Liberty Brewing scored a triple treat of three hoppy beers in Top-30 at this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards, with Oh Brother Pale Ale, Knife Party IPA and Citra Double IPA.
It’s an impressive performance for the Helensville brewery, which still retains the title of New Zealand’s Champion Brewery from the 2019 Brewers Guild Awards.
Other highlights of the annual awards include Panhead Port Road Pils making the Top-30 for the third year running, Urbanaut scoring two Top-30 spots with Brut-style beers and a return to the big stage for Townshends.
The awards, run by the New World supermarket, and are a huge boost for smaller breweries as they guarantee the Top-30 winners get ranged and promoted in New World stores across New Zealand for a month.
For the first time there was a category for hazy beers and five made their way into the Top-30, including New Zealand’s OG of hazy: Garage Project’s Party & Bullshit.
The hazy category accounted for 100 of the 656 entries across the competition, second only to pale ale which drew 107 entries.
For the first time judges also assessed seltzer, alcoholic kombucha and alcoholic ginger beer with only Zeffer’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer making the cut from 27 entries.
Newcomers to the Top-30 included Tekapo’s Burke’s Brewing, Baylands from Petone and Cassels from Christchurch.
While Liberty are already big enough to have a strong supermarket presence, owner and founder Joe Wood says the awards timing is perfect after they were left scrambling to ensure supply when their distributor Quench Collective went into liquidation.
“It’s bloody great timing,” Wood said. “We’re really grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase our beer – especially in the South Island, where we’re not traditionally ranged.”
In the period leading up to Quench going out of business, Wood saw an obvious decline in sales but business has started to pick up again after they promoted their on-premise sales rep into a broader role. “We’ve managed to get things back under control but we had to put in a huge amount of work to get there.”
Deep Creek head brewer Hamish Ward can also claim a trifecta of sorts. Deep Creek scored Top-30 places with their Aloha fruited sour and their Redwood APA. And Ward’s personal side project with wife Caroline Muller-Ward, Isthmus, also scored a Top-30 spot with their 3D IPA.
The awards also offered a return to national prominence for Motueka-based Townshend Brewing. Townshend took the title of Champion Brewery at the 2014 New Zealand Beer Awards but suffered setback when a contract brewing partnership with Tuatara went wrong. That forced owner-brewer Martin Townshend to retrench his operation and focus on his local area.
But after his Sutton Hoo American Amber Ale earned a place in the Top-30, Townshend hoped it would continue to push the brewery back into the national spotlight as they continue to get stronger.
“I did have the rug pulled from under my feet a few years ago – but I only had myself to blame. And then Covid smacked us in the teeth – yet still we’ve survived,” Townshend said.
“This award is a fantastic bonus and let’s hope it helps out enormously.”