In Drinks - Beer by Clyde Mooney

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The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) rolled out again this week, in its eleventh year, offering record insight into the ever-evolving tastes in the thriving Australian craft beer scene.

On Sunday (27 January) beer connoisseurs counted down the nation’s favourites of 2018, according to 155,000 votes from a record 31,000 people.

Cutting through a field of around 2,350 beers emanating from over 260 breweries, the Top 100 list reflects the styles, labels and brands gaining – or sustaining – popularity in a dynamic industry.

Gold Coast-based Balter topped the list for the second year running with its XPA, while also landing sixth place for its IIPA and seventh with its IPA.

Stone and Wood continued its significance, taking second place with the staple Pacific Ale. Its tenth anniversary comes as it celebrates hitting the GABS podium for the ninth consecutive year, making it the most loved beer in the poll’s history.

Canberra’s BentSpoke filled out the podium, taking third place with Crankshaft, but no less than five of its brews placing in the top 25.

The fact that 21 of this year’s winners were only released in 2018 and just four per cent of nominated beers made the final list, shows the pace of evolution in market tastes. New England IPA, aka ‘Hazy IPA’, was big amongst the new entries, doubling its presence in the 100 this time around.

The notion of ‘localism’ was an influential factor, as beer lovers increasingly support local breweries and products. This brought the list’s first Northern Territory brewery, with fans and local media getting behind Darwin’s One Mile Brewery, pouring four of their beers into the big league.

Sunshine Coast breweries Your Mates, 10 Toes, and Brouhaha also entered this year, and NSW favourite The Welder’s Dog earned four slots, including the Hottest 100’s first ever ginger beer.

New South Wales topped the number of breweries, achieving 26 of the 100 beers, out of 13 brewers. Queensland furthered its crafty rise, tapping 22 positions out of nine brewers.

The move toward localism is thought to have benefitted from the ‘Independent Seal’ launched by the Independent Brewers Association mid-2018.

Organisers report 88 per cent of the 2018 list (up from 71 per cent in 2017) come from independently owned breweries. This likely helped Coopers with its big turnaround, finding just one position in 2017 at #97 for its Sparkling Ale, which went on to be the biggest jumper of 2018 – up 51 places to #46, and the South Australian family-owned brewers’ Original Pale Ale bursting in at #17, and its Session Ale following up behind at #22.

Proprietor of St Kilda’s The Local Taphouse and co-founder of GABS, Steve Jeffares, is proud that the list has mirrored the evolution of the sector in the minds of Australians.

“I think it’s just become this wonderful tradition that’s grown alongside the craft beer industry, allowing beer lovers to reflect on their favourite beers of the year and give a vote to the brewers who made them.

“With breweries opening in all corners of the country, pushing the boundaries of style, technique and creativity, there’s really never been a better time to be a craft beer drinker.”

The GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers is supported by The Local Taphouse, The Crafty Pint, Australian Brews News, Dan Murphy’s and Sun Tap Decals.