I was lucky enough to join the judging panel for the 2019 edition of The Malthouse WCIPA challenge so I know first-hand how revered a win is at one of New Zealand’s most prestigious beer events.  Epic and Parrotdog have dominated top spot for many years so I was excited to see a new name being etched into the Golden Gumboots for 2021. Based in Petone, Baylands Brewery took top honours this year with their smashing entry The Hops Awaken.  Like many, Aiden Styles started his fledgling brewery in a garage under the house and flourished from there.  Wellington craft beer ambassador Sunil Balu joined the team a few years ago and this relationship has seen the brewery go from strength to strength. The Hops Awaken is everything you’d ask for in a West Coast IPA.  The competition guide is narrow and specific: brew the best West Coast IPA possible, stay true to style and make the hops shine! Baylands loaded this beer with US hops plus the addition of the New Zealand experimental hop NZH102.  Upon opening, the room soon with all those lovely citrus, pine needle, grassy aromas that you expect.  The flavours follow along beautifully. The beer is super-dank with a lovely resinous oil that adds both complexity and a velvet smoothness.  Tons of bitterness that lingers on your tongue long after your last mouthful. At 6 per cent, The Hops Awaken isn’t the biggest West Coast IPA I have ever sampled, however every piece of this beer has been pulled together perfectly.  There’s a strong malt backbone that holds the beer up throughout the drinking experience which has aided the Baylands team to find that magic sweet spot, some might say the perfect balance?! I’m so pleased to see a new brewery break through this year.  Competitions like these drive our brewers to be better which ensures the bar is pushed higher and the beer gets even better! Surprisingly this beer is still available online at Baylands store so support independent beer and grab yourself a slab today: https://baylands.beer/collections/cans/products/the-hops-awaken-440ml

Sawmill Bare Beer

Sawmill are the second Kiwi craft brewery to come to market with a zero ABV beer, after Bach Brewing's All Day Non-Alcoholic IPA. Sawmill's Bare Beer is a completely different beast (and yes, it is possible to have great variation in these products ... they don't have...

Rhyme X Reason’s Can-do attitude

When Rhyme x Reason rolled up its big doors for the first time on an industrial street in Wānaka in June 2017, it was the first brew pub in town. Now, it might be one of a few — but it remains one of a kind. The brainchild of head brewer Jess Wolfgang and her partner...

Chouffe Houblon Belgian IPA

When I think of Belgian beer, IPA does not typically come to mind.  But such beers do occasionally emerge from the region, and this one of the few readily available in New Zealand.  The hop bill looks pretty modern with Amarillo and Tomahawk along with the more...

Brothers Beer Pop Art Cryo-Hopped IPA

This IPA from Brothers Beer (5.9 per cent ABV) utilises the new Cryo Pop pellets from Yakima Chief. They are extracted from a blend of American hops and designed as a fire-and-forget solution to aroma in an IPA.  Are they any good?  Let’s see… The nose is clean and...

A Mixed Six with Craftwork

For our second edition of the Mixed Six, we chat to Lee-Ann Scotti and Michael O’Brien of Craftwork, Oamaru’s masters of esoteric Belgian styles.  Six questions on their favourite beers:  three about their brews, three about other people’s. Favourite beer in your core...

Urbanaut Imperial Saison

Since it began with that outrageous 15% Hazy IPA, these seasonal mini-imperials in 250ml cans from Urbanaut have become one of my favorite series of beers.  Saison is a style that scales up comfortably, getting up around the 8% mark in the strongest examples, but a...