There was a mix of familiar faces and first-time winners at the 2022 Indies, streamed around the country for a third year straight last night. And there was plenty of emotion too, not least for the winners of the Services To Industry and True Indie Supporter Awards.
The last trophy of the night went to Sydney-based White Bay for their Lager, which topped the category with the most golds – a sure sign of lager's ongoing rise in craft brewers' affections – and saw brewer Jess Walker crowd-surf off the stage as she was being interviewed by MCs Kirrily Waldhorn and Miro Bellini alongside partner and fellow head brewer Dennis de Boer.
The Champion Brewery trophies went to Moon Dog (Large), serial champs Moffat Beach (Medium), Wheaty Brewing Corps (Small) and non-alc specialists UpFlow Brewing (Contract), while Neil Whittorn – who we featured in our Craft Beer Heroes series – received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
In accepting the trophy for White Bay Lager, Jess said: "We love making lager, and we're stoked that our lager took it out."
They certainly do. At an industry event The Crafty Pint hosted at their brewery a week ago, it was remarkable just how many lagers they had pouring through their taps, from much-loved Gantry Crane pilsner to darker versions. And it's an indication that the renaissance of the style talked about for so long is coming to fruition.
At this year's awards, there were 201 lager entries – second only behind only the omnipresent pale ale's 269. And most pleasingly for consumers, it seems brewers are making them bloody well: the lager category was awarded the largest number of gold medals in any category. It's reflective of a rising tide overall too: in total, 1,114 medals were handed out at this year's Indies, meaning 76 percent of all entries got a gong. Nice one, brewers!
Moon Dog's Champion Large Brewery and Champion Victorian Brewery trophies were collected by head brewer Kev te Wierik and national sales manager Dave Langlands – who joked during the interview with the MCs that "Moon Dog don't win these things!" – with the former in particular blown away by their win.
"I guess it's something we've been subconsciously aiming for," he told The Crafty Pint. "We've been working hard on getting our processes right and the way we make beer to make the best possible liquid we can. Every month we make better and better beer, and I guess this is where we've landed. I'm so happy. It's super-exciting – so exciting."
For Moffat Beach, their four gongs – they also claimed Champion Queensland Brewery as well as trophies for their Moffs Summer Ale and Social Jam Pale Mid – it continues arguably the greatest run of form in the local beer scene. Last year, they also won four trophies, including Champion Small / Medium Brewery, which followed Champion Brewpub and Champion Session Beer for Moffs Summer Ale at The Indies in 2020. They also claimed three trophies, including Champion Small Brewery, at the AIBAs in May. Needless to say, the party was in full swing at Queensland's state party at Brouhaha, who tasted glory themselves for their Strawberry and Rhubarb Sour.
The other beer trophies went to Six String for their Tropical Pale Ale, Grifter (who also took out Champion NSW Brewery) for Omen Stout, Range for Colour Theory in the new Juicy-Hazy category, Good Land for Gezellig in the Specialty Beer category, Philter for their IIPA, and Gold Coast-based Madocke for their Blonde, adding to another fantastic year for Queensland breweries.
Good beer people
Beyond beer, the Indies presents an opportunity to shine a light on some of the people who have, or are, changing the face of the industry in a positive way.
In the case of Jade Flavell, receiving the Service to the Industry award feels entirely appropriate for one of the most indomitable, well-informed and persuasive promoters of independent beer in Australia. The pub she has run for the past two decades, The Wheatsheaf Hotel – known to all as The Wheaty – in the Adelaide suburb of Thebarton, is a treasure and the nexus of a beer community whose roots run far beyond South Australia.
Under her influence, The Wheaty was one of the first in Australia to start pouring beers from pioneers like Mountain Goat and Moo Brew outside their respective home states, and became a must-visit for international brewers, many of whom laid down collaboration brews with Jade on her 50 litre homebrew setup. This no doubt provided impetus for the creation of the Wheaty Brewing Corps, a brewpub out the back of the building that, as of tonight, can count Indies 2022 Champion Small Brewery to its growing list of accolades.
On accepting the award, Jade reflected on how different the industry looks today compared to those early days. Early on, Jade said they had to beg the likes of Little Creatures and Mountain Goat to send beer to Adelaide. Now as her industry peers cheered on at The Indies party in her pub, she was in a space full of people whose beer businesses she’s been a part of since day one.
“Just looking around this room now, I’ve poured many, if not all of your beers over the years,” Jade said. "There are breweries here tonight that launched at the Wheaty which is so fantastic.”
Jade has always been a passionate advocate for beer, whisky and independence, and has continued to steer the good ship Wheaty on its unimpeachable course, seeing off pandemics and health scares in the manner anyone who's spent time in her company would expect. While on stage, she was quick to praise the many people who have made the Wheaty the wonderous place it is today.
“It takes a village to raise a venue," she said, "it takes a village to raise a brewer and brewery so huge thank you to everyone who has been involved with the venue over the last, nearly 20 years.”
Jade said she looked forward to another five, ten or "maybe 20" years doing what she does and acknowledged the beer industry as "a wonderful industry and community to be part of".
The True Indie Supporter trophy went to a genuinely gobsmacked team from The Catfish, the Fitzroy pub that arguably encapsulates what makes Melbourne's bar and pub scene so revered. Co-owner Michael O'Shaughnessy, who acknowledged afterwards that he and Kieran Yewdall had inherited "a shithole", was visibly moved to have been honoured by their industry peers.
"We didn't get into this to get awards; we did it because we love the industry," he told The Crafty Pint. "I don't feel this was an award for us, and I'm sure Kieran feels the same way – this if for everyone involved.
"This industry has been through a real shitfight and we've come out of it on top. We've had to reinvent what we do and how we do it, and figure it out, and now we're finally starting to claw our way out of the hole.
"To celebrate it with the people here [at the Victorian state party], we feel we're the smallest people in this room, and to collect this award is fucking amazing. We do it because we love it and we're passionate about it. To win the award, it's a bit overbearing, it's a bit much."
Kieran added: "Most people don't understand good beer because they don't get opened to it. Then you give them something and they go, 'That's really good' and then they try something else."
As for their win, he says, simply: "I don't know, man. I didn't expect that."
The Crafty Pint-sponsored Young Gun award went to Emma Locke, venue manager at Beerfarm and scholarships coordinator at Pink Boots Australia, who took to the stage at the WA state party at her home venue to rapturous acclaim – and commented on how great it was the receive the award, and to be recognised as young.
We spoke to some of her colleagues from Pink Boots about her beforehand, who had nothing but the highest praise for her, both as an incredible venue manager, but also as a person. Common phrases were "awesome", "amazing", "good times", "genuine human being", "generous" and "everybody loves her". Clearly they do.
INDIES 2022 TROPHY WINNERS
CHAMPION AUSTRALIAN INDIE BEER
White Bay Beer Co - Lager
Champion Large Brewery
Moon Dog (VIC)
Champion Medium Brewery
Moffat Beach Brewing (QLD)
Champion Small Brewery
Wheaty Brewing Corps (SA)
Champion Contact Brewer
Champion Pale Ale
Six String Brewing Co - Tropical Pale Ale
Champion Amber-Dark Beer
The Grifter Brewing Co - Omen
Range Brewing - Colour Theory
Champion Specialty Beer
Good Land Brewing Co - Gezellig
White Bay Beer Co - Lager
Moffat Beach Brewing Co - Moffs Summer Ale
Champion European-Style Ale
Madocke Beer Brewing Co - Blonde
Champion NoLo (No or Low Alc)
Moffat Beach Brewing Co - Social Jam Pale Mid
Champion Strong Beer
Philter Brewing - IIPA
Champion Fruit & Funk
Brouhaha Brewery - Brouhaha Strawberry and Rhubarb Sour
Champion Victorian Brewery
Moon Dog Craft Brewery
Champion Tasmanian Brewery
Champion Queensland Brewery
Moffat Beach Brewing Co
Champion South Australian Brewery
Barossa Valley Brewing
Champion New South Wales Brewery
The Grifter Brewing Co
Champion ACT Brewery
Bentspoke Brewing Co
Champion Western Australian Brewery
Otherside Brewing Co
Peer Nominated Awards
Service to the Industry
Jade Flavell (The Wheatsheaf Hotel/Wheaty Brewing Corps)
Emma Locke (Beerfarm)
True Indie Supporter
Kieran Yewdall & Michael Shaughnessy (The Catfish Tavern)
Neil Whittorn (Two Mates Brewing)
This year’s awards ceremony followed the format of previous pandemic-affected years where a studio live stream was broadcast to state parties across the country. All things going to plan, the event will resume normal service next by reuniting with BrewCon for what’s likely to be a rather lively industry get-together on the Gold Coast in 2023.