According to the age old adage, too many cooks spoil the broth. But does it then follow that too many brewers spoil the beer?
That was the question posed by Melbourne craft beer outfit Moon Dog with its delicious new Hazy IPA, Best In Show.
Collaboration has long been part of the craft beer industry in Australia but this coming together of seven of the country’s top breweries – Moon Dog (VIC), The Grifter Brewing Co (NSW), BentSpoke (ACT/NT), Moffat Beach Brewing Co (QLD), Barossa Valley Brewing (SA), Moo Brew (TAS) and Otherside Brewing Co (WA) – takes teamwork to the next level.
The common thread between all the contributors is that each was named state or territory champion at last year’s Indies Awards, the coveted gongs handed out annually by the Independent Brewers Association.
Awards come and go, so Miro Bellini, brand manager at Moon Dog, thought it would be fitting to have something more tangible – and tasty – to mark their combined success.
“There’s such an influx of new beers that don’t have a reason for being,” says Bellini. “People just bring out beers out of nowhere for nothing so I thought we could make something that all these champions have a piece of and could say ‘we got together to do something unique and hard for anyone else to repeat and it’s got a real story’. Not just like, ‘Oh, we did this for a photo shoot’.”
His boss was initially sceptical of getting all the far-flung and disparate parties to agree, but gave the project the green light. As it turned out, getting the brewers on the same page was the easy part. Each was invited to suggest ingredients – there are five different hops, pale malt, wheat malt, rolled outs and a New England yeast strain – and ideas, with the brewing process overseen by Moon Dog director of brewery operations Kevin Tewierik.
“Our brewer brought everyone in to feel included and to celebrate the part of the recipe that they liked,” says Bellini. “And then he somehow turned it into a beer that’s exemplary.”
More difficult was coming up with a name and labelling that everyone was happy with. Some favoured something celebratory that riffed on the word ‘champion’ and others preferred something that was a little more self-deprecating. Moon Dog is famous for its punny names for their releases (they are working on a Lamington-adjacent, raspberry and coconut infused Imperial Stout right now called Co-Conan the Raspbarian) and inspired by watching footage from famous English dog show Crufts and a mockumentary by the same team that made Spinal Tap, came up with Best In Show.
“That became a uniting sort of chuckle that turned into something,” Bellini says. “That idea of all these different mutts at the dog shows are all trotting and prancing but are all such different breeds. How on earth you put a Schnauzer and a Pomeranian up against the German shepherd? That motley mix of pretty dogs is a great analogy of what craft beer is.”
Bellini, who worked for giant beer conglomerate Lion Nation before moving to Moon Dog, says there has always been a “a collegiate or fraternal element of craft beer” that often manifests as collaborations or lending a helping hand to colleagues in need. The cross-pollination of ideas, he says, lifts the entire industry and encourages innovation and experimentation.
“There’s that feeling of the big old tribe of independent breweries and people don’t mind to knock on each other’s door and ask to borrow a cup of sugar,” he says. “I think that’s part of what a lot of people love about working at a craft brewery.
“Especially if you’re in production, you’re going to move to different breweries a whole bunch of times in your career, so it’s better to have a friendly atmosphere.”
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Originally published as How seven of the nation’s best craft brewers joined forces for the Best In Show Hazy IPA