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17 Aug 2016 | James Smith
It’s no longer hard to find good and flavoursome beer in Australia. The number of brewing companies operating here is approaching 400, there are dozens of new beers released each and every week and, thankfully, the standard of these beers – for the most part – is on an upward curve.
With rapid growth comes greater competition, especially with the country’s major retailers entering the market with their own “crafty looking” brands and the likes of Asahi and Coca Cola Amatil looking for a slice of the pie. Yet there are many who are finding a way to cut through the noise – seven of whom we featured at length in The Great Australian Beer Guide – Feral Brewing (WA), Pirate Life (SA), Two Metre Tall (TAS), Boatrocker (VIC), Stone & Wood (NSW), BentSpoke (ACT) and Burleigh Brewing (QLD).
They’re not alone in standing out either through innovation, quirkiness, quality or combinations of all three and more. Here are four more young, independent Australian breweries worth looking out for.
Hawkers Beer (VIC)
A renowned Melbourne chef of Lebanese heritage returned to his homeland to seek out new flavours and inspiration for his restaurants, was introduced to the man behind the Middle East’s first craft brewery and found himself followed back to Australia by a container of 961 Beer. And so began the series of events that led to Hawkers Beer.
The brewery was launched by the chef, Joseph Abboud, and the Beirut brewer, Mazen Hajjar, in February 2015 and is already one of the biggest microbreweries by volume in Australia. Of course, size isn’t everything (despite what Mazen might like to tell you) and Hawkers wouldn’t be where it is without high quality and consistent beers.
The core range of Pale, IPA, Saison and Pilsner are all fine, tight examples of their style while winter 2016 saw the brewers, led by extremely talented former Bright brewer Jon Seltin, start to flex their muscles with an excellent Imperial Stout and its bourbon barrel-aged big brother.
Modus Operandi (NSW)
Another brewery to enjoy a gilded start to life, Mona Vale’s Modus Operandi stunned the local beer world by sweeping the board at the inaugural Craft Beer Awards in 2014, just a few months after opening. It proved to be no flash in the pan as they’ve continued to amass trophies since.
The brewpub is the brainchild of Grant and Jaz Wearin, who brought in brewers from American craft beer icon Oskar Blues to head the brewing side of the business and have never looked back. They also became the first brewery to install an Oskar Blues’ “CANimal” machine: repurposed food packaging technology that allows businesses to fill and seal large cans with draught beer for takeaway; several local breweries and venues have since followed suit.
Their beers are steadily becoming available across the country but your best bet is to sample the ever-evolving lineup fresh at their Mona Vale home.
Big Shed Brewing Concern (SA)
I was present when the first ever keg of Big Shed beer was tapped. Founders Jason and Craig knew it wasn’t ready, but had locked themselves into that date. It was rough around the edges, something that was a fair description of the operation at that time.
In just a few short years, things have changed immeasurably. Their brewery shed is now a popular venue too, new head brewers have polished existing beers and helped create new – occasionally outrageous (Belgian imperial yam and taro stout, anyone?) – ones, while an approach infused with humour, passion and enthusiasm for all they do has seen them win over fans across the country. Bloody excellent blokes to have a beer with too.
Maybe jumping the gun a little on this one as, at time of writing, Brouhaha had only been operational for a couple of months. But it’s hard to recall an opening salvo of beers as impressive as those sampled at the Maleny brewpub on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland when the business was a mere 11 days old.
It had been in the planning a lot longer, but the final piece in the jigsaw was when the local owners partnered with Matt Jancauskas, a Queensland native who’d been working for fast-growing, cult favourite Beavertown Brewery in London. He’d scored that job unexpectedly, applying from Hong Kong airport and beating better qualified applicants thanks to a spot of right time, right place.
His time there overseeing massive expansion of a brewery making some great beers clearly rubbed off. But to find out just how much, you’ll have to head to Maleny as he’s only got a tiny brewpub setup to work on for now.
The Great Australian Beer Guide by James Smith, RRP $29.99, is available now from all good bookstores.