The 2018 Australian International Beer Awards were presented to a buzzing and buzzed 800-strong crowd at a glitzy beery gala dinner at Peninsula in the Docklands.
The AIBA awards, now in their 26th year, continues to be a peak competition for brewers and a beacon for quality. Queensland brewers were again among the big winners on the night taking out the Small and Medium Australian brewery awards for the second year running, confirming its status as a rising craft beer region.
The evening was a worthy celebration of the industry, playing to its strengths by offering up a variety of the 2,058 beers entered into the competition for tasting from 28 countries.
Inside the venue, a mobile truck bar served the award-winning beers on tap labelled only by style so as not to reveal the winners. While around the room, ice-filled buckets contained an assortment of beers from the competition sorted into styles and attendees rifled through like kids in a candy store, inspecting the variety of beers on offer.
For the formal part of the evening, each dining table had an ice bucket filled with you guessed it, more beer. It was kind of like a lucky dip with each table getting its own variety. The Firestone Walker Feral Vinifer, a wild ale fermented with grapes, was my favourite of the night along with the excellent AIBA collab beer produced by the previous year’s champion Australian breweries, Pact, Green Beacon, Balter and Stone & Wood.
The passionfruit tart IPA “We don’t do it for the money, we do it for the passion…fruit”, delivered huge aromas of passionfruit, a bit of tartness upfront and a pleasant finish. The beer made for an intriguing pairing with the first course, a cauliflower dish with some heat, some smokiness and a bit of crunchiness that contrasted with the fruity and tart beer.
The food for the evening was prepared by US chef Adam Dulye, the executive chef for the Brewers Association in the US. He stated his belief that the food and beer should both add to the experience of each other rather than just complementing, and that was on show again with the second dish – a hearty beef brisket and veggies dish paired with the more delicate White Rabbit’s White Ale. It worked well as the White Ale drank beautifully, a really pleasant orange and coriander nose coming through and adding to the dish.
For the awards section of the evening, the MCs were industry legends, Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegaard, they kept things light and kept things moving before a sometimes boisterous crowd.
Across the various beer styles, nineteen major trophies were awarded, with nine awarded to international breweries, four to New South Wales-based breweries, two each to Victorian and Western Australian breweries and one each to breweries from Queensland and Tasmania.
Gold Coast’s Black Hops won Champion Small Brewery, as well as the Best Belgian / French-style ale for their Beach House saison and a slew of medals, a testament to the consistently high quality beers they turn out of their small operation in Miami. The three fellas behind the brewery were evidently psyched to win.
Brisbane’s Green Beacon repeated as champions, this year in the Medium Brewery category, capturing three gold medals, and Mountain Goat showed they can still brew some quality beer, taking out the Champion Large Australian Brewery, capturing two Gold Medals for new beers in the process.
Effusive brewing vet Sam Fuss and the business partners behind Philter accepted the Gypsy Brewer gong. While another brewing vet, Hendo, along with up-and-coming brewer Kris Domagala, accepted the Best Next Exhibitor award for Brownstone, a little-known microbrewery in Melbourne’s south-east.
WA’s Beerland Brewing (also known as Northbridge) were a surprise packet capturing Champion Australian beer with their Bavarian style wheat beer.
International champion breweries included Firestone Walker (USA), Mahrs Brau (Germany), and Kereru (NZ). While Three Weavers (USA), who have just started distributing to Australia, won Champion International Beer for their double IPA, announcing themselves as one to look out for.
Download the full results and list of medals here.
The night closed out with some delicious Billy Van Creamy beer ice cream, a cheese degustation, and if you were still going, more beer of course. All in all, there were some winners, the attendees were grinners, and the continued passion in the industry was on display for all to see.