"Fuck selling out. And fuck Trump."
As statements of intent go, the sign off by Owen Lyons (pictured above), the Mismatch brewer who collected the Champion Beer trophy at the first Indies awards – formerly the Craft Beer Awards – left little to the imagination. The South Australian brewing company walked away with the final award handed out on a night that also saw major trophies go to Modus Operandi, Boatrocker and Moffat Beach.
The Indies brought to a close three days in which the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) showcased how the local beer industry is maturing with its most impressive conference to date in Sydney. And, while Mountain Goat is no longer eligible for the awards following its sale to Asahi, one of its founders, Dave Bonighton, was given the Services To Craft Beer by one of the many brewers he has inspired over the years, a choked up Jayne Lewis of Two Birds.
It was a great night for Modus Operandi too, who took out Champion Brewery – Large, collected by 32 weeks pregnant co-founder Jaz Wearin.
"This is a bit of a treat," she said. "I didn't even know we were large! We're not that big but we give it a red hot go and that's what matters.
"Four year ago, we came to these awards and picked up small brewery, so to be here today and have large brewery is really special."
Back in 2014, at the inaugaural Craft Beer Awards, the Northern Beaches brewery had only been open for three months when it stormed the competition, taking home a swag of medals and the trophy for Champion Small Brewery. They repeated the effort the following year by taking out the Medium category and this year completed the set, thanks to a haul of two trophies and four golds among a total of eleven medals.
Boatrocker took out two best beer trophies for Daddy Koel and Ramjet as well as Champion Brewery – Medium.
Brewery co-founder Matt Houghton said: “This is an amazing achievement for Boatrocker, we are so thrilled! To be recognised as leaders in our field of barrel ageing and wild ales by our peers is very humbling and it’s great to see the recognition of mixed culture beers with it’s own category at the indies.
“Now to get everyone in Australia drinking wild ales and strong barrel aged imperial stouts!”
The small brewery trophy went to Moffat Beach on the Sunshine Coast, whose brewer Matt Wilson had told us in the past how feedback from past beer awards had helped him improve his beers.
"Wow," said Matt. "We are probably one of the smallest breweries in the country. We've got a shitty 300 litre system. I work around the clock, but this makes it all worth it."
Best of the beers
Say what you will about the average craft beer drinker's supposed indifference towards lager, but it's becoming increasingly apparently that Aussie brewers know how to make a good 'un as, for the third consecutive year, a lager has been chosen as the country's best craft/independent beer.
Following Little Creatures' 2016 success with its Pilsner and Dainton Brewery's Cherrywood Smoked Rye Baltic Porter, South Australia's Mismatch Brewing took home the big prize after its Lager, a Munich style Helles, was crowned Champion Australian Independent Beer for 2018.
In other Champion trophies, the ascendent Philter Brewing went back to back after their breakthrough success in 2017 by winning Champion Pale Ale for their XPA – a rather tasty trophy sandwich when you consider they also have in their possession the Best Australian Style Pale Ale prize from this year's Australian International Beer Awards. Also doing the 2017/18 double was Marrickville's tiny BlackFont Brewhouse, which won Champion European Style Ale again for its Saison De Ville.
A few hundred metres up the road, Grifter will be getting a little extra sparkle thanks to picking up the Champion Porter/Stout trophy for The Omen – a rare instance where the award will quite literally be going straight to the pool room.
The aforementioned champion breweries fared well in the trophy stakes with Modus Operandi picking up two for its Vanilla Mocha Stout (Champion Hybrid Beer) and #GAINZ (Champion IPA), Boatrocker grabbing two – one for their storied Ramjet barrel aged imperial stout (Champion Strong Beer) and the other for Daddy Koel, a spontaneously fermented koelship ale (Champion Mixed Culture Beer) – while Moffat got a gong for Social Jam, a mid strength pale ale which won Champion Session Beer. And, proving that last year's romp through your dead aunt's library was no fluke, Dainton Brewing followed up their 2017 Champion Beer title with a trophy for Red Eye Rye in the Amber/Dark Ale category.
Champion Independent Breweries
Champion Large Independent Brewery
Modus Operandi (NSW)
Champion Medium Independent Brewery
Champion Small Independent Brewery
Moffat Beach Brewing Co. (QLD)
Champion Independent Beers
Champion Australian Beer
Lager – Mismatch Brewing (SA)
Champion Pale Ale
Philter XPA – Philter (NSW)
Champion Amber/Dark Ale
Red Eye Rye - Dainton Brewery (VIC)
The Omen – The Grifter Brewing Co. (NSW)
Champion Hybrid Beer
Vanilla Mocha Stout – Modus Operandi (NSW)
Lager – Mismatch Brewing (SA)
#GAINZ – Modus Operandi (NSW)
Champion European Style Ale
Saison De Ville – BlackFont Brewhouse (NSW)
Champion Session Beer
Social Jam – Moffat Beach Brewing Co. (QLD)
Champion Strong Beer
Ramjet – Boatrocker (VIC)
Champion Mixed Culture Beer
Daddy Koel - Boatrocker (VIC)
IBA Award For Services To The Industry