Get better acquainted with the leading brews, and the trends you can expect to see sweeping the beer market next year, according to our panel of expert judges from the beer world. This year marked the first that judging was held right across Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, with designated winners for each state among the fields of No Alcohol, Lager, Summer/Pacific, Sour, Ginger, Pale Ale, IPA and Dark. From the hefty number of nominees, a few key trends emerged from the beers entered this year – we dive into them below.
This was the trend that stood head and shoulders above the rest, with the majority of judges predicting increasing presence of this beer across all of the states. But this isn’t the traditional lager of yesteryear – already the most brewed and consumed globally – but one with extra oomph when it comes to flavour. Explains Judge Tania Lambson of Little Creatures: “It was clear to see that the entries into this category displayed the brewer’s desire to bring in a swift renaissance of this style going forward. The lagers that entered were more precise in flavour resulting in many of them championing fresher, crispier flavours.” Tom Whitehouse of Balter Brewing agrees lagers are making a comeback with a new breed of lager on the market: “There was a strong showing from the craft lager category, in particular Japanese rice lagers, which was mostly a mainstream style a few years ago.” But perhaps it’s judge Dan Hampton from Young Henrys who sums it up best: “Lagers are back, baby. The market has been talking about this trend for years but the quality, depth and range of simple lagers was noticeable this time around.”
The rise of the session beer was just as present at these Vintage Cellars Best of Beer awards, the beer that makes for easy drinking no matter the occasion. Judge Matt Morisey of Good Drinks observed of this year’s entries that there’s a distinct “move back to more sessionable beers like lagers and XPAs”. Judge Alice Lynch of Beerfarm agreed: “There seems to be a swing back towards more restraint, balance and sessionability. “I’m most excited about the increasing options of quality of lager – more and more breweries are turning out pilsners, lagers and traditional German and Czech beers, it’s great!”. This also relates to the increasing popularity of sophisticated mid-strength beers, which have been making their way onto the market. “There’s a growing trend of flavour-packed mid-strengths. While the no-alcohol trend is still going strong it seems like there is a growing middle ground between ‘nothing’ and crazy high ABV’ which still offer all the hops and structure that craft beer lovers seek,” says Alice.
But just as much as Australia has an obvious soft spot for a more traditional brew like a lager, this year’s Vintage Cellars Best of Beer awards have proven that experimental beers are also part of the mix. For judge Matt Morisey, left-of-centre beers were what he was most excited about, with fruity beers on the rise. “There’s increased brand expansion around ginger beer, and increasing variety in products, with new additions moving and challenging what defines a beer style.” For judge Dan Hampton it’s not just fruity beers that are worthy of our attention, but the new breed of sours. “All Sours were judged really highly,” he says. “That category really seems to have settled and the good ones are really good.”
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