There we have it: Mountain Culture have delivered arguably the biggest tale in the 15 year history of the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll with their Status Quo debuting at number one, the first beer to do so. You can read our results article here.
Outside the top spot, at first glance there’s much that’s familiar in the 2022 lineup, made up of drinks from 58 brewing companies and brands – or 57 if you include 4 Pines and their spinoff brand Brookvale Union as one.
But, as ever, it’s worth taking a closer look to see how the needle of Australia’s beer tastes is moving – at least as told via the prism of a people’s choice vote which some businesses target far harder than others.
As with the Australian International Beer Awards and the Indies, not every brewing company chooses to enter their beers or promote the poll, yet more than 300 did take part. For context, that’s more than double the number of breweries that existed in Australia when we launched this website.
So, with the votes of more than 60,000 voters counted, and the Hottest 100 of 2022 confirmed, let’s dive in, shall we?
BIG IS BEST
Or being on the bigger side certainly helps if you want to land multiple beers in the top 100. Canberra-based Capital and their past collaborators at Mountain Culture – who blasted into top spot with their Status Quo pale ale – are the smallest in terms of output of those to score four or more in the H100.
The former have once again done a great job of mobilising their fans to vote for a range of their beers: XPA, Coast Ale, Trail Pale, Hang Loose and Rock Hopper all feature, albeit none in the top ten with XPA slipping to 12th.
Most notable, however, is the quartet from Mountain Culture, whose spectacular winner is joined by their collab with fellow podium-occupiers Balter, Bucket Full Of Nothin’ as well as Cult IPA and Be Kind Rewind. Having embarked on a major expansion in Emu Plains and with their beer now ranged nationally by major retailers, the team will be delighted to see their brand cutting through to a wider audience.
Last year, their only appearance was with the delicious IPA they brewed with Capital but they reaped the rewards for heavy and clever promotion around the poll, which focused keenly on Status Quo, and featured everything from an endorsement by a star of the Big Bash to QR codes encouraging people to vote on their cans.
Capital’s haul of five is matched by Coopers; a few years ago the SA icon didn’t even enter their beers into the poll, but this time the red and green classics are joined by Best Extra Stout, XPA and Pacific Pale Ale after they campaigned hard. Only Balter (pictured above) – who else? – scored more than that pair with six.
As for the others with four (we include Brookvale Union’s Ginger Beer within 4 Pines’ count on The Crafty Pint), they all have well-established national reach; 4 Pines are joined by Young Henrys and Gage Roads, whose sibling brand Matso’s – acquired in 2018 – appeared at 37 with their Ginger Beer, of which more later.
Things get a little more diverse when you get to those with three. BentSpoke, who’ve had as many as six in the Hottest 100 in the past, are joined by Queensland’s perennial H100 inhabitants Black Hops and Your Mates, as well as Dainton and Little Creatures, whose champ-from-the-early-years Pale Ale finished in 22nd place.
Brands owned by the country’s largest beer companies – CUB / Asahi with 13; Lion / Kirin with eight – accounted for more than a fifth of the top 100, with Coca Cola Europacific Partners-owned Feral’s Biggie Juice continuing the Swan Valley brewery’s streak in the poll.
Beers from producers existing within a family of brands accounted for a further ten: Good Drinks-owned Gage Roads, Matso’s and Stomping Ground responsible for half a dozen; Better Beer, Mismatch and Ballistic – each either owned or part-owned by Mighty Craft – four. The latter’s Hawaiian Haze appearing at 45 is a bright note for the Brisbane outfit in the week they entered voluntary administration, albeit that represents a big drop from sixth and eighth in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Admittedly, commenting that breweries with greater output and reach have done well in a popularity contest is a bit like stating the sky is blue, and it’s also true the top 100 has been moving in this direction for years, while the fact Coles Liquor (First Choice, Vintage Cellars and Liquorland) joined Endeavour Group (Dan Murphy’s and BWS) as major partners in 2022 will have helped take its reach further from its beer geek beginnings.
BIG ISN’T BEST
At least when it comes to booziness. While Heaps Normal’s Quiet XPA (33) was the sole non-alc in the Hottest 100 this year, there was little in the way of big beer too. The only beers in the top 100 weighing in above 8 percent ABV were Range’s Garage Project collab, the triple IPA Lights & Music (down from 59 to 96), and One Drop’s Double Vanilla Custard Pancake Imperial Nitro Thickshake IPA (down from 67 to 90).
HOPS ARE JUST SO A-PALE-ING
The safest bet when predicting the outcome of each year’s poll is that pale, hop-forward ales of one form or another will dominate. If you tally all such beers – from Heaps Normal’s non-alc Quiet XPA at one end of the scale to the aforementioned Range X Garage Project collab at the other, more than 70 percent of this year’s Hottest 100 beers tick the boxes marked pale and hoppy.
In the upper echelons, it’s even more distinct: 17 of the top 20 in 2022 are of that ilk.
FLYING THE FLAGSHIP
With the marketing benefits of a good Hottest 100 result well established, the majority of drinks companies that get behind the poll focus on pushing one beer above all others. And either fans agree that their brewery’s flagship beer is indeed their finest, or they’re willing to play along and do as they’re told. Of course, in the cases where a brewer only enters one beer, they’ve no choice.
Of the 36 businesses that landed just one beer in the top 100, as far as we can tell all bar three ran campaigns pushing that one beer. The exceptions we’ve found are Lord Nelson (with Three Sheets at 98) who don’t appear to have mentioned the Hottest 100 at all on their social pages, and Wayward Brewing (Raspberry Berliner Weisse at 86) and Rocky Ridge (Jindong Juicy at 76), who instead promoted their range to their fans.
Notable among this club is Bridge Road Brewers’ Beechworth Pale Ale. In the earliest years of the poll they scored as many as eight beers in the Hottest 100; today, their flagship beer flies the flag solo and continues to inhabit the upper reaches, making its 15th straight appearance at nine after peaking at five in 2018.
A BIT ON THE SIDE
Amid the flurry of pale, hoppy ales and flagship releases, there's a few beers in the Hottest 100 that stand out from the crowd (with greater diversity no doubt to be found in the Next 100, released next weekend).
Hats off to One Drop for not only getting the aforementioned DVCPINTIPA back into the list but also doubling up with double fruited smoothie sour We Jammin’, which got the countdown off to a lively start at number 100.
Bad Shepherd’s Peanut Butter Porter made it three years in a row, this time at 99; presumably, someone out there is on their way to their local indie bottlo to buy a can of both to see how the dark drop tastes wi’ jam in.
Elsewhere in the realm of not-a-pale-hoppy-ale, lagers of one form or another continued their H100 renaissance; 12 made the 2022 lineup, with Zero Carb from Better Beer the highest-ranked at six. And the ginger beers keep coming too, with no less than six in the top 100, and Ginger Beer from Brookvale Union leading the way at 16.
Other darker drops to feature are Little Creatures’ Rogers’ Amber Ale (89), White Rabbit’s Dark Ale (50), Young Henrys’ Motorcycle Oil black IPA (87), and Coopers’ Best Extra Stout (93), while three other fruited sours joined We Jammin’: Wayward’s Raspberry Berliner Weisse (86), Brouhaha’s Strawberry Rhubarb Sour (61), and with one of the most eye-catching results in the poll, Revel's Strawberries & Cream Sour Ale at 14.
THE STATE OF IT
State of Origin bragging rights go to New South Wales, whose brewers amassed 27 beers in the top 100, pipping Queensland’s 26. Victoria’s were responsible for 19 – although we count CBCo and Little Creatures as WA / VIC due to both brewing companies launching in the former state but in recent years brewing the majority of their beer in the latter.
Counting the four CBCo and Little Creatures beers that way still leaves another eight for WA brands, the same number notched up by SA and ACT’s brewing industries. That means it’s another donut year for the Northern Territory and Tasmania; with Spotty Dog Brewers opening their brewery and venue in Hobart and Fox Friday (who didn't register their beers for this year's poll) on the up, will we see the southern isle break back in for the first time in more than a decade next time around?
HOW DID HE GO?
Each year, beer blogger and occasional Crafty Pint contributor Daniel Ridd publishes his predictions for the Hottest 100. You can check out his 2022 offering here, and it contains a fair few hits.
He said Mountain Culture would land four beers in the top 100, with Status Quo a shot at the top ten, and he was right on both; only the makeup of the four was slightly different with the place of Hill People instead going to the Balter collab. He also tipped Coopers Original Pale for a return to the top ten, and it reached eighth.
He got close with Blackman’s Juicy Banger – Daniel’s tip was for a spot between 40 and 50 but it landed at 66. And he correctly predicted KAIJU! Krush would drop out of the top 20, which it did as it dropped to 47.
There were a few misses too, albeit one we're sure he'd be pretty happy with given his support for regional Victorian breweries: he suggested Bridge Road's Beechworth Pale Ale would finish between ten and 20, but it outdid its 2021 performance, rising from 14th to ninth. Similarly, he tipped Young Henrys Newtowner to drop out of the top ten, but it instead proved its staying power and rose to seventh.
His tip for the top was Better Beer's Zero Carb; that it finished sixth surprised many given the vast fanbase of the brand's high profile part-owners, The Inspired Unemployed. He fancied Larry as a good bet for number one if Better Beer fell short, but instead it fell to fifth, while Stone & Wood Pacific Ale – a four-time winner – exceeded his forecast of finishing between fifth and tenth.
None of Pinnacle Drinks brands Zytho or Colossal – effectively Dan’s and BWS homebrands – made the H100. While 10 Toes, Brouhaha, Blackflag, Eumundi, Heads of Noosa and Your Mates all flew the flag for the Sunshine Coast as he forecast, they weren’t joined by Moffat Beach as he expected, predicting their all-conquering-at-awards Moffs Summer would crash the top 50. His outsider pick for a spot, the Indies Champion Beer of 2022, White Bay Lager, didn’t make it, however.
Did you make any predictions? If so, how did you go?