Newcastle brewers compare brews, taste new ideas in USA

Picking up ideas: Newcastle beer brewer and international beer judge Lachlan MacBean is back from Nashville.
Picking up ideas: Newcastle beer brewer and international beer judge Lachlan MacBean is back from Nashville.

It’s all over, ladies and gentlemen. The 2018 World Beer Cup, aka, “the Olympics of beer”, was recently held in Nashville, Tennessee, and not one single brewer from any Newcastle or Hunter Valley brewery won a thing.

Not a jot, or even a sausage. But, that’s just because they didn’t enter any beer into the competition.

Nonetheless, a few brewers from around these parts did get the chance to represent Newcastle and their breweries as judges at the World Beer Cup competition, as well as attending the Craft Brewers Conference, which runs in conjunction with this global suds contest. Newcastle brewers Lachlan MacBean from Grainfed Brewing Co., and Shawn Sherlock from FogHorn Brewhouse, as well as Michael Capaldo, (ex-head brewer at Lovedale Brewery) spent the early days of May in Nashville to taste their way through over 8000 beers and discuss the state of craft and independent brewing around the world, all while experiencing some famous Southern hospitality, and drinking and dancing at the odd honky tonk downtown.

“In between judging, I got to see Chris Robinson play the Black Crowes’ back catalogue at the Ryman Auditorium, ate some Southern barbecue and fried chicken, and even found the time to sip on some fine Tennessee whiskey,” Macbean says.

“It’s was a great trip,” Sherlock says. “Lots of honky tonks were visited and I had some great food at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. One night, I went to BB King’s Blues Club, where I saw some of the best musicians I’ve ever seen … and, I resisted the temptation to buy and wear a big hat.”

It was not all beer and skittles for our intrepid brewers ...

“I’m here as one of 295 international beer judges,” MacBean says. “The competition is tough. Across the categories, each beer is tasted blind, we make our notes and discuss the results before putting the best beers through. Unlike Australia [where every beer deserving of a medal is awarded one], only the best three beers from each category gets a medal; either gold, silver, or bronze.”

While Newcastle brewers’ own beers may not have been on the pour at the World Beer Cup, a record number of Aussie breweryies made reputable waves in Nashville, including WA’s Nail Brewing, Bentspoke from Canberra, and James Squire in Sydney, who each took home medals.

“Beers had to be bottled or canned to enter, not on draught, which meant FogHorn couldn’t enter,” Sherlock says. “This time, I attended the Craft Brewers Conference, rather than judging. Everyone I’ve met on this trip has been really interested in what we’re doing in Australia. The US scene is massive, and definitely more experienced than ours, but the gap is closing compared to a few years ago.”

Macbean agrees.

“Those that have tasted Australian beer tend to be very impressed with what we’re doing as a nation of independent brewers,” he says.

Stay tuned for more local innovations.