And like that, it’s over for another year. The results of GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers poll were announced on Saturday.
I made a few predictions for the 2020 results, but before I go into that, I’d like to acknowledge some people that deserve far more credit than I for their coverage.
Already there’s been some fantastic analysis by The Crafty Pint. Yet again they’ve outdone themselves with impressive analysis on state by state performance, a look at different beer styles, and more.
I’m expecting a follow-up story from Brews News any minute now, accompanied by a podcast of their live show. I’ve been told might be a little while yet, as they work to distil the show into the slick, fast-paced, intelligent exchange of ideas we’ve come to expect from such a well-oiled machine.
Check out Step Brewers on YouTube. Co-host Klimt Donohoe, also of Spotty Dog brewing in Tasmania, looks at ‘Things Beer Nerds Weren’t Saying During the GABS 100’. “I wish Pac Ale was less available” and “I miss the old days when we had no access to good beer” are just two of my favourites. I’ll be ending this piece with a couple of suggestions of my own.
I’ll also be checking out the predictions on their most recent show, titled ‘2021, A New Hope’ (I sure hope so!), to see how they panned out. I wonder if yet another exchange between myself and Klimt on the subject of Tassie beers in the H100 will rate a mention in their next show.
Check out the podcast from The Sunday Sesh too. They flattered me with an invitation to join them for a catch up regarding my predictions, but I had to decline due to domestic responsibilities.
Listen to The Chosen Brew. Ian produces zero content at all to do with the Hottest 100, but there are some great interviews with the brewers behind some of the Hottest 100’s top-performing beers, such as Jon Seltin of Brick Lane and Scott Hargeaves from Balter.
And last but certainly not least. Luke Robertson has written ‘A Smaller, but Still Considered, Reply to GABS Comments’. As the title suggests, it’s a little different to what he’s written in previous years, but still very much on point.
Ok, onward to my results.
I tipped Balter Hazy for an upset. I said it was capable of outdoing its sibling and even taking out the top spot, but it only moved up one place. More on them in a bit.
I feel I was pretty accurate with my prediction for Black Hops as a whole, despite my prediction for G.O.A.T.(5) being way too conservative. I thought it wouldn’t quite crack the top ten, perhaps reserving the honour for Black Hops Pale(16), but it climbed up 150 places from last year and overtook its stablemate.
I was too conservative with Ballistic’s Hawaiian Haze(6) as well. I should have listened to my Queensland contacts and upped my prediction from top 20, to top 10. Great beer, great marketing and great distribution.
Looking back at what I wrote about Brick Lane, it was a little dumb to suggest they would improve, but not to get inside the top 40 when their top beer had already reached number 42. Clearly, I pulled the number out of you know where.
Oddly though, One Love dropped one place, making my ‘no top 40’ prediction watertight. And since Base Lager (64) climbed four places, and Red Hoppy Ale(158) was swapped out for debuts for Avalanche (89) and Brick Lane Draught (53), making it four beers in the H100 instead of three, I’d say my prediction of improvement as a whole was accurate too.
Seems I was too conservative with my prediction for Gipps St Pale (27) too. I said it would move up between five and ten places. Instead, it rose by twelve. I was out by two! I’m takin’ it anyway.
And my outside chance, the one I defied many by sticking with, including the brewer himself, prevailed. Hawkers West Coast IPA(86) did even better than I hoped.
I got it wrong with Deeds and underestimated Juice Train(77). It’s risen 186 places since the 2019 H100.
It’s not their only beer to win votes either. Five can be found in the New Craft Beers list.
- 38 (179) Deeds A Quiet Deed – Oat Cream IPA
- 26 (265) Deeds Daughters of Neptune – Hazy IPA
- 73 (301) Deeds Peanut Butter Imperial Stout – Imperial Stout
- 82 (328) Once More Into the Fray – Imperial Stout
- 85 (336) Primal Horde – Oat Cream IPA
They’re the leading brewery for beers in the anticipated, higher-priced, limited release market. I had a quick look at other breweries who I regard as playing in the same space, and fellow breweries Mr Banks and Range had only two each in the same list.
- 42 (192) Cake Eater Citra & Mosaic
- 47 (208) Citra Feels
- 43 (194) Yo-Yo Enthusiast – Oat Cream IPA
- 76 (308) Farenheit – NEIPA
I wasn’t wrong about the commentary though, but then you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to make that prediction.
Those who stood aside
Since Black Hops and Hawaiian Haze performed better than I expected, it’s no surprise that some of the previous year’s top ten fell back.
Beechworth Pale Ale fell two places. I’d say I wasn’t pinpoint accurate with this one, but if there’s a beer I’m happy to be wrong about, it’s Beechy Pale.
Falling a surprising 31 places was J-Juice(41). I think the style has something to do with it (more discussion below), but also the packaging.
It’s been suggested that production may have been impacted while changes were made to J-Juice, but I’m not sure I agree with this. Despite running afoul of the ABAC code, the regulator said the required change need not be instant, and they agreed Hop Nation should be allowed to use any cans they already had.
This intrigued me so much that I’ve emailed Hop Nation asking about this. At time of writing I’ve had no response.
As expected, Green Beacon was completely absent from the H100. It still has love though. I found Wayfarer(115) and Windjammer(136) in the ‘Next Craft Beers’ list. If you’d like to hear some interesting thoughts on why the brewery seems to have fallen so fast, Matt Kirkegaard spoke about it on the Brews News Live show.
The one that got away
I’m not calling this one a fail on my behalf. I found Stone & Wood East Point in the New Craft Beers at 94, with an overall rank of 349. It’s still one to watch in the future. The challenge will be finding it next year though. Unless it gets into the Next Craft Beers list – or even higher. A low alcohol Gose in the H100? It’s a bit of a stretch, but we’ll have to wait and see.
And since I’m talking about a low alcohol beer. Higher in the rankings than East Point, was Modus Operandi’s zero alcohol beer, NORT. Oh, I look forward to the comments if a beer like NORT cracks the H100.
A closer look at Hazies
The much-maligned Hazy / New England IPA (I’m just calling them hazy from here on), with its viscous appearance and Instagram appeal, has been dismissed as a fad since it first appeared. But it continues to defy its detractors by seeming to grow more popular.
There’s no doubt all the beers in the H100 are affected by the movement of others. They fall in and out of favour for many reasons. But hazies seem to move more than other styles.
There are more hazies in this year’s poll than ever before. Roughly double the amount since last year.
I’ve looked at 18 beers derived from the hazy style in the 2020 H100, as well as examples from previous years. My observation is they’re more prone to more dramatic jumps in both directions. GOAT, Hawaiian Haze and J-Juice are perhaps the most prominent examples from this year.
Outside the top ten, hazy beers have achieved significant gains since 2019. I mentioned the 186 places Juice Train(77) made up. Beerfarm’s Royal Haze(18) and Dainton’s Jungle rose 92 and 912 respectively. Even Coopers(84) managed a debut with their interpretation of the style.
Some seem to plummet just as rapidly though. Given the relative stability of the top 20 in recent years, Jedi Juice’s fall is dramatic for an indie beer that once inhabited the top ten. Additionally, Capital’s Hang Loose Juice(73) dropped 55 places, and Dainton’s Blood Orange NEIPA(54), another with national distribution, dropped 10.
And consider 3 Ravens Juicy(133). The beer that sat close behind J-Juice among some of the first in its style in Australia, went from 17 in 2017 to 86 the following year. This year it’s no longer in the H100 at all.
Movement in the H100 for beers of the hazy style is erratic and unstable. It’s a reflection of the speed at which they fall in and out of favour with those who seek them out in the real world. It’s a consumer base obsessed with the new shiny thing, only to be distracted minutes later by the next new shiny thing.
GOAT and Hawaiian Haze performed well. They had support from fans, great distribution and adequate promotion. But it’s difficult to disagree that they, and the other rapid risers in the category, took votes away from the likes of Hazy and J-Juice.
I’ll be watching G.O.A.T. and Hawaiian Haze closely next year. It will be interesting to see if they maintain their positions or fall away like their predecessors.
Prior to the release of the 2020 results, Pete Mitcham told me, “Hazies will have one last day the sun.” Could this self confessed ‘pale and stale’ commentator be right?
So again, Balter didn’t drop like a stone. They slipped another place in the top 3, and some of their fellow frothies fell slightly, but they’re not gone by any means.
The number of Balter’s beers in the H100 dropped to five, but there were also three sitting between 101 and 200. Notably, Dry Haze(51), the brewery’s collab with New Zealand superstars Garage Project, had a relatively strong debut.
- 3 Balter XPA -1
- 7 Balter Hazy +1
- 22 IPA -11
- 24 Captain Sensible -4
- 51 Balter Dry Haze Debut
- 144 IIPA’20
- 149 Bunker Buster
- 197 Handsome Elvis
- 216 Dimples
Out of ten other beers in the H100 owned by multinational owned breweries, seven fell further down the rankings. Mountain Goat GOAT (60) lost the least, dropping only one place, but Furphy(98) dropped 61 places, which is the most for a beer of this type. Gaining ground were Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale (79), 4 Pines Pacific(30) and 4 pines Amber(88).
- 30 4 Pines Pale -3
- 88 4 Pines Amber +110
- 60 Mountain Goat GOAT -1
- 66 One Fifty Lashes -34
- 98 Furphy -61
- 69 Creatures -15
- 30 4 Pines Pacific +4
- 12 Feral Biggie Juice -5
- 79 Pirate Life South Coast Pale Debut
- 95 Feral Hop Hog -44
When you consider performance by all brands from multinational owned breweries like CUB and Lion, there seems to still be an affinity for indie.
But Balter is still performing well considering what we’ve come to expect from the buy-out effect. Hazy and XPA are a testament to the enduring strength of the brand and I think they’ll leave a sour taste in the mouths of many hardcore indie supporters who were once Balter fans for a while to come yet.
Not bad for my first crack. Regardless of how I did, putting them together was fun. Just like GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers should be. I hope you enjoyed my predictions as much as I did writing them.
Something I’ve been working on for a while now is a database of H100 results since its beginning. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to flex my SQL and PHP skills further and provide some comprehensive, real-time stats for the poll. I’m looking forward to developing some algorithms that give analysis not seen before.
Apparently the H100 broke records for participation this year. I’m so glad it did, because it could have gone the other way. And after the hits they’ve taken with events in 2020, they deserve for the H100 to go off with a bang again!
As promised, here are a couple of quotes I was inspired to write after watching ‘Things Beer Nerds Weren’t Saying During the GABS 100’ (for the third or fourth time).
Top banter Klimt.
“You just can’t question the integrity of the GABS Hottest 100. The lengths they’ve gone to keep it honest and accurate is amazing!”
“Since Dan Murphy’s sells one in every three beers sold in the country, I think it makes sense that the top beers are available there.”
“I thought (insert name of juice bomb or lacto shake here) was a great beer, but I understand that quality isn’t necessarily measured by exclusivity and price tag.”