Beer writer James Smith looks at the ever-expanding brewing scene to give us his seven hot tips on the brewers to watch in the year to come.
With well over 400 brewing companies around the country, it’s not easy to pick a handful to tip for the year to come, but here is a mix
of old and new, large and small.
1. Feral Brewing, Western Australia
Why pick a brewery that’s been around well over a decade and wins trophies for fun? They’re moving into a new, larger brewery and entered the can market at the end of last year, releasing approachable beers for their local Perth market and canning the bold and excellent War Hog IPA to satisfy hopheads. They’re not as big (outside WA) as many might suspect; this should change this year.
2. 3 Ravens, Victoria
They’ve been around close to 15 years and, despite picking up a Champion Brewery title in 2014, have enjoyed steady, rather than spectacular, growth. Yet as sour beer styles continue to thrive, they should be well placed. Brendan O’Sullivan has been brewing them for years – long before becoming a pro brewer – and has been retro-fitting every bit of the brewery he can to create beers such as the highly promising mixed fermentation Wild Ravens range. Add in a couple of excellent new IPAs and the Thornbury outfit is worth watching.
3. Sailors Grave, Victoria
Darlinghurst restaurateurs Chris and Gabbie Moore left Sydney for a hobby farm in remote East Gippsland, owned by her former abalone-farmer parents, to raise a family and start making beer. Inspired by visits to rural breweries in the US, they built Sailors Grave in an historic butter factory. In cans with colourful designs by a UK children’s illustrator whose work they found on Pinterest, their beers include a seaweed gose and a mandarin Berliner Weisse. Lovely people doing things their way.
4. Green Beacon, Queensland
They’ve spent the past year collecting trophies and now, like fellow Brisbane outfit Newstead, have added a second 50-hectolitre brewery to significantly increase output. One of the first small Aussie brewers to switch to cans, and with two high-quality head brewers in place, expect to see Green Beacon’s beers spreading across Australia. Give them a go when you do.
5. Brouhaha, Queensland
Given it’s a tiny brewpub that’s struggling to meet demand at its Maleny home, you’ll probably have to head into the Sunshine Coast Hinterland to try Brouhaha’s beers. It’s well worth the trip. The Sunshine Coast was home to more than half a dozen small breweries at time of writing (incredible when you think about it) and this one, headed by an ex-Beavertown (London) brewer had possibly the best line-up of launch beers I’ve tasted – spanning dry-hopped saison, fruit IPA, milk stout and more – when I stopped by 11 days after opening.
6. Hawkers Beer, Victoria
Another big (small) brewery, albeit one that doesn’t turn two until February. Led by visionary character Mazen Hajjar, founder of the Middle East’s first craft brewery, Hawkers has gone from releasing its first beer to one of the country’s biggest micros in no time. This year should see Hawkers Beer in all states, while their excellent, consistent core range will be joined by a lower-priced session range as well as a huge barrel program.
7. Van Dieman / Ocho, Tasmania
Two for the price of one. Van Dieman is a Tasmanian elder statesman that, after dabbling with barrels and ingredients
from its Evandale farm, is heading in new directions.
One is to create an “estate ale” using only farm ingredients, like much-written-about fellow Tasmanians Two Metre Tall. Acres of barley and hops have been planted and founder Will Tatchell has been isolating airborne yeasts too. Adding to the appeal is Ocho, founded by Stu Grant, who brews with Will and is releasing new beers almost monthly, mostly direct to customers and always interesting, particularly as he’s started introducing quirky yeast strains he’s been culturing at home.
Meet Matt Lance of the Royal Mail Hotel in Victoria's Dunkeld.