The ninth annual New World Beer & Cider Awards were announced today, with the Top-30 featuring a raft of newcomers to the big stage and Lakeman, from Taupo, taking out the Supreme Champion award with their Primate Pilsner. Here’s a summary of what the judges found:
Lakeman Primate Pilsner
Lakeman have built a cult following but are now ready to break out on to the national stage with this absolute belter of a New Zealand-style pilsner that is also the champion beer of the event. Described as “vibrant and bright” by the judges, it has delicious hop aromas and flavours that swivel between zesty citrus and deeper, dank, herbaceous notes. It pushes close to pale ale territory but remains a pitch-perfect example of a modern NZ pilsner.
Double Vision Mouth Party
Delivered with in-your-face can art that’s backed up by complementary in-your-mouth flavour. Well-executed hop additions bring apricot, diesel, and lime zest flavours on a lithe malt base — like a sun-shower of fruit drizzled on your tongue. It’s an agile easy-drinker, with the judges saying it “invites you in — rather than jumping at you”.
Ruapehu Brewing Unlimited Vis
The name references the often-wrong mountain forecast which promises good conditions “unlimited visibility]” but when you get there it’s cloudy. This is a robust hazy IPA, with a creamy, lush body overlaid with an assertive hop-driven flavour that comes with a raunchy bitterness, not always found in hazies, which makes it quite memorable.
Shining Peak Petite Pegasus
New Plymouth brewery Shining Peak love telling local stories with their beers and Petite Pegasus is a great name for a beer that’s as light as air on your palate. Petite when it comes to ABV (at just 4.2 per cent) this has a big engine when it comes to flavour. The judges loved it: “Pineapple and lime aroma, light in body but still lush and juicy. Vibrant and smashable hazy, nice!”
Urbanaut Newtown Hazy Pale Ale
This is a rambunctious hazy, with a creamy, thick body which delivers a whoosh of tropical hop-notes. To pack this much flavour into a sub-5 per cent beer is no mean feat — making it balanced and drinkable is another level of skill. There’s pineapple and sweet orange hops but also some honey malt character underpinning it. “Big and juicy,” said the judges.
Urbanaut Silver City Citra
The cryo Citra hops, without the astringency and bitterness Citra is known for, creates a study in the hop variety’s essential oils. Our judges got mango and passionfruit as well as some edgy lime character, declaring the hop aroma “banging”. The bulging aroma compounds transfer over into a smooth and fruity palate with lots of “juice”.
Urbanaut The Bronx Double IPA
Bronx Double IPA is all about Mosaic, the uber-popular hop of the moment. It delivers a river of nectarine and blueberry with some savoury undertones. It’s a truly three-dimensional beer this one, with the 8 per cent alcohol not reflected in the athletic, lean body. There have been some great double IPAs some through this competition over the years and this is up there with the very best.
Baylands Skull Cracker
Baylands Brewery are making a name for themselves for bold, hoppy beers. This double IPA lives up to its name, drinking deceptively smoothly, with a punchy diesel nose followed by a sweet-resinous flavour that has peach and nectarine in the wings before finishing clean and balanced, the bitterness just edging the sweet malt and alcohol.
Apehanger was the champion IPA at the NZ Beer Awards in 2017. Six years later, they’ve proved this beer is as good as ever with a Top 30 appearance. The name is a reference to the 1970s-style apehanger motorcycle handlebars and this is one revved-up beer the judges said, praising the “great intensity of tropical/diesel NZ hop flavour” in a “well-balanced, nicely made beer.”
Martinborough Brewing Hop Elixir
Martinborough’s first appearance in the Top 30 shows brewer Eugene Black, who learned his craft at Wellington’s Occasional Brewer, is on the right track. This spectacularly bright IPA is light and spritzy with grapefruit and rockmelon characteristics. The judges loved the good looks, silky mouthfeel and building bitterness, calling it “very drinkable”.
McLeod’s Paradise Pale Ale
A hugely popular beer that pops up in this competition on a regular basis and has won any number of gold medals and popularity contests. A sweet, juicy hop aroma bursts out of the glass and blends seamlessly with the light caramel malt to produce a resinous and smooth drinking experience before the bitterness and minerality sneak up to create a dry, moreish finish. An absolute classic.
Monteith’s Tight Lines
One of the biggest developments in the beer industry in the past few years is the growing strength of “mainstream craft” — beers from big brands that offer the kind of flavour normally associated with hip craft breweries but for a lower price. The judges raved: “Tropical mandarin aroma, hoppy but well integrated with clean biscuity malt flavour, super-drinkable.”
A force nature in the Kiwi craft beer scene. And the judges couldn’t stop raving about it: “Great looking colour and foam. Nice hoppy-malty beer. Nice body and mouthfeel. A good hoppy pale ale and a great example of a drinkable beer.” In the pantheon of New Zealand craft beers this is one of the greats.
STOUT & PORTER
8 Wired Baltic Smoke
Made in the Baltic porter style, with the addition of beechwood smoke. Sweet black coffee and smoke takes centre stage with aroma. Sweet maple-syrup malt flavour is the first cab off the rank flavour-wise with the tangy smoke sliding in before building towards a gentle, just-bitter, warm finish aided by some alcohol heat. A journey of your palate’s sensory capabilities.
Burkes Brewing Unforgiven Porter
After two years in the Top 30 with their hugely popular #FakeNews Hazy IPA, Tekapo-based Burkes Brewing are back for a third year on the trot but this time with Unforgiven Porter. Named New Zealand’s Champion Beer at the 2021 NZ Beer Awards, Unforgiven is an awesome showcase for the beauty of dark malts, said the judges. Think chocolate-coated coffee beans.
Sprig + Fern Norty Porter
Sprig & Fern’s Tracy Banner celebrates 40 years in brewing this year and this could be the base of celebratory chocolate cake! A light and supple porter brewed with cacao nibs to create a beer that’s like the liquid form of a chocolate cake. Forget any notions you have of dark beers being too heavy or charry-bitter; this is elegant, feather-light and smooth.
LAGER & PILSNER
Parrotdog have just come off their third round of crowd-funded capital raising, getting an injection of $2.35 million from investors who believe they are set to grow even bigger. Sundog Pilsner has loads of passionfruit and white grapes. It’s vibrant and bright and bursting with hop aroma. The flavour remains hoppy-sweet but buttons off to a snappy finish.
You could call Mac’s Gold the original New Zealand craft beer. After all it was the beer that the late Terry McCashin first brewed in 1981 when he launched Mac’s, the first in a wave of independent microbreweries that started to pop up in the 1980s and 1990s. Four decades later, and with the brand now owned by Lion, Mac’s Gold remains a steadfast part of our beer culture.
The only returnee from last year’s Top 30 which tells you all you need to know about the consistency and quality from New Zealand’s biggest brewery, Lion, and its most popular brand. Crystal clarity and the finest of bubbles. The malt expresses the crust of just-baked bread, with a light apple note that gives way to a gentle floral-citrus hop note.
Bootleg Late Night Monk Fight
Superbly-named hat-tip to Belgium’s Trappist monks this quadruple is a beer for savouring and sharing — and cellaring if you’re patient enough. Hold this one up to the light to appreciate the bright ruby colour before diving into a long-lasting flavour that’s all raisins and berries with alcohol warmth and a light spice balancing the sweeter malts.
Three Sisters Rumours In The Dark
New Plymouth brewery Three Sisters have been on a tear in the past three years. Champion microbrewery in 2021, champion small brewery in 2022 and now a debut in the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top 30. Rumours In The Dark is a classic German beer, a Munchner Dunkel or Munich Dark, with flavours of dark rye bread, chocolate, toffee. It’s lush and malty and a must-try.
Otago Brew School Klassenbester
Otago Brew School started in 2018, training brewers at the Otago Polytech campus in Cromwell. They aim to brew “true-to-style” beers that they sell on campus and in bars around the local area. It’s a fantastic programme and the proof is in the pudding here: a marriage of chocolate biscuit malt characters to the traditional banana and clove aromas created by specialist yeast.
Asahi Super Dry 0%
You may need some convincing this 0% version of Asahi Super Dry is alcohol-free. It’s so close to the real thing you’ll wonder how they did it. Our team of judges were blown away: “Good body, clean, drinkable and basically tastes like a normal strength macro lager. Very well made.”
Tiger Crystal Ultra Low Carb
A low carb category was introduced for the first time to mark the giant growth of this “lifestyle” sector. This, at 4.2%, has 70% fewer carbs than 5% Tiger Crystal and it impressed the judges: “Nice malt body considering it’s low carb. Well-made.”
Deep Creek Aloha Guava & Passionfruit
Deep Creek, on Auckland’s North Shore, are one of the industry leaders when it comes to fruited sours. The real fruit flavours are elegant, offering a harmonic contribution to the overall package. A good sour is about the balance between sweet and acid — and judges said Aloha nailed it.
Zeffer Passionfruit 0
The passionfruit pops but is underpinned by a clean and fresh apple cider with the judges enjoying the surprising heft to the mouthfeel. “Ripe passionfruit, hint of baked apple on the nose. Lots of flavour. Actually quite full in flavour for a non-alc.”
Morningcider Cherry Bomb
Morningcider and food-upcycler Citizen have created a cider is made with “rescued” Central Otago cherries. Laced with a touch of cinnamon and a sprinkle of brown sugar, it’s sugar and spice and cheery nice.
Mount Brewing Tart Rhubarb
A rhubarb bonanza, with an almost dessert-wine quality to it. The judges were in love: “Very attractive rhubarb aromas. Beautifully balanced with sweetness. Lovely depth and length. Very enjoyable. Impressive fruit expression.”
Paynters The Pilgrim
The Pilgrim is made at Linden Estate Winery, in Esk Valley, where Cyclone Gabrielle wreaked havoc in February. This has many chardonnay characteristics, thanks to French oak and a malolactic fermentation. Funky nose and baked apple sweetness and a dry finish.
Zeffer Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Fresh and dried ginger, kawakawa and chilli deliver a balance of heat and sweet. “Clean aroma of ginger and pepper. Ginger and kawakawa are both present on the palate with a lovely fresh chilli kick.”