By Michael Donaldson on Friday, December 29th, 2017 in News.
I preface the following list with the plain fact that it’s now impossible for me – or anyone – to sample all the beer produced in New Zealand in any given year.
I’d struggle to keep up with the output of breweries in a 25km radius of my house … so there’s nothing definitive about this festive dozen, except to say it’s what I’d buy for myself.
Snappiest summer Pilsner: Last summer I couldn’t get enough of ParrotDog Pandemonium. It’s dry and delicate but driven by an underlying juicy and slightly dank Australian hop character.
IPA, IPA, IPA: Epic, the kings of IPA, have been expanding their realm in 2017, banging out a new IPA every month it seems. The one that stood out was Epic Static IPA. The use of New Zealand Riwaka hops was a good move for a brewery that’s made American hops their trademark; the tropical fruits over savoury bitterness works a treat.
Out to sea and never coming back: Garage Project Mutiny on the Bounty would be an amazing gift for any beer lover – just for the packaging – but inside it’s the most decadent and other-worldly stout made with vanilla, coconut, breadfruit and roasted plantain. Complex, lush, loveable.
It’s Christmas, have Chocolate: If there’s one beer I’ve seen open people’s minds it’s Behemoth Triple Chocolate Milk Stout. Eyes literally widen in delight, smiles appear from nowhere and glasses get proffered for more.
A visitor from Hawke’s Bay: Actually, you probably have to visit Hawke’s Bay to find it, but it’s worth the trip for the Brave Brewing XPA. Light body, easy-drinking with smooth bitterness and wonderful walk-in-the-pines aroma.
Sweet and spicy: Outlier Cartel Wunderkammer is one of those beers that stays with you because it’s so different. A gruit beer, brewed without hops, its marzipan sweetness is just tempered by bitter cinnamon spice – would make an ideal Christmas Day drop.
Americano: Birkenhead Brewing’s collaboration with standout American brewery Ninkasi, Beautiful Trouble marries Kiwi and American hops into a sublime, complex, delicious mix. My fave IPA of 2017. The distinctive 888ml bottle offers good value too.
Everything please: Liberty Brewing’s Halo Pilsner could have made this list, or The Kush IPA but I adored the High Carb Ale with its huge malt bill and complementary bitterness. It was just more of everything that’s great about beer.
Take it easy: Brixton Pale Ale from newcomer Urbanaut is a wonderfully understated English style pale ale with great balance, complex malt and firm but fair hopping. At 4.4 per cent one of the best session beers of 2017.
Kiwi as, bro: Boneface, feels like the new Panhead – not least because they are in Upper Hutt, brewer Matt Dainty used to be at Panhead and the packaging it spot on. The beers are SUPERB. The Unit NZIPA is everything you want from a modern IPA jammed with fragrant Kiwi hops.
Fruits of summer: Craftwork Bruxelles Ma Belle is a sour beer made with Central Otago apricots and aged in oak barrels. It’s restrained and delicate but powerful enough to be transportative (if that’s a word). It sings Christmas.
Freshen up: Like a cold dip in the lake on a hot Queenstown day in summer, Altitude Brewing Powder Day Pilsner is a perfect pick-me-up.