The Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards (RABCA) was established in 1844. This year, brewers across Australia and New Zealand competed for 13 trophies, including Most Outstanding Beer, Champion Large Brewery, Champion Small Brewery, Best New Exhibit as well as Champion IPA, Lager, Ale, Porter/Stout, Specialty Beer and Reduced Alcohol Beer.
Barossa Valley Brewing’s Hop Heaven was awarded the highly coveted Champion IPA trophy, proudly sponsored by HPA. Founding the brewery was a dream that started on the far away shores of the United States, now it’s a reality right here in the Barossa. We got in touch with Head Brewer Denham D’Silva to congratulate the team and ask a few questions about their beers and the role of AI in the brewery.
Q: Congrats on your recent success at the 2023 Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards. As proud sponsors of your trophy for Champion IPA, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for Hop Heaven?
A: I went to university in Michigan, USA where I fell in love with the IPAs the led the charge of the craft beer revolution that had started a few years earlier.
Q: You were also awarded Champion Small Brewery, picking up Champion IPA, Champion Lager, and Champion Reduced Alcohol Beer. What’s your take on the emerging no and low alcohol trend?
A: One of the things I love most about Barossa Valley Brewing, as one of the earliest craft brewers established in 2005, is that we’ve grown up with our customers. 18 years ago, our fans were 25 years old, looking for big flavours and big alcohol content. Now they’re 43 years old and still looking for big flavour, but in a format that will help them avoid a hangover and allow them to drive their kids to footy the next morning. We’ve grown up along with the sector. I think no and low alcohol is here to stay.
Q: You recently partnered with the University of Adelaide to produce a beer called Rodney AI2PA created entirely by artificial intelligence. What role do you see AI playing in your brewery moving forward?
A: We’re embedding AI into every aspect of our brewery. We’re the only brewery in the world with access to a neural network. The real power of AI is the ability to listen to all your customers. Every one of our beers has a QR code that rewards customers for reviewing our beers. This feeds the neural network with our customers becoming part of the brewing process by helping inform beer recipes. In the 3 years we’ve used AI, we’ve also won a Champion state brewery award.
Q: You fell in love with craft beer while studying Economics and Business Stateside. Is there a particular beer you enjoyed during that time you still dream about?
A: I keep going back to IPAs. I’m in Michigan right now visiting my sister, writing this with an IPA in hand.
Q: Upon returning home, you chose the Barossa region for its adherence to quality and culture of experimentation. What’s one of the most unexpected ingredients you’ve added to beer since then?
A: We’ve done so many experiments. I like to think we were the first to really start experimenting with new ingredients nearly 20 years ago. The peanut in the peanut butter milkshake is one of our most popular and still gets people talking.
Q: Given you’re located in one of the country’s foremost wine regions, is there a friendly rivalry with local vintners? Or is it more about leveraging the opportunity to learn from each other?
A: Very much both. In fact, we hold very popular Beer vs Wine events where we match a beer and a wine to 3 courses and customers vote for the best match. It’s one of the few fringe events that have a 10-year unbroken 5-star rating. I love putting our $8 beer next to their $180 wine and coming away with a win.