This year, the annual tradition of the Hottest 100 beers countdown moved from Australia Day to the 27th of January. The results are a good indicator of where the beer market is.
Here’s a look at the Hottest 100 beers of 2017 from a Sydney perspective.
Hottest Sydney Beers of 2017
These were Sydney’s representatives in the Hottest 100 beers of 2017:
- 4 – Newtowner – Young Henrys
- 12 – Former Tenant – Modus Operandi
- 16 – Pale Ale – 4 Pines
- 18 – Future Factory – Modus Operandi
- 21 – Sonic Prayer – Modus Operandi
- 22 – One Fifty Lashes – James Squire
- 33 – XPA – Philter
- 37 – Kolsch – 4 Pines
- 41 – Indian Summer Ale – 4 Pines
- 44 – Korben D – Akasha
- 49 – Three Sheets – Lord Nelson
- 51 – Mountie – Stockade
- 54 – Hopsmith – Akasha
- 57 – Summer Hop Ale – Young Henrys
- 61 – Natural Lager – Young Henrys
- 66 – Pale Ale – Modus Operandi
- 77 – Session IPA – Modus Operandi
- 86 – The Swindler – James Squire
- 95 – 8 Bit – Stockade
- 19 of the 100 beers were from Sydney (down from the 21 we saw last year).
- 26 of the 100 beers were from New South Wales (down from 29 last year). Outside of Sydney, the state was represented by Stone & Wood, Fixation, and Thirsty Crow, alongside some of Lion’s brands.
- 5 of the 19 Sydney beers were from macro breweries. Three were from recently acquired 4 Pines (AB InBev) and two were from James Squire (Lion).
- 6 Sydney entries were new into the Hottest 100. They were Young Henrys Natural Lager and Summer Hop Ale, Modus Operandi’s Future Factory, James Squire’s The Swindler, Stockade’s Mountie, and Philter’s XPA.
- Modus Operandi had the most beers out of Sydney’s representatives with 5.
- 16 of the 19 Sydney beers could probably be classed as hop-forward, consistent with the overall trend. The exceptions were Stockade’s Mountie, Young Henrys’ Natural Lager, and 4 Pines Kolsch.
- There were a further 27 Sydney beers in the 101-200 list.
Notable new entries into the Hottest 100 include Philter XPA and a number of new beers from Modus and Young Henrys. The number of new entries is reflective of the constantly evolving picture that is the Australian beer industry.
There were a couple of big movers for Sydney breweries but more about that in the Winners & Losers section below.
The pointier end of the Sydney beer scene was well represented in the “next 100“. The likes of Akasha’s Lupulin Fog narrowly missed out on the top 100, while 4 Pines had plenty of beers between 101 and 200, including some Keller Door releases. Wayward and Batch also featured with some of their more popular beers.
Who Missed Out?
It was a shame not to see Wayward Brewing or Batch in the top 100. Riverside also missed out again, along with Shenanigans who probably don’t have the volume or distribution to compete with other beers on the list when it comes to popularity.
Enthusiasts might have been disappointed not to see at least one Wildflower beer make the list. But even Topher Boehm himself acknowledged that the local beer landscape is in a position where there’s still great room for growth.
Styles: Hoppy Beers Dominate
It’s no surprise that hop-forward beers dominate the list. From the rise of session IPAs to reliable pale ales, hoppy beers are a major part of craft beer drinking habits in Australia.
2017 was a huge year for the New England or East Coast IPA. That’s reflected to some extent in the results with seven interpretations of the style placing in the top 100.From the rise of session IPAs to reliable pale ales, hoppy beers are a major part of craft beer drinking habits in Australia. Click To Tweet
Lagers & Session Beers
Last year there were just two lagers. This year saw that rise to five.
Over the last twelve months it’s seemed like the habits of Aussie drinkers are fixed around familiar and sessionable styles. A variety of other session beers, complemented by a huge number of pale ales, means that most of the top 100 beers are approachable.
The average ABV for 2017’s Hottest 100 beers comes in between 4 and 6%. The number of beers in this bracket was slightly down from 2016 with a few more edging into the 6% to 8% bracket.
It’s become increasingly clear that “session” in an Australian context leans more towards that 4% to 6% bracket. Sub-4% ABV, while undoubtedly sessionable, doesn’t necessarily connect with the Aussie beer drinkers who are inclined to vote in the Hottest 100.Sub-4% ABV, while undoubtedly sessionable, doesn't necessarily connect with the Aussie beer drinkers who are inclined to vote in the @gabsfestival #hottest100beers. Click To Tweet
Goses & Sour Beers
2016 saw goses enter the Hottest 100 for the first time (two from Sydney). There were two again this year but disappointingly neither was from New South Wales. While there’s been talk of sour beers taking off in Australia, they still lack the mass appeal of hoppy pale ales.
There are a few things we can see from this year’s Hottest 100.
- Non-independent beers generally fell in rankings but still made up good numbers.
- There’s a greater geographic spread to the list with the rise of Queensland and the ACT.
- The majority of beers on the list are available in cans.
There were 29 non-independent beers this year compared to 20 last time round. A simple line can be drawn towards the likes of Pirate Life, 4 Pines and Feral who were all acquired in 2017. These three brewers contributed 14 beers to the list. Without them, the list of corporate owned beer would be significantly shorter.
This year saw big drops for Feral’s Hop Hog, War Hog and Tusk, as well as Pirate Life’s Throwback, Pale Ale, IPA and IIPA. Whether this is a result of them being acquired or more to do with shifting tastes among drinkers remains to be seen. It was, however, a noticeable theme of the list as the results came in.
2017’s list also saw CUB/AB InBev overtake Lion for the greatest number of non-independent beers. The buyouts of Pirate Life and 4 Pines virtually guaranteed it this year.
From the first round of results there was a good national spread. Each state was well represented. That trend continued throughout the list with a more even distribution of beers across the states than we’ve seen previously.
It was a huge year for Queensland brewers and in particular those from the Gold Coast. Balter took top spot and the state was represented by three times as many beers as last year, with the Gold Coast contributing two thirds of those.
ACT brewers were also remarkable performers, up to seven beers from three the last year. Bentspoke’s Crankshaft placed third.
Cans Kick On
For the first time, the majority of the top 100 beers are packaged in cans. Over 60% were available in cans over the last year.
It demonstrates a shift in the local beer market and particularly consumer buying habits. Speaking to representatives from breweries around Sydney, it seems like the availability of packaged product in cans makes a significant difference in how beer is perceived, purchased and voted for.
Just a few years ago, industry analysts were predicting a rise in canned beer. It seems we’ve arrived quite quickly at the future many foresaw.Just a few years ago, industry analysts were predicting a rise in canned beer. It seems we've arrived quite quickly at the future many foresaw. Click To Tweet
Winners & Losers
The obvious winners were Balter and other Queensland breweries, particularly those on the Gold Coast.
Sydney’s Movers, Shakers & Hoppy Beer Makers
On a local level, Akasha’s Hopsmith was the biggest climber, up 46 places. Modus Operandi’s Session IPA was another big winner climbing up 14 places. Modus performed very well in general with five beers in the list, while it was good to see Philter XPA enter at 33 in their first year.
Otherwise, producers of hoppy beers are still leading the way. Pale ales (both Aussie and American styles) and a variety of IPAs dominated the list. New England IPAs were very well represented. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues throughout 2018.
Independent beer as a category comes out well in the results but it’s clear that the big brewers are well equipped to keep independents on their toes. Through the acquisitions of established national brands, macros will be looking to claw back some of the dollar value in the segment.
Whether it was a shifting of preference among Australian beer drinkers, or a move against corporate-owned beer, Pirate Life, 4 Pines and Feral all saw significant hits to the placing of their beers. It remains to be seen whether this is a blip or a long lasting trend.
There are always debates that arise from the Hottest 100 list. Some of the topics of discussion that came up repeatedly included:
- The longevity of the NEIPA style.
- The continued presence of national brands like Stone & Wood Pacific Ale and how they can hold onto their position.
- The effect that acquisitions have had on breweries’ rankings in the Hottest 100.
- The value for breweries in having a loyal local following.
These are big enough debates to warrant further analysis and investigation. For now, feel free to weigh in with your comments below.
The Australian Beer Landscape
A clear trend in 2017’s Hottest 100 beers is that there’s a national spread to the results. Barring the obvious anomaly that is the Northern Territory, and the difficulty for Tasmanian breweries to place, there’s clear growth across the whole of the country.
Non-independent beer is making aggressive moves to reclaim some of this segment and the likes of CUB and Lion look well placed to do it now that they’ve acquired established craft brands with national footprints.
The landscape looks increasingly competitive and it seems more important than ever for breweries to establish themselves in their home state first.The landscape looks increasingly competitive and it seems more important than ever for breweries to establish themselves in their home state first. Click To Tweet
With voting for 2017’s poll up a reported 33%, it seems like interest in good beer is still growing in Australia. It suggests a positive future but one which necessitates quality products, good branding and strong sales and distribution. For the consumer it’s more exciting than ever.
Did you know that you can subscribe to keep up to date with the Sydney beer scene every week? Enter your email address in the box below.