2017 is coming to a close and it provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the highlights of the past twelve months.
This annual tradition is not so much about actual awards. It’s more about seizing the moment to recognise the people who have made Sydney’s beer scene so exciting over the last year.
In the last few years the best beer award has generally come down to a couple of options. It’s testament to the improved quality of beer in Sydney that there are so many potential winners in 2017. A lot of this is down to the launch of Wildflower Brewing & Blending which has delivered consistently delicious beers in a style we’ve not seen produced locally before.
Wildflower has made a number of beers that could be in the running for this award. Table is an elegant expression of how beer can be both complex, approachable and suitable for everyday. Gold showcases a unique yeast-forward flavour profile, while Amber demonstrates exactly what a spontaneous, wood-aged beer can be.
Winner: Wildflower St. Florence
St. Florence was a stand out this year. It’s fair to say that it held its own along side a range of world renowned beers on Cantillon’s Zwanze Day.
It was a magnificent and harmonious symphony of flavours, showing balance, restraint and depth in a combination that Sydney has rarely seen.
Winner: Wildflower Brewing & Blending
Best beer and best brewery go hand in hand in 2017. Wildflower has added a new dimension to our local scene. It’s done this through the beers it’s produced, the discussion and positivity it’s generated and by moving the needle on how beer is perceived.
With a unique cellar door, a commitment to local ingredients and community values, and a belief in beer being a complement to good company and shared experiences, Wildflower has been a welcome addition to Sydney. It shows amazing promise for the future.
Commended: Modus Operandi
Winner: Bitter Phew
Last year it felt like there were a few venues close on the heels of Bitter Phew. In 2017, however, the team have taken things to the next level.
Almost weekly tap showcases built not only around particular breweries but around themes or adjacent concepts are framing beer in new ways. The tap list remains exemplary, providing interesting options of approachable styles alongside the types of beers that we’re just not seeing anywhere else. It’s all done with a commitment to freshness.
The Oxford Street bar has been recognised with more prestigious rewards than this in 2017. Beer & Brewer listed Bitter Phew as the best beer venue in the country, while it was voted as Sydney’s best beer venue during Sydney Beer Week.
Not only does Bitter Phew offer an outstanding range of beer, it’s exactly what a bar should be. It’s a third place away from home and work, a hub for a community, bringing together friends and strangers.
Best Restaurant Beer List
This is a new award this year but it’s one that’s important. Sydney has long been lacking restaurants that take beer seriously.
We still see high profile restaurants open with sub-standard beer lists. It’s an awful trend that seems to persist. Thankfully, we’ve also seen Bitter Phew’s sister venue, Creek & Cella, establish itself as a refined eatery with a phenomenal beer offering. More recently, The Sausage Factory has opened, providing down to earth, tasty fair alongside a Sydney-centric beer menu.
Taking home this gong, however, is Automata. The Chippendale restaurant combines high-end degustation with an elegant beer list consisting of international classics and quality Australian beers across a range of styles.
There are other restaurants doing similar things (Chippendale neighbours Ester and LP’s Quality Meats are worthy of note) but Automata leads the way. The restaurant sets an example that others should follow.
Commended: Creek & Cella, The Sausage Factory
Stand Out Moment
Personally, speaking at GABS and winning a gong at Sydney Beer Week were quite nice. The move out west for GABS and the geographical spread of Sydney Beer Week show that good beer is expanding in our city.
Winner: Zwanze Day at Bitter Phew
The moment that stands out as something unique and wonderful was Cantillon’s Zwanze Day hosted at Bitter Phew. To be chosen as a host for Zwanze Day says something about a venue. Then to pull off the celebration with such aplomb affirms those credentials.
The team at Bitter Phew did an excellent job combining love for their customers, phenomenal service of world class beers, and an incredible atmosphere. It was something special and something I hope we see repeated in the future.
2017: A Memorable Year
2017 has been a memorable year for beer in Sydney. At one end of the spectrum we’ve had new community breweries and venues pop-up. At the other end, old favourites have moved into the mainstream.
Let’s hope standards remain has high well into 2018 and beyond.
Leave a comment below with your favourite beers, breweries and venues or share your stand out beer moment from the last twelve months.
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