In a recent episode of Radio Brews News it was interesting to find the need to introduce Willie Simpson. For years Willie was something of a lone voice in what passed for the world of beer media. If words in newspapers or magazines in Australia spoke about beer, they were probably written by Willie Simpson.
In today’s world of instant access, social media and the Google Machine, everyone with a passing interest in beer can explore the virtual world of beer information. It’s almost as if the Future World dreamt by writers like Willie and those he paved the way for is nothing but a series of zeroes and ones on the information superhighway. The era of the printed word seems to have passed beer by.
Fortunately that’s not entirely the case as proven by the release this week of The Great Australian Beer Guide. James Smith, founder of The Crafty Pint and author of 150 Great Australian Beers has penned this homage to the modern beer scene. In the first tome – to which this book is something of a follow-up – Smith (Crafty to his devotees) listed his ‘best’ 150 beers from the fast-emerging craft beer landscape. In this book, again published by Hardie Grant, he selects one beer from each of 150 Australian breweries.
From Porters to Pilsners, Tripels and Dubbels and Saisons to Session Ales, the Great Australian Beer Guide aims to please a wide audience from beer novice to certified professional. As the author notes; “It is an attempt to encapsulate the very many wonderful things happening in the Australian beer world today at a time when the ground is shifting like never before. It should act as a reference point of a moment in time and also, I hope, as a springboard from which readers will launch into fresh, flavoursome and enjoyable adventures in beer.”
And here is where things get interesting. Far from being a mere handbook of backslapping for the industry, it might prompt a look at just how much the “ground is shifting like never before.” At the official launch of the book at Melbourne’s Forresters Hall Smith told the assembled beer lovers of his deep fears for the craft beer community.
“While it’s wonderful to see the growth in volume of what we might call craft beer, it’s also a bit worrying to see the huge growth in ‘faux craft’ or those brands seemingly pushing that made by small independent breweries to the edges. Supermarket brands are not just finding space on the shelves but are increasing their percentage growth alarmingly.” Smith has saved a little column space in the introduction of the book to warn of future developments should the trend continue and, as has happened more numerously in the United States, that big will buy-out small.
“How much room is there for the bigger independents who want to play on a national scale? Will enough of the really small operators find their niche or be able to build up a strong and well resourced enough business to survive even more competitive waters? And will the term ‘craft beer’ even mean anything anymore?”
The Great Australian Beer Guide is available at all good book stores as well as the breweries featured in the book. Why not visit your local this weekend and pick up a copy? Did James Smith mention that Father’s Day is just on a month away?