Independent beer makers give big brewers the boot

Australia’s small and independent brewers have voted overwhelmingly to removing large brewers from the membership of their trade body.

In addition, the body which until known has been called The Craft Beer Industry Association, has been renamed the Independent Brewers Association.

The body said in a statement that the move is intended to create a body that is better placed to address the challenges faced by small brewers in Australia.

Under new rules for what was the Craft Beer Industry Association, membership will be prohibited for brewers that are more than 20 per cent owned by large brewers or other businesses that hold significant brewery holdings in Australia or overseas.

Previously the association had allowed membership by companies such as Little Creatures, Malt Shovel and Mountain Goat, all of which are 100 per cent owned by global brewing concerns.

“This is a great day for our association and for small, independent breweries in Australia,” said Independent Brewers Association chair, Peta Fielding.

“Our industry is a shining light in Australian manufacturing.  There are now more than 400 small, independent brewing businesses, up from just 200 when the association began five years ago.  The industry directly employs more than 2100 people and generates an estimated $655 million in economic output.”

Not everybody involved in the industry welcomed the move.

Chuck Hahn, a master brewer at Lion which owns Little Creatures and Malt Shovel, told the SMH he finds big versus small debate curious.

“If we measure brewers by their scale, and they need investment to achieve that scale, what message are we sending them – if drinkers love your beer and you grow as a result, are you are no longer a legitimate brewer?,” he said. “We believe it is short-sighted for the craft sector to be squabbling among ourselves. We should be working together to build craft in Australia – feeding off one another’s success as we always have done – rather than confusing beer drinkers into thinking ownership structure has any impact on the quality of what they’re drinking.”

New wine distribution company for Australia

Société Jacques Bollinger (SJB), Henschke and Villa Maria have come together to create House of Fine Wine, an Australian distribution company that will offer nationwide supply of premium wines from a single, focused portfolio.

The new company was established after the sale of Fine Wine Partners to Accolade earlier this year. The three family-owned wineries – who all had seats on the advisory board of Fine Wine Partners – are bringing together a customer-focused model that will offer the Australian market premium wines from the three well- known wine brands.

Etienne Bizot, sixth generation of the family and great-nephew of Lily Bollinger, oversees the family’s estates as President and Chairman of Société Jacques Bollinger.

“Represented in the Australian marketplace now for over 100 years, our houses Champagne Bollinger, Champagne Ayala and Cognac Delamain are delighted to continue their close working relationship of a quarter of a century with the Henschke family and more recently Villa Maria’s Fistonich family in the House of Fine Wine,” Bizot said.

The new producer and customer-focused distribution model is unique in that it will allow the three wineries to build their brands through a tightly configured portfolio that places quality at the core of the business. In addition, they’ll dedicate a large percentage of their efforts to the fine wine retail and on-premise side of the business.

The new company will officially launch on 1 June 2017 and will build upon the existing infrastructure developed by Villa Maria with a dedicated sales and marketing team, customer services, supply chain and operational support.

Adelaide brews up huge craft beer week

Adelaide will be at the centre of the craft beer galaxy in July when the South Australian capital hosts five major brewing events in the same week.

The events kick off on Tuesday, July 25, with brewery tours and a three-day trade expo at the Adelaide Convention Centre. The two-day Australian Craft Brewers Conference, also at the convention centre, begins on Wednesday the 26th and culminates with the Craft Beer Awards at Adelaide Oval in the evening of Thursday the 27th.

The Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards
presentation will begin the three-day Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival on Friday July 28.

In its third year, the Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival will run from July 28-30 at the Adelaide Showground and includes the largest and most diverse lineup of brewers and cider makers ever assembled in South Australia.

More than 60 beer and cider brands will headline the main beer hall and the ‘ABBF IPA Soundsystem’ will have 20 rotating IPA taps pouring beers that have never been seen on tap in South Australia, some never in the country.

The BBQ side of the festival will be headlined by larger than life Canadian Chef Matty Matheson, while Regurgitator, Hockey Dad and Ali Barter will pump out the tunes across the three days.

Event director Gareth Evans said having the festival in the same week as the national craft beer conference and awards in Adelaide was a great chance to boost the event’s profile.

“This year ABBF has a huge opportunity to show its wares as a festival and
the brewing industry in SA as a whole, on a national scale,” he said.

“We have really amped up the event and can’t wait to show it off in July.”

More than 400 brewers from around Australia are expected to attend the Australian Craft Brewing Conference. It is the first time the event will be held in Adelaide and will feature renowned brewer, academic, teacher and author Charles Bamforth as its keynote speaker.

Known as the “Pope of Foam”, Dr Bamforth is a statesman of the international brewing industry after a distinguished career as an academic.

Dr Bamforth is also editor in chief of the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, is on the editorial boards of several other journals and has published innumerable papers, articles and books on beer and brewing.

His recent scientific contributions have included the third of a six-part series on beer quality titled Freshness.

The conference program has two streams: the business of beer; and brewery operations. The trade expo sits alongside the conference and is the only one of its kind dedicated to servicing the Australian beer industry.

South Australia has a flourishing craft beer scene of more than 40 brewers and is home to Pirate Life, Prancing Pony and arguably Australia’s first craft brewery, Coopers.

It prides itself as being the “flavour state”, is the main supplier of barley and is a rich source of artisan produce.

Craft brewers from those in the start-up stage to more established national set-ups will be catered for at the CBIA conference. Different business models will be examined and there will be a big focus on ways to maintain quality through growth.  The trade expo continues to grow in reputation and this year will be the largest yet with more than 50 exhibitors representing the entire brewing supply chain.

The Craft Beer Awards will be presided over by 40 of Australia’s best judges who will sample more than 600 of the nation’s finest brews.

Barley genome sequencing good news for beer, whiskey makers

A group of 77 scientists worldwide has sequenced the complete genome of barley, a key ingredient in beer and single malt Scotch. The research, 10 years in the making, has been published in the journal Nature.

“This takes the level of completeness of the barley genome up a huge notch,” said Timothy Close, a professor of genetics at UC Riverside. “It makes it much easier for researchers working with barley to be focused on attainable objectives, ranging from new variety development through breeding to mechanistic studies of genes.”

The research will also aid scientists working with other “cereal crops,” including rice, wheat, rye, maize, millet, sorghum, oats and even turfgrass, which like the other food crops, is in the grass family, Close said.

Barley has been used for more than 10,000 years as a staple food and for fermented beverages, and as animal feed.

It is found in breakfast cereals and all-purpose flour and helps bread rise. Malted barley gives beer color, body, protein to form a good head, and the natural sugars needed for fermentation. And single malt Scotch is made from only water and malted barley.

The report in Nature provides new insights into gene families that are key to the malting process. The barley genome sequence also enabled the identification of regions of the genome that have been vulnerable to genetic bottlenecking during domestication, knowledge that helps to guide breeders to optimize genetic diversity in their crop improvement efforts.

Ten years ago, the International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium, which is led by Nils Stein of the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, set out to assemble a complete reference sequence of the barley genome.

This was a daunting task, as the barley genome is almost twice the size of the human genome and 80 percent of it is composed of highly repetitive sequences, which cannot be assigned accurately to specific positions in the genome without considerable extra effort.

Multiple novel strategies were used in this paper to circumvent this fundamental limitation. Major advances in sequencing technology, algorithmic design and computing made it possible. Still, this work kept teams around the world – in Germany, Australia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United State – occupied for a decade. This work provides knowledge of more than 39,000 barley genes.

Alcoholic beverages have been made from malted barley since the Stone Age, and some even consider this to be a major reason why humankind adopted plant cultivation, at least in the Fertile Crescent, where barley was domesticated.

During malting, amylase proteins are produced by germinated seeds to decompose energy-rich starch that is stored in dry grains, yielding simple sugars. These sugars then are available for fermentation by yeast to produce alcohol. The genome sequence revealed much more variability than was expected in the genes that encode the amylase enzymes.

Barley is grown throughout the world, with Russia, Germany, France, Canada, and Spain being among the top producers. In the United States, barley is mainly grown in the northwest. Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota are the leading producers.

The Nature paper is called “A chromosome conformation capture ordered sequence of the barley genome.”

Photo credit: Close Lab, UC Riverside.

James Boag introduces Epicurean beer range

James Boag has introduced James Boag Epicurean, a limited edition and Australian-first beer offering, crafted for premium dining.

The premium range features two varieties, James Boag Epicurean RED and James Boag Epicurean WHITE.

Inspired by Tasmania’s epicurean culture, the bespoke beer range is co-created by chef and owner of Aria Matt Moran, sommelier Matt Dunne and Boag’s head innovation brewer Simon Hanley.

Intended to accompany red meat dishes, such as wood oven roasted standing ribs or a shoulder of lamb with caramelised onion, Epicurean RED is full flavoured, and amber in colour. The specialty malts selected give a rounded, fuller mouth feel.

In contrast, the floral and fruity aroma and notes of the WHITE are intended for lighter dishes, evoking images of charcoal-barbecued fresh seafood such as Moreton Bay bug, lobster or Tasmanian trout.

“Working with experts in the Australian food sphere, such as Matt Moran and Matt Dunne, allowed us to bring the unique characteristics and finest quality Tasmanian ingredients together in a way that’s not been explored until now,” said Hanley.

“Wine has been lucky to be the natural drink of choice when it comes to fine dining. With the James Boag Epicurean range designed specifically to complement the fine dining experience we’re excited to now see how Epicurean evolves the gastronomical experience for the modern man.”

James Boag Epicurean is launching for a limited three-month availability in a selection of hatted restaurants across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tasmania.


Diageo rolls out new alcohol labelling

Global alcohol producer Diageo has begun rolling out new labelling intended to make it clear how much alcohol consumers are having in each drink.

The labelling introduces clearer ‘icon-led’ on-pack information panels including alcohol content and nutritional information per typical serve.

According to research released by the company, consumers want more information about what’s in their drink and want it presented in a clearer way.

The study found that, of over 1,000 Australians aged 18 and over, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of consumers believe that it is important to have clear information about the number of standard drinks, calorie content and alcohol strength of their beverages.

Research insights also show that women (52 per cent) are significantly more likely to rate clearer labelling very important, than men (38 per cent).

“As part of our commitment to responsible drinking, we’re always looking for ways to help consumers make the most informed decisions around drinking, or choosing not to drink. This initiative helps consumers have clearer information about what’s in their glass, and in a way that they can easily understand it at a glance,” said Diageo spokesperson Kylie McPherson.

Updated labelling - Bundaberg Rum

Research insights also highlight information gaps in existing alcohol labelling – given calories aren’t currently detailed on most labels. Over half (57 per cent) of Australians find it difficult to work out the calorie content within a serve of alcohol, and 87 per cent of people have no understanding of the calorie content in their favourite drink.

Additionally, only one in five (18 per cent) consumers claimed they found it very easy to know how many standard drinks there are per serve of alcohol.

Bundaberg Rum Original is the first brand to receive the updated information panels and will be followed by a roll out across the wider Diageo portfolio.

Bob Hawke launches his own beer

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who famously once held the world record for downing a yard glass, has unveiled a beer bearing his own name.

Hawke’s Lager made its debut yesterday at the Clock Hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills and the 87 year-old Labor Party stalwart had the honour of pouring the first beer.

“How’s that for a pour?” Hawke said as he did the honours. “A lovely beer.”

As Good Food points out, the beer was the brainchild of Nathan Lennon and David Gibson who came up with the idea during their time working in a New York Advertising agency.

According to Lennon, it all happened on Australia Day. “It was minus 5 degrees outside. We were getting homesick and we realised all our friends were back home having nice cold beer in the sun. So we started talking about who we’d most like to have a beer with and we landed on Bob Hawke,” he said.

Hawke agreed to the project on the provision that his share of the profits be donated to Landcare, Australia’s largest environmentally-focused movement.

The brew itself contains 4.5% ABV and is brewed with all-Australian ingredients. According to the brewer’s website, it has a subtle citrus aroma, light bitterness and a gentle dry finish.

Right now, it can be purchased from 11 pubs across Sydney and Newcastle. However, it will be rolling out to the rest of Australia throughout 2017.

Gin from Adelaide named world’s best

The Adelaide Hills Distillery’s 78 Degrees Gin was awarded the Best International Gin at the American Distilling Institute Awards held last night in Baltimore, Maryland U.S.A.

Apart from this award, judges also awarded the gin a double gold medal.

The awards add to others won by Adelaide Hills Distillery, which took out gold in last year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Artisans in a growing craft spirit industry, the company is planning to open a new distillery later this year as part of the Premium Adelaide Hills Beverage Experience.

“We started out making 78 Degrees Gin and have moved on to creating some other amazing small batch spirits like our Gunnery Australian Spiced White Rum and The Italian, a Campari style spirit, as well as some really unique trial batches and collaborations – but it’s fantastic to see that our original 78 Degrees Gin is now considered to be one of the best in the world” said Sacha La Forgia, Head Distiller and Founder.

“I don’t really like to pick favourites, but this one’s a no brainer really. We use a really unique blend of botanicals and individually vapour infuse each of them. We are just thankful that the judges saw how good the gin coming out of South Australia and the Adelaide Hills really is.

“The future is exciting for us and we have embarked on an intensive Australian Native Botanical Program as well.”

Cricketers Arms launches mid-strength craft beer

Cricketer’s Arms has added Session Ale to its line-up, a 3.5 per cent ABV ale for consumers seeking a mid-strength craft beer that doesn’t compromise on taste.

Available on and off premise from April, the beer joins the the brewer’s other offerings: Keeper’s Lager, Spearhead Pale Ale and Scorcher Summer Ale. Session Ale is available in 6 x 4 375ml cans and is an evolution of the can design currently in the market.

“Session Ale proves that your beer doesn’t need to be high strength to taste good, with the 3.5% ABV tasty as ever,” said Hamish McArthur, Cricketers Arms Brewer.

“With an IBU of 26, this refreshing ale is hoppy but not especially bitter, balanced with full malt character from three malts and three hops, including our Cricketers Arms signature Amarillo hops.”

Cricketers Arms is brewed in Melbourne and was created 10 years ago by Paul Scott as a tribute to his father. As a boy, Scott would watch on as his father played cricket and shared beers with the opposing team post- match.

“Session Ale will help continue the growth of both the craft beer and mid- strength categories, by providing a consumer preferred full flavoured beer,” said Sarah Wilson, Brand Manager – Beer, Asahi Premium Beverages.

“For retailers, it introduces a greater range of craft mid-strength offers, which will increase penetration of the segment and at the same time trade shoppers up into a higher dollar per litre brand.”

Celebrating 10 years of craft beers

The Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival, taking place on Saturday 18 March, is set celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Running from 11am – 6pm in the grounds of the heritage Mercure Canberra, the event will feature breweries from across Australia along with live bands, food, entertainment and kids’ activities.

The festival is recommended for all beer and cider enthusiasts – from beginners to budding craft brewers. Over 100 beers and ciders will be available for tasting and visitors will be able to take part in beer/cider food matching sessions, hear guest speakers, and meet the brewers.

Breweries exhibiting will include the multi-award winning Sydney Brewery, Thatchers, Little Creatures, Dad and Dave’s Brewing, Stone Dog Meadery, Yenda, Hope Estate Beer Co and many others from across Australia.

This year, the Festival will help raise funds for ACT Cancer Support, a locally based organisation that currently provides support for 950 patients.

Brazilian-inspired Anheuser-Busch InBev earnings drop causes concern

It seems beer drinking is on the nose as the world’s biggest beer maker suffers its first profit decline in its decade-long history. 

Stock prices for the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev fell as much as 3.3 per cent as the company’s fourth-quarter results missed estimates at almost all levels with the Belgium-based beer maker continuing to struggle with a slump in its key market of Brazil.

It’s “another shocker, but that’s the trough,” wrote Eamonn Ferry, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas told the Denver Post. “We had feared the worst this quarter, and so it is. There may well be an element of kitchen-sinking here.”

Spending power in Brazil, AB InBev’s largest market after the U.S., is nosediving amid record rates of unemployment, leading to a decline in AB InBev’s market share and a 33 per cent drop in earnings in that country.

The maker of well-known brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser maintained its final dividend at 2 euros a share and warned that growth in such payments will be modest as it tries to curtail its $USD108 billion debt.

As the Wall Street Journal has noted, “a stale beer market leaves the investment case for Anheuser-Busch InBev, which brews seven of the top 10 global brands, heavily reliant on cost savings. Yet reviving interest in the drink is crucial in the long run.”


Welfare Group calls for taxes on sugary drinks, alcohol

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called on the Government to implement a raft of measures, including taxes on alcohol and sugary drinks, as an alternative to budget cuts.

“After two years of chasing the ill-conceived 2014 Budget cuts, it’s time the Government recast its Budget strategy and moved on from the one-sided focus on spending cuts, particularly in social security,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“ACOSS proposes a suite of measures that will save $9.4 billion by 2018-19 in addition to putting $4 billion into critical social infrastructure to reduce poverty and inequality in Australia.

“Australia is a low-spending country on social security, spending just 9% of GDP on welfare compared with the OECD average of 12.4%. We are also the sixth lowest taxing country of 34 OECD countries.”

The welfare group says the revenue accrued from the changes should be used to reform these welfare payments.

Specifically, ACOSS wants a ‘sugar tax’ on sweetened drinks that it says would save $500m in 2018-19. In addition, the organisation wants the Government to abolish the Wine Equalisation Tax and WET Rebate, and tax wine and ciders at (two) uniform rates. This, it says, would save $2,300m in 2018-19.

Goldie said that, apart from raising revenue, these measures “should improve public health and help ease future pressures on the health care system”.

Further measures proposed by ACOSS include changes to capital gains tax, deductions to negative gearing, removal of the private health insurance rebate, abolishing the extended Medicare safety net, and superannuation contribution reforms.

Green ants are flavour of the month in Australian gins

Green ants and other ancient foods from one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures are being used as botanicals in Australian craft gins.

Two distilleries in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia have this month released gins made with green ants, a traditional indigenous food eaten for thousands of years by the Australian Aborigines for their high protein and medicinal benefits.

The gins also use a range of other native botanicals to provide a fresh Australian interpretation of a London Dry Gin.

Applewood Distillery released its Green Ant Gin on Valentine’s Day (February 14) while Something Wild Beverages will launch its Australian Green Ant Gin today (February 22).

Adelaide Hills Distillery is making the gin under contract for newly-formed Something Wild Beverages, a division of native food company Something Wild, which specialises in sustainably sourced indigenous foods such as kangaroo, wallaby, magpie goose, native herbs and fruits.

Adelaide Hills Distillery founder and head distiller Sacha La Forgia said it took him several months to be persuaded to eat green ants and allow them to be put in his still.

“But once I did it was like an incredible flavour explosion in my mouth of lime and coriander flavours as well as a fresh acidic zing,” he said.

“It was just beautiful and I thought straight away ‘wow, they exist to be in gin’.”

A “pinch” of  green ants, which are sourced under permit from the Northern Territory, are also put into the bottles in the same way worms are used in tequila to provide the finishing touch.

“That acidic zing doesn’t carry over in the still so we include some ants in every bottle and it just lifts the palate a bit,” La Forgia said.

“By putting them in the bottle, I’m hoping to encourage people to eat one and taste it.

“When people try one their eyes light up and they get a big smile on their face.”

Other Australian native foods used as botanicals in the gin include finger lime, pepper berry, the native juniper boobialla and leaves from strawberry gum and lemon myrtle trees.


“By using more leaves I was able to use less juniper while still maintaining those same characteristics that you would normally associate with gin,” La Forgia said.

The Australian Green Ant Gin has an ABV of 42 per cent and is priced at AU$97.50 on the Something Wild Beverages website for a 700ml bottle.

The company aims to have national and possibly international distribution for the product, depending on demand.

Under the collaboration between Adelaide Hills Distillery and Something Wild, profits from the botanicals gathered on Aboriginal lands flow back into those Outback communities.

“I think now is quite an important time because we are seeing the popularity of native foods increasing very quickly,” La Forgia said.

“It’s a feel good thing but it’s also very necessary to make sure that these ingredients are sustainable and that they are still there in the future.”

Meanwhile, Applewood Distillery’s Green Ant Gin is almost sold out of its limited edition of 300 bottles. The 500ml bottles are also 42 per cent ABV and cost $120 each.

Previous limited edition gins at the distillery, based in the Adelaide Hills village of Gumeracha, have included torpedoing gin with lavender and distilling gin through saltbush.

The Green Ant Gin features ants sourced under permit from New South Wales as well as a number of other native botanicals.

Head distiller Brendan Carter said the response to the gin had been “insane” and he expected the 300 bottles to be sold out by the end of the month.

He said the main constituent that gave the green ants their distinctive sharp, citrus flavour was formic acid.

“In this particular one we also wanted to emphasise the native citruses, which I think a lot of people are getting their heads around at the moment so there’s finger limes and a little bit of strawberry gum leaf in there too,” Carter said.

“Our limited editions are a complete once off so we’ll do that and move on to something else challenging and uber creative in typical Applewood fashion.”


This article first appeared in The Lead.

Australia’s first lentil beer sure to have pulses racing

AUSTRALIA’S first lentil beer has been released by a craft brewery in the Adelaide Hills.

Lobethal Bierhaus’ Lentil Pale Ale was launched this week following an approach by pulse processor AGT Foods.

Only about 3500 bottles and two kegs are part of the first run but the brewery sees it as a first step towards producing a gluten free craft beer.

Whole and diamond cut red lentils with grey seed coats are used as an adjunct and are milled with the with the grain at the rate of 30 per cent lentils, 70 per cent barley.

Lobethal Bierhaus Head Brewer and Owner Alistair Turnbull although the lentils did not produce fermentable sugars, they added mouthfeel, head retention and flavour to the beer.


“I would describe it as a fairly earthy flavour that we’ve balanced with local hops that matches with it. But we’ve also tried to make sure that we haven’t made it overly bitter or hoppy so it hides the lentil flavour,” Turnbull said.

The brew follows a collaboration between AGT Foods’ Canadian parent company and Rebellion Brewing Company in Regina, Saskatchewan, to brew a Lentil Cream Ale.

“They put me in touch with the Canadian brewery to pass on some of their research and the beer we released yesterday was the result of that,” Turnbull said.

“I’m already really impressed with how it behaves. What it does for the beer is fantastic.

“The guys from the Rebellion Brewing Company in Canada came here yesterday as well and they were quite impressed with it, they said it tasted great.”

Lobethal Bierhaus opened in 2007 in the Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal, about 40km east of the South Australian capital Adelaide. It includes a bespoke Malthouse (one of the very first of its kind in Australia), an all grain microbrewery (brew length 1200 litres), cellar door and restaurant.

Turnbull said the brewery’s ability to malt its own grain meant a further collaboration with AGT Foods to source sorghum or a similar grain to produce a full-flavoured gluten free product was a real possibility.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are coeliacs and they’d like to drink craft beer but they can’t,” he said.

“A lot of the beers that are gluten free tend to be more mainstream as opposed to full flavour so there’s a bit of a window there and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.

“I’m getting a huge amount of interest from that perspective.”

AGT Foods South Australian Business Manager Hayden Battle said as far as he was aware, the Lentil Pale Ale was the first beer in Australia to use lentils.

He said the company approached Lobethal Bierhaus because they wanted to use the product as a marketing tool for AGT Foods and the broader Australian Pulse industry.

“Most people like beer so it was a good opportunity to use that to our advantage,” he said.

“The majority of pulses produced in Australia are exported to be consumed overseas so if we can place the spotlight on pulses in some small way then it’s probably a good project that’s a bit of fun.”

“We’ve had discussions around creating a gluten free beer and we’re trying to source some white sorghum out of our New South Wales plant that Alistair can play around with.

“Perhaps we can also look at doing something with fava beans or chick peas in the future.”

This article first appeared in The Lead.


Rocks Brewing releases Nectarine Wit Bier

Rocks Brewing has released a new beer, namely the Conviction Series Seasonal Nectarine Wit Bier.

Originally made in Belgium’s regional areas, Witbier is believed to date back to the 1400s. The soil in these areas was rich and agrarianism was strong with farmers growing crops of barley, wheat and oats, all of which were used to brew traditional Witbiers.

This style of beer is readily open to interpretation and the company has gone to work on crafting an intriguing new take on this historical beer.

A traditional Belgium Witbier is brewed using at least 50 per cent wheat and often oats in the grist. Utilising state of the art mash filter, this new Nectarine Witbier is brewed using 75 per cent wheat, along with oats that lend the beer a beautiful creamy texture and dry finish.

Straying from tradition and adding to the intrigue and complexity of the beer, fresh nectarines have been added throughout the brewing process along with a selection of spices including coriander, ginger & all spice. As a result, this brew is a fruity, tart, spicy, light and intricate thirst quencher.

This beer is a live ale with yeast and fruit present in the cask, the beer will evolve over time heading from fresh and fruity to a more tart almost sour and funky beer, a beer that is ever refreshing yet keeps the drinker thinking and engaged.

Appearance: Pale straw with an almost milky haze and a tight white head.

Aroma: A clove and star anise style spice with sweet nectarine lingering.

Flavour: Initial nectarine sweetness finishing dry and tart.

Alcohol: 4.4 per cent abv

Sydney distillery in running for international gin title

A small Western Sydney distillery’s signature creation is in the running to be named the world’s best traditional gin after taking out the Australian title at a prestigious international awards competition.

The family-run Ironbark Distillery in Richmond NSW was awarded the title of Australia’s best traditional gin for its 313 Dry Gin in the World Gin Awards on December 18. The competition is part of the World Drink Awards and features entries from across the globe.

To win the title, Ironbark Distillery shone during a six-month testing program and will now be judged against four international competitors for the world’s best title which will be named on March 30, 2017 at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel in London.

To be named world’s best traditional gin, Ironbark Distillery will take on competitors from Canada, Germany, the UK and USA. The winner of Best Traditional Gin will then also be in the running for the ultimate prize of being named World’s Best Gin.

Master Alchemist and Ironbark Distillery Director Reg Papps says winning the award as Australia’s Best Traditional Gin is a major coup for the young distillery which he opened with his wife Greta just three years ago.

“We’re excited and a little overwhelmed by the award win and the opportunity to be named both the world’s best traditional gin, and potentially, the world’s best gin,” he said.

“Even to be in consideration for such an accolade is more than we could ever have imagined when we took the plunge to put everything on the line and follow our dream to open the distillery. It just reinforces for us that you should never to be scared to try something new, no matter what stage of life you’re at.

The latest accolade is confirmation that the stellar reputation Ironbark Distillery has built so rapidly is well deserved. In just its first year it was named Australian Gin Distillery of the Year (2015) at the Melbourne International Spirit Awards and in 2016 it collected multiple medals at the renowned San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The distillery produces six products – two gins, two moonshines, a vodka and a chai spirit – with Reg’s creations combining Australian-grown grain with impeccable flavours that are proofed with purified, sterilized water sourced locally.

The spirits are filtered through a carbon filter system built by Reg, made in a specially-designed still and bottled by hand.

Ironbark’s 313 Dry Gin is also in competition at the Chinese Wine and Spirit Awards, the biggest and most prestigious wine and spirits awards across Hong Kong and China. Winners will be decided on February 20.

Doctors call for end to alcohol sponsorship of cricket

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is calling for an end to alcohol sponsorships in cricket, with currently more than 20 alcohol-related sponsorships in cricket across Australia.

The RACP is concerned about the impact alcohol promotion has on young cricket fans – a sentiment backed by the majority of Australians, with 61 per cent concerned about the exposure of children to alcohol promotions in sport.

RACP Paediatrics & Child Health Division President, Dr Sarah Dalton, says it’s unacceptable that young children are being bombarded with alcohol promotion both at the ground and at home watching on TV.

“It is time for a national conversation to discuss how big brewers are using sport as a channel to market their product, leaving our children as the collateral damage,” explained Dr Dalton. “It is happening in too many Australian sports and it needs to stop.

“These promotions normalise alcohol, with Australian kids getting the message that alcohol is an important part of socialising and sports,” said Dr Dalton.

“During one of the VB ODI games, I urge you to keep a tally of how many times you spot an alcohol ad or logo, either at the ground, on a player’s shirt, or in an advert on TV – I’m sure the number would surprise and shock you.

“Sadly, we know this type of marketing leads children and adolescents to start drinking earlier and makes young drinkers prone to binge drinking patterns.

Dr Dalton also criticised the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) who she says need to do more to ensure children are protected during sports broadcasts.

“Sports are the only programs allowed to broadcast alcohol advertisements before 8:30pm, on weekends and public holidays, at times when children are most likely to be watching television. Because of this it’s estimated that children under the age of 18 are exposed to 50 million alcohol advertisements each year.

“As a paediatrician, I am interested in finding out why this is allowed to happen. The ACMA needs to step up, remove this loophole, and help protect Australian children from alcohol promotion.”

Dr Dalton encouraged Cricket Australia and the ACMA to review the RACP’s Alcohol Policy, which calls for national, comprehensive, evidence-based strategies to combat the harms of alcohol.



Putting the focus back on Australian Sauvignon Blanc

For almost eight years, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has dominated the Australian white wine market, leaving local winemakers searching for a way to dethrone the top-selling Kiwi brands.  For Burch Family Wines, this means adjusting the production techniques used on their Margaret River and Great Southern vineyards.

Natalie Burch, Operations Manager and Director for Howard Park Wines, says that the key to creating a worthy opponent to our rival across the Tasman isn’t in imitation, but distinction.

“[NZ Sauvignon Blanc has] been very successful, but it’s not something Australia could replicate because we aren’t New Zealand,” said Burch. “So producers, like ourselves, who have Sauvignon Blanc planted have looked at how to differentiate ourselves and make the wines more interesting to drink.”

The aim for Burch Family Wines is to create a drink that hits the mark in its own right and is known for its exceptional quality and food friendliness. In this attempt to contrast the much-loved New Zealand varietal, they have carefully applied innovative techniques to their winemaking process.

“The main difference is oak,” explained Burch. “We tend to do a little barrel fermentation in French oak or extended lees/skin contact. It softens the fruit acidity of the wine a little and adds more richness and complexity.”

Demand for Australian-made Sauvignon Blanc has gone up in recent years, despite the fact that they often come with a higher price tag. This can be due, in part, to their distinctive flavours, richness and complexity, which makes them well worth the price.

As Australian winemakers become more eager to reclaim the white wine market, innovation will undoubtedly follow. This commitment to bettering the much-loved varietal demonstrates how wine drinkers can benefit from the ever-evolving nature of the industry.

“It’s a very exciting time in the industry; overall, the wines Australia are making now are better than we’ve ever made before because it is hypercompetitive,” said Burch. “There’s so much to try and enjoy. It’s a great time to be an Australian wine drinker.”

Cellar doors drive boutique winery growth in Australia

Cellar door and mail order sales are driving strong growth for small wineries, the latest survey results published by Wine Australia has found.

The trend is helping producers with estimated annual crushes of less than 500 tonnes make inroads into a market dominated by huge wine companies in recent decades.

Small winemaking businesses generated $1.1 billion in wine sales revenue in 2015–16, an average increase of 12 per cent, according to the Small Winemaker Production and Sales Survey 2016 released this week by Wine Australia in South Australia.

While retailers and wholesalers generated 47 per cent of income for small producers, cellar doors have become increasingly important sales channels, accounting for 29 per cent of domestic sales. Cellar door and mail order channels showed the largest growth, both increasing by 7 per cent for the 12-month period.

Barossa Valley producer Whistler Wines crushes about 100 tonnes a year, producing about 6000 cases. It relies on about 10 food and music themed events a year in its native Australian bush setting coupled with regular cellar door traffic to attract visitors.

Owner, grape grower and winemaker Josh Pfeiffer said using winery events and the cellar door to reach new customers and build a database of clients was crucial.

He said being able to offer something different that wasn’t widely available elsewhere and reflected the provenance of the region appealed to visitors.

“We get people coming in here every day saying they are only interested in coming to small independent wineries – they want to meet the people behind the wine and learn something,” he said.

“That’s translating across the trade as well, where wine buyers from restaurants and hotels are wanting independent, smaller brands on their lists and customers of theirs are requesting that as well.

“It’s the same in retail too with the smaller independent bottle shops.”

According to the Wine Australia report, small wineries only exported about 12 per cent of their wine, which is consistent with Whistler Wines’ experience, while exports made up more than 60 per cent of Australian wine sales industry wide.

Pfeiffer said once people had visited the Barossa cellar door they were encouraged to join the 10,000-strong mailing list where they were given access to online specials.

“For us it’s about getting people here and then keeping them here for long enough for them to remember us and want to come back,” he said.

“We do 70 per cent of our sales direct to customers and that’s one of the only reasons we are able to survive.

“If we were giving away 35 per cent to distributors or selling wholesale then all of a sudden you’re not making the margin that you need to make.”

Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers CEO Judith Kennedy said cellar door and mail order sales helped small wine companies maintain margins and bypassed the challenges some faced of securing distribution in major cities.

She said the ability to value add to a wine business through gift sales, accommodation and eateries attached to cellar doors also provided opportunities for new revenue streams.

“It can take a long time for a little wine company to become profitable but cellar doors are certainly part of the answer,” Kennedy said.

“People love the experience of actually being there, talking with the winemaker if they’re lucky and talking with the people who have had hands on experience with the wine.

“The cellar door industry in general is more buoyant now than ever.”

Research released in 2015 by the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg Bass Institute found that a visit to a winery’s cellar door had a lasting effect on consumer behaviour, influencing their buying habits for months afterwards.

“If they like the wine and they’re OK with the price then they’ll join the mailing list and they’ll buy the wine on a regular basis,” Kennedy said.

“As their volumes increase and they have a few good harvests they put the money into improving their cellar doors.

“Sometimes you’ll find tremendously humble little cellar doors and you go back there five years later and they’ve got this beautiful establishment and a line of people going out the door.”

The 223 survey responses from Australian small wine businesses also found:

Production was up 7 per cent, with the highest average growth in wineries that produce 70,001–170,000 litres (8000–20,000 cases) (up 11 per cent).

Average revenue growth was 12 per cent in 2015–16.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of the wineries surveyed make all of their wine in their own facilities.

On average, two-thirds of grapes used by small wineries were grown in their own vineyards.

South Australia produced 51 per cent of the nation’s crush in 2016 and about 75 per cent of Australia’s premium wine from some of the oldest vines in the world.

Its 18 regions include the Barossa Valley, which is home to iconic brands such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass.


This article first appeared on The Lead.

Riverland craft beverages on show at Rivafest


A revitalized Rivafest will be held on the banks of the Murray River in Renmark this Saturday 14th January.

The event previously held throughout the day will take on a new time format under the stars (from 5pm until 11pm), and will provide an opportunity for visitors and locals to soak up the relaxed, laid back Riverland atmosphere, whilst  savouring the flavours of the Riverland and enjoying the entertainment.

Beer, wine, gin, ciders, expresso martinis, scotch, hard lemonade are just some of the beverages that will be available on the day, along with a huge range of food including yabby paella, Riverland tasting platters, Locally grown wattleseed Pavlova, Flat iron steak burger with Woolshed Brewery Amazon Ale marinade, goat pie, rabbit pie and more.

The Rivafest 2017 entertainment line-up includes the acoustic sounds of local duo Luke & Kassie Heuzenroeder to kick start the evening followed by 2011 X-Factor Runner-up, Andrew Wishart and Adelaide band (former locals) ‘McKenzie’.

Fireworks will also take place at 9.30pm from the river and will light up the balmy summer night sky.

“The timing of the event was brought forward to provide an opportunity for the boutique craft beverages and caterers of the Riverland to showcase their produce during the peak tourism time,” said Director of Corporate and Community Services, Tim Vonderwall. “Moving Rivafest into the cool of the evening will also enable visitors, and locals alike, to experience the Riverland by day and night.”