Beer Necessities tasting session: Best in class

Discover Aotearoa's top brews, chosen by our 10 specialist beer judges.

Introduction by Stephanie Coutts

Featured in Capital #73
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Check out our other top picks here:

Session Ale, Lager, and New Zealand Pilsner

Dark Lager, Porter, Stout, and the variations

XPA, Hazy Pale Ale, Hazy IPA, and Pale Ale

IPA, Belgian, and Scotch

The best in class selection is a truly great mix of beers and breweries. There was keen competition to make it to the podium – try them yourself and see if you agree with our judges.

Zeelandt Brewery
Jerry Rig

Zeelandt Brewery is in sunny Hawkes Bay. It opened in 2012, and has been showcasing a range of beers with strong links to European brewing traditions. This beer is their example of a Munich Helles, an easy-drinking lager style.

Jerry Rig ticks all the boxes, being clean, with light bready and cereal malt characters and hints of fresh hay. Our judges thought it finished with slightly more bitterness than the traditional style but this made it eminently smashable. They suggested it should be released in six-packs for summer.

8 Wired Brewery
Hop Salad
Hazy IPA

The brewery has recently opened a tap room in Matakana which is well worth a visit when time and alert levels allow. When you’re there, give this hazy a try, along with one or two of their excellent barrel-aged range.

This beer has a soft haziness but retains some brightness in its appearance. There’s a mix of New Zealand, Australian, and American hops, almost all with a tropical bent. This comes through on the punchy aroma and in the flavour, which from the judge’s descriptions is reminiscent of fruit salad: pineapple, peach, kiwifruit, orange, and lime. There’s enough bitterness on the finish to make this highly drinkable.

Emerson’s Brewery
London Porter

London Porter was the beer that launched Emerson’s Brewery. It is a testament to the Godfather of Beer, Richard Emerson, that it continues to shine, with a deep, ruby-red glow that impressed our judges. They reported biscuit and chocolate characters on the aroma, with hints of red berry.

The beer has a flavour reminiscent of black forest cake and finishes with some roasty, toasty notes making for a rounded, bittersweet but dry finish. Richard would match it with a smoky whisky and blue cheese, for those who are not faint of heart.

Three Sisters Brewery
Roses & Rivets
Red Rye Imperial IPA

Three Sisters Brewery from Oakura in Taranaki have been sneaking into the scene over the past few years, brewing some excellent beers that are well worth hunting out, this being no exception. Their Roses and Rivets impressed our judges with its deep red hue and big whack of tropical and citrus-driven hops and hints of rye-spice on the aroma.

The beer was rounded and full-bodied on the palate, integrated, and well-balanced. The caramel notes from the malt entwined with the hop bitterness make the beer dangerously easy to drink for 8.5%.

Fortune Favours
Imperial Vanilla Porter

This beer was brewed for Fortune Favours’ birthday in 2019, and is a fine example of how certain beers can develop over time – just like wine. If you’re going to cellar a beer, make it a big and complex one like this vanilla, bourbon-barrel-aged porter.

The beer poured with a deep hue and a silky tan head. The judges all noted the chocolate, caramel, and vanilla aroma, one commenting it was decadent. This carried through on the palate which was rounded and creamy. But the finish had enough bitterness to balance out the dessert-like flavours. This is a beer to sup and to pour over the best vanilla ice-cream you can find.


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