We all enjoy surprises. Like finding a twenty dollar note in a pair of jeans at the bottom of the wardrobe or a bottle of imperial stout you thought long quaffed at the back of the beer fridge. Coming home to discover your birthday hasn’t been forgotten or winning an international competition you didn’t even know you’d entered. OK, so the last of these doesn’t happen to everyone, but when you’re Feral Brewing it seems you can even win awards by accident.
This week, co-owner and head brewer Brendan Varis was contacted by the editor of Brews News who was eager to congratulate him on winning the top prize at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards. The brewery’s Hop Hog, winner of Champion Ale at three of the past four Australian International Beer Awards, had won both the IPA category – the toughest and tightest according to one of the judges – and the top prize too.
“It was the first I knew of it,” says Brendan (above right, with brewer Will, third from right, collecting a trophy at this year’s AIBAs), who discovered the beer had been entered by a distributor.
While he may not have been aware of the Hong Kong competition, Brendan’s eyes have been fixed on another international adventure. He’s flying to the UK later this month to brew a cask ale loosely based on the Hop Hog for the annual JD Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival. It’s the second time he’s been invited to take part in the pub chain’s festival; the first occasion saw him brew a real ale version of the Runt, Hop Hog’s little brother at the Wadworth brewery in the southwest of England. This time he’s headed to Marston’s, where he will brew 100,000 pints of an Australia IPA at the brewery’s Wolverhampton site.
“We’re going to use Galaxy, Topaz and Stella [all Australian hops] which is pretty much the same blend as I used in the Collaborator [the beer brewed with 2 Brothers for this year’s 20th anniversary beer awards],” says Brendan. “But I’ll use a much higher dosing rate – the same as the Hop Hog: the same additions and contact time.
“The beer I made last time was really well received and this year’s success [when Feral won multiple trophies at the AIBAs] probably played a role in them inviting back too. I told them about the Hop Hog and that it was getting critical acclaim, but that I didn’t see any point in using US hops in the beer I brewed over there as everyone in the UK knows about them already. So I said I’d make a 5.5 per cent version of the beer with Australian hops.”
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