It seems like every year there’s a better, more diverse selection of styles in the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top 30 — and the 10th edition stands out.

The Top 30 features established — and popular — craft brands such as Garage Project, Parrotdog, Emerson’s, Panhead, 8 Wired, McLeod’s, Epic, Sprig & Fern, Bach and Brave. And then there are the fast-moving up-and-comers like Lakeman, Mount Brewing, Three Sisters and Beer Baroness who are all becoming regulars at the top table.

Plus, we’ve got stone cold craft legends — Hallertau and Brew Moon — who have been around for decades but are stepping up to the Top 30 with impeccably made hazies.

And speaking of classics: the much-loved Steinlager Classic features in the Top 30 for the first time.

Every year, there’s a smaller brewery showcasing the depth of quality around New Zealand, and this year it’s Wanaka’s b Effect with their Social Experiment #22 IPA.

In the cider category, it’s more business as usual with Peckham’s, Morningcider and Zeffer — three of the best brands in the country — again showcasing their skills.

And there’s special shout-out to Emerson’s, which had four beers in the Top 30 — including their original brew, London Porter, as well the low carb Super Quench, Reverb NZ IPA and massive crowd-pleaser Mexicoco, the 9.3% chilli chocolate porter.

There’s an equal hat-tip to Taupo’s Lakeman. Not only did their Primate Pilsner return after being last year’s supreme winner, but they delivered two of the three pale ales with Taupo Thunder and Big Hairy.

The variety of beers and ciders in the Top 30 is phenomenal. Reflecting the massive growth in the “lifestyle” category there’s two low carb beers, and three non-alcoholic offerings (two beer and one cider) and they all taste fantastic.

On top of the many hoppy IPAs, hazies, pale ales and pilsner, there’s a wonderful array of quirky and classical styles.

The likes of Garage Project’s Pickle Beer, Three Sisters Wild One — made with the unique New Zealand Wilding yeast, Muito Bom from Mount Brewing is a Belgian Witbier with a special twist (added ginger) while Sprig & Fern’s G.O.A.T lives up to its name as the greatest of all time when it comes to Kiwi-brewed doppelbocks.

In terms of greats, kudos to Brave Brewing’s Terrible Lizards and McLeod’s Longboarder Lager, who both doubled down on trophies at last year’s NZ Beer Awards proving they are the best of their style in the country right  now.

Last but by no means least is Desperate Glory — the supreme champion — a barrel-aged Belgian Amber Ale from 8 Wired and Small Gods that’s been dosed with Chinese Keemun tea. It’s spectacular, complex and delicious.

No matter what you choose, there’s a delightful flavour experience awaiting you.

Champion Beer

8 Wired x Small Gods Desperate Glory

The champion beer of 2024 comes from the reigning Champion NZ Brewery, Warkworth-based 8 Wired. A collaboration with Small Gods, who specialise in old-world beer styles. This is a sublime creation, as they took a Belgian Amber Ale — rich in dates, brown sugar and sweet spice — and aged it for a year in bourbon barrels to bring out vanilla notes from the oak, as well as some tartness that has an aroma like cherries. It was then blended with Chinese Keemun tea to add a light floral character with hints of tobacco and cocoa. It’s a remarkable beer with some wine-like qualities, and as such will pair beautifully with food. It’s surprisingly light on the palate, but there’s a depth of flavour and complexity that will keep bringing you back for more and more.

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Non-alc & low carb

Bach All Day Non-Alcoholic IPA

The original non-alcoholic craft beer in New Zealand, and — according to our judges — still one of the best. The judges lauded the brew team: “Impressive to squeeze this much hop character into a non-alc beer”. They noted “strong aromas of mango and lychee jump out of the glass, with a dank green capsicum edge”. Those hops present on the palate as “juicy citrus, with some herbaceousness and a restrained bitterness and clean, crisp finish.”

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Epic Super Zero

A welcome return to our Top 30 for Epic Beer after a terrible 2023 when the iconic brewery went into liquidation and founders Luke and Wendy Nicholas sold the brand to Hancock’s Wines & Spirits and the Russell Group. Super Zero presents a delightfully intense hop aroma of fresh lemon rind. The judges were rapt with how “clean” this beer is: both in aroma and flavour. “Good clarity, soft bitterness, pillowy sweetness, perfumey … and sherbet-like hop flavour.”

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Zeffer 0.0 Passionfruit Cider

Back for a second year in a row in the Top 30 means this is a product you can trust. Zeffer have nailed the 0.0 cider-making, using similar techniques as the wine industry uses for their zeroes.  Frankly this is one of the best zero alcohol beverages in the country.  “Fresh and crisp mouthfeel, with a good level of acidity,” the judges wrote. “Very strong passionfruit nose, lean body, strong acidity but not overpowering, excellent flavour that lingers — bright and fun.”

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8 Wired Lo-Fi Raspberry Sour

Low carb combined with low ABV (2.5%) and big flavour is a win-win for drinkers who want a great-tasting beer that won’t over-tax your body. 8 Wired Lo-Fi Raspberry Sour is based on the German-style Berliner Weisse, which is often served with a dash of raspberry syrup to sweeten it. The execution here is top-notch with robust raspberry aroma. It looks great in the glass too, with the judges praising the “very pretty slight pink blush … Body is light and spritzy and raspberry does linger. Refreshing.”

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Emerson’s Super Quench

Low carb beers are all the rage right now as drinkers seek “better for you” options, and this one from Emerson’s is doubly good: bringing that rare combination of low carb and high flavour. This is a beer you’d be happy to drink whether you wanted a low carb option or not. At just 4 per cent ABV it tastes as good as any 5% pilsner. “Full-flavoured palate, good weight on the malt, nice level of fruity hops. Nice pilsner.”

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B Effect Social Experiment #22

Wanaka-based b Effect are newcomers to the Top 30 but they’ve entered the fray in style. Started by James Hay in 2015, b Effect take their name from the phrase “Butterfly Effect” coined by meteorologist Edward Lorenz. This is No 22 in an ever-changing series called Social Experiment, with each beer focusing on a different hop. This features Mosaic, audaciously on show here. The judges raved: “Fresh! Nice, light tropical notes and malt in support. Super savoury and interesting. Very well put-together beer. Would have another!”

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Brave Brewing Terrible Lizards IPA

Terrible Lizards — a reference to the film Jurassic Park — won the IPA trophy at the New Zealand Beer Awards last year. In achieving a Top 30 spot here this year, it’s fair to say it is currently the best IPA on the market in New Zealand. The judges loved the blend of peach, pine and perfumed hoppy notes. “It’s peachy with hints of fresh green grass. Rounded on the palate with some lovely carbonation. Finishes with a solid, lingering bitterness but with balance. Lovely length. Well-made beer. Very approachable and great drinkability.”

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Parrotdog Thunderbird Bright IPA

Thunderbird was released less than a week before judging and went straight into the Top 30. Calling it a Bright IPA indicates, clearly, that this is not hazy. Nor is it a “heavy” IPA — in either ABV or hop bitterness. “Brilliant clarity,” noted the judges. “Drinks very nicely. Nice juicy tropical hoppy flavour with sweet malt structure, well integrated.  Nice bittering well balanced with a lingering pleasant aftertaste.  Well-made beer, very drinkable IPA. Good job!!”

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Emerson’s Reverb NZIPA

The aroma is pungent grapefruit, rosewater and old-school Juicy Fruit chewing gum.  The malt presence is weighty yet it finishes dry and refreshing, and it allows the hops to shine. The fruity hop notes give way to pleasantly punchy bitterness. The judges called it a “classic IPA … fruity hop aroma, dry palate with fresh, intense citrus hops, high bitterness. Very nice.”

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Hazy & Juicy

Beer Baroness Slice of Heaven Hazy IPA

Paying homage to a Dave Dobbyn-penned classic, Slice Of Heaven delivers a melody of heavenly hop hits in the form of Nectaron and Nelson Sauvin. The pineapple-passionfruit aroma is followed by mango, pineapple and white wine on the palate and the flavour changes as the beer gently warms up in the glass, so it’s worth taking your time to explore and savour those flavours. It has a spritzy carbonation and a dry finish that brings you back for another sip. For a hazy, there’s a nice level of bitterness as well. 

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Mount Brewing Crazy Hazy Daze

Crazy Hazy Daze is a seamlessly complex beer that hides a big ABV with grace. The judges simply raved about this beer, starting with its golden good looks, “soft, pillowy” texture and “rounded mouthfeel”. The tropical fruit juice character — described as “mouth-watering” — offers “pineapple and doughy sugar-buns” as well as a more savoury herbal note all of which are “seamlessly integrated into the beer”. 

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Brew Moon Waipara Hazy IPA

Brew Moon are one of New Zealand’s most established craft breweries with a history dating back over 20 years but this is their first time in the Top 30, and it’s a well-deserved appearance with an amazing hazy IPA named for the local wine region. “Bold tropical notes with grapefruit and mandarin peel. Medium malt sweetness, low and smooth bitterness. Balance en pointe for a juicy impression. Great hop intensity. Excellent beer!”

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Hallertau Summer Time Haze Hazy IPA

Hallertau are among the godfathers of the New Zealand hoppy beer revolution in the early part of the 20th century, helping pioneer American-style hop-driven IPAs and with Summer Time they showcase years of experience with hops. The flavour is a sweet orange and mandarin and it lasts right to the final drop. “Great looking hazy beer. Nice juicy hop aroma and good orange flavour.  A great example of this beer style.”

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Lakeman Taupo Thunder

Lakeman had an outstanding competition with three beers in the Top 30. Taupo Thunder is a celebration of two distinctive New Zealand hops — Riwaka and Moutere — and delivers a sweet passionfruit aroma on the nose. That moves aside as grapefruit and pine take over on the palate. The judges were rapt with the presentation and balance of this beer. “Presents well. Well-balanced, well-made beer.  Very drinkable. I would be happy to finish two pints if I found it at a pub.”

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Lakeman Big Hairy

The Taupo brewery claimed two of three spots in the pale ale category. Big Hairy is their original brew from when they started 11 years ago and it’s been refined and tweaked over the years. An out-and-out American Pale Ale. The classic US hop aroma delivers citrus, diesel, and fresh-cut grass interwoven with fresh malt character on a “big pillowy palate”. “Great beer. Would drink again,” said the judges.

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Panhead Supercharger

Supercharger returns to the Top 30 for the second year running, and it’s hard to argue with the judges when they consistently pick this out of a line-up. Supercharger, aka the Orange One, commands the attention of your tastebuds with its citrus and tropical fruit hop aroma and flavour. In the pantheon of Kiwi craft beers, it’s one of the greats.

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Lager & Pilsner

Garage Project Bliss

Most Kiwis know the song Bliss, by Th’ Dudes — the singalong anthem about a great night out. And you’ll be in a state of bliss once you taste this simple but flavoursome lager from a brewery best known for making far more complicated beer. Brewed in the traditional lager fashion and stored at sub-zero temperatures which helps create a smoother flavour and allows microscopic particles to drop out producing a super-clean beer with a light touch of sweet lemon hops.

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Steinlager Classic

It seems scarcely believable, but this is the first time in 10 years that Steinlager Classic has made it into the Top 30 at these awards. We’ve had other variations of Steinlager, notably Pure and Tokyo Dry, in the past but never the original. Well, it’s about time! And it’s time to remind yourself why this is one of New Zealand’s most durable and loved beers, dating back to the 1950s.

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McLeod’s Longboarder

The team from Waipu are regulars in the Top 30 and this beer is no stranger to awards — it’s one of the most consistent, flavoursome and bold lagers in the country. It races into the Top 30 on the back of winning champion lager at last year’s New Zealand Beer Awards. Slightly hoppier than a traditional European-style lager, it offers that rare combo of punchy plus pretty, delicate and delicious.

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Lakeman Primate Pilsner

Last year’s champion beer returns for another round, this time as the trophy winner in the Pilsner category. That says a lot about the reliability and consistency of the team at Lakeman’s farm-based brewery. This is everything a New Zealand-style pilsner should be: slightly sweet, slightly dank, a bit of diesel, some tropical fruit and a grating of citrus zest. The judges picked up a whiff resembling a certain medicinal herb and described the hop character as “very loud”.

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Panhead Port Road Pilsner

After an anomaly when Panhead’s Port Road Pilsner did not feature last year, New Zealand’s most-awarded beer is back, baby. If Supercharger is the lead character in the Panhead movie, Port Road Pils is the supporting actor who walks away with all the awards. The judges noted it was “crisp, clean, with medium bitterness balanced by malt sweetness for excellent drinkability. Fantastic beer!”

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Dark beers

Sprig & Fern G.O.A.T Doppelbock

After a Top 30 in 2019 and the past two years in the Highly Commended category, Sprig & Fern’s aptly-named G.O.A.T has earned its moniker. They call this beer G.O.A.T because “bock” in German translates to goat but we also know that G.O.A.T stands for “greatest of all time”. Big claim? Not when it comes to New Zealand-brewed doppelbocks: this is the leader of the pack. “Chocolate and toffee with a bittersweet flavour and finish.”

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Emerson’s Mexicoco

If you ever needed a beer to warm your heart as the weather starts to cool, this is it: a chocolate and chilli-spiced porter with an ABV of 9.3%. Brewed with roasted cacao nibs, red chillies, vanilla, and cinnamon it’s designed as the beer equivalent of a spiced hot chocolate and it hits all its marks with aplomb. “Nice example of intensity not running away,” the judges noted. “Well-balanced with bitterness and spice. A big, intense, flavoured beer, well-integrated and well-balanced.”

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Emerson’s London Porter

An absolute legend in the Kiwi craft beer scene. There are very few small-batch beers with the longevity of this Emerson’s original. It was the beer that launched Emerson’s in 1992 and was first poured at Oamaru’s historic Criterion Hotel. Expect coffee and chocolate some earthy, mellow hop character.

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Other ales

Mount Brewing Muito Bom

Muito Bom translates from Portuguese as “very good” — and that’s a the case here. It’s in Portuguese is because Mount Brewing created this in collaboration with Brazilian brewery ZEV. This is a Belgian-style Witbier, which traditionally features orange zest and coriander seed. Here, Mount Brewing have gone in boots ‘n’ all on the additions, using lime, orange and grapefruit zest, along with ginger and coriander to create a huge depth of flavour. “Gentle lemon zest aroma, with mild spicy yeast character. Soft doughy malt flavour, light body and gentle malt sweetness. Lovely beer!”

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Three Sisters Wild One #1

Last year New Zealand’s only domestic yeast lab, Froth Tech, discovered a unique New Zealand native yeast. Released under the name “Wilding” it produces intriguing flavours reminiscent of a Belgian farmhouse ale —spice, pepper, vanilla, and citrus.  Three Sisters took that yeast and combined it with a super-citrussy hop, Citra, to create a remarkable 3.2% beer. There’s so much interesting and refreshing flavour, it should be a must-try for anyone seeking something new and unusual. “Lemon pith and a hint of acid drops, with a dry finish.”

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Garage Project Pickle Beer

Get ready for a palate-changing, mind-blowing experience! This is a lightly sour beer brewed with cucumbers and dill pickle spices, including dill, mustard seeds and habanero chilli (very light chilli heat). The judges noted how the “spices shine through, giving the impression of pickle juice”. They summarised: “A very complex and well-handled blend of flavours that work well together.  Very interesting beer.  Well done.”

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Peckham’s Hazy Apple Cider

Following the death of Peckham’s founder Alex Peckham in 2022 the business and the orchard was put on the market. In stepped Jody Scott and his wife Lois. Jody was the chief cidermaker at Zeffer for many years, winning plenty of Top 30 gongs in that time and now he’s made the top cider in this year’s competition. Wild-fermented, it’s “funky” on the nose, but it tastes divine. The judges said the flavour was like cinnamon apple cake., adding it’s “everything you want in a traditional cider.”

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Morningcider Black

Morningcider, based in the thriving Auckland food and drink suburb of Morningside, are regulars here and this year they’ve landed with an impressive-looking black can containing two types of “black” fruit: blackcurrant and blackberry. “Vibrant berry aroma and great blackcurrant flavour,” said the judges. “The palate is full and rich. Hints of vanilla. Cider has complexity and blackcurrant melds well. Very moreish and delicious.”

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