As the warmer weather returns around this wide, brown land, drinkers’ thoughts turn to cold, refreshing beers and, in many cases, to the GABS Hottest 100.
This year, the popular and sometimes polarising poll turns ten years old. In many respects, this annual revision of our own personal beer journey is equal parts enjoyable and gut-wrenching. For some it is a simple case of opening up the internet and tapping five times to select their favourites of the year. For many it is as painstaking and sweat-inducing as selecting a gift for a significant other or making those last few selections for a football Dream Team. It’s not uncommon to hear of special spreadsheets being employed to whittle the list down to the final five.
The fact that so much discussion and angst is afforded to the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers each year, says much about its value to the beer landscape in this country. Social media platforms fill with much wailing and gnashing of teeth both before the poll closes and after the ‘winners’ are declared and the ‘losers’ identified. Quite simply, if it didn’t matter, nobody would bother arcing up.
The ten year anniversary of what began as a simple, in-house staff poll brings an event that has grown larger and of more serious import than its creators could ever have dreamed. Steve Jeffares hatched the idea at his venue, The Local Taphouse in St Kilda, as a fun way of gauging which beers had made an impact during 2007. He invited his staff and their friends to nominate the beers that were the best loved among themselves and the punters.
In that first year votes from around 300 entries were counted – by hand, by hard-working venue manager Justin Joiner – and the results released on January 26. In the next two years those entries would double and then double again. To Joiner’s delight a more technical and far less manual back-end computer system was employed to collate and sort the results.
The poll was beginning to garner attention from brewers, venues and bottleshops and from the drinkers who supported them. Cheers came from those whose beers made the Top 10 and jeers from those who felt aggrieved that their selections were ignored. Breweries trumpeted their success in media releases while bottleshops tagged high-scoring beers with recommendations on the shelf and in the fridge.
It can be argued that the H100 – now known as the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers – is both a reflection of the trends and tendencies and a kind of trendsetter at the same time. As this year’s poll opens for a tenth time, it’s worth looking at a handful of fun facts and figures which may, or may not influence how you vote.
- Little Creatures Pale Ale took the top spot in the first two years before being dethroned by Vale Ale in 2010.
- The two top performers over the decade are Feral’s Hop Hog and Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale who have taken top spot on the podium three times each.
- Lion’s and CUB’s only appearance in the H100 came in the first year when Crown Lager and Toohey’s Old shared the number 99 spot.
- Despite being the country’s most popular style, lager has always been a poor cousin to its more fancied counterparts in the H100. Apart from notable exceptions like Knappstein Reserve Lager, along with Matilda Bay and James Squire’s Pilsners, few other lagers have made regular appearances.
- Brewers that have made much of their success in the H100 and list it as a major booster to their sales enquiries include Pirate Life, Stone & Wood, Vale Brewing, Feral and 4 Pines.
- Plenty of beers made as experimental brews for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular have subsequently appeared high on the list in the H100. Notable cross-overs are Two Birds Taco, Bacchus White Choc & Raspberry Pilsner and almost every GABS beer Feral has ever made.
- After struggling to receive votes for 100 different beers in the early years, the spread of beers has grown so large that a secondary ‘poll’ has sprung up in recent years listing the 101-200 ranked beers as well.
- Without taking a month to pore over the entire ten pages of spreadsheets that Steve Jeffares provided, I can confidently declare that American style Pale Ale is easily the most popular style by about eleventy-eight kajillion-to-one. It might even be more than that.
Brewers are now invited to nominate their eligible beers for inclusion in the GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers of 2017 polls. Nominations for Aussie beers must be submitted no later than MONDAY 11 DECEMBER, and Kiwi beers no later than MONDAY 18 DECEMBER. Click here to nominate your beers now.