Until this year, South Australia was one of the only states left without a commercial dedicated beer competition. We’ve watched on as the Australian International Beer Awards in Victoria, Perth Royal Beer Show, Sydney Royal Beer Competition and most recently the Queensland Royal Beer Show have got the jump on us (so what’s new?)
Interestingly this wasn’t always the case. Royal Adelaide records show that as far back as 1844, beer was at least “shown” at the Royal Adelaide Show. In 1845, W Clark was awarded 1st and T Auld 2nd in beer classes and in 1847 a “beer engine” was exhibited.
Further records show that beer entries were part of the Wine Show in 1871, while 1883 saw the best beer entries ever and in 1889 there were classes for “Ale, pale, 18 gallons: ale, XXX, 18 gallons; Ale, Bottled, four dozen; ale, light, four dozen, of a Lager Beer character.”
Unfortunately somewhere along the line beer fell off the radar and so it was almost 100 years since a beer show or beer competition was held as part of the Royal Adelaide Show. That is until now.
I recently had the good fortune to be invited as a judge for the new Royal Adelaide Show Beer Competition. This was a brand new experience for me and quite a learning curve. But more than anything else I was just chuffed to be apart of the competition, one that was obviously long overdue in South Australia.
We, rightly or wrongly, are still seen as a wine state, even by our own population. That probably isn’t surprising given some of the best wineries in Australia are located in our rolling hills and beautiful countryside.
But, SA is home to some fantastic beers and some very talented brewers. Everyone knows Coopers and for most South Aussies it’s the national beverage, yet we have a growing contingent of microbreweries and craft brewers producing beers to rival any of those found around Australia.
Unfortunately, while we are catching on, many Crow Eaters are still in the dark about these beers and so it was this idea, with a view to education, that I approached the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA about starting a beer competition of our own.
The introduction of a beer competition at the Royal Adelaide Show is a natural progression as the RAHS has successfully run the Royal Adelaide Wine Show for several years, a competition that attracts a large number of entries and interest.
My hope was that eventually a beer comp could grow to a similar status and as a spin off, maybe, just maybe we could include some of the winners in tasting sessions at the Royal Adelaide Show itself. Over 500,000 people attend the show each year so I saw it as a perfect opportunity to gain more exposure locally for local craft brewers and craft beer in general.
At this point I have to emphasise that I am in no way taking credit for this competition. As Editor of Beer & Brewer Magazine at the time, I felt I should do something about it, but really, all I did was take a germ of an idea and approach the RAHS to find out what it would take to see such a competition up and running.
It was Dee Rowlands and her team that took this idea, consulted the local industry and ran with it to the point that the Royal Adelaide Show Beer Competition was up and running in a matter of eight months with 80 entries from three states.
The judging, led by Coopers’ Simon Fahey, was held over two days with the trophies awarded just two days later at an event at the Griffins in the city. As you may have already heard, Lobethal Bierhaus took out four of the ten trophies on offer, a fantastic result and congratulations go to brewer and owner, Alistair Turnbull.
All in all it was a great success, not just for Alistair but for all involved in the competition. No doubt it was a small start but it was a good one. As judges and organisers we all learned a thing or three that we are taking into next year’s event to step up the game and truly begin to make the competition one that can’t be missed.
There’s a long way to go but the idea was always to take baby steps. With the possibility of a dedicated committee to be formed next year featuring industry folk (and hopefully yours truly!), we can build upon this year slowly but surely to take our place alongside events such as the Perth Royal Beer Show and play our part to promote and educate South Australians and beyond about the wonderful world of good beer.