The Sip's Top Dozen Australian Beers of 2019
Our team hates listicles. They’re cheap and lazy forms of journalism. And the beer media is full of them.
But we’re going to be hypocrites and put one together for the end of 2019. After all, it is the season for giving – and forgiving.
The House of The Sip is fortunate (we won’t use the ‘we’re so lucky’ line overused by bloggers) to try a wide range of brews either at home, at pubs, on interstate business travels each year.
Some are fresh releases, a few are small one-off batches and several become favourites.
Unlike the alleged social media influencers our team doesn’t automatically consider every new brew supplied by sample is the best beer in the world.
Indeed, one of the occupational hazards of being a beer connoisseur is that some beers thrust at you just aren’t up to scratch. It is mischievous to think there is a brewing utopia where there aren’t any bad examples.
However, there are plenty of drops that are sensational. They are the ones we cherish and want to go back to. And that has been a policy for The Sip during the Year of the Pig. We’ve preferred to return to the troughs with the good tastes and flavours.
And we’ve kept a comprehensive list (sorry, but it is unavoidable) of those beers. Our favourites are contained in the 12 mentioned in this report.
There are a few guidelines in displaying The Sip’s Top Dozen Beers of 2019.
A brewery can only get one mention to share the love around.
We weren’t compelled to mention any breweries with which we brew, holiday with or with whom we have commercial arrangements (easy to do when there aren’t any).
The beers don’t have had to be new releases in 2019. Why discount established brews if they were enjoyed during the year?
We weren’t searching for “woke” beers. Indeed, many on the list (there it is again) are available in – dare we say it – Dan Murphy’s and First Choice Liquor. Some did come via our good friends at the ever reliable Copper and Oak.
There is no order. Since not all beers were consumed at the same session it would be unfair to try to rank them.
And we waited until 2019 was over before revealing the list to allow for any latecomers from the dozens of beers The Sip was offered at the annual family caravan park visit for Christmas.
THE SIP’S TOP DOZEN BEERS OF 2019
White Lakes – Dark Lager (4.8%)
Our team has been enamoured with this beer from the first sip. Indeed, we have been known to drop everything and head straight to the respective establishment on hearing the announcement Dark Lager was on tap. The style isn’t everyone’s first preference – there is something about the shade that raises eyebrows. This Schwarzbier uses eight malts and while it gives a choc taste there is a light mouthfeel. We consider this an adventure beer because it takes the drinkers outside their comfort zone. And it is well worth the risk.
Wayward - Wayward Son Lupulin IPA (7.3%)
This returned in July after a two-year hiatus but and over that period we were missing out on almost perfect IPA, in our humble opinion. The Citra LupuLN2 powder is packed full of fruity sensations that help underpin this brew. It isn’t an IPA if it isn’t piney. This one is. Almost like licking one of those car fresheners shaped in a tree. At 7.3% it also packed a punch on the ABV scale. Our only regret was that we should have bought a carton, not just a four-pack. We’re hoping Wayward, which has been producing some enticing beers in recent times, brings back the Wayward Son Lupulin IPA in 2020.
4 Pines – Draught (4.6%)
One of the benefits of being part of a Big Beer stable is that 4 Pines brews have been appearing at more regular pubs and hotels around the suburbs. The Draught has been popping up with regularity, which is a great sight for those who like craft beers but are required to drink with mates at the more conservative beer establishments they have frequented for decades. The Draught, aka Kolsch, is so accessible that even if it is The Sip’s round and they return with this golden ale there isn’t up-turned noses from the seasoned macro lager drinkers. A bit of lemon and a malty base. Perfect by the pint or schooner.
Northbridge Brewing Company – Kolsch (5%)
There is a bit of a theme here. The Sip likes a Kolsch. Our team finds them so accessible. So, too, is the Northbridge Brewing Company. The Sip has the good fortune of working and living close by the inner city venue and needs very little encouragement to pop in for the Beerland hospitality. It is now mandatory to start any session at the NBC with what we have dubbed ‘Ken’s Kolsch’ out of respect to head brewer Ken Arrowsmith. Noble hops keep this beer within the traditional guidelines. We reckon it is the ale that reminds us of a lager.
Nail – Super VPA (8.5%)
We had to treat this beer with respect, not just because it was made by a brewing team that has had such a wonderful success rate over two decades. But at 8.5% a four-pack can leave a nasty consequence. El Dorado hops make this drop so juicy. The pineapple isn’t as strong as in the regular VPA but it is enough to keep the drinker interested and appeased. More lemon and peel than a corner shop grocery but those ingredients are rounded out by a bitterness that demands another taste.
Coopers – XPA (5.2%) A highly significant beer for the 158-year-old South Australian brewery. While its fare has been widely appreciated – even when it stood out from the macro lagers that dominated the market 35 years ago – Coopers needed a brew that would take them into the craft beer space. There was immediate success with XPA. Simcoe and Lemondrop hops give XPA its edge. The yeasty backbone ensures this beer can’t be anything else but from the Coopers operation. At 5.2% this is also strong enough to keep craft beer types intrigued. This was definitely a brew to be purchased by the carton to ensure it was always on offer in the beer fridge.
Feral – Biggie Juice (6%)
We’re happy to put this on the record. The Sip reckons NEIPA’s are the most overrated beer style on the planet. Give us a regular IPA any day. One of the biggest problems is only a few do NEIPAs well. So to make our list the beer had to be good. Just as Feral gave us a wonderful version of American Pale Ale with Hop Hog 10 years ago, the crew has provided the perfect template for New England India Pale Ale with Biggie Juice – even if the brewery refers to it as an East Coast IPA. Peaches and apricot are wonderful foundations and, dare we say it, the beer is just cloudy enough to befit the style. We drank this to fit in with the cool beer kids of 2019.
Philter – Caribbean Stout (7%)
One of the benefits of monthly beer boxes from internet retailers is the pleasant surprises you would normally haven’t previously got your hands around. Naturally on the west coast we have come across Philter. But we hadn’t tasted the Caribbean Stout until it came in a Craft Cartel Liquor pack midway through the year. What a classic export stout. The key to this example is the use of lager yeast which combined brilliantly with a stash of hops, making this a fruiting example of the dark brewing arts. Chocolate, coffee and a full-bodied mouthfeel make this incarnation almost a meal on its own. We’d like to imbibe on this 12 months of the year.
Gage Roads – Lager (4.7%)
As much as this column is a recognition of 2019, the Gage Roads (celebration) Lager commemorated 15 years of operation from WA’s biggest craft brewery. The one aspect of all Gage Roads beers is that they are very accessible. Nothing complex (and that should be a compliment to the production team), generally not over to top in ABV and easy on the palate. Sure they have deviated from that rule on occasions but the Palmyra crew has built a level of trust with its core belief. It was clearly evident in the Lager, released in time for the birthday. Malty with slight lemony hop notes and a bitter finish. Can’t argue with that from a European-style lager. Here’s hoping it reappears on future birthdays.
Little Creatures – Stout (5.8%)
For a company renowned for its fruity American Pale Ale, Little Creatures has a illustrious dark history. The Dreadnought, Return of the Dread and The Fuggles is Real have been warmly received over the past decade. In 2019 Little Creatures went a bit more downmarket in packaging by simply calling the bottled beer Stout. But it tasted like it suggested in the name. Rich and earthy the label featured the ubiquitous white cherub on black background, making the bottle look like a delivery from heaven. The Fuggle hops make a reappearance to combine with the malts to provide a dark fruity delight.
Two Birds – Sundaze Sippah (5%)
Of the three beers in the enticing Brew Tang Can series we found the Sundaze Sippah the favourite. It hit The Sip’s Beer Laboratory in September just as the joint got a little warmer and became a solid fridge staple. As a Summer Ale our team found this eminently smashable – albeit a word we hate using for its poor adherence to responsible alcohol consumption. But we have to tell the truth. Mosaic and Simcoe give the Sippah a fruity punch but don’t under-estimate the ability of this beer to be a refreshing addition to the Esky for any Sunday barbecue.
Blasta Brewing – List.Loud.React (8.488%)
Firstly, the ABV isn’t a typo. It relates to the address of Blasta Brewing, which knocked heads with US Pale Ale geniuses Stone Brewing to produce what was supposed to be an homage to an Australian tour by Metallica that never happened. Thankfully, the beer came to life. List.Loud.React is amplified by a stack of Citra, Amarillo and Vic Secret hops that sing resin. If we had to rank our top dozen this would have been very high on the betting for number one. We’re not sure if Mettalica is planning on fulfilling its promise to tour downunder but we hope Blasta can ensure this West Coast IPA isn’t just a cameo appearance and consigned to the 2019 archives.