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Feral boss exits as awards head judge, gets IBA support

Feral Brendan Varis. The Sip Beer

Australia’s premier beer awards are seeking a new judge after Feral boss Brendan Varis stepped down from the post in the wake of his brewery’s sale to Coca Cola Amatil.

And other members of the Independent Brewers Association are questioning their subscriptions after the body ruled Feral had to be expelled from the group because of its link to Amatil.

Varis had a two-year assignment with the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria to oversee the judging of the Australian International Beer Awards in 2017 and 2018.

Under the conditions of being Head Judge, Varis' Feral was ineligible to enter any of the AIBA categories.

However, Feral was bought by Amatil last month and the new owners were keen for the brewery to participate in next year’s awards. Varis remains integral to the Feral operation and subsequently informed the RASV he would be acquiescing the desires of the new owners.

Feral is regarded as one of the best beer makers in the country and has been a regular award winner, including champion medium brewery.

Varis can remain as a judge as most of the AIBA panels are constituted of brewers who evaluate style categories in which they do not have entries.

His decision gives the RASV plenty of time to find a replacement for the AIBA position. The awards are judged in early May.

The Sip Beer Laboratory.

The move comes in the same week the IBA deemed Feral couldn’t be a member because its parent, Amatil, has breweries that produce more than 40 million litres of beer a year. Feral disputes Amatil, through its interests in Fiji and Yenda, has reached that level of production.

However, the decision has disappointed other member breweries, who are willing to challenge the decision.

One long-time craft brewery on the eastern side of the country has questioned why it has paid fees under the assumption the body had particular membership criteria only for colleagues that qualify to be expelled.

The IBA, which has around 200 of Australia’s estimated 450 breweries as members, is currently undertaking a review of its governorship model, just six months after it amended its membership structure and changed its name from Craft Beer Industry Association.

Feral was keen to stay in the IBA but accepted if others wanted it out it was content to leave. Others were also happy for Feral to remain while it satisfied the membership criteria.

The focus of Feral followed the bi-annual release of its Imperial India Pale Ale Tusk (Nov 17 – 10.8%) on Friday.


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