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Revealing the Critics’ Choice: Australia’s Best Beer

April 1, 2011

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale

Well it’s been a long run to this point. We have seen Pale Ales, we have seen IPAs and we have seen double IPAs. We have seen beers light and dark. We have seen beers from breweries large and small, owned by massive public companies and by small private ones that define the purists vision of ‘craft’.

And the best beer in Australia in 2010, at least according to the critics? Stone & Wood Pacific Ale.

And what a choice.

It is a beer that is at once flavoursome and interesting, approachable and immensely drinkable. It delights in its hoppiness and its aroma while not blowing out the back of the head with aggressive bitterness. Beer is the most sociable of beverages and often the focus should be on the people that you’re with rather than the beer in your hand. Pacific Ale like a good bloke that joins the party and doesn’t try to dominate the conversation but  can still hold up his end up in a one-on-one spirited debate.

The contributing critics were given the task of nominating their 50 favourite beers in order to come up with the comprehensive guide to the finest Australian beers of 2010.  They were told their choices may reflect a favourite style or the beer that spent more time than others chilling in their fridge, or maybe beers that they have seen take a hold of the beer community and bring new drinkers to the fold. This beer could easily fill all of those roles.

There will undoubtedly be detractors among Australia’s beer avant garde who feel that the title of Australia’s best beer should go to the most limit-pushing beer, found only in select bars and bottleshops. But for many of them, beer is an extreme sport. There is no point to it unless you are going full tilt. For them beer is not about simple pleasures, but about the adrenaline rush. I suspect that such views turn people away from better appreciation of beer, throwing up class distinctions that introduce the worst elements of wine snobbery to beer culture. Pacific Ale is the most democratic of beers, welcoming all comers and rewarding them equally. It’s a beer that invites people to the party, rather than standing at the door turning them away as unworthy.

For all of the above, the best description of Pacific Ale comes from the Critics’ Choice editor-at-large Pete Mitcham.

“If you could bottle happiness, contentment and fulfilment it might just have the same label as this little gem from the boys in Byron Bay. With the beach as a backdrop and Brad Rogers behind the wheel, Stone & Wood have produced the most talked about beer in decades. Full stop. End of story. Buy some.”

Congratulations to the Stone & Wood team for having Stone & Wood Pacific Ale being named Australia’s first Critic’s Choice beer.

Beer o’clock has come early today.

Want to try the best of the Critics’ Choice beers, including a rare out-of-brewery appearance of Knappstein’s Reserve Lager on tap? The Local Taphouse will be tapping the top ten at midday today at both venues. Apart from trying some great beers, you could win a copy of this terrific new book.

The Critics’ Choice: Australia’s Best Beers
RRP $14.95
Available from bookstores & newsagents from April 1, 2011


We’re giving readers a chance to win one of four copies of The Critics Choice: Australia’s Best Beers. Just tell us in the comments below which beer you think should be the choice for Australia’s best beer. Winners will be chosen at random from the comments.

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6 Responses to Revealing the Critics’ Choice: Australia’s Best Beer

  1. […] Oh, but then there was the food and the beer list. I already mentioned Bob’s Armpit by Wig & Pen frontman Richard Watkins so I’ll skip that and head onto Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis. Look, I’ll confess upfront that I didn’t make any notes on the beer…but I do remember enjoying this with the mixed leaf salad with Stone & Wood Pacific Ale mustard dressing, a beer that’s clocked up an impressive accolade best read about on Oz BrewsNews. […]

  2. Haydn Barlow on April 21, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Canberra has a great bottle shop – Plonk – at the Fyschwick Markets. On a biting cold Canberra day there is no better place to be than at this store, sitting out front with the sun warming the back and my favourite beer – Coopers Vintage Ale – warming the belly.

    • Editor on April 21, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Haven’t been there Hadyn, thanks for the tip! Good bottleshops need support. Agree with you on Coopers Vintage. One of the high points on my beery calendar each year too.


  3. Stu on April 4, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I was in Australia twice last year… I’ve tried all of the beers mentioned in this list and they were all really good. But the best beer, from the 100 or so I tried across those two trips, was Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout on tap at the brewery. Such a beautifully crafted beer.

  4. Ian Peak on April 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I have tried so many great beers in the last 12 months. Many stand-outs amongst them: Burleigh’s Anzac bickie was hard to beat, as is Holgates ESB when hand drawn (as god intended beer to be served). The winner has to be the critics choice, Stone and Wood Pacific/Draught Ale. A good ‘session’ beer and great all round performer.

  5. Chris Allen on April 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Feral Hop Hog. IPA’s are becomming so popular and this is Australia’s closest beer to a USA West Coast IPA that I have tried !

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