A South Australian brewery last night claimed top prize at The Indies, a national competition celebrating the best of independently brewed craft beer.
Mismatch Brewing Lager was the judges' overall favourite in a victory for subtlety and elegance over the more robust and outlandish styles that craft brewers are better known for.
"I'm in shock and completely humbled. I'm super proud of the brewing crew and everyone who has supported Mismatch," co-founder Ewan Brereton said.
"The lager category has always copped a poor rap in the craft beer world and ultimately I wanted to change that perception. It's a style of beer that takes a lot of precision and care – there's nowhere to hide faults. So to receive this award is incredible," he said.
A roaming brew
Mismatch was founded in 2013 as a 'gypsy brewer', using other breweries' facilities to produce its beers.
Only this year has the company opened its own brewery in the Adelaide Hills, using water from bores drilled on site rather than the more typical mains supply.
"This water source is then directed to a reverse osmosis system that takes the water to a pure demineralised state. With this pure water, we have the ultimate canvas to construct our lager," Mismatch says.
Old faves come through
Sydney-based Modus Operandi Brewing Company continued its remarkable record in beer competitions, claiming Champion Large Independent Brewery along with the trophies for best India Pale Ale (#Gainz) and also Hybrid Beer (Vanilla Mocha Stout).
Modus launched in 2014 and won Champion Small Brewery the same year at the Craft Beer Awards – as The Indies was formerly known – and Champion Medium Brewery in 2015.
"The industry is becoming more competitive and consumers expect more, so we've worked just as hard if not harder every year," co-founder Jaz Wearin said.
"We were very chuffed to pick that up last night as this has been a very big year for us. We've pushed the boundaries by doing a whole bunch of limited edition beers and getting them out nationally."
That awesome feeling
Melbourne's Boatrocker Brewing won Champion Medium Brewery along with trophies for best Strong Beer (Ramjet) and Mixed Culture Beer (Daddy Koel).
"You never expect to win anything when you put something in, but it's an awesome feeling when you do," said Boatrocker founder Matt Houghton.
Ramjet is an Imperial Stout aged in barrels that have previously held whisky from Melbourne distillery Starward, while Daddy Koel is the result of Boatrocker's experiments with fermentation in a traditional coolship vessel.
Champion Small Brewery went to Moffatt Beach Brewing Co, a tiny operation on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.
"We are probably one of the smallest breweries in the country – we've got a shitty 300 litre system," co-founder Matt Wilson said, accepting the award.
"I work around the clock, so this makes it all worth it."
There were a total of 756 entries in the awards. Pale Ale remains the dominant style, with 179 entries of which 14 were awarded gold medals, 42 silver and 70 bronze.
New look awards
The Indies is the new identity of the competition previously known as the Craft Beer Awards, established in 2014.
Contest organiser the Craft Beer Industry Association was rebooted last year as the Independent Brewers Association, its membership now excluding the craft beer brands owned by multinationals AB InBev and Lion.
Two prominent breweries with a strong track record in the Craft Beer Awards – 4 Pines and Pirate Life – were therefore ineligible for The Indies, both having sold to AB InBev in 2017.
The appearance on the podium of previously unsung breweries such as Mismatch suggests there are plenty of independents ready to fill their shoes.
Check out the gallery above to see the shortlist of champions.