After three years of livestreaming the Indies due to the pandemic, the IBA was finally able to get the industry back together in person at the 2023 awards on the Gold Coast. Following a major review of the trophy classes and the way in which beers are scored, the competition attracted 1,348 entries from 190 breweries with a total of 229 beers being awarded gold medals. This medal tally demonstrates the exceptional quality of indie beer around the country.
Aether Brewing’s IPA was awarded Champion Modern IPA, proudly sponsored by HPA. The family-owned, Brisbane-based craft brewery inspires their community to live creative, flavourful, connected and fulfilling lives. We got in touch with Head Brewer George MacGregor to congratulate the team and ask a few questions about their beers and growing awareness and appreciation of the Aussie arts community.
Q: Congrats on your recent success at the 2023 Australian Independent Beer Awards. As proud sponsors of your trophy for Champion Modern IPA, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your IPA?
A: Easy! We just found a way to can good vibes. Imagine it’s a lazy, sun-soaked day. You’re lying on the beach. Reach into the ice bucket – you’re going to want to pull out our core IPA. Big and bold, piney and tropical, all while being ultimately refreshing. We look at this beer as the space where the tropical vibrance of Australia meets the boldness of a West Coast IPA. It’s all about making something bold but refreshing, taking that laid-back Aussie vibe and pairing it with a classic style.
We love working with HPA because of the abundance of unique hop varieties and new flavours they can bring to classic beer styles. Our IPA uses hops you’d see in classic West Coast IPA’s, while also using some HPA hops that add new and exciting things!
Q: You were also awarded Champion Juicy-Hazy Pale Ale for your All Australian Pale Ale. What do you love most about the flavours this country has to offer?
A: For our All-Australian Pale Ale, it’s in the name – it’s brewed with ingredients all grown, farmed, and manufactured right here in Australia, including Cascade, Galaxy® and Topaz™ hops from HPA. Essentially, what’s not to love? When it comes to an Australian beer brewed with all-Australian ingredients, we feel a connection to the land and people in ways that are hard to describe. It becomes more than just a beer – it becomes a tribute to the history and modernity of Australia.
There’s such a diverse mix of flavours in Australia that allow us to really flex our creativity. Whether it’s the distinct character of native fruits and herbs, the quality of the grain, or the big & beautiful aromas of Australian-grown hops, the culinary offerings from our country give us so much to play with in our brewery. We’re just having fun with it all!
Q: Passion and creativity shines through in each of your beers. What’s the weirdest and wackiest flavour that’s featured in your special releases?
A: We’re super passionate about creativity and trying new things. Our goal is to make a beer you’ve never had before. Once a month we set out to make one-off batch of something unique. We also have a pilot system that lets us play around on a small scale with anything weird & wacky we can get our hands on. Take a trip through our taproom and who knows what you may find!
Off the top of my head, we’ve used ingredients like crème brulee, Davidson Plums, hemp, a sake koji starter, truffles, coconut rice, and even bone marrow once upon a time. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of examples, but if you name it, we’ve probably done it! And if we haven’t, find me some because I want to brew with it! We even crushed up 100kg of Biscoff biscuits a few months ago for a Biscoff Ice Cream Porter for GABS – we were super stoked when it won the People’s Choice award!
Q: Your motto is ‘The Art of Craft’, which you’re living through the Artist Amplifier Initiative. Can you tell us a bit about this collaborative springboard and how homegrown talent can get their artwork on your beers?
A: While we see the inside of the can as our liquid art, we want to share the talent of the Australian arts communities on the outside of the can. The Artist Amplifier Initiative is our way of giving a platform to Australian artists while curating an experience for all the senses, and hopefully inspire creativity within our communities. When we’re looking for art, we try to match the meaning behind the art to the beer to bring that elevated experience. In addition to having their art and name featured on our labels, the Artist Amplifier Initiative also features the artist on our website and social media. We’ve been running the Initiative for about a year now and we’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most wonderful and creative people out there.
As for getting your art featured on our cans, it couldn’t be easier. Head to https://aetherbrewing.com.au/artist-registration/, sign up, and upload an existing piece of art. You can also hit us up on social media, shoot us an email, anything you can think of! Plus, there’s no obligations to do custom pieces, we don’t take ownership of the art or anything like that – we’re just looking to work with great people and make great beer.
Q: Speaking of art, who gets credit for the awesome hop mural at Aether HQ?
A: Yeah! We have a huge hop mural just as you walk into the brewery. Super detailed, it’s a treat to see every day. That was done years ago by Steven Falco, an artist we’ve been working with for years. Wildly talented, he does a lot of mural art around the SEQ area. He’s also done a lot of our can art in the past, including every iteration of our Ginger Beerd.
January past, Steven Falco paired up with another artist named Jordan Bruce to make a collective called The Brightsiders. Working together, these guys are absolute wizards with a can of spray paint. They did another mural on the outside of our brewery – a beautiful piece featuring a crushed beer can holding all-Australian native flowers. It’s bursting with colour, life and texture and is impossible to miss if you’re going by the brewery!
Q: HQ will always be the brewery’s beating heart, but can you tell us about your partnership with the Talisman Group?
A: It’s been an absolute pleasure working with the Talisman Group. These guys know how to do hospitality right! A few years ago, they approached us to make a house beer (an Italian Pilsner) for Sasso Italiano, their new venue in Woolloongabba. Since then, they’ve also opened Casa Chow next door to which we make a purple corn rice lager as the house beer there. In the coming months, Talisman will be opening a 300-person “Mad Men”-inspired brewpub called The Wright House, also in Woolloongabba. We couldn’t be more excited to work with them on this project, which will see our core beers being poured from any of the 6 rose-gold beer tanks mounted above the bar. We’ll also have an on-site brewery in the venue to collaborate with local producers and chefs to create special and amazing one-off brews for the venue too.