Success bubbles over for local brewers
THE region’s breweries have stamped themselves as among the best in the world after tasting collective success at the Australian International Beer Awards.
Valhalla took out two big awards on the night – Best Porter for its Obsidian Black Ale and the Australian Gypsy Brewer Award for innovative gypsy brewers who rent space from established breweries.
The Obsidian Black Ale and Valhalla Pale Ale were both bestowed with gold medals on the night which gave creative director Scott Hunt plenty of reason to charge a glass to his Geelong-based team’s success.
Scott says it was fantastic to get such high-profile recognition five years since launching their first brew.
Conducted by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, the prestigious awards attracted 2500 entries from more than 400 breweries in 21 countries, with blind judging conducted by a panel of about 50 industry experts.
“That’s the great part of it, it’s not just the independent beer awards, it’s the international beer awards,” Scott says.
“As I understand it, they are the largest beer awards of their kind in the world and there are international breweries there but also the big corporate breweries as well.”
He says a highlight for Valhalla was their Obsidian Black Ale being crowned champion porter.
“For that to be named as the best stout or porter in Australia is probably the most amazing thing,” Scott says.
“That’s the first beer we brewed commercially so it’s always been our favourite and has a special place in our heart and our story.”
Scott, who lives in Torquay with his family, said the beginnings of the business happened while working from home on the Surf Coast.
“Now we brew everything out of South Geelong at a brewery there, we have a warehouse in Moolap and a tap room in Union Street, Geelong,” he explains.
“It’s just nice for the Geelong and Surf Coast region to start getting recognition for the great beers that are getting made in the area.
“It proves what we’ve been saying for a while – this is a really strong region for craft beer which is such a growing industry in our country now.”
Blackman’s Brewery also had plenty of reason to celebrate after collecting a swag of medals, including a coveted gold for its signature pale ale, Mervyn.
The brewery, which has venues in Torquay, Geelong and Ocean Grove, won 17 medals including silver for the Arty Smoked Porter, Happy Tears IPA, Needs More Mosaic IPA and Ernie Tropical Hazy, as well as bronze for its Juicy Juicy Bang Bang and Juicy Banger IPL.
Owners Jess and Renn Blackman, who founded the brewery in 2014, were stoked with the results.
“It was awesome. It’s just such a great week to be part of because it’s Good Beer Week as well so it is all tied in with the awards,” Renn says.
“It was great to be back in a big room full of people at an awards night and having a good time with industry friends.
“All the beers are judged blind, so it reassures you that you are on the right track with your beers and nailing all those things.
“It pulls marketing out of it – it is only about the quality of your beer so if you are getting awards you are going really well which is great.”
Renn gives plenty of credit to the talented team at Blackman’s.
“With the team we’ve got, everyone is amazing and with everyone’s efforts put together it results in some pretty exciting things,” he says.
“We are quite fortunate in the Geelong and Torquay area now, we’ve got a pretty good beer scene now and some really cool breweries coming through.
“We’ve got some really good beers to drink in this region so we’re pretty lucky.”
Aireys Inlet’s Salt Brewing Co, Bells Beach Brewing and Little Creatures each took home four medals and BrewiColo collected two.
Prickly Moses and Queenscliff Brewery head brewer Mattias Isaksson, who hails from Sweden, was thrilled to take home seven medals, including gold for Prickly Moses’ Black Knight and Queenscliff Brewery’s Swede and Sour Raspberry Berliner Weisse.
“It’s been a bit of a strange year and it’s great to get a nice positive, fresh start and some awards,” he says.
“They are beers we have been working on a long time and we are always trying to improve so it’s great to get some professional approval, as well, for the products we are making.”
Mattias says he was chuffed to see the Swede and Sour beer recognised.
“It’s a beer I’ve been nurturing and trying to develop from scratch for a few years now, and it’s nice to see that beer perform really well,” he says.
“It’s a raspberry sour beer so to see that slightly different beer style be more recognised and appreciated by not only punters, but also the judges, is really flattering.”
Mattias started at Queenscliff Brewery in 2016 and took over as head brewer for the Otway Brewing Group last October.
Like his fellow brewers, he feels proud and fortunate to be part of a strong, supportive and creative industry that continues to grow.
“It’s an amazing industry and everyone is helping each other out,” he says.
“It’s really inspiring and great to be surrounded by like-minded people.”