Every year we ask the Pursuit of Hoppiness writers to come up with their beers of the year, under the banner The Hoppiness 100. This year we have 107 beers … but such is life, and there are a few double ups.
⭐ Top Pick — Wilderness Russet Flanders Red
Layers of flavours — light balsamic acid quality, prune juice, apple skin, with a ribbon of red wine running through it. Real depth and relatively sweet for the style possibly from the 8% ABV.
Alibi Bad Juju West Coast IPA
A complex hop bill, with Chinook, Nelson Sauvin, Cryo Mosaic and Strata on an all-pilsner malt base. Sticky and resinous and honey sweet with lots of pine sap and some of Bob Marley’s favourite herb and earthy bitterness to boot.
Brave Brewing Terrible Lizards
The champion IPA at the New Zealand Beer Awards, it blew my mind at Beervana, where it’s possible for even the best beers to get lost in the sea of flavours.
Tastes like pure grape juice blended with finely blitzed grapefruit zest, an aerosol drop of diesel fuel and a pinch of cannabis leaf.
Burkes Unforgiven Porter
Popped into the New World Beer & Cider Awards this year as a reminder of its amazingness. Subtle but ever-building layers of flavour.
I had a lot of great 2.5% beers this year. Chief among them Urbanaut Rose Bay and Beer Baroness Little Mighty but this danced away with the lightweight crown.
McLeod’s German Pilsener
The only mistake with this beer is that I didn’t order enough.
Garage Project Chance Luck & Magic 2022
Like any third child, this is slightly sweeter than its siblings (and I say that as an eldest child!). I fully expect it to mellow into a thing of wonder.
As non-alcoholic beer becomes better and better, the newer releases seem to take what’s gone before and build on it. This is a showcase of progress.
8 Wired NZH 106 Pilsner
I’d been intrigued by the NZH-106 trial hop since I watched a webinar where the best palates at Yakima Chief raved about it from their visit to hop harvest last year. This is why.
Urbanaut Ixtapa Cola Sour
I love to be genuinely surprised by a beer and this put a smile on my dial from first sip. Clever as.
Garage Project T Sauce Spicy Tomato & Lime Salted Sour
Speaking of surprises, on another day this could be the beer of the year just because it’s so damn fun.
⭐ Top Pick — Beer Baroness Witches Brew Vol 2 Fresh Hop IPA
Out of a somewhat muted fresh hop season this year, some exceptional examples still arose. First amongst them for me was this Christchurch-brewed example that captured the ethereal fresh hop magic most succinctly.
Panhead Supercharger X Double APA
Sometimes the best idea is the simplest one, and this stellar example of brewing metrics proved that absolutely true. All the spirit of classic Supercharger APA, only bigger. Something twin-engine something… I am not a car guy.
Emerson’s Reverb NZIPA
Quality, full-strength IPA in a six-pack — a beauty from Emerson’s broadens the value horizon in this category that much further.
8 Wired Hopwired NZIPA
This style defining classic (and all time favourite of mine) saw a resurgence of availability this year, and immediately went back to my most repurchased craft beer.
Hop Federation Hold The Line NZIPA
Recency bias is something to be wary of when constructing yearly lists but I still think this is one of the most precisely brewed NZIPAs I’ve ever tasted.
Brew Moon Hophead XL IPA
Brew Moon took a bold step into the modern era with this upgraded version of Hophead. We may have lost a piece of history with the departure of the old Hophead but we’ve gained a great new core-range IPA in its new form.
Sprig & Fern Harvest Pilsner
Another standout from the fresh hop batch. The season might have faced some challenges, but if there’s one beer you can depend on to come out great no matter what, it’s this.
Urbanaut Rose Bay Lager
I am not much of a light beer guy but that isn’t to say I don’t recognise a good one when it comes along. Exceptional, with an immaculately delicate profile of flavours that mesh beautifully with its minimal 2.5% ABV.
I love ESB, and I have a very simple metric for judging it. How does it hold up to Townshend’s Old House ESB? This special release from Emerson’s stands confidently toe-to-toe.
Townshend Old House ESB
I tend to sample widely, but when I find myself perusing the taps at a bar, there’s one thing I’m always scoping for — a fresh keg (or even a bag, if I’m very confident of its condition) of Old House ESB.
Brothers Altezano Imperial Coffee Stout
Brothers’ financial woes this year didn’t stop them knocking out their excellent one-off releases that keep my year in beer so engaging. My favourite was this coffee stout for the way the coffee element turned out.
Bootleg Apehanger IPA
As much as I’ve always loved Apehanger, it always seemed to be something of an underground hit despite winning the IPA trophy way back at the 2017 NZ Beer Awards but returned to the main stage via the New World Beer & Cider Awards this year.
⭐ Top Pick — Parrotdog NZIPA
The winner of this year’s Smith’s NZIPA challenge, and it truly was perfection; citrus, gooseberries, sweat, and a firm bitterness to finish. I couldn’t fault it and it’s the beer that has excited me the most in 2023.
Brave Brewing Terrible Lizards West Coast IPA
My kind of WCIPA. Tropical fruit, citrus, hint of earth and pithy bitterness, balanced by a medium-full malt body.
Garage Project Black Beer
I’m a sucker for a good dark lager, and this is certainly that. Roasty and refreshing. I’m hoping for a rebrew soon!
Boneface Gardenia Fresh Hop Cold IPA
Standout fresh hop beer of the year. I haven’t really fallen for the Cold IPA hype yet, but this one was an exception. Sweet and sweaty – in the best way.
Liberty Halo Pilsner
A classic that is somehow better now than ever before. Halo is that beer you can always trust will be just bloody brilliant.
Garage Project Spicy Pickle Beer
I didn’t think it was possible to make pickle beer any better, but GP have gone and done it. Sour, spicy and SO MUCH PICKLE.
Choice Bros Little Dark Age Dark Mild
Toasty, nutty with some dark chocolate and coffee notes to boot. I dare you to find a better match for your cheese board.
Good George Virtual Reality
I am loving how many great zero options I now have at the supermarket, but this is the one that I look for first. Super fruity aroma, good body and a bitter kick to end – the perfect weekday evening drop.
Double Vision Hop Drop ‘23 NZIPA
An excellent balance between hop aroma, hop flavour, and hop bitterness, with a clean malt base.
Mean Doses Mean Angel IPA
Jet planes, tropical fruit and a light caramel malt note – a perfectly balanced American IPA.
North End Fest Oktoberfest Lager
A beautiful bready malt character with spicy, floral and herby hop notes, and a clean, crisp finish. And it tastes even when sipped while singing Ein Prosit with friends!
Double Vision Blistering Barnacles Saison
Saisons are one of those styles that are delightfully delicious, and this has everything I look for – brown sugar, sweet spice, pepper, a big body and slight citrus note.
Urbanaut Ixtapa Cola Sour
Tastes exactly like sour cola lollies in liquid form and it blew my mind.
Double Vision Uncle Dunkel
Lovely toast and coffee notes, a smooth, full body but with a crisp and clean finish.
A quaffable, earthy lager that tastes like a Football Ferns win over Norway.
⭐ Top Pick — McLeod’s Classic German Pilsner
Breathtaking. I struggle to put into words how much I loved this beer. Quite possibly the most memorable malt profile of any NZ beer I can remember. Clean fermentation and just the right amount of hops. Perfection.
Garage Project Petite Mort Speciale Reserve
The original beer was excellent, but the barrel-ageing and dry-hopping have taken this to another level. Beguiling combination of refreshment and fascinating flavours.
Brave Terrible Lizards IPA
Tasted at Beervana and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after drinking it. A proper assertive WCIPA — enough malt to help the bitterness kick you in the teeth (in a good way!).
Alibi Bernalator (Doppelbock)
This was the year of malty lagers (as every year should be!) and this was one of the standouts. Luscious, layered and lovely.
Duncan’s Super Fresh Hop XPA
The first fresh hop beer I tasted this year ended up being the best of the lot. Fresh and resinous, an awesome example of what fresh hops can do.
North End Pacific Blonde
Brewer Kieran Haslett-Moore let his hand slip with the hops on this batch so it’s more German Pilsner than Helles. Don’t worry about the style, just buy some for summer drinking.
Peckham’s Roasted Apple cider
One of my favourites of Beervana wasn’t a beer. I was blown away by the complexity of this cider — sweetness, tannins, all tied together with a wisp of smoke.
Shining Peak Bandito NZIPA
Absolutely nails the style for me — lean malt base with lashings of juicy tropical fruit and a strong whiff of diesel. Yummo!
Small Gods Lion Tower Brown Porter
Proof that you can make a flavoursome dark beer at 4.5%. I was astonished by the depth of flavour in this beer. Extremely drinkable.
Three Sisters I Am Not Well Barleywine
I visited New Plymouth for the first time this year and this beer (and brewpub) were a highlight. Not often you see a barleywine on tap, and this made a huge impression on me. Cool name, too.
⭐ Top Pick — Altitude Brewing Jam Session Volume 11 Sweet Cherry and Boysenberry Sour
I’m a sucker for a Jam Session, it’s always such a delight for my tastebuds. Each brings a unique flavour and I’m always excited to see that the next iteration will bring. The 11th edition bursts with cherry and boysenberry, with the perfect amount of sour, refreshing and with the consistency of a smoothie – ideal for these long summer days.
Cassels Milk Stout
An oldie but a goodie, and all the awards it’s picked up are well-deserved. This velvety milk stout is one of my go-tos with its coffee and cream flavour. Extra good on hand pull!
Urbanaut Toasted Marshmallow Hazy IPA
This super creamy hazy is sweet, but not too sweet. It’s bursting with flavour, most notably mango and citrus that balances out the marshmallow flavour beautifully. Skip dessert and have one of these instead.
Rhyme X Reason Bella’s Death Cookies White Stout
Splendid and moreish, this dessert beer is sweet, smooth and silky. Rhyme x Reason have nailed the flavour balance with notes of sweet white chocolate, biscuits and honey, and the welcome bitterness of a coffee flavour.
Glenorchy Brew Co Mountain Ale
Perhaps it’s the water that comes straight from a natural aquifer consisting of glacial melt, or it could be the NZ hops – whatever it is that gives this beer such a clean, crisp taste, I like it. There’s also something that feels good about supporting a smaller brewery – makes it that little bit tastier.
Beer Baroness Lady Danger Extra Hoppy Red Ale
If you like punchy flavour and extra hoppy drops, this is the one for you. Crack open a can to enjoy the aromas where fresh ripe fruit meets pine. A superb mix of bitter and sweet.
Heyday Beer Co. Mama O’Sour Mango & Passionfruit Sour
An absolute banger of a beer. Fruity, tart and refreshing, it’s got more mango and passionfruit than your heart could ever desire – the sour is offset by a lovely sweetness. If you’re looking for a drink to get you through the warm weather, this is it.
Garage Project X Duck Island Lemon Poppyseed Sour
Yes, another sour – I am certainly partial to a good one. Duck Island have joined forces with Garage Project for a few great collaborations. All I can say is yum. Expect to taste a wee bit of lemon – this is on the milder side of sour, sitting a little more sweet.
Duncan’s Peanut Brittle Pastry Blonde Ale
An unreal blend of peanut and toffee flavours, it hides the fact that it’s sitting at 8% well. Duncan’s are the kings of fun pastry-style beers, and this is a lovely addition to the range. It’s rich and delicious. I can’t get enough.
Boneface Snaggle Tooth IPA
Bold and bitey. There’s hints of stone fruit, a refreshing crisp body and an overall clean taste. A solid juicy IPA, perfect for a BBQ or to kick back and relax in the afternoon sun.
⭐ Top Pick — Pacific Coast Tapawera NZ Pilsner
This collab with Hop Revolution is the best example of a NZ Pils this year, and a great beer all round, danky diesel, gooseberry, melon, grapefruit highlighting Riwaka and Nelson Sauvin.
McLeod’s Forty Acre Fresh Hops IPA
The standout of fresh hop season epitomises what fresh hop is all about.
Garage Project South Pacific Souffle Imperial Stout
Sweet Tongan vanilla and chewy caramelised marshmallows meets liquid chocolate cake.
8 Wired Wild Feijoa Sour Ale 2022
Amazing beer, beautiful layers and complexities featuring sweet, tart, creamy feijoa.
Sawmill Baltic Porter
Rich decadent chocolate/toffee meets subtle dark berries, so smooth. Beautiful drop.
Sprig + Fern Headliner NZIPA
Showcasing the new hopstar NZH-106 this is danky grapefruit with soft underlying pineapple and crispy, spikey bitterness. The next big hop thing!
Alibi Wooden Overcoat
A standout IPA with the rye addition taking it to the next level.
Rhyme X Reason Bella’s Death Cookies
The elusive, mystical white stout is an absolute treat — white chocolate, honey, biscuits, toffee and coffee. Beautiful.
Brothers Beer x Blue Frog Granola Stout
A collab with cereal maker Blue Frog and their triple nut, cinnamon crunch. The name says it all, liquid brunch.
Alibi Brewing Greetings From Waiheke
The standout version of the trending West Coast Pilsner — punchy, resiny, crispy with notes of berry, bubblegum and gooseberry.
Manaia Craft Brewers Chalky’s Hill
The best black IPA in New Zealand! Rich, dark, nutty meets citrus hoppiness.
Three Sisters Rumors In The Dark
Outstanding Munich Dunkel — toasty and roasty with loads of smooth chocolate meets berry and a hit of spice thanks to the rye.
Epic Root Red IPA
Everything you want in a Red IPA: toffee, caramel, pine, citrus — a pleasure to drink.
Zeelandt Brewery Back on the Horse IPA
Lemony citrus meets apricot and floral notes on a light biscuity malt, slight chewy oaty mouthfeel rounds out a well-balanced brew.
⭐ Top Pick — McLeod’s Blackwatch Dark Ale
So much chocolate on the nose, then the rich steeped fruits. Then it’s like a curtain opens onto a circus of enjoyment.
McLeod’s Forty Acre Fresh Hop NEIPA
What a cracker and corker of a beer. From the loud aroma of dank and the amazing prickle of bitterness and the lovely softer middle.
Garage Project Moon Tide
This is really really nice. The smokiness is delicate yet persistent and earnest, and it’s over a lovely rich and layered beer.
Wilderness Boundless Biere De Coupage
Glorious. It is at all times a lovely rich beer, then there’s the spicy bit, then the hoppy bit, then the lovely full fruit bit.
Deep Creek Holy Hops Pilsner
Properly good full-noise pilsner. Lovely aroma, soft malt sweetness and a snappy bite.
Alibi Greetings From Waiheke West Coast Pilsner
So enjoyable. A lovely hoppy hit with a really good layer of floral and soft interjection.
McLeod’s Classic German Pilsener
Well gosh this is a properly good and really brilliant Pilsener the like you don’t see that often in NZ.
Brood Fermentation Smoked Stout
Very Delicate and gentle smoked notes on this, which is a really enjoyable and nice Stout. Lovely gentle prickle of bitterness too.
Duncan’s Mentor Mentor Pastry Stout
A properly nice beer, a stand-alone nothing-else-added Pastry Stout that is lovely to look at and such a pleasure to drink
Manaia Chalky’s Hill Black IPA
Here’s a bit of something special. A Lovely roasted deep delicious beer of some merit.
Small Gods The Tun Stout
Luxury and decadence. Hard not to be enthusiastic about this.
Bach All-Day Non-Alcoholic Hazy IPA
Outstanding hoppy beer that sets a the non-alc benchmark
Browns Bay Brewing Oat Couture NEIPA
Sharp, gorgeous bitterness with a rewarding and outstanding punch of flavour
Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude
I know this Smoked Golden Ale will still be divisive as a beer for 2023 but it’s a yes from me. A big yes.
⭐ Top Pick — Black Sands X Hazzy Hunter Oat Cream Hazy IPA
What else was I going to pick, but my first collab with Black Sands! It’s thicc, it’s fruity and it’s smoother than a baby’s bottom.
Mount Brewing Co Where The Wild Hop Grows
Think fermented pineapple, mandarin peels and sweetened pine needles all wrapped in a 440ml tin. Delicious!
Mount Brewing Co Dawn Patrol NZ Hazy IPA
The Mount Maunganui team were on a tear this year. This soft, sweet, pillowy, fruity, juicy hazy is arguably the best hazy to come out of Mount Brewing
Parrotdog Watchdog Non-Alc IPA
The grassy hop notes are very present and it honestly tastes as good as some of the alcoholic IPAs on the market.
Alibi Brewing Scud City Hazy IPA
A liquid fruit salad, exactly what I want in a hazy IPA
Salt District Brewing Summer Ale
A very easy-drinking ale from this Whangamata newcomer that doesn’t lack on zesty citrus notes. Best consumed in the sun!
Black Sands Corrido Mexican Sour
One of the best sours of the year, it’s like drinking a spicy lemonade and unlike other chilli-infused beers, this one actually packs a punch!
Canyon Brewing x Pirate Life The Lost Keg
A rare trans-Tasman collab that tastes like a creamy fruit salad in a can.
Beers by Bacon Bros Kwazy Cupcakes Milkshake IPA
Milkshake IPAs are still a rarity in the NZ craft beer scene and Beers by Bacon Bros in Christchurch have hit the ball out of the park with this creamy concoction.
Small Gods The Fruit Thereof
A fig leaf and spelt Saison that is very well-balanced and laced with herbal notes that evolve with every sip.
⭐ Top Pick — Emerson’s Wilding
The first beer made with the uniquely New Zealand yeast of the same name, captured from a farm near Hunterville by the team at Froth Technologies. It’s a delicious beer – let’s call it an NZ Saison – and the yeast is going to be a star.
Garage Project Four Legs Good
This little Belgian table beer at 2.5% hits the spot as an everyday beer for me. Plus, it has a great name that nods to both Animal Farm and tables, those unheralded supporters of our beers.
Hop Federation Green Limousine
Of all the fresh hop beers I had this year, this one stood out for me. It may have helped I was drinking it with my Dad on the day it was canned.
Ruapehu Brewing Unlimited Vis Hazy IPA
I’m not a huge fan of hazies, but damn, I can’t think of a better beer to smash after a day snowboarding at Tūroa in unlimited vis. Maybe Lord of Darkness if the weather was in fact hazy.
Craftwork Scotch Bonnet
A taste of Flanders from just down the road in Oamaru. This could be my desert island beer.
Brave Brewing Terrible Lizards WCIPA
The best beer I remember having at The Malthouse’s West Coast IPA Challenge.
Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black
Like that old friend you don’t catch up with for years but when you do it’s like you’ve never been apart.
Choice Bros Little Dark Age & The Heaviest Matter in the Universe
I’m only cheating a little by naming two beers here. Made from one mash, partigyle style, the first runnings becoming a 10% imperial marshmallow stout, the second a 3.8% dark mild. Great complements, the yin and yang of dark beers.
This interpretation of a Belgian-style gueuze features a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old barrels of spontaneously fermented ale. The highlight of my Beervana.
North End Brett Grisette
I’m sad about the move to cans but this beer is still the perfect New Zealand farmhouse ale with the addition of lemons and kawakawa.