The 2017 ALIA winners revealed

The 2017 Australian Liquor Industry Awards took place at Randwick Racecourse on Wednesday, as around 600 members of the industry gathered to celebrate another successful year.

With the Heroes and Villains theme brightening up the room and helping boost the party atmosphere, it was a hugely successful evening, which was co-hosted by NILWA – Signature Drinks and IRI.

The Pernod Ricard team celebrate after winning the Off-Premise Supplier of the Year award

This year saw 54 awards presented to the industry’s best people, products, venues and brands across the on- and off-premise, including 12 major awards.

The night kicked off with pre-drinks sponsored by Coopers, and throughout the night guests were treated to networking bars from Archie Rose Distilling Co, Chalong Bay Rum, Coopers and Kegstar. The night was topped off with after-party drinks sponsored by Southern Comfort.

Then, after the off-premise and on-premise awards were presented, the major awards were handed out with the first of the night being the Bartender of the Year, which this year went to Will Sleeman from Black Pearl.

The award was accepted by Tash Conte, who said: “Will’s an amazing bartender, but he’s currently in London. He’s had an amazing year and I am so proud that he has been able to take this out, so thanks to everyone who voted for him.”

Asahi Premium Beverages were also named as the ALIA 2017 Off-Premise Supplier of the Year

Next up was the Publican of the Year, which saw two winners, Alex Farquhar from Caxton Hotel in Brisbane and Alastair Flower of Settlers Inn Hotel in Port Macquarie.

In accepting his award, Farquhar said: “I don’t think I’m the best publican in this room, there are so many publicans in this room right now that I look up to and I aspire to, but thank you very much for everyone that voted… and Holy Shit … I don’t know what to say.”

Flower added: “There are some great publicans in the room. It is nice to get some recognition in the region, so thank you all I appreciate it.”

The fourth major award of the night was Best Bar of the Year and it was another win for Black Pearl and Conte said: “This year has been a crazy year for us, not only because we are 15 years old, but that people are still thinking about us for the right reasons, so thank you all for your support not just this year but for the last 15 years, it means a lot.”

Merivale the scooped the next two awards, taking out Best Hotel, with The Newport and the Hotel Group Operator of the Year.

The Merivale team celebrates their wins

Swillhouse Group was then named as the Bar Group Operator of the Year, Aperol claimed the Liquor Brand of the Year award and Bundaberg Lazy Bear was named as the new product of the Year.

After taking out a Highly Commended in 2016 and the winner’s award in 2015, it was a return to winning ways for Liquor Barons, who were named as the Retail Group of the Year. General Manager Chris O’Brien accepted the award for the Western Australia group and said: “I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of our family of 70 stores from Western Australia.”

The Liquor Store of the Year went to The Oak Barrel for the second year in a row, an acknowledgment that Ian Chainey described as “humbling”. He added: “Ten years ago independents were down and out and the corporations were taking over but through small production and customer enthusiasm for that small production we are making a comeback – enjoy the evening.”

The night’s last two awards recognised the On-Premise Supplier of the Year and the Off-Premise Supplier of the Year.

This year the On-Premise Supplier award went to Lion, which Trade Director Doug May was absolutely delighted to accept.

Lion celebrates after being named the On-Premise Supplier of the Year

He said: “For many years I have sat in the audience and thought this is an award we would love to pick up. I think the passion of our people, our culture and our brands and I would like to say to all of our people from Lion – you equally deserve this, so thank you very much.”

The final award of the night actually saw two winners, with Pernod Ricard and Asahi Premium Beverages named as the Off-Premise Suppliers of the Year.

In accepting the award on behalf of Pernod Ricard, Jeff McKenzie said: “This is a really big thrill of us. I guess when you win an award like this it is a massive Accolade, so thank you to everyone. To our team at Pernod, everyone works so hard every day it is a great reward for you all, so this goes to everyone on stage tonight and it goes back to everyone in our offices that puts in the hard work.

As a major supplier, I guess what I have really enjoyed about tonight, is still all of the up and coming and emerging suppliers, products and bars. It is really good to see. You guys are the future of the industry, so again we are really thrilled to win the award, but for the industry I am really looking forward to seeing the up and coming suppliers and their products in the months and years ahead. Thanks again, we really appreciate it.

Michael Ritoli accepted the award for Asahi Premium Beverages and said: “It is a great honour to accept this award. I would to thank the team from Asahi – they are fantastic and there are plenty more that aren’t here. Well done to everyone this is a team effort and congratulations – this is another win for the trophy cabinet.”