- Liberty Brewing living their best lives. What can you say? Every beer medalled. Six golds, two champion beers, best packaging, best exhibitor, champion medium sized brewery. All done with a small team of dedicated people. I toasted their triumphs with a Knife Party on Sunday night and it was delish but a huge shout out to their Halo Pilsner which continues to stamp its mark as the modern definition of NZ Pilsner.
- McLeod’s Heathen no ordinary beer. This is a sweet little beer that maybe got ill-judged (by judges and punters alike) when it was labelled an Ordinary Bitter. That name does not sing “drink me”. But reimagined as a Session IPA? Take my money. Golds also to the ever-popular Paradise Pale and the Pioneer Porter, which is a gorgeous beer.
- Kereru go Kiwi on a Finnish great. Estoric, edgy beers can struggle in these competitions. Pleasing all the judges all the time can be nigh on impossible so I was rapt to see the Kereru Manuka Sahti win a gold medal. I love this beer — and I love the ancient style, and I love the variation in using manuka instead of juniper. Its one of Kereru’s excellent monthly new releases — so there might some around still.
- Brave Brewing keep delivering. The Hawke’s Bay heroes doubled down in the Pale Ale category with gold to Bottle Rocket and Stay Gold. I’m a big fan of Bottle Rocket dating back to when it used to be known as Extra Pale Ale but I adore the new name.
- Sunshine rising. The rejuvenated Gisborne brewery got a trophy for their East Coast Saison and a gold medal for their Saison du Brut (one of my beers of the year). I was reminded that I once called brewer Dave Huff the “king of saison”. I stand by it.
- Choice Bros are … choice. Reet Petite, a former champion beer, came back with gold but I was delighted to see so many of this brewery’s beers medal as they are a little off-piste to say the least (in a good way of course) so to have such an eclectic range of beers – especially Shake It – given due respect with medals is fantastic.
- Renaissance renaissance continues. Their Tribute 2013 Barley Wine won another gold. I’m not sure how many medals this vintage beer has won but, wow, to get another gold after six years in the bottle — that’s some beer. If you have a bottle of this tucked away, lucky sod. A great comeback for a former champion brewery that nearly went under.
- Townshends returns. Another former champion brewery that’s returning to its best. A rebranding and a new venue have seen them go from strength to strength. Golds for their Rode Ireland Red Rye Ale and, pleasingly, Oldham’s Tap Pilsner were a joy to see.
- Shine on, Shining Peak. It feels like they’ve been open only a few days (ok a few months) and yet they produced a trophy-winning beer with their Octopus Clamp Schwarzbier, plus a swag of other medals. That’s some start in life.
- Behemoth the new kings of IPA. Behemoth, fresh off their mega-successful crowdfunding exercise took out Champion IPA with their Me Time Mosaic IPA and got three golds in the category, including for Lid Ripper — the third in two years across various competitions for that beer. Hazy IPAs come and go, as is their nature, but this remains the OG.
- Three Boys on point. A raft of medals including gold for the revered Oyster Stout reinforce that the fact this Christchurch brewery is doing some great things while maintaining a strong political stance on Twitter and, beer-specifically, advocating for local and independent. Kudos to a brewery not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
- Double Vision x Small Gods raise the dead. Wellington brewery Double Vision and Small Gods, the brewing arm of online subscription box retailer Beer Jerk, got together to brew an “extinct” beer style called Mumme. Their creation a 12.5 per cent black hole of flavour, Black Narcissus, won a gold medal. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea (or cup of molasses) but huge raps for brewing such an out-there beer and doing it so well.
- Fork stuck on winning. The Wellington brewery won champion small brewery for the second year running … couldn’t happened to better bunch of people, including Kelly Ryam, who makes terrific, eclectic, brain-engaging beer.
13 things about the NZ Beer Awards