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Where do you place australian craft in the global scene

Discussion in 'Australia & New Zealand' started by aussieoverlord, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. Start the year off with a good thread.

    Where do you place australian craft when compared to the rest of the world?
    What do you think we do better or worse than other countries do currently?
    More importantly can Australia catch the NZ brewing scene?
  2. dgilks

    dgilks Advocate (665) Australia Jul 14, 2008

    I'll preface all this by saying that Australia is a high cost place to do business. This necessarily impacts the ability of small Australian producers to match and exceed what is done in cheaper places.

    At the moment I would say that we are good but not great as a brewing nation. We are behind countries like the US, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium and the Scandinavians. There is a case to be made that we are on similar footing to the UK and Germany when considering the non-traditional craft brewing scene rather than the broader brewing tradition. I'd also say that we are on a par with Japan.

    What we do well tends to be lighter, hoppier styles. Nice, fruity, hoppy lagers and pale Pale Ales. There are also some very good stouts (Wig and Pen, Wild Thing, Ace of Spades, Clout, etc) but they are few and far between and expensive for what they are.

    Barring a few limited examples, we seem to lack an ability to produce truly extraordinary IPAs and DIPAs, Belgian styles, wheat beers and sours. We are getting better on some of these fronts but the good stuff is still only found on keg in a very limited number of venues.

    Theoretically, Australia could catch NZ but it won't. NZ is a cheaper place to do business, the country is less spread out and thus it is easier to reach a market with critical mass. The problem is that you won't find an Australian producer putting out the equivalent of Hop Zombie or Hopwired (for $7.50 a bottle) or barrel aged Imperial Porter (for $25).

    I know this all seems a bit down on Australian brewing. I'm not saying Australian brewing is bad, in fact, some of it is very, very good. However, the industry faces structural issues that will continue to prevent it reaching the heights of the US. I can only hope, but I don't foresee Feral become the Russian River of Australia putting out Pliny and Consecration any time soon simply due to the price and critical mass issues we face.
    brendanos and joecast like this.
  3. Thats really well said bruvva.
  4. joecast

    joecast Advocate (570) Australia Jun 30, 2003

    yeah, way to steal everyones thunder. well, mine at least ;)
  5. joecast

    joecast Advocate (570) Australia Jun 30, 2003

    on a side note as the thread has basically been answered, I got a $100 gift voucher to a local bottle shop which definitely focuses on imported craft beer but does stock a few Aus varieties. anyway, I spent the money on about 10 different bottles which included one Aus collaboration. the rest were NZ, Belgian, Japanese, and some others.
    at the high end, we just arent quite there. for a few pints at the pub though...
  6. spicelab

    spicelab Savant (425) Australia Nov 6, 2009

    The gap between the best Aussie stuff and the top shelf International stuff is closing quickly.

    However, the gap between the vast majority of Aussie craft and the average standard of International craft is much bigger.

    Gilks was spot on about New Zealand.
  7. dgilks

    dgilks Advocate (665) Australia Jul 14, 2008

    Too right. The only problem being that our best is $70 a bottle while similar is $30 in the US.
  8. Agree with much of what's been said so far, but:

    The flip side of Australia being a high cost place is that it is a rich place - incomes are at least a third higher than NZ. I think that will tell.

    We see a biased sample of other countries' beers here and to the extent that we compare (say) any strong Belgian-style beer made here and expecting it to live up to the best available here from Belgium we're being unrealistic.

    I don't agree that we do decent lager here. I don;t know whether anyone remembers the _old_ Matilda Bay Pils, but I'd still struggle to name 5 Australian lagers I prefer.
  9. danieelol

    danieelol Advocate (510) Australia Jun 15, 2010

    As has already been expressed, we are not (yet?) a landmark brewing nation.

    We have a decent number of breweries and beers of wildly varying quality.

    I feel that as a whole Australia has come a very long way forward in roughly the last year, and should continue to move forwards.
  10. interesting re 'high cost to do business'....

    I am no finance guru, but is not the high cost of biz offset by the fact that most Aussies still have $$$s in their pockets to spend? (Honest question, I welcome the economics experts answers)

    Leading to my next point.. I see the big dollar beers in Aus, and do not generally buy them. However, in the UK the Brewdogs and Thornbridges and Meantimes also seem to make very expensive beers. I do not know if any US brewers also price high for whatever reason. So maybe that is not such an aberration.

    In general, I am seeing a lot of moves forward in the last year in Aus, but would concur - where are the really good DIPAs and Imperial IPAs in Aus? I am also seeing a lot of dust on Murray's bottling line, sadly two or so years ago they were really pushing (as-then) boundaries, but seem to have consolidated big-time recently into kegged product of the core range.

    I am sure I could write more but will close......cheers,
  11. dgilks

    dgilks Advocate (665) Australia Jul 14, 2008

    But they still have to compete. The Australian market now hosts a range of top flight beers from around the world that come out cheaper than local product in a lot of cases. So yes, you can probably afford the more expensive Australian beer but most will prefer to buy two of the import for the same money.
    foles likes this.
  12. MrKennedy

    MrKennedy Advocate (575) Australia Dec 29, 2006

    New Zealand has a population of 4.45 million over 268,000 square km
    Sydney has a population of 4.62 million over 12,000 square km
    liverpool likes this.
  13. dgilks

    dgilks Advocate (665) Australia Jul 14, 2008

    A reasonable point but I didn't say it was the only thing impacting it. When the cost of business is the same in Sydney as in Nelson or Wellington, let's talk (unfortunately, tax alone will probably kill the comparison). There are likely other issues as well.
  14. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Australia Aug 29, 2008

  15. MrKennedy

    MrKennedy Advocate (575) Australia Dec 29, 2006

    foles, Parrotshake and Lukie like this.
  16. From my experience it's at least in the top 10 behind the likes of US, UK, Belgium, Germany...actually going by that it is top 5! :D
  17. Parrotshake

    Parrotshake Savant (345) Australia Nov 29, 2008

    Currently on a level playing field with all these Italian imports we've been getting lately, in terms of quality and being wildly overpriced. So top 120 at least. Way better than what's going on in Rwanda and Suriname.
    danieelol likes this.
  18. MordeciaFunk

    MordeciaFunk Savant (260) Australia Feb 14, 2012

    I don't know Bob, Parbo Bier is pretty good on a hot summers day...

    As for the state of our industry, I think we can be a little too harsh on where we stand. You have to remember that we only get the best of the overseas market and so, naturally, it can seem like we lack in comparison. I'm sure that there are as many (ratio wise) crap craft breweries in other countries as we have. The only difference is, we get exposure to our crap craft breweries.

    I think we're exactly where we should be based on the 'age' of our industry. Sure, it took us a while to move out of infancy and into a childhood, but we are coming along. The market is expanding and the (good) brewers are expanding & getting more exposure. With the transference of knowledge and expertise that has been happening with the visitation of overseas brewers, hopefully that can kick us further along. To infinity and beyond...
  19. MrKennedy

    MrKennedy Advocate (575) Australia Dec 29, 2006

    We only get about 10% of the top 100 beers on this site
  20. foles

    foles Savant (375) Australia Jan 28, 2007

    This site is US biased, so that is no measure. The amount of excellent German breweries I've visited that have a low/indifferent rating on BA and RB is staggering. Australian & especially Kiwi breweries make some excellent beers that stand up well against the US. I'm currently drinking some Stone and Wood & Yeastie Boys and its world class stuff. Yes, we have some sh** places, but so does the USA (not all of their 2000+ breweries can be awesome).

    High costs, taxes, and lack of beer culture due to government over-regulation is where we fall over (badly). Poor Cellarbrations in Carlisle needed to pay a bouncer to host an (excellent) beer tasting event in their car park FFS.
  21. MordeciaFunk

    MordeciaFunk Savant (260) Australia Feb 14, 2012

    Sorry Mr K, it was clumsily phrased. What I meant to say was that the stuff that is sent over is always good (that's not affiliated with majors) and so our perceptions are warped. I'm sure we can all point to individual examples disproving this but if Sierra Nevada, Bear Rep. etc were shit they never would of made it this far (geographically and metaphorically). Market forces dictate that that the sh_t stuff would never make it here. Dundee IPA being a notable exception.

    If we all lived in a land where Feral, Moo Brew and Murray's (as an example) was all we were exposed to as a representation of Australian beers, then we would consider Australia to be a shining example of diversity and quality.
  22. The flipside to that, though, is by the time these beers make it to our market they are older and not as good as when they left their country of origin.

    How to really place Aussie craft? That would require a world tour. I nominate me as chief judge.
  23. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Australia Aug 29, 2008


    Where is Hill Farmstead and Heady topper on shelves then?
  24. danieelol

    danieelol Advocate (510) Australia Jun 15, 2010

    I think I saw some at Liquorland Broadway
  25. MordeciaFunk

    MordeciaFunk Savant (260) Australia Feb 14, 2012

    You know full well that using Heady Topper is a disingenuous example. They barely make it out of Vermont. If you read the post in it's spirit, instead of trying to take cheap shots, you know I'm trying (poorly, I admit) to point out that while we here get to view our craft beer scene in it's entirety, that leads to perception differences. If that wasn't adequately explained in the post, after the one you quoted, then I apologise but I do try and keep these posts somewhat brief.
  26. MordeciaFunk

    MordeciaFunk Savant (260) Australia Feb 14, 2012

    Snap that up quicksmart. It took me a 7.5hr trip from Philly to get some Heady Topper when I was in the US
  27. danieelol

    danieelol Advocate (510) Australia Jun 15, 2010

    I left it on the shelf. I'm sure it'll be there next week.
    dansmcd likes this.
  28. Parrotshake

    Parrotshake Savant (345) Australia Nov 29, 2008

    Suriname was a typo. I meant French Guyana. I'll never forget my salad days in Paramaribo as junior accountant for an upstart bauxite concern, smashing a few Parbos every night at the Chinese restaurant on the water by the Novotel where I met my first wife.

    I was of course being jocular about Australia's place in the grand scheme of things as well. Even in this last year I have had more than a few new Aussie beers that I was quite impressed with. Here in Brisbane there have been a few things from local dudes on tap around town that have been great. Still not a particularly high standard all 'round. But things are growing at a nice rate. Is it damning with faint praise to say Australia is probably in the top 20?
  29. foles

    foles Savant (375) Australia Jan 28, 2007

    I think rather than striving to brew DIPAs (i.e. emulating US) we should be looking at what suits our conditions, economically, climatically, and from a taste perspective. That is where the creative results may be. I think breweries like Stone and Wood are successfully heading down that path.

    And the US scene isnt what it is because of Pliny - its because of SNPA, Anchor steam, Brooklyn lager etc. Drinkable classics. Think of DIPA/RIS/barleywine as the cream/reward on top of a solid foundation. Try aiming for the cream only and you end up with a big stout selling for $75 a bottle in the middle of summer.

    In saying all this - maybe we are more like Scandinavia. No beer culture due to high taxes, prices etc, but a small, passionate population of beer lovers who want the extreme. Leave the general populous to their bland mass produced beer?
  30. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Australia Aug 29, 2008

    If people suck into Squire and the new Coles range that should tell you the vitality of the scene here. When 70% is dominated by Coles or Wollys then real craft has very little chance here.
    I think there are 5-10 beers here that can compete with the US or Europe, rest are very middling if not pure average.
    Still way behind NZ IPA's. Good Black IPA's, Porters and stouts.
    Narwhal is better than anything domestically made here currently.
    If you consider Barleywines and anything barrel aged than Australia 10 years from matching that.
    Alpha Dog from Matilda bay is a beast and quite good
  31. One thing the Oz scene certainly has going for it is the legal element. Especially compared to Canada. We face so much red tape here that, from my experience in Australia, is nowhere to be found. Beers that breweries want to get to bars and bottle shops, are simply sent out.

    Australia is doing really well and expanding fast. Hop varieties in the region are amazing and something to be proud of. Sure it's expensive, but so is everything else in the country so it's to be expected.

    Keep up the good work and keep supporting the good guys in the country. Don't be upset if you're craft scene doesn't measure up against the U.S. in every respect.
    heygeebee likes this.
  32. MordeciaFunk

    MordeciaFunk Savant (260) Australia Feb 14, 2012

    That sounds like the start of an opening paragraph from a Wodehouse or Dickens novel.
  33. Wouldn't mind seeing a few more sours (including Oud Bruins) brewed here. With this climate they are perfect for quenching thirst. But the craft brewers tend to go with IPA's (yawn yawn) and Stout which isn't really a perfect thirst quencher for at least six 7 -8 months of the year. I would concentrate on the thirst quenchers. I think its come along way in just two or three years and hope the momentum carries on. What is craft beer anyway ? If Coopers Best Extra Stout was brewed by say Feral it would be labelled craft. But because its brewed by a mass producer it isn't. At the end of the day its about the quality of the beer, and I couldn't care less if its "craft" or not
  34. danieelol

    danieelol Advocate (510) Australia Jun 15, 2010

    +1 for more thirst quenchers. Never get why so many Australian craft brewers are obsessed with Belgian style beers with hefty alcohol. Moo Brew Belgo had the right idea- reduce the alcohol to 5% or lower for the Aussie climate.

    DIPAs are one style which still can be drinkable in hot weather as California has showed us, but unfortunately no-one in Australia has really stepped up yet in that area.
  35. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Savant (420) Germany Mar 21, 2005

    As a native Bavarian I can assure you that is correct.
  36. spicelab

    spicelab Savant (425) Australia Nov 6, 2009

    Heading to Bavaria in September, so would love to pick your brain over this sometime.
  37. foles

    foles Savant (375) Australia Jan 28, 2007

    Where do I start! I'd be happy to fill you in on my experiences (been all over Germany - about 10 visits since 2005, lived in England for a few years which accounted for a few of those).
  38. I hardly have my finger on the pulse of the craft beer scene, but I think we are going to see a lot more locally made sour ales over the next few summers.
  39. sirob

    sirob Aficionado (170) Australia May 30, 2007

    Well I hope there more like the wig and pen/feral efforts than the moondog/ temple (scarlet Berliner). The Vic's are clearly out of there league and just playing hipster
  40. Just me being nit-pickie, but i spent some time in Cali (back in Jul/Aug to inspect our brewery woot woot), spent a heck of alot of time in alot of places and only saw one DIPA.

    Theres is only IPA (av alc 7% and 70 BU's ... the white labs guys ran about 50 through their lab and 99% of them were in that range).

    Reckon we are in for a fun year, looking forward to what happens north of the border and being able to finally brew my ipa again ...

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