The most influential beers and brewers of 2017

Since this blog launched more than six years ago, the beers have changed a lot but 2017 saw some of the most dramatic changes yet.

The landscape of craft beer in Australia shifted forever with the sales of Feral, Pirate Life, and 4 Pines, three of the biggest and best independent breweries in Australia. In decades to come, 2017 will be looked back on as a defining year for the industry, time will tell whether it’s for better or worse.

With these acclaimed national craft beer brands being sucked up by big corporations, beer is set to be split along new lines. Quality alone is no longer a differentiator, it’s now also about things like independence, ‘keeping it local’, and freshness.

While the sales stole the spotlight, thankfully there was a lot more going on in craft beer in 2017. New breweries continued to open in a race to fill every feasible locale with a local craft brewery of its own; new beer styles like the juicy hazy NEIPA style inspired brewers and captivated drinkers; and creative new beers with wild yeasts came from a variety of different places and from brewers old and new.

Here were some of the most influential beers, brewers and venues for 2017.

Time to get juicy

In terms of beer styles, 2017 was certainly the year of the NEIPA. The new beer style that had taken the US by storm, quickly spread across the country in Australia this year, and turned us all into fruit juice seeking fiends.

3 Ravens Juicy was one of the best and most consistent examples of the style. It was powerfully fruity on the nose and pleasant to drink. It’s brightly coloured contemporary design stood out on the shelf and a range of variants such as Extra Juicy and Lemon Juicy followed, with more on the way in the year ahead.

This style of beer comes with plenty of hype, which has made it somewhat polarising but be prepared haters, it isn’t going anywhere. A lot of breweries tried their hand at the style in 2017 and had great success so we can expect to see it a lot more in 2018.

Feral and Pirate Life are the best

If I’m doing my top Australian brewers rankings again this year, I would have to place Feral and Pirate Life right at the top, which is what made their sales to Coca Cola Amatil and AB InBev so shocking.

Pirate Life’s Mosaic IPA and Stout released in tall cans, were an absolute treat. The Stout was again one of my favourite beers this year and their Mosaic IPA was right up there too. While their Vanilla Malt Thickshake IPA was also one of the highest rated beers at GABS. Their meteoric rise over the past couple of years has been impressive.

Feral War Hog cans were also a top choice for me this year and certainly one of the best beers available at the local Dan’s. They’ve been an incredible brewery for a long time and I hope that we continue to see that even after the sale.

For the record, after these two, here is my list of the next 8 top craft brewers:

  • Boatrocker – good to see Miss Pinky being sold further afield, while the sour and barrel aged beers continue amaze.
  • Mornington Peninsula – they upped their game again with another year of strong special releases including some barrel aged treats and my personal favourite a hoppy kettle sour, Brain Squeeze.
  • 3 Ravens – the year’s big climber in the rankings in my estimation, a great range of beers and beer styles from a Sourdough Ale to the aforementioned Juicy.
  • La Sirene – A reasonably quiet year after Urban Pale took over last summer, but beers from their Avant Garde series impressed.
  • Bridge Road – the Mayday Hills range saw some of the most creative beers as the veteran brewery defied trends by (mostly) avoiding cans and not even brewing an NEIPA.
  • Modus Operandi – They continued to pump out consistently high quality releases. I loved all of their hoppy beers, but the Black Lab Milk Stout was a favourite too.
  • Stockade – They won the GABS People’s Choice award with Mountie, a maple syrup embellished imperial stout, and put out quality beers like Plum Perfect Berline Weisse.
  • Nomad – They seem to have really found a great niche with their series of Gose beers that are both creative and approachable. The Freshie Moka was a highlight for me, I didn’t expect that coffee would work with a thin body and slightly salty finish but by golly it did.

Sunshine state coming up fast

QLD was behind the 8-ball for a number of years but has certainly caught up fast in recent times. As I became a resident of the Sunshine state in 2017, the timing couldn’t have been better. A number of QLD breweries excelled in awards, while a number of new breweries opened up and got off to a strong start.

In 2017, Green Beacon produced more tasty beers in cans such as their limited release Blood Orange IPA; the mad genius of Bacchus shined as they riffed on current trends with a kettle-soured NEIPA, KSour JAFBalter’s XPA is still one of the best pale ales in Australia and their IPA made for nice drinking too; while Ballistic Brewing impressed judges and locals alike with their beers – the Oaked Ale was a personal favourite.

GABS festival beers good

This year a number of beers from GABS that were shown a lot of love even after the event. Stockade’s Mountie won the People’s Choice award and remained popular wherever it could be found. Modus Operandi’s Cascadian Howl was one of the best seasonal releases, and Hop Nation’s Jedi Juice was a deservedly popular NEIPA around the traps.

Barrels and blends for all my friends

The next frontier for breweries to push boundaries often seems to involve yeast. La Sirene and Bridge Road via their Mayday Hills range, continued to seek out new flavour territories using funky equipment like coolships and foeders to harvest yeast and extract new flavours for their beers.

Bridge Road used the somewhat misunderstood and under utilised Brettanomyces yeast as the base for intriguing and complex beers like Thursday, a dark ale brewed with spent botanicals from a gin distillery.

While La Sirene’s Vin Folie was a 100% wild fermented ale, co-fermented with grenache grapes to create one of the more unique beers of the year.

A personal favourite beer this year wasn’t wild but was aged in barrels, Knock on Wood from Two Birds. This Belgian pale ale aged in French Oak barrels previously used to age wine, had a rich complex taste while remaining perfectly enjoyable to drink.

There were also some exciting new upstarts in this space to keep an eye on in 2018 too. Wildflower surely made the biggest impact on Australian craft beer on a per litre produced basis as beer geeks fell in love with this brewery in Sydney’s inner west with a focus on producing beers using wild yeasts and blending. While in Victoria, Dollar Bill Brewing also entered this space, promising more blending and barrel ageing to come. Exciting times!



If you could pick any 8 beers to start a brewery with what would they be?

Sometimes I dream about starting a brewery… then I remember that I have no money and my homebrewing skills are mediocre at best. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. And I imagine if I did have a brewery, what beers would I have in the lineup.

For the purposes of this article, let’s pretend that I was flush with cash and could buy the unconditional rights to any beer I wanted to in Australia to start my brewery with. So rather than simply buying craft breweries like AB InBev, I’m buying up individual beers and repackaging them under my own label. Now I sound like some kind of evil corporate beer company but ignore that, the question to focus on is, if I had this choice, what beers would I choose?

I’m going to pick a range of 4 core beers and 4 seasonal beers from among Australia’s best, to start this hypothetical brewery up in style.

Core beer 1 – A sessionable sour

The last few years has seen the revival of niche historical styles like Gose and Berliner Weisse. These sessionable sours are a great crossover beer, appealing to a broad spectrum of drinkers as approachable and refreshing, while being different and interesting enough to appease the beer geeks too.

Nomad has been one of the best examples of this in Australia with their Freshie salt and pepper gose widely available and other variations on offer including the excellent Saltpan Desert gose with desert limes.

Then there’s the 2017 AIBA Gold Medal winners from NSW, Wayward’s Sourpuss raspberry berliner weisse, and Stockade’s Plum Perfect plum berliner weisse. A bit fruity, a bit a tart, and a lot refreshing, either of these beers would be a great addition to the lineup, and I’m going to go with:

Wayward Sourpuss

Core beer 2 – A malty ale

I like malt-forward beers. There’s a heap of hoppy pale ales out there and I really appreciate a nice malty ale with caramel and toffee in there. I think there’s still heaps of potential for a really great Scotch ale in Australia, or a cracking traditional ESB to be done as a regular beer but as seen at the recent Crafty Pint blind tasting for red/amber ales there are a lot of great malt-driven beers already too.

Dainton’s Red Eye Rye has some spice and some fruity hops, Wayward’s Charmer is another top hoppy red, and don’t sleep on Mountain Goat’s Fancy Pants. If I was to go for a bigger red ale then Fortitude’s Admiral Ackbar or Modus Operandi’s Former Tenant would be some of my favourite beers that I never tire of. But instead I’m going to keep it low key with an understated but ever reliable English-style ale.

Young Henry’s Real Ale

Core beer 3 – A hoppy pale ale

I need a beer that can satisfy that guy or gal who walks in off the street to my brewery after a long day and just asks for a “pale ale”. I need a beer that I can rely on in summer when I’ve had my fill of tart sours and I just need a beer with some subtle malt, a heap of good hops and a taste I won’t tire of. I need a moneymaker.

And I could pick any number of great award-winning pale ales from such respected craft beer luminaries as Feral, Bridge Road and Pirate Life. But for my brewery the go-to session-friendly pale ale I pick is…

Balter XPA

Core beer 4 – Porter/Stout

I love dark beers. I love them all year round and still think they’re under-represented in bottle shops and outside of the winter season. Not everyone likes dark beers but I always feel like they just haven’t had the right one yet. I want this beer to be that right one. The one that converts those pale drinkers to the dark side and makes them fanatic dark beer fans just like me. So I’m aiming high.

I love the full-bodied creamy and chocolate-y Batch’s Elsie Milk Stout on nitro, or the coffee hit in the Co-Conspirator’s The Beancounter coffee porter, or the sweet vanilla and chocolate classic Holgate Temptress porter. But the beer I would choose put a whole town on a good beer hunter’s map and I think has the potential to sway the dark ale holdouts like no other, that beer is:

Thirsty Crow Vanilla Milk Stout

Seasonal winter beer – Imperial Stout

When winter comes around, the urge arises in me to drink a big dark beer. And my brewery will have to satisfy this thirst. Red Hill’s Imperial Stout has been a wintertime winner every year and Feral’s Boris has always hits the spot. And there are plenty of other good imperial stouts to track down around the traps and I suspect most drinkers will have their own allegiances as to which they go to. For me though I can’t go past, the long-revered classic…

Murrays Wild Thing

Seasonal Spring – Saison

Saisons provide a great mix of complexity and approachability. The style seems to have gone a little quiet at the moment, perhaps the sours are taking some of the spotlight away from this more understated style but obviously there’s still some great examples to be found.

Hawkers Saison is a solid core beer, while La Sirene built their reputation and initial range brewing great variations of this style. Boatrocker have also done some amazing ones, highlighted by their complex barrel-aged beauty, Gaston. But I’m going to go with the very first one I ever tried and that still stacks up as one of the best,

Bridge Road Saison

Seasonal Summer – Big IPA

I’m not exactly a pale ale kind of guy. But I do appreciate well-made hoppy beers as much as the next guy. And I also understand that hops sell. So I feel the need to have a big hoppy IPA in my lineup. Now there’s a number of breweries that do hops and do hops well and whose beers I would love, Hop Nation’s The Chop, Modus Operandi’s Sonic Prayer, Pirate Life’s infamous IIPA. And then there’s the NEIPA-style beers that are certainly trending at the moment, like Feral’s Biggie Juice or 3 Ravens’ Juicy.

For me, a good beer is timeless. Certainly I want the beer to reflect the times but not just follow trends. I feel like the IPA I’ve chosen hits that middle ground, at a time where we’re seeing somewhat of a seismic shift in the IPAs being brewed. It’s big but doesn’t burn, bitter but not off-putting, anda the hop profile leans more towards the juicy citrus aromas rather than the piney West Coast ones. I’m hankering for more of it just thinking about it:

Feral Warhog

Seasonal Autumn – Sour

For my last seasonal, I want something a bit different, a bit unique. My barrel ageing program is going to take a bit more time to develop (it will be ready perhaps for next year’s hypothetical seasonals) so for the time being I’m going to go with a hoppy kettle soured beer that really stood out from the crowd when I tried at the GABS stand with bright and lively flavours that really blew me away –

Mornington Peninsula Brain Squeeze


Well that was a whole lot of fun. What beers would you choose to start your brewery off with?

Map of the Top 100 Breweries in the World 2017 according to RateBeer

Every year RateBeer publish a list of the top 100 breweries based on the reviews on their site. For those who don’t know, RateBeer is a beer review site that is generally favoured by beer geeks as an authority on great beer. While the list, like any, is subject to certain biases, in general you know that the breweries that appear on this list are going to be damned good at making beer.

So annually I create a map of these top 100 breweries, pinpointing the main location of each brewer on the list, and enabling craft beer geeks who may dream of visiting these breweries to view where they’re located around the world.

A couple of trends this year, compared to 2016:

  • London is becoming a real craft beer hub and with the addition of Beavertown and Brew by Numbers increased the number of UK breweries on the list to 9.
  • Poland got 2 breweries on the list this year. This was a surprise to me. While Poland traditionally has a strong beer culture, I didn’t realise that they were gaining acclaim in craft beer circles, will have to look into this one.
  • Pennsylvania is now up to 4 breweries. While the West of the US is still strong, the North East, and even Midwest have a lot of top breweries now too.
  • Tree House is probably one of the bigger names to enter the top 100 as one of the leaders of the hot and trending NEIPA style.

Which state in Australia has the best craft brewers?

It’s a tough question to answer. But that’s just the kind that I like to debate – preferably with a good beer in hand.

So I began my quest to answer this question during Good Beer Week at some of the beer venues taking part in the Pint of Origin.

Pint of Origin, for the uninitiated, is the simplest of Good Beer Week events that involves great beer bars across Melbourne turning their taps over to beers from a particular state for the week.

It’s a great chance to try beers that don’t often make it across borders and to get a feel for how craft beer is developing across Australia.

So here is my breakdown of the states form which I sampled to try to answer which one brews the best beer in Australia.

The Emerging State – Tasmania

There seems to be breweries opening left, right and centre in Tasmania at the moment. While Tasmanian brewers face a challenge to be recognised on the mainland but are really trying to make the state a destination spot for craft beer with the recent launch of the Tasmanian Beer Trail.

Tasmanian beers were available at the Gertrude Hotel for Good Beer Week and I sampled a few of the ones that caught my interest. The beers I tried came from the likes of Hobart Brewing, Seven Sheds and Two Metres Tall and each featured unusual ingredients such as rye, spelt, and even quinoa!

I can see why Two Metres Tall are already carving out a niche with beers that are truly unique and are closely aligned with their local environment. This approach is really working for them and I think other Tasmanian brewers can also succeed by daring to experiment and be different. There’s some good signs that something good is, er, brewing in Tasmania but I just don’t think the state has gotten there yet.

The Bolter – South Australia

South Australia beers are going off right now and they can already count themselves as a genuine contender to having the best craft breweries in Australia.

Adelaide’s Pirate Life can do no wrong, as they quickly become the industry’s favourite craft brewer, adding the Champion Small Australia Brewery award at AIBA to their awards cabinet and blowing GABS punters away with a huge Triple IPA that’s one of the best rated on Untapped from the event.

Big Shed Frankenbrown
Big Shed Frankenbrown

Big Shed are equally delighting punters and nailing every beer they release. Their Nuts and Malts (Nutella Palooza) on handpump at the The Palace Hotel in South Melbourne had lovely chocolate and nut flavours with a light brown body and went down very easily.

Their Cherry Ripe Porter seems to have rated best in the battle of the Cherry Ripe style beers at GABS and follows the success of last year’s GABS dessert beer smash-hit the choc-honeycomb Golden Stout Time.

Wheaty Brewing Corps haven’t sent a lot of their beer interstate yet but I hope that changes. Their delightful sounding Wheaty Bix breakfast stout ran out just before I had a chance to try it but I did get to the Blueberry Saison was a funky berry delight.

In the meantime, you can’t sleep on brewers like Mismatch, Little Bang Brewing and Prancing Pony – who’s 9% Magic Carpet Midnight Ride was the best I’ve tasted from them yet – a big, flavoursome and smooth imperial stout.

I’m not quite ready to declare South Australia the best yet but their case is getting stronger all the time and they are rising the fastest right now.

The Hottest Rival – New South Wales

I’ve been talking up the rise of NSW as a craft beer state for a while and the beers I had at The Rainbow Hotel for Good Beer Week didn’t hurt the cause.

My beer choices included Wayward Brewing’s Fat Charmer, a brilliantly hoppy and malty ale, dangerously drinkable for a beer with 7.5%abv, and Grifter’s The Omen, a chocolatey creamy oatmeal stout. They reaffirmed why Sydney’s inner west is the hottest place for craft beer right now.

In regional NSW, Foghorn Brewpub in Newcastle is impressing with one of Australia’s best brewers at the helm, Wagga Wagga’s Thirsty Crow are expanding, and new breweries are opening all the time.

Top to bottom, east to west, craft beer is going off across New South Wales. And what I really like about the scene in NSW is that it seems very much focused on servicing the local communities through brewery tasting rooms/bars. I think this bodes well for their longevity and for growing the love of craft beer in the community.

Rocks Brewery bar
Rocks Brewery bar in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Alexandria

I really wanted to give NSW the award as there’s definitely been a lot of excitement in the state but the stalwarts of craft beer in Victoria are still just slightly ahead for me. With a bit of further development, soon I think NSW could rightfully claim to be craft beer’s new leaders.

The Leader – Victoria

Accuse me of hometown bias if you like but Victoria has been a craft beer leader for a long time and its continued to grow and keep that spot even as other states are closing the gap.

The next generation of Victorian craft breweries like Kaiju, Exit and Dainton’s are settling into new breweries and pumping out excellent beers. While the more established breweries like Bridge Road, Holgate and Mountain Goat continue to do good things.

When I ranked the top brewers in Australia recently, there were 7 Victorian breweries and I guess it’s no surprise considering that the scene is more established.

But to maintain the status of the best beer state they’ll need to continue to grow and innovate. Thankfully the likes of Boatrocker and La Sirene are doing just that with each producing some of the more exciting beers around the country at the moment.

Of course, there is no right answer to the question of which state brews the best craft beer but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pontificating over.

Is Western Australia being unfairly overlooked after being a leader for many years in its own right? Is Queensland getting closer to becoming a contender? Am I just displaying a Victorian bias and have NSW or SA or TAS passed VIC already?


You can also answer this question and others in the following survey from our friends Beer Cartel and have a chance to win $500 of craft beer too.

Simply complete the survey and you’re in the running to win! Take the survey here:

2016 Australian Craft Beer Survey Newsletter


Best Australian Brewers Power Rankings

Who would you rate as Australia’s best brewers? This is the question that I’m answering on a regular basis with these Power Rankings that break down the best brewers in Australia.

I determine the best brewers based on a criteria of:

  • Quality of core range/go-to beers
  • Quality of seasonal and one-off beers
  • Good breadth and diversity of beer styles produced
  • Creativity and innovation in the beers produced
  • Availability of beers across Australia

December 2016 Power rankings for the best brewer in Australia

My latest subjective ranking of Australia’s best brewers with their previous ranking in brackets.

10. tied (new) 4 Pines / Murrays

4 Pines continue to grow and expand as one of Australia’s biggest independent craft brewers. They also make really good beer that is accessible anywhere. Their Amber Ale, brewed with a healthy amount of the excellent Mosaic hop, was their best core beer yet. While I may not rush to get their one-offs, they produce good beers in a wide range of styles.

I also had to have Murrays on this list after they returned to form in a big way this year. They seemed to have dropped off the craft beer radar a bit but really came back to form this year with their special releases including Thunderbolt IPA that won Crafty Pint’s blind tasting, Coffee Wild Thing (see above) and Skully, a Red IPA.

9. (10) Wayward 

I was stoked to visit their premises in Annandale this year and sample more of their impressive range. I’m yet to have a bad beer from these guys and they have a great variety of beers beyond just pale ales.Their Fat Charmer, a bigger version of their classic Charmer Red Ale, was a highlight for its flavour and drinkability at the NSW Pint of Origin, while I also enjoyed their tart Sourpuss raspberry Berliner Weisse and dry fruity Saison. They’ve also started bottling this year so we should more of their core range.

8. (9) Bacchus Brewing 

My wish came true and we’re seeing more and more of their beers available in good beer stores. They became the first two-time People’s Choice GABS winners with their win at this year’s festival with the Peanut Brittle Gose that was another desser-like beer – sweet with a salty finish in a unique take on the style.

7. (4) Holgate

Their Flanders Red ale has received quite the praise from Crafty Pint and their barrel-aged stout also had some good wraps. I enjoyed their Tangelo Gose and these craft beer vets showed that they are still among the best in the business.

6. (6) Mornington Peninsula

I was really impressed by the range this year. Nothing too crazy but a good range of different styles released regularly and all done well. I mentioned A nice complement to one of the best core ranges in the business.

4. (7) Pirate Life

Another big year for Pirate Life, quickly moving up these rankings and set to be one of the top performers again in the Hottest 100. Their Triple IPA at GABS delighted the punters with the best rating on Untappd and they turned out a good range of beers this year. I was most impressed by their stout, particularly as it was the first beer of theirs I’d had that wasn’t hop-focused.

4. (5) La Sirene

La Sirene is all class. Their beers are always well-made, complex and intriguing. Their Avant Garde series met a lot of praise (and had beautiful labels), while their Urban Pale was a great first example of them bringing their farmhouse-style beers to a wider audience.

3. (3) Bridge Road

Continue to pump out creative beers that push the envelope and bring Australia craft beer forward. The Mayday Hills range, featuring a huge wooden barrel innoculated with brett yeast is the latest example of that. While I also found their duo of Biere De Wilde beers featuring wild yeasts from different winemakers intriguing and tasty.

2. (2) Boatrocker

The barrel program continues to be a success and produce high-quality beers that are unmatched in Australia. Ramjet once again impressed as one of Australia’s best beers, big and flavoursome and balanced, while the Dark Saison was probably my favourite beer this year from them. They are breathing down the neck of Feral at no. 1.

1. (1) Feral

A relatively quiet year in my books from Australia’s best brewer but they still have a great core range of beers complemented by a variety of excellent limited releases. It seems that many agree with me on their ranking as Beer Cartel’s industry survey also had them in the top spot. Look forward to seeing what they do after moving to a new brewery with greater capacity this year.

3 hot spots across Australia where craft beer is taking off in 2016

Hot spot 1: Sydney’s inner west

One of the more exciting developments for me in 2015, was both watching from afar and seeing firsthand, the development of the Sydney beer scene. Long the straggler in Australian craft beer, it may now be the leader, as brewery after brewery opened their doors and started pouring awesome beers.

And the hottest of the hot spots in Sydney is the inner west where Willie the Boatman, Wayward Brewing, Akasha and Grifter have all opened breweries in recent months. They join established breweries of Newtown vets Young Henrys, as well as 2014 opened breweries from Batch Brewing and Rocks Brewing.

Read More »

A map of the Top 100 Breweries in the World – 2015

RateBeer published their annual list of the top 100 brewers in the world for 2015 and below is a map I’ve created pinpointing the brewers’ locations around the world.

Brewers in the USA dominate the list with 73 out of the top 100. It’s not just brewers on the West Coast either, there’s top-rated brewers all over the States including brewers in the top 10 from the states of Vermont, Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan.

Outside of the US, England led the way with 6 brewers, Canada had 5, and the remarkable Danish had 4, not including a certain Danish twin brother brewer based in New York and the Danish brewer at the helm of New Zealand’s 8 Wired.

The Belgians only managed 2 spots this year, down from 7 the previous year, but there were two Polish breweries that debuted on the list. Na zdrowie!

View the full list or check out the map below to start dreaming of future trips to places with great beer.

Melbourne’s best craft beer bars in 4 bar crawls

Melbourne is teeming with great craft beer bars but you need to know where to look. If you’re visiting Melbourne, or even if you’re not familiar with that particular part of Melbourne, then finding good beer isn’t always easy without a guide.

So here are some favourite beer bars, broken down by neighbourhood for ease of exploration.

Crawl 1: Crafty in the CBD

The Arbory / Beer Deluxe / The Mill House / Boilermaker House / Village Melbourne 

While Melbourne’s inner city suburbs rightfully get most of the kudos for great drinking and eating places, but there’s still a few good places to be found in the city if you know where to look.

A good starting point, literally right next to the Flinders Street Station rail platforms and overlooking the Yarra River, The Arbory is a perfect spot for after-work drinks, pre-sporting event drinks, or basically drinks anytime. For this reason, it can get a bit crowded. The craft beer range is decent if nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Expect a few classic craft beers like Mornington Peninsula beers on tap and Pirate Life pale ales in cans, that will go down well with their tasty burgers.

Beer Deluxe is smack bang in the middle of Federation Square, a convenient starting point to access good beer. The beer can be a little pricey but you’ll usually find a few gems in this spacious venue with some good local craft beers on tap that you won’t easily find elsewhere.

The Mill House is a new bar on Flinders Lane that pours growlers from Sydney brewery Young Henrys and has a South American flavour to its food.

If you head up the other end of the city to Lonsdale Street, the Boilermaker House is a great beer and whiskey venue that specialises in yep you guessed it boilermakers (beer & whiskey pairings). This place can get busy and if you snag a table or booth you’ll feel more comfortable and can sample some of their charcuterie and cheese lists. With 12 taps of always interesting craft beers and some specially crafted boilermakers from their impressive whiskey selection you’ll likely stagger home from here.

But if you’re still going strong, finish off the night with voyage down to St Kilda Rd to the Village Melbourne (formerly the Belgian Beer Café), which has the best beer garden in Melbourne and a range of good craft beers from the likes of say Moo Brew and others to drink the night away.

Crawl 2: Fitzroy’s finest

Rainbow Hotel / The Catfish / Foresters Hall

The streets of Smith, Brunswick, and Gertrude in Fitzroy may just be where craft beer penetration is at its highest. Just walk along here and you’re likely to find plenty of bars and restaurants and pubs of every variety that serve decent local craft beer. It’s the one area you can freelance and still be confident you can find a beer worthy of appreciating.

But if you want a little guidance, here are a few places that I would recommend.

If you head over to Brunswick Street, up a sidestreet you’ll find The Rainbow Hotel, once a participant in Good Beer Week’s Pint of Orgin, it’s a local’s pub with an emphasis on live music best washed down with their tasty local ales.

Now head up the hill to Gertrude St, where you’ll find The Catfish for Philly cheesesteaks, more live music and more good craft beer.

Saving the best for last, head back down Gertrude to Smith St, where Foresters Hall is sure to impress with 35 taps to choose from, live music, huge TV screens and pizzas on offer. With a range like that, you’ll never want to leave.

Crawl 3: Boozy Brunswick East

The Alehouse Project / Temple Brewery / Atticus Finch / Greater Northern Hotel 

Lygon St is known as Melbourne’s Italian heartland, so it’s no surprise you can find the World’s Best Pizza along here. And right across the street from there you can also find perhaps the best beer bar in the North – The Alehouse Project.

The Alehouse Project is a spacious bar with 12 taps of beer pouring out. It’s always been fairly relaxed when I’ve been there and the food always hits the spot too.

From there, head right around the corner and somewhat tucked away, you’ll find the Temple Bar and Brewery. This brewery has always had a place in my heart for not following the crowd and producing consistently great quality beers over the years. Start with their classic Saison and work you way through their range to fresh tasty beers like their Anytime IPA.

Keep heading further up Lygon St and you’ll find more great restaurants like Rumi (Lebanese) and Hellenic Republic (Greek/Cypriot), and you’ll also find Atticus Finch. A great local’s bar with only 4 beers on tap, but they’ll all be good and one or two will probably be special.

Good simple bites to eat and a cool rustic fituot with an area out back with outdoor heaters for when it’s colder.

And if you want to find more of a pub/place to watch footy – head back towards the city to Carlton. On Rathdowne St you’ll find the delightfully down-to-earth pub The Greater Northern Hotel.

A very relaxed spacious pub including a beer garden, pub classic meals, footy, and oh yeah, great beer. You tend to find some classic Australian craft beers on tap and a bevy of great US craft beers too.

Crawl 4: Raise a glass in Richmond

Slowbeer / Royston Hotel / Mountain Goat Brewery / Moon Dog Brewery

Away from the footy crowds and general hubbub of Swan St, it is possible to enjoy a relaxed Friday night after-work drinks in Richmond with good beer aplenty.

Slowbeer is primarily a bottleshop, its shelves showcasing hundreds of great craft beers, but they also have four taps pouring beers that you probably won’t find anywhere else, so stop in for a taste, and maybe tuck away a couple of bottles in your rucksack for the night’s end too.

From there, it’s a good 10 or so minute walk to The Royston Hotel, a classic pub located in the quiet backstreets of Richmond. A cosy atmosphere, sit at the bar or on an old couch, and enjoy good local craft beers on tap (including one handpump), and some quality pub staple meals.

Oh and what’s that across the road – why I believe that is Victoria’s biggest craft brewer Mountain Goat with their doors open, pizzas cooking and their own beers pouring. In a spacious but busy area at the front of their brewery warehouse, you can sample their core range and a few special rare ones (including one through a randle), in a relaxed friendly busy atmosphere.

If you still have enough stamina to push on, the Moon Dog Brewery Bar in Abbotsford is another venue in the backstreets that’s worth a venture. They too have pizzas on offer and a down-to-earth factory turned brewery bar where you can sample their zaniest beers, or their crowd pleasers, depending on your mood. Either way you want be disappointed.

So there you have it, enough Melbourne craft beer bars to keep any visitor or craft beer convert going for a while. Also be sure to check out The Local Taphouse and The Terminus, as they’re a couple of classics that are well worth a trip all on their own. Happy drinking!

My week in beer

I read that… Little Creatures has relaunched their Bright Ale with a new recipe. I loved the email I received from them on this topic because it was transparent about the change and talked not just in marketing terms but in beer terms about  why the change was made…

We’ve removed Cascade from the hop bill, and added in some Liberty and Crystal. We think the result is a more distinctive, hoppy beer without sacrificing sessionability. We’ve also added some wheat to the malt grist to round out the mouth-feel a bit.

I always thought that the Bright Ale was a little too similar to the Pale Ale and if I was going to drink it, I may as well drink the Pale Ale, and removing the Cascade may aid them in distinguishing the Bright Ale. Even though they’re now owned by the big boys, Lion, it’s good to know that Little Creatures are communicating with drinkers in the right way.

Can’t wait to visit… their new Geelong brewery at some point soon too, looks good.

I was disappointed with… Feral Hop Hog, which won the Hottest 100 beers again this year and I revisited this classic only to find the latest batch is completely different to what I remember. I’m sure they must have changed the recipe though I couldn’t find any official communication like that above to support this.  The body of the beer is much lighter and it tastes super fruity, very similar to the no.2 on the list Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale in fact.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed… Bridge Road’s Bling IPA, which was everything an IPA should be, still hoppy but with a decent malt backbone to balance.

I was also stoked to find… a Holgate Double Trouble abbey ale, as this is one of the better Belgian style beers made in Australia.

I drank for the first time… a Hawthorn Amber ale. An English style amber ale from these contract brewers who are putting together a very solid lineup of beers. I would have liked more bitterness personally but I realise that wasn’t what they were going for here, this is a very nice malt-driven sessionable beer.

I went to…  First Choice Liquor, that other big corporate beer retailer in Australia, and although there range of craft beer isn’t nearly as wide as a good Dan’s, I was actually pretty impressed by what they had. They stocked a wider range of Bridge Road and Holgate breweries, which are some of my favourites. The only downer is the advertising of that faux craft beer Steamrail everywhere!

I tried out … a boilermaker of Mornington Peninsula Brown Ale and Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and it was lovely. If you are wanting to drink boilermakers in Melbourne, visit Whisky & Alement for a huge range of whiskys with boilermaker specials on Thursdays, and Kodiak Club for bourbons, both are also just great bars.

That was my week in beer.