It was a completely different but no-less-fun experience to watch the Brewers Guild of New Zealand present their 2021 awards via Zoom.
The rapid-fire delivery of results left little time to take it all in on the night but on reflection it was a night when a bunch of well-loved breweries got their much-deserved moment in the sun, a couple of underdogs took out the biggest prizes and Garage Project upstaged Lion and DB to be named the champion large brewery.
There were 838 entries from 72 breweries with just 35 gold medals handed out, with Garage Project taking home 14 per cent of them!
5 Garage Project (Chance Luck & Magic, Pickle Beer, Raspberry Cabaret, Proper IPA, Ghost Light)
4 Lion (Speight’s Mid-Ale, Rheineck, Steinlager Ultra, Steinlager Tokyo Dry)
3 Panhead (Port Road Pils, Black Sabbath, Batch 172)
2 Behemoth (Get Busy Hopping, Hop Buddies — Paddy & Dan)
2 Deep Creek (Undercurrent, Haze)
2 McLeod’s (Smuggler’s Bay Belgian Strong Ale, Black Watch Sour 2020)
2 Sunshine (XPA, Gisborne Gold)
and one each to:
Alibi Timna Zima, Altitude Powder Day, Brave Bottle Rocket, Bach Billfish, Beer Baroness Dare to Diva, Boneface Outlaw IPL, Bootleg Seeing Dubbel, Burkes Unforgiven Porter, Emerson’s Set Phasers to Stun, Kereru Amberine, North End Merchant of the Devil, Parrotdog Peter, Sprig + Fern GOAT Doppelbock, Three Sisters Roses & Rivets, Waitoa Afterglow.
So let’s start at the top.
This is the biggie for the night. Basically best in show, the brewery that produced the best results, the best range of beers. They had to enter at least four beers in three different styles, and win one gold. Points are awarded for each medal and divided by entries.
There was 0.07 of a point between first and second, with Alibi Brewing from Waiheke Island taking the title. It’s a fantastic outcome for one of the absolute good guys of the industry in Bernard Neate, and I don’t say that just because he once shared a bottle of Pliny The Elder with me!
Alibi’s beers are hard to find but I’ve never had a bad one. They entered four beers winning a trophy with their Timna Zima a Bohemian dark lager. Their Bohemian Pilsner picked up silver (is it the Waiheke water?) and their Pink Guava Sour got a bronze. They missed a medal with a hazy called Joose Connection.
The result means that the Champion Exhibitor trophy moves from the western edge of Auckland to the very east, after Liberty previously won this title in 2019.
This is judged from all the trophy winners and the judges narrowed it down to three finalists: Chance Luck & Magic by Garage Project, Panhead’s Port Road Pilsner and Unforgiven Porter by Burke’s Brewing. And in an upset for the ages against those Wellington giants, the little brew-pub in Tekapo came through with Unforgiven Porter. It’s the second major award for Sebastian Burke this year after his #FakeNews hazy IPA got a Top-30 spot at the New World Beer & Cider Awards, propelling Burke’s on to the national stage. And now they’ve proved they’re no one-hit wonder.
Introduced this year, for breweries that make up to 50,000 litres. That’s a tiny amount of beer, if we’re honest. The inaugural winners are Three Sisters in Taranaki who haven’t even been in their new brewpub for a year. Here’s a story I did last year about their crowd-funding.
Champion Small Brewery
For breweries making 50,000-200,000 litres per year. The winner, and the first time it wasn’t Fork Brewing, is Altitude Brewing in Queenstown. Eddie Gapper and Elliot Menzies do a stunning job with their cute little brewpub at Frankton. They won a dozen medals: a gold for their Powder Day Pilsner, seven silvers and four bronze.
Champion Medium Brewery
This is kind of where it’s at in the New Zealand beer scene as the bulk of our craft breweries that you see in supermarkets are in this bracket of 200,000-2,000,000 litres. And honestly, hand on heart, it feels like the best brewery won it, which doesn’t always happen in such events where: McLeod’s from Waipu make such a wide range of classically great beer. They won a trophy with Harvest Moon, a Cascadian Dark Ale and added a gold with their Smugglers Bay Belgian Strong Ale, plus there were 9 silvers and 7 bronze medals.
Champion Large Brewery
This is for breweries that make more than 2 million litres per year and in the past two years has been the domain of Lion. But this year Garage Project blew everyone out of the water. Their results were phenomenal and they must have come oh so close to the champion exhibitor title. They took two trophies: Chance Luck & Magic, a blend of three vintages of spontaneously fermented ale, and the just-released Proper IPA, made with potatoes in conjunction with Proper Crisps. On top of that there were gold medals to Raspberry Cabaret, Pickle Beer and Ghost Light Hazy Pale Ale. Add in 13 silvers and 9 bronze and it’s a pretty impressive effort. Only eight of their entries failed to medal.
B Studio the Napier-based brewery does heaps of beer for heaps of people, notably Garage Project. They beat Steam Brewing which is some achievement!
Morton Coutts Award
This is handed out for innovation in the industry. And quite rightly acknowledges 38-years of innovation by Dr Ron Beatson of NZ Plant & Food for the research and innovation he has done with NZ Hops. Ron’s an amazing humble guy but we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for some of the beers we enjoy today.
Beer Tourism Award
Moa Brewing Company for their Marlborough tap room experience.
Brewing Sustainability Award
The good crew at Sawmill who really do walk the walk when it comes to this side of the business. The judges said “Sawmill Brewing continues to stand out as a result of its raft of sustainable actions that covered every aspect of environmental stewardship and community guardianship, its achievements on water reduction and recycling as well as on site renewable energy generation and incentivising their customers to use returnable containers.”
Beer Media Award
This went to Alice Neville of The Spinoff. In winning this award, it means women have taken this award three of the past four events after Alice Galletly in 2017 and Denise Garland in 2019. Alice impressed the judges with the quality of her writing and the fact she was able to take broad beer issues and present them to a mainstream audience. Her winning entry is here:
Industry Achievement Award
This went to Dean Bradley, best known as the man behind Wellington’s Brew Day event. Bradley has been a big part of the beer industry for a long time. I recently spoke to him for a story on festivals.
Small Gods x Maltkult Satan Trio of course. If you’ve been paying attention this year, you know it! Small Gods is the brewing arm of Beer Jerk and they combined with experience brewer Mike Cheer to make a range of classically-inspired beers (Bock, Belgian Dubbel and Scotch Ale) with a twist. They were all themed around the Devil’s journey from an angel at the hand of God through his betrayal, fall and ultimate fate. Clever beers, clever theme, exceptional design with the waxed cans.
Here’s the other trophy winners from each style category:
Wheat and Other Grain
Three Sisters Roses & Rivets made with Aurora, Rye, Wheat and Shepherd’s Delight malts, with Belgian Candi Syrup, Ahtanum & Mosaic hops. West Coast American and German ale yeasts.
Speciality and Experimental Class
This is a hard class to judge with beers ranging from zero ABV right through double-digit ABV monsters and with a whole lot of fruit, spice, smoked and chocolate-laden goodies to boot. To stand out is hard so good on you Speight’s Mid Ale, a 2.5 per cent quaffer that is executed to perfection. I will note that three zero ABV beers released by craft brewers scored medals here with Bach All Day Non Alcoholic IPA, Garage Project Tiny But Mighty and Sawmill Bare Beer all taking bronze medals*.
Fruit and Flavoured Trophy
Out of Christchurch’s pub institution of Pomeroy’s huge result for Beer Baroness Dare to Diva. Described as a tart and refreshing mixed berry sorbet sour. Brewed with Blackberries, Boysenberries and Raspberries.
Garage Project Chance Luck & Magic
A three year blend of spontaneously fermented beer, brewed with New Zealand grown pilsner malt, raw wheat and hops, using traditional mashing techniques, an open coolship and extended ageing in oak.
British Ale Trophy
No Gold medals, best silver medal won trophy and that was the legendary Emerson’s Bookbinder.
This went to Panhead Customs Ales Port Rd Pilsner. This beer might be close to over-taking Epic Armageddon as New Zealand’s most awarded beer. It just keeps dominating everything it enters. And with good reason.
Amber and Dark Lager
As noted above this went to Alibi Brewing Temna Zima, a Bohemian Dark Lager.
If you’ve tried this one, you’ll understand, it’s an absolute banger: Boneface Outlaw IPL (India Pale Lager).
Stout and Porter
Burke’s Brewing continue a great year with Unforgiven Porter taking out this prize and the overall trophy for best beer in show.
Amber and Dark Ale
No golds in this class, so silver medals were re-tasted and McLeod’s Harvest Moon justifiably came out on top.
Barrel and wood-aged
Kereru in Upper Hutt make a fantastic range of barrel-aged beer and are deserving winners with Amberine, a whisky barrel-aged Belgian Quadruple.
International Pale Ale
Literally just on the market so must be super-fresh and made with actual potatoes in the mash: Garage Project Proper IPA.
Behemoth Get Busy Hopping. If there was a name that did justice to what goes on in the Behemoth brewery this is it. They do make an awful lot of IPA, so there was always a good chance they’d win this.
Hazy & Juicy
A new category this year reflecting the growth in hazies. There were a shedload of medals handed out which is not surprising given how many of them are made. But the inaugural winners are a team that started out in a little brewpub in Hataitai, Wellington: Waitoa Afterglow.
*This post has been updated to correct the earlier version that had Bach winning silver.