Over the past year our beer and hospitality industries have been hit hard by Covid-19. They have been focusing on recovery and thanks to their tenacity we have a plethora of new beers for us all to enjoy.
Far and away the most common style entered in the 2021 tasting was Hazy IPA. Interestingly, there were more entries of kettle-soured and farmhouse ale, as well as traditional European styles.
For readers who like to drink outside of conventional styles, some of the recommendations will ring a bell. Ice-cream sours, milkshake IPAs, experimental saisons, and stouts are becoming more popular, while style guidelines and ingredients are toyed with constantly by brewers.
Our judges this year focused on the consumer experience. They looked for beers that were consistent with the style and description on the label. If you are looking for a broader experience I would recommend trying all of the beers in this list. Drink local, support local.
These brews hit the judges for six out of six stars. From lean clean lagers to delectable sours, the top six is a refined, diverse mix.
Lager Whistling Sisters Lager
Whistling Sisters is in our very own capital city Wellington. It opened in 2018 in commemoration of the owners’ daughter who died of cancer. Twenty cents from every can sale goes to a fund for research on and treatment of advanced breast cancer. Whistling Sisters brew a range of styles and specialise in hand-making fermented foods and bread, and they also roast their own coffee – how neat is that? This lager ticked all of the boxes. It was clean and clear, with light bready malt characters and a tropical hop aroma that ends crisp and dry and is not overly bitter. This was a standout lager for the judges and is an all-round great drop.
Strung out on Lasers Choice Bros Brewery Kettle Sour
Choice Bros Brewery is another standout brewery in Wellington. It opened in 2016 down a small alleyway off Ghuznee Street and has had exceptionally talented head brewers at the reins. Strung Out On Lasers has been a staple Choice Bros beer. Its bright pink hue is hard to miss, and it is filled with delicious raspberry and lime flavours. It has a dry tart finish and the judges said it was well balanced and refreshing. This beer never fails to impress.
Passionfruit and Lime Ripple Duncan’s Brewing Co. Ice Cream Sour
Duncan’s Brewing Company is located in Paraparaumu on the Kāpiti Coast. It opened in 2017 and is owned and operated by George Duncan. He has recently been experimenting with ice-cream sour and smoothie IPA-style beers with some exceptionally cool artwork on their cans. The judges were extremely impressed with this beer and it is indeed outstanding. They described it as tasting like “vanilla, passionfruit, and lime deliciousness” and found the multiple ingredients very well balanced. Be sure to check out Duncan’s fillery and popup bar at the brewery. It’s a great excuse for a trip to the Kāpiti Coast.
Zeelandt Brewery opened in 2012 in sunny Hawkes Bay. Owner and Head Brewer Christopher is super talented and has been executing impressive traditional European styles. Schwarzbier, a dark German lager, pairs well with hearty spicy foods such as jambalaya or desserts such as candied ginger and pear cake or dark chocolate. The judges raved about this beer. They thought it was true to style. It was clean and crisp and light-bodied but had a well-balanced roasty character with hints of chocolate and coffee, and had a light bitterness to it. They said they would happily drink a few of these, and fortunately for you, it comes in six packs.
This beer was brewed in a collaboration between North End Brewery and Small Gods (who also run an awesome craft beer subscription service called Beer Jerk). You may want to check out their Auckland shop, called the Fridge and Flagon, and also North End Brewery in Waikanae. This beer was outstanding, in a style that is not so commonly found. The judges said it smelt like chocolate, dark fruits, and prunes. They tasted complex malt flavours of chocolate and biscuits and said it was incredibly well balanced and highly drinkable. Mild ale is a style which originated from the English Midlands and is thought to be one of the oldest beer styles in England.
Double Vision Brewing is located in Miramar, Wellington, and is jointly owned and run by best friends Warren, Evan, Harry, and Mario. They say they aim to take traditional styles and push their boundaries. Naughty Hopper is a great example of this. It is a double IPA coming in at 8.9% abv. The judges said it tasted like pine resin, tropical fruits, and oranges, with a well-balanced sweet malt character. The hops used in this beer (Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic) are known as the “Rockstar” hops of America. They are low in bitterness but juicy and fruity and this beer is a great example of these qualities.
These beers were either brewed to be sour through a process referred to as “kettle souring” or through spontaneous ferment. This happens when brewers use wild yeast strains such as Brettanomyces, giving the beer earthy, barnyard characteristics.
Become the Ocean North End Brewery Gose
This beer never fails to impress. Tasting fresh, it had hints of spiced lemon and salt. It was juicy and refreshing with a good level of tartness contributing to a great mouthfeel.
This broad category covers several different styles from traditional European beer countries. These beers exhibit brewing techniques developed over hundreds of years, which have laid the foundations for some of the New World beer styles we enjoy today. Belgian-style beers are known for their yeast character, reminiscent of clove and fruit, and for alcohol levels that are typically on the higher side. Whereas German-style beers are malt accented, which balances well with floral hops.
The G.O.A.T Doppelbock Sprig & Fern Brewery Doppelbock
This beer had big malt characters. It tasted nutty and had hints of alcohol in the aroma. It was full bodied, although on the darker end of this style.
This beer had a big juicy fruit-gum aroma with light spice and hints of grain. It showed great head retention, a must for this style. It had flavours of cloves from the yeast and ended with light carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel.
This beer had a light floral hop aroma and a white-bread-crust malt character to its flavour. It ended with soft carbonation and was well balanced. Although not quite to style, this was an enjoyable beer.
These beers are juicy and fruity often packed with tropical fruit flavours such as mango, pineapple, orange, and lychee. Beers in this style are well balanced with bitterness and can often be thick and creamy. This style arose on the East Coast of America, and many New Zealand breweries have recently been experimenting with it.
Oat Cream V.2 Duncan’s Brewing Co. Hazy IPA
The beer had great haze. It smelt and tasted of sweet peach candy, lime, and coconuts, with a great balance between the hop and malt characters.
This beer has a big tropical fruit character. Ripe pineapples are the dominant flavour with hints of toasted white bread. This beer has a strong bitter finish, a bit more bitter than most in this style. Overall it is well balanced.
This style of beer uses darker roasted malts to give beers rich fuller bodied flavours of coffee, chocolate, and burnt toast. Similar to the roasty-ness of coffee, the darker the malts the more burnt richness the beer will taste of. Hop flavour and bitterness are typically less apparent in this style, but bitterness from darker malts is not uncommon.
Pit Boss North End Brewery Smoked Doppelbock
This beer was bright orange in colour. It had an aroma reminiscent of smoked meats with honey. It was a rich full-bodied beer with smoke character that does not overwhelm you.
This beer poured a stunning jet-black colour with a pillowy tan-coloured head. It had aromas of milk coffee with hints of smoke and brine. It was well-rounded and full bodied, and ended with a soft warming carbonation.