash but I still feel its worth it when I taste beers like the ones from these guys.

Evil Twin – A recent and welcome addition to the Australian beer landscape. Like Mikkeller, they hold little back and you can expect full flavoured creative beers every time.

Yeastie Boys – those New Zealanders they sure know how to brew and these guys probably the pick of the bunch at the moment.

Rodenbach – Man I just love the Grand Cru. Sour beers rock.

And the winner is:

Yeastie Boys – The Gunnamatta Tea Leaf IPA was the choice of GABS and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It was so good it made me wonder why I hadn’t. The Yakima Black Raven was also a real surprise. Black IPAs aren’t my favourite style – too often they’re just an IPA dressed in black, but this was the first one that actually accentuated both the dark beer elements and the IPA elements, without either overwhelming but rather complementing. Quite an achievement.

Best Beer Store of the Year

After last  year’s winner, the Local Provisions, closed, I’m decommissioning this award so as to prevent any further jinxes. In good news for beer lovers, at least Blackheart & Sparrows will be taking over the space, though I’m not sure when nor why.

I’ll retire the award as the Slowbeer Bottle Store of the Year because I love what those guys have done with the new store and they’re still the best in my books.

Best Beer Bar of the Year

Frankie’s Taps in Sydney, sounds like a winner but I haven’t had a chance to check it out. Ditto, The Wheaty in Adelaide and the Scratch Bar in Brisbane. As for Melbourne, I think the newest and most interesting bar for this year was The Alehouse Project, which snuggled right into a cool area of Melbourne in East Brunswick, right between the Temple Brewery and Thunder Road breweries. The beer list fantastic. The eggplant chips were amazing. I really hope people get behind this place because it has so much potential.

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