10 likes and dislikes of 2013 for craft beer in Australia

1.  IPAs going mainstream

Not a particularly new or experimental style but the hoppy India Pale Ale is now a part of the beer mainstream. With the likes of Mountain Goat and Little Creatures releasing IPAs as a part of their regular lineups, it was a great sign that another step has been taken forward in the Australia craft beer journey.

2. Emerging brewers knocking our socks off

In Victoria alone we had the following amazing new breweries really burst onto the scene in 2013: BrewCult, 7 Cent, Monster Mash, Killer Sprocket, Dainton brewing. All produced top quality brews that weren’t your standard pale ale and were full of flavour. Can’t wait to see more from these guys in 2014.

3. The NSW craft beer scene surging

WA led the way back in the day and Victoria may be the craft beer hub, but now craft beer is really picking up in NSW too with breweries like Young Henrys, Batch, Grifter, Riverside, Illawarra, Six Strings, and HopDog exciting and delighting beer drinkers. While 4 Pines is fast becoming a household national craft beer brand.

4. The American beer invasion

American microbrews infiltrated Australian shores more than ever before, and while the grey imports are not cool, it’s great to see some great quality beer coming ashore at reasonable prices, for instance, the Founders Breakfast Stout was a highlight. The American craft beers are a challenge for the Australian microbreweries but I think overall the scene will benefit from the competition and the importing of these top quality beers is a win for the beer drinker.

5. ‘Faux’ craft beer on the rise

The big corporates have noticed the growth of craft beer and are trying to capitalise by cranking out beers that look like craft beer and kind of taste like craft beer. The upside is that more beer styles are reaching a wider audience with the likes of Sail & Anchor actually producing decent interpretations of interesting beer styles like imperial stout, IPA and barleywine. The downside is that genuine local microbreweries face stiff competition for shelf space against retailers’ own home brand craft beers that aren’t being entirely transparent and are generally cheaper inferior imitations.

6. Temple closing down… and then opening again!

I have a soft spot for Temple Brewing as an old favourite who never disappoint so I was disappointed when they went into liquidation following a dispute with a business partner and the good news came when they got back into action recently and have added another fine beer to their varied lineup, the Anytime IPA.

7. Good beer becoming more widely available

Not long ago, you were still pretty restricted , a few choice beer shops in the inner city of big cities, were the only place to get good craft beers and certain beer styles. Now more than ever, you’ll be able to find good local or international beers at reasonable prices and nearby. The choice available to those in outer suburbs or in regional areas is certainly on the improve.

8. GABS

What an event! The organisers learnt a lot from last year and the event was even bigger and better. Bring on 2014!

9. Frenzied reactions to newly imported beers

The frenzied reaction to the arrival of certain beers showed how far we’ve come. It’s important to keep the pursuit of new and hyped beers in perspective but it’s also great that there’s such demand for top notch beers.

10. Thunder Road

An eventful year ‘off-the-field’ for the polarising brewer as they sued Fosters for use of certain trademarks and somehow managed to push craft beer people to support Fosters. They rubbed great craft beer pubs, fellow brewers and seemingly everyone else associated with craft beer the wrong way, while continuing to be largely irrelevant and yet to produce a beer of any great worth.

As you’ve read there’s been a lot to like about 2013 as a beer drinker, as craft beer kept its momentum going and good beer became more and more a regular thing. There’s still some hurdles ahead but the prospects are still great.

in 2014, I expect to see more barrel aged, more sours, as brewers seek and the public for more demanding and out-there beers, particularly with more contract brewers and new breweries willing to experiment and make beers firmly targeting that expanding craft beer niche.

My hottest 100 beers votes

If you haven’t voted yet for the Hottest 100 Beers, check out Brews News to vote now. Here are my picks for the record.

1 – Boatrocker’s Ramjet – an almost sessionable whisky barrel aged imperial stout. A sign that we’re getting closer and closer to the promised land of having great great beer here.

2 – Bacchus Brewing’s White Chocolate Pilsener – From the Pint of Origin in Good Beer Week, this beer really caught my attention and pulled off this unique flavour mix to surprisingly great effect.

3 – Feral Brewing’s Barrique O Karma – seemed to be the consensus pick at the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) for best beer and not unexpected from these great Australian brewers.

4 – Bridge Road’s Dark Harvest – a choc-orange flavoured black IPA stemming from a collaboration with Mikkeller, I enjoyed a 4 pack of these babies on a tasty trip through the High Country.

5 – Brew Boys’ Seeing Double – I loved this scotch ale with its caramel flavours and touch of peat and thought it was all class.

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