Balter XPA takes out top spot again at the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers of 2018

The winners' podium may be unchanged, but there was no shortage of talking points from the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers of 2018.

Queensland's Balter Brewing consolidated its standing as one of the country's most popular breweries with its XPA once again pipping Stone & Wood Brewing's Company Pacific Ale (second place) and Bentspoke Brewing's Crankshaft IPA (third place).

But the performance of Balter's other beers was even more noteworthy. The Gold Coast outfit claimed three of the top ten places with its IIPA making sixth and sibling Balter IPA retaining seventh.

Balter smackdown

Two other Balter debutantes; Captain Sensible (19th) and Balter Strong Pale Ale (24th); rounded off an impressive showing for the company.

"I'm beyond gobsmacked," said Balter head brewer Scott Hargrave. "We had absolutely no expectations of XPA being able to repeat that [number one].

"Captain Sensible coming in at 19th was astounding for me, it's a beer that we only got going in the second half of the year and I just didn't think enough people would have tried it.

"And on this day last year I hadn't even brewed the IIPA on the big brewery yet, so that's amazing."

Sweeping gains

Canberra's Bentspoke Brewing had a similarly massive year with five different beers featuring in the top 25 of the poll.

"The best thing about this competition is that it's voted on by the people that drink your beer. It's awesome to see that Canberra brewers are nationally recognised," said Bentspoke co-founder Richard Watkins.

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And the organisers declared Stone & Wood Pacific Ale "the most loved beer in the poll's history", with this year its ninth consecutive appearance on the podium.

Humble beginnings

The annual poll that started out as a frivolous affair continues to build its influence. The 2018 edition saw a record 31,000 beer lovers place more than 155,000 votes for their favourite craft beers of the year.

"The brewers are getting more engaged now than ever before, they see it as another opportunity to talk to their customers and communities," said co-founder Steve Jeffares.

"In some cases they get the local media to help rally votes and support during the voting stage."

The beneficiaries of strong local campaigning included Darwin's One Mile Brewing, the first ever Northern Territory brewery to feature in the poll, with four different beers no less.

The Sunshine Coast also voted with a parochial view, elevating local breweries Your Mates, 10 Toes, and Brouhaha into the list, and regional NSW favourite The Welder's Dog rallied strong support to place four of its beers, including the first ever Ginger Beer to make the Hottest 100.

Homegrown talent rules

With a groundswell of support getting behind local and independent breweries, it was the multinational-owned brands that were the biggest casualties.

In May 2018, the Independent Brewers Association launched an 'Independent Seal' to help educate craft beer drinkers about brewery ownership.

The platform has clearly struck a chord with Hottest 100 voters. This year 88 per cent of the beers listed were made by independently-owned breweries (up from 71 per cent in 2017). Lion-owned 'Furphy Refreshing Ale' is the highest placed non-independent beer at 25th, and was the only non-independent beer to improve its position on the previous year.

Former indies Pirate Life Brewing (AB InBev), Feral Brewing (Coca-Cola Amatil), 4 Pines Brewing (AB InBev) and Mountain Goat (Asahi) all continued their declines on previous year's performances.

"I think it's amazing that Mountain Goat hasn't gotten a single beer in the top 100 this year. That's never happened before," said Jeffares.

"I think there certainly is a sector of the market that would rather give their vote and/or their dollars to a local and independent brewery."

Name the newies

This year GABS took the unprecedented step of publishing a separate Hottest 100 New Craft Beers of 2018, 21 of which made it into the final poll.

"There might be a shift among beer fans to see that list as more important in their eyes," said Jeffares.

"It's the list that I probably spend more of my time looking at and getting excited about."

The GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll is a proven sales driver for the craft beer industry, with many listed breweries enjoying a significant boost in brand awareness and sales, as retailers, bars and beer fans use the results when deciding what to buy.

"I think it's just become this wonderful tradition that's grown alongside the craft beer industry, allowing beer lovers to reflect on their favourite beers of the year and give a vote to the brewers who made them," Jeffares said.

"With breweries opening in all corners of the country, pushing the boundaries of style, technique and creativity, there's really never been a better time to be a craft beer drinker."

Take a look at the gallery above to see the top 20 beers from this year's GABS Hottest 100.

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