Three Boys and Garage Project were the big winners at the NZ Beer Awards last night.

Three Boys won the Champion Exhibitor title while Garage Project took out the best beer and champion large brewery trophies.

Here’s a run through of the winners on the night. (The champion brewery titles are judged on top four beers of which at least one beer has to win a gold medal).

Champion Exhibitor

This is always a hotly contested award. It goes to the brewer who has the best range of beers across at least three classes. So you have to be good and diverse. The winner is Three Boys, one of New Zealand’s most enduring, and well-loved breweries.

Champion Beer

This is chosen from all the trophy class winners and is judged as the best interpretation of its style. The winner — and I cannot argue with this: Garage Project Chance Luck & Magic. It’s a stunning beer. There are two versions of Chance, Luck & Magic (2020 & 2021) and the 2021 version also won a gold medal.

Champion Microbrewery

This is for breweries that produce under 50,000 litres per annum. Kainui Brew Co from the Far North took out the trophy in a welcome return to the limelight for this cool little brewery.

Champion Small Brewery

This is for breweries who produce 50,001-200,000 litres. This went to last year’s microbrewery of the year Three Sisters, who have stepped up the ladder with continued success.

Champion Medium Brewery

This for breweries that produce from 200,001-2 million litres. This went to Behemoth Brewing. “This is the best thing in the world,” said founder Andrew Childs.

Champion Large Brewery

For breweries who produce more than 2 million litres. And it went to Garage Project for the second year in a row. “We are in a magic period at Garage Project,” said co-founder Pete Gillespie.

Champion Manufacturer

This is judged on the top four beers out of breweries that make beer on behalf of others. The winner is Steam Brewing, who regained the title from bStudio.

Earlier in the night, Good George (Haze of Glory), Liberty (Citra) and McLeod’s (Paradise Pale Ale) took out the three most competitive classes of the night, winning the hazy/juicy, IPA and Pale Ale categories respectively.

There were 828 entries for the awards and the trophy winners were:

Pale Ale

Well this is a legendary beer, well-deserved McLeod’s Brewery for their Paradise Pale Ale. Great to see it back on top.

IPA

This was a four-way tussle Garage Project Pernicious Weed, Emerson’s Birddog, Eddyline Happy Camper and Liberty Citra. And the winner was Liberty Citra. Wow. One of the first beers Liberty ever made and here it is. Finally a champion after 11 years.

Juicy & Hazy

This was hugely contested as always. So many good beers in here. But the winner was Good George Haze of Glory, which last month won the Smith’s NZ IPA Challenge.

No & Reduced alcohol

This is the first year they’ve had a separate no- and low-alcohol category at Brewers Guild Awards. This is the sub-2.5 per cent category and the winner was Behemoth Low Hanging Fruit, Blood Orange and Passionfruit.

Barrel & Wood-aged

This is wild one: Lumberjack Brewing with their From the Woods Saison — 2020. Here’s a story where our travel writer Brett Atkinson visited Lumberjack and others in the Bay of Plenty.

Wheat & Other Grain

Badass Hefe Metal. Super rapt about this one, Badass Beverages is part-owned by Pursuit of Hoppiness contributor Dave Pearce.

Specialty and Experimental

There was a huge list of medal winners for this and the winner Feijoa and Rye by Brood Fermentation. Brood Fermentation is the side project of Lauren Yap, who works for NZ Hops Ltd, and her partner Jim Brown.

Fruit & Flavoured

Fantastic to see Kainui Brew Co back in the limelight with their Rose Saison. Awesome.

European Ale

Garage Project won four of the six gold medals in the category, two of them to iterations of Chance Luck & Magic. After an envelope mix-up in which Emerson’s Old 95 was announced as the winner (it won the next category), Garage Project repeated their triumph of last year with the 2020 version of Chance Luck & Magic, a blend of wild ferment ales, which can only suggest this has aged impeccably.

British Ale

After the spoiler alert earlier, it was Emerson’s Old 95. Coincidentally this was the beer that Richard Emerson made when he first laid his hand on imported British malt via Cryer Malt, one of the major sponsors on the night.

New Zealand Styles

This went to Baylands Brewery for Slope Shredder, the New Zealand-hopped IPA they just brewed for the Smith’s IPA Challenge.

Amber & Dark Lager

There was only one gold medal here and therefore the trophy winner was: Sawmill The Doctor. The one and only legend.

International Lager

A toss-up between Three Boys Lager and 8 Wired Mahu Lager went the way of Three Boys.

Stout & Porter

This went to good crew down in Queenstown, Altitude Brewing, with Starlight Highway.

Amber & Dark Ale

Back again for Altitude with Snow Dance. Super effort to get to back-to-back trophies.

Beer Media Award

Apparently it’s me. Thanks judges who said nice things: The portfolio of articles included complex and in-depth information presented in a clear but comprehensive manner, and all of the judges came away from their reading with a new insight or appreciation. First and foremost, it was enjoyable to read, with an effortless feel to the pieces, although the judges appreciated that creating them was anything but! Here’s the key stories in the portfolio…

Packaging Award

The judges were impressed with the entries but the standout in a tight race, for their artwork and brand consistency. The cheeky and fun-loving winner was Double Vision Brewing from Wellington.

Beer Tourism Award

This went to Beervana festival. And well done to them too.

Brewing Sustainability Award

For the third year in a row, it’s Sawmill, New Zealand’s only B Corp certified brewery.

Emotional start to evening

Chair of the Brewers Guild, Liberty Brewing’s Joe Wood started the awards with a personal plea to those who work in the industry to be open about any problems they were suffering in a difficult period for everyone in hospitality.

“This part’s not easy to say. It’s been a really difficult couple of years for everyone in the brewing industry. When punters see a glass-full of beer that’s not what we see, we see our heart and soul being poured into that glass.

“It’s stressful but it’s still just a job at the end of the day, and there are people at home waiting for you, so just leave your work dramas at home or talk to somebody.

“Mental health is a real thing and I can say that I found rock bottom this year and it’s f*cking hard, and it’s an ascension bigger than Mount Everest when you’re down there, and you can’t climb that mountain on your own. It’s OK to talk and there are good people in the industry.”

Guild honours awards

The Brewers Guild gave an honorary membership to Carl Vasta, founder of Tuatara, who retired last year.

Judges

Alexander Biedermann
Brian Watson
Colin Mallon
Damian Treacher
David Nicholls
Greig McGill
Ian Kingham
Jamie Tippet
Jason Bathgate
Joseph Wood
Keith Riley
Matt Warner
Michael Capaldo
Michael Cheer
Oliver Drake
Ralph Bungard
Richard Watkins
Sam Williamson
Shane Morley
Tim Low
Tracy Banner
Zane Marshall

Trainee Judges

Alyssa Hodgson
Jamie Scrimgeour
Karl Pearce
Katey McNulty
Mark Waller
Wei Luok Kim
Ziggy Mountier-Petzold