Heyday Beer Co. clinched their second consecutive Rare Beer Challenge win at Fortune Favours last week, taking out the title with their Jockey Club Mint Julep Reserve Ale in what was the most hotly-contested iteration of this annual event yet.

Among this year’s entries were an amazing 1.5% stout from Emerson’s Brewery, a 2% super-sustainable mild ale from Mean Doses, and an entirely vegan chocolate milk stout from Fork & Brewer.

But it was Heyday’s 11% take on a mint julep cocktail that took out the 2024 title, impressing judges with its complex mint characters and smooth vanilla and bourbon notes. In the end it was Heyday’s linking of their entry to the rare disorders cause and strong marketing campaign that pushed it ahead of the pack.

Along with brewing an excellent beer, Heyday also created buzz around the event with a strong social media campaign, taking inspiration from a reminder that has been hammered into doctors since it was coined in the 1940s: “when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras”. That kind of thinking means many who have a rare disorder remain undiagnosed for years. Heyday took that idea and turned the Rare Beer Challenge into a horse race in their marketing, assigning each brewery a race number and race colours, and asking followers to “bet” on the “horse” they thought would take out the 2024 race. Heyday’s “jockey” wore a zebra print jersey on the race card.

rare beer challenge
The Heyday team, including assistant brewer Shane McGregor and director-designer Hannah Blackwood pick up their award.

Waitoa came in second with their pomelo radler, which was named Wadler to avoid any trademark issues. They went to extraordinary lengths to brew the beer, doing it almost entirely with pedal power! They set up several specially-designed bicycles at their Hataitai brewpub which were then used to generate power to brew the beer by anyone who wanted to join in — even including child-sized bikes for a family-friendly brew day. The result was a super quaffable, pale pink, juice-like 2.8% radler. They worked out that 120 people helped brew the beer, though only about 90 pints-worth was made — something they say was worth all the effort considering the good cause.

Coming in third was Fortune Favours with its stunning 5% New Zealand wild ale, The Bush Walk. Taking inspiration from the New Zealand bush, they brewed a beer using all-Kiwi ingredients — including foraged manuka tips, kawakawa and horopito, all of which worked to create a beautiful balanced, spicy and sweet wild ale.

This year was also the first year the Rare Beer Challenge introduced a People’s Choice Award, for the brewery which sold the most beer over the bars at Fortune Favours and its sister venue 16 Tun in Auckland. Three Sisters came away with the win with their 6.4% Patchwork Hazy IPA, made with the still water of Juno Gin’s 2024 Summer Gin creation.

While many of these beers are so rare you will struggle to find them outside of this event, some are brewed at a reasonable scale and can be found in bars — or even packaged — outside of the rare beer venues. So, if you manage to track down any of this year’s entries you will be rewarded with some unique flavour experiences, and maybe even wowed.