Well folks, we’ve done it yet again. We’ve made it through another year of lists and countdowns. Whether it be for music, beer or because you were born in March and that somehow means you’re going to be pregnant this year, we can all rest easy knowing we won’t have to vote again until the next federal election.
The more important countdown in our eyes is the GABS Hottest 100 (that’s the Great Australian Beer Spectacular for non-snobs) where people all across Australia (and the world) vote for their favourite beers of the year. The results always yield some controversy, as voters imagine their number 1 beer should be everyone’s numero uno, but this year in particular has left WA breweries a little deflated.
Firstly, let me begin by providing the 2018 WA results and their change from 2017;
#10 Gage Roads – Single Fin – DOWN from #5
#53 Feral – Hop Hog – DOWN from #14
#57 Gage Roads – Little Dove – DOWN from #11
#60 Colonial – Pale Ale – DOWN from #59
#62 Little Creatures – Pale Ale – DOWN from #26
#66 Gage Roads – Atomic Pale – DOWN from #35
#72 Nail – VPA – DOWN from #31
#96 Colonial – South West Sour – NEW BEER
#100 Feral – Biggie Juice – DOWN from #83
So, there’s that.
Now add to that the fact that the following beers didn’t even get a mention in the top 100 in 2018…
Feral – War Hog - #32 in 2017
Colonial – Small Ale - #58 in 2017
Colonial – IPA - #65 in 2017
Little Creatures – Dog Days - #67 in 2017
Feral – Tusk - #75 in 2017
Beerfarm – IPL - #88 in 2017
Little Creatures – Bright Ale - #98 in 2017
Little Creatures – Rogers #99 in 2017
and then we can factor in that Colonial and Little Creatures have conducted the majority of their brewing over east for quite a while now, bringing the true number of WA beers in the GABS hottest 100 down to a pitiful 6. This makes WA the 3rd least successful state or territory in the country (after the NT and Tasmania).
While some of these statistics might shock some people, others will completely dismiss them and the GABS vote altogether, pinning it down as a big popularity contest where big beer is the only winner. Such thoughts hold true in certain regards, but the vote still provides us with some amazing insight into the beer industry. With that in mind, let’s try to break down the reasons for the WA dive.
ACCESS TO MARKET
This is an obvious one. Perth people largely drink WA beers because they are a) available and b) delicious, but it’s a national contest and,
Given that WA contains only roughly 10% of the country’s population, it stands to reason that WA beers would only get so many votes.
This effect is accentuated by the fact that it’s extremely hard for WA breweries to pierce the eastern states market. But once we dig a little deeper it is found that even those breweries with eastern states supply chains have suffered this year.
Little Creatures took some major damage, and I can only imagine it’s because of their drive behind the Furphy brand and perhaps looking toward the future success of the company. Gage Roads slipped a fair way as well which is possibly attributed to their focus on providing beers for the new Perth Stadium and the local market, which is experiencing huge success and perhaps they have eased up their push into the east for now. Lastly, Feral Brewing Company’s takeover from Coca Cola has seen them being punished even though they would now have access to better supply chains than in the past.
CANS vs. BOTTLES
I feel silly for even writing this, but packaging impacts hugely on consumer choice, and guess what? Only 33% of WA beers in the 2018's top 100 were available in cans (until recently anyway), which is a big deal when compared to a whopping 77% overall (up from 32% in 2016!) Is it a case of Little Creatures, Feral and Gage Roads being too late to the tinnie party? Or can they redeem themselves in future years?
There’s no doubting that as each year goes by, beers become more complex, and consumers demand new and different products constantly to keep them entertained and interested. The idea of an ‘old faithful’ beer has all but diminished as people get a taste for something bigger and better and switch their go-to beer on a monthly basis.
Many of the WA beers that once championed the GABS hottest 100 have now done a few laps around the sun and with that age, comes a diminishing interest in the product. Take for example, the Feral Hop Hog which stayed in the top 4 between 2010 and 2016 before plummeting, and Little Creatures Pale Ale, which had a great run in the top 5 between 2008 and 2015 before its demise. Similar falls are capable especially if the beer fails to penetrate larger consumer groups over the years, and regardless of whether the beer itself has been constantly modified to push the limits of the style and stay fresh.
INDEPENDENCE IS KING
Some people might slam the GABS vote as a popularity contest rather than a best beer contest, but one bias stands out year after year, and that is once a brewery sells out to a larger company, people stop voting for those beers. It’s an old catch 22 for us over in the West. If a brewery wants to pole high in the GABS vote, they need a firm hold on the eastern states market, but the only way to get that hold is generally via a buy out to a multinational, which in turn means people won’t vote for their beers.
The year Feral Brewing Company sold to Coca Cola, it dropped from 7 total beers in the 100 down to 3 beers
(with the highest voted beer dropping from 3rd to 14th), the year after the sale they dropped to only 2 beers in the 100 with their highest rating beer coming in at #53.
Disregarding all of the above, I was still surprised to see Nail VPA fall as it did, which I can only pin down to a massive increase in competition; The craft beer industry is exploding all over the country, and as the market becomes saturated, its harder for WA beers to find space on the shelf of a liquor store.
With that all being said, does it really matter? I know for a fact that WA makes some of the craftiest damned craft beer in the country. From Rocky Ridge releasing a new canned beer almost every week to Nail Brewing providing some of the tastiest staple beers known to man, I think we can all rest easy knowing that we don’t need some list to tell us what to drink, and to be honest, I’d prefer to keep it our little secret anyway.
Or am I just a #salty, biased, Perthite?
For all the GABS results, head to https://www.gabsfestival.com/h100-2018-aus-main-list