It’s been a long time since I tried to do a list of “best” beers of a year. It’s just too damn hard to sort great beers into some kind of ranking order.
 
I’m more fond of the memorable beers. Occasions. Moments when whatever I was drinking made me stop and really appreciate what I was having. That often depends on place, timing, people, occasions. And having something for the first time also helps (and contributes to the cult of new … maybe the next list should be the 10 best core range beers?)
 
So, here are my most memorable beer moments of 2021 (and one late entry from 2020).

Garage Project Chance, Luck & Magic

This had been sitting in my fridge for a few weeks waiting for an occasion. It came when I was watching (and blogging) the live stream of the Brewers Guild  Awards. When Chance Luck & Magic won the best European Ale I figured it was time to open it. Drinking at my desk while typing and watching a virtual awards presentation wasn’t the romantic setting this beer probably deserved but it couldn’t detract from how bloody good it was.

 

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Craftwork Grisette

I signed up to the Craftwork subscription, in part to support what they are doing and also because it meant I could rare and hard-to-find home-delivered without having to think about it. The Grisette was the first beer I opened from the box and it was just smashing — like Saison but with an edge.

 

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North End Baby Grand

Another save-for-a-special-occasion. And wow! What a beer. It has charm and character, coming at you like a long lost friend with arms spread for an embrace, but is also defiantly self-assured and a little austere; fresh and tart but earthy and reserved. All the yin is balanced by the yang and it’s a beer that tastes like life itself.

 

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Bach All Day Non-Alcoholic IPA

This was something of a Road to Damascus moment. I’d played around the edges of non-alcoholic beers in 2021, trying as many as possible and not many of them won me over. But this blew me away. I couldn’t believe how great it tasted and became a convert in a sip.

 

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Urbanaut Living Beer

The always inventive Urbanaut brought out a range of can-conditioned beers, dubbed Living Beer as the yeast is still alive in the can. They range is quite esoteric with some exotic flavour combos and this one wowed me so much I went to the garden to pick some jasmine as a prop!

 

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Shining Peak Bogworks Pilsner

New Plymouth’s Shining Peak were a real revelation to me this year. Hand on heart I did not have a bad beer from them. What I loved about this pilsner was the perfect balance between super-snappy and nicely hoppy.

 

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8 Wired Lo Fi

Hoppy kettle sours are a favoured style of mine. They are so refreshing. And in the Belgian Table Beer genre they are excellent vehicles for low alcohol options as you can still gets of flavour on a small ABV base. This is the perfect example. Apparently it was an accidental brew but it’s proved so good they did it again.

 

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McLeod’s Dunkelweizen

A complete flavour experience. Delicate yet chock-full of flavour. Elegant, poised, perfect.

 

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Boneface Hand of Doom American Strong Ale

An absolute bulldozer of a beer. I’m usually a tad reserved about double-digit ABV beers as they can tip too far to boozy heat. But this was big AND balanced. All the gears meshed and it purred along.

 

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Double Vision Smooth Operator Cream Ale

It’s always good to be reminded that beer should be fun. And this was one of the most fun  beers I tried in 2021.

 

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Steinlager Classic

This is my late-2020 addition as it came too late last December to make my best of 2020 list. In the scorching heat of the Far North in late-December nothing hits the spot better.

 

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Trans-Tasman Blind Date Beers

Like any good business idea, the concept of a Tinder-style hook-up of trans-Tasman brewers for a special box of beer came from being stymied on another project.

Isthmus Figaro Imperial Stout

Isthmus Brewing's Figaro, a fig and chocolate imperial stout (9% ABV) is intensely dark in colour, crowned by a coffee crema head. The aroma begins with notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate, gradually changing to include hints of coffee, boozy liquor, and sweet...

Deep Creek Leo extroverted Hazy IPA

Reviewer Josh Lee says Deep Creek Leo Extroverted Hazy IPA is the best hazy he’s tried this year and recommends it highly.

What’s on offer at Beervana

I’m already licking my lips at what’s on offer at next week’s Beervana festival in Wellington next week.

Boneface The Wolf Bites Back Triple Cold IPA

Boneface The Wolf Bites Back Triple Cold IPA is a complex mix of sharp citrus and softer tropicals, with pungent rosewater and light malt sweetness.

Best in Black: Stout Challenge

Tim Newman brings an insider’s view on the increasingly popular NZ Stout Challenge in Christchurch