Beards, Brews and Brexit

Scottish comedian Struan Logan ponders the results of the Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers.

The Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers is an excellent yearly snapshot of how the Australian scene has evolved. In the same way, the list itself has changed from a bit of fun for The Local Taphouse’s regulars and staff to an influential chart that’s picked up by mainstream media and noticed by beer scenes around the world. The fact that exciting breweries like Pirate Life, Balter and Bentspoke are nabbing high spots is a testament to their quality, and this year’s tally has been the best representation of the beer scene throughout the Australian continent. However that doesn’t mean I agree with the choices.

I get that some of the reasons I don’t like the list are on me. I know very well that Australia is a country of pale ale drinkers while I love high-percentage dark beers even when it is 40 degrees outside. What bothers me most is the growing divergence between those who can make it on the list and those who cannot.

The Hottest 100 list is undeniably a popularity contest, so new and exciting breweries have an advantage, but the biggest factor is how much money you have to throw around. At least a quarter of the beers have major financial backing that ensures they achieve popularity through advertising rather than quality. This problem will only get worse as craft beer becomes more popular and the lines become ever blurred between what is and isn’t craft, hence this year’s inclusion of Furphy from Little Creatures.

My other gripe is that the important trendsetters have been under represented. La Sirene is one of the most exciting breweries in Australia, melding together old-world farmhouse beers with a true new-world spin. The fact they only have one beer on this list shows something has gone wrong and while there are many excellent breweries mentioned I don’t believe it represents the true diversity of Australia’s craft beer scene.

My suggestion to change the outcome is not to get whiny people like me to write their own version, but to have a panel of industry insiders led by the team from GABS and Crafty Pint, whose votes have more weight than the average voter, therefore slightly tipping the scales back in favour towards innovative beers and watering down the more generic entries.

I realise suggesting this is an unpopular idea. 2016 was very much the year where the “will of the people” was loudly heard. Just before the Brexit vote, British Conservative politician Michael Gove (science’s first successful cross-breed between humanity and creepy child puppets) stated that the British people were tired of experts. Soon after, America went and did that thing we must never speak of. Could Australia follow in the same suit? Oh wait, you already elected Pauline Hanson.

My polling inspiration comes from a pillar of democracy that has carried the wishes of the masses for decades: the Eurovision Song Contest. As many of you will remember, 2014 was a vintage year when Conchita Wurst, Austria’s fabulously bearded beauty, rose like a transitioning phoenix and her victory was hailed as progress for LGBTQIA rights.

Contrary to popular belief, the bearded bombshell was not actually top-voted by the public. Many countries actually voted for to Poland’s entry Donatan Cleo, where ladies with ample bosoms danced around in low-cut tops and completed household chores in a way that looked rather phallic. When it came to dishing out the final scores, Conchita’s entry won because experts down-voted the Polish entry and up-voted Austria. The only exception was Russia, where they did the opposite because much like Putin’s love for topless horse-riding, Russia is secretly more camp than it wants to admit.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that the average Australian beer drinker is becoming more savvy to what is good beer. And whatever you think of the Hottest 100 we can be all be glad it no longer contains Coopers Sparkling Ale.