The start of 2014 means that it’s time to look back on 2013 in order to vote for my favourite beers of the year for the Local Taphouse’s Hottest 100 Beers competition. Looking at the hundreds of beers available to vote for and how difficult it is to narrow down a top five it’s clear that 2013 was very simply the best year in beer ever.
Vote here http://www.brewsnews.com.au/vote-for-australias-hottest-100-beers/
Sure there were a few beers and brewers that disappointed but that’s been the case every year that I can remember. For every brewer that made a whole bunch of uninspiring beers there was another pushing the envelope. While more and more exciting imports hit our shores, I doubt that I would change my top five if imports were allowed.
Judging by my choices, it seems that envelope pushing sits well with me when I score beers. My criteria was pretty simple. Look back at the highest rated beers that I checked in last year on the Untappd app and decide which ones I would go out of my way to try again. This perhaps gave an unfair advantage to difficult to find beers and pushed “my go” to session beer, Stone and Wood Pacific out of the running. I don’t think they’ll miss my vote.
I didn’t deliberately try to only have one beer from any single brewer although I could easily have had multiple entries from any of these brewers, and a few others.
5. Dennis Beer Co. Rocket Science Mad Hatter IPA.
There are a lot of new local brewers that have kept me happy this year. Every beer from Riverside has been superb. HopDog has a whole bunch of exciting beers. Wayward, Grifter and Dennis have proven that you don’t need to own a brewery to make great beers. I’ve enjoyed all of the Dennis beers and this was my favourite, fruity and easy to drink with tea leaves adding extra lift and freshness that hides a reasonably high alcohol content. New Zealand’s Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta was the original tea-leaf IPA and is spectacular, the Mad Hatter sits happily beside it.
4. BrewCult Supa Fly Rye IPA
I seem to like the addition of a bit of rye in beers, it seems to help balance beers with plenty of hops and gives a little bit of a toasty aftertaste. Mountain Goat Rare Breed Rye and HopDog Horns Up were a couple of my highest rating beers of the year but this one pips them. BrewCult’s Steve “Hendo” Henderson has made four beers so far and each one could make anyone’s top 5.
3. Bridge Road Chevalier Saison.
The only beer to appear in my top five that was there last year this is simply a superb beer and still the best Australian saison. It is the pinnacle of beers to match with food. There are plenty of other 5 star Bridge Road beers that I had this year that could have been on the list including the India Saison, Bling Bling Double IPA, Dark Harvest, B2 Bomber and the spectacular Aurora Borealis.
2. Two Metre Tall Original Soured Ale
There is no doubt that Two Metre Tall’s Ashley Huntington is a passionate man. The former winemaker and full time farmer makes some serious beers in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania. I tasted the Original Soured and Sour Cherry Ales on the first day of Sydney Craft Beer week and they remained the best beers I had over the 8 days (I had a lot of beers that week.) The Soured Ale is barrel aged for three years and is easily the best lambic style beer that I’ve had outside Belgium.
1. Doctor’s Orders Cephalopod.
This was the one beer that I went back to every time I heard that it had been tapped. The concept was a black Berliner Weisse using squid ink to colour it. Of course it was a different colour every time, ranging from grey to turquoise and every shade in between (I did try it a lot.) The taste was superb, a bit of lemon tartness and a rich texture. It surprised and delighted. Doc is currently brewing another take on the Berliner Weisse style although it’s hard to imagine that it would be better than this. I will go out of my way to drink it of course.
Brewery of the Year – Riverside Brewing Company
Special mention has to go to Parramatta’s Riverside Brewing Company which in its short history has never put a foot wrong. Every one of their beers has been superb and the 44 Amber is the best amber ale that I have tasted. Brewer Dave Padden will go down in Australian brewing history as a man who perfectly understands hops and isn’t afraid to include as many as possible in his beers.
One thing is for sure though, 2014 will be an even better year for beer. New brewers will appear, the number of craft beer outlets will continue to expand and the envelope pushers will push even harder.
Bring it on.