I know it’s a stupid cliche, but what a freaking year it has been in the craft beer world, particularly in Australia. We are now finally starting to see the good works of all those independent craft brewers, craft shop owners and bar owners out there really starting to pay off and stick it to big brewing, providing better quality and better education to the consumer. Sure, there is still a massive amount of work to be done, but this niche industry has been going strength to strength all year and winning your average, “Lion” drinking public over or at least have made them think of the quality work that is going on out there. Games have been stepped up and the establishment challenged, and I can only see it getting bigger and better in 2015.
With such a diverse year, it is extremely difficult to pick out highlights. We have seen some brave, bizarre and downright mind bending stuff come out this year and a ridiculous number of new, unknown breweries standing up to really be counted as some of the best producers in the country. I have unconsciously found myself only really reviewing Australian produced stuff these days (sometimes New Zealand, those kiwis are too good to ignore…) because the quality coming out at the moment is just so top notch I don’t need to look abroad. The best, most interesting and experimental beers really are coming out of Australia and you literally do not need to look anywhere else; if you want it, chances are someone in this country is brewing it and it only takes a phone call or email to get hold of it. That to me is just super exciting and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store…
So, Top 10… I would rather have a Top 50 but thats way too much. There are so many honourable mentions and brews that just missed out, it seems unfair but I’m pretty happy with what I have come up with. Some where just no brainers, others considerably more difficult to pick out, but here we go (in no particular order)…
Mornington Peninsula/ Stillwater Collab Pepperberry Saison
One of the stellar works to come out of Good Beer Week this year. If you got a chance to try it, you know why it’s here… A really special collaboration. Amazing florals on the nose and a brilliantly fresh palate with a subtle hum from the pepper berry in the background with an impressive estery/ spice finish. Wish there was more…
Killer Sprocket Rye IPA
I am a rye fiend. But I was good with this list and only picked one, and it was a no brainer which to pick. Having heard such good things I knew it would be good, but it just blew my expectations out of the water. Spicy, fruity, earthy and all deliciousness, this seriously impressed me.
Doctor’s Orders Prescription 12 Belgian Black IPA
This is one i’ve been obsessed with from the get go. With such an unusual style I thought this has got to be worth a try, and it turned out to be one of my favourite brews of the year. Just incredible. Every aspect in this brew is clearly defined across the palate and nose. Some really clever brewing.
Riders Brew Co. XPA
This was one of those brews I kept putting off but once I tasted it it blew my socks off, soaring right into my top 10 of the year. I now keep a healthy supply of it… It is just so packed with flavour and cleverly layered that it would be impossible to get bored of or put down. Just too good.
Brew Cult Beer Geek Rage Quit India Pale Lager
It was just damn near impossible to pick a favourite from Hendo’s impressive stable, but I did it. It was between this and his ‘Can’t Fight The Funk’ Farmhouse IPA, which I voted into the Hottest 100 this year, so technically there’s two… Everything I have from him is just incredible and really makes you think about what your drinking. This one really made me think: packed with subtlety, nuance but overall a clean, fresh and delicious experience. An absolute cracker and must for the summer months.
3 Ravens The Druid Belgian Quad aged in PX barrels
This is THE no brainer of the year for me. I know I said ‘no particular order’ but this is number one. Hands down. El Numero Uno. Best experience of the beer year. I’m a massive fan of PX, I love barrel ageing and Belgian Quadruple: the whole triad is there. I only got one and I kick myself everyday for not picking up more…
La Sirene Wild Saison
You know those up and comers I mentioned in the intro? These guys are on the top of that ‘up and coming’ list… La Sirene has had an incredible year and they are only going to get better. Being producers of solely Farmhouse/ Belgians/ Sours/ Lambics, I can see demand is about to sky rocket for these guys. I said it then, i’ll say it now: La Sirene can and will sit very easily amongst the best farmhouse producers in the world. 2015 will be the year of La Sirene… All of their releases impressed me this year, but the Wild Saison jumped out most for me. Fantastic florals, juicy stone fruits, baked citrus and luscious tropical fruits with lovely drying cereal, flint and apple/ pear malic acid notes.
Black Dog Brewery Junk Yard Dog Double IPA
What can I say about James that hasn’t been said before? One of the most consistent, brilliant brewers around at the moment. Love everything that leaves his tanks. This one really stood out for me because it embodies a lot of his brews. Fresh, floral and fruity on the nose but once you get into it, it turns into ‘The Black Dog”: chewy, resin, pine and serious bitter bitters. Just sensational.
Brew Boys Hoppapotamus
This one was a bit of a wild card for me. I had no idea about these guys, only it was a little difficult to get hold of. Given to me as a birthday gift this year I went in with an open mind, not begin sure what to expect… What I got was one of the best pale ales I’ve ever had in my life, leaning more towards IPA though. Masterfully and beyond delicious.
Exit Brewing #001 Saison
It’s pretty difficult to go past the first release from Frase and Grum. Any brewer that makes a Saison their first release are pretty confident in what they’re doing and it proved their best for me. This is an absolute classic, one of the tastiest brews of the year.
Honourable Mention: Red Hill Brewery Imperial Stout 2014
Just beaten to the post unfortunately but too good not to mention. A seriously layered, deep and rich experience this brew had all the good things and was brilliantly balanced. Dangerous too. A majestic Imperial Stout.
That’s it! 2014 done and dusted. I’ve already made it my new years resolution to get even more beery in 2015: more visits, more reviews, more involvement and more delicious beers! Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year for all of us and things just get better and better. See you in the New Year!