5PM is a new contract brewery and this lager is made at Hallertau in West Auckland. The judges liked the simplicity and easy-drinkability of a beer designed to be used as described on the label: when the clocks ticks over to 5pm.
As we’ve seen with Carlsberg in the Top 30, this competition is not for the best “craft beers” but the best beer, full stop. And multinational breweries are extremely good at making clean, technically perfect lagers.
Paraparaumu-based Tuatara have just gone through a rebrand but some things have stayed the same – notably this classic German lager that’s been part of their range since the start. Vibrant hops, bright malt and clean flavour profile.
Tuatara Helles Lager
Zeelandt was the first in a new wave of craft breweries spreading through Hawke’s Bay. With a focus on classical styles they’ve established themselves in the Esk Valley. This dark lager has defined chocolate notes and a light, easy-drinking body.
Zeelandt Black Monk
Based in the Waitiri Creek Vineyard in Queenstown’s Gibbston Valley, Cargo is among a raft of new breweries in the Central Otago and Southern Lakes area. Beautifully designed brand reflects the wine connection and the beer is pretty classy too.
The original New Zealand-style pilsner was first brewed nearly 20 years ago when Richard Emerson was looking for a Kiwi take on a European classic, so he added New Zealand hops to his pilsner and changed the face of Kiwi brewing. Zesty, spritzy, delicately perfumed drop.
Emerson's NZ Pilsner
Has been a gold medallist in this competition the previous two years and proves its consistency with another impressive appearance. Judges loved the tropical hops that were well integrated with the malt as well as stern, drying bitterness.
Baylands Brewery takes its name from the time when it operated a 300-litre system out of garage in Baylands Drive, in the Wellington suburb of Newlands. Now located at Petone, they produce reliably good drops and this taps into the current craze for hazy beer.
Baylands Off Camber Haze
Another from Petone-based Baylands, which also runs a home brew supply business bought from Liberty Brewing. This pale ale is lean, clean, bright and citrussy. The judges loved it with one saying simply, “Nice beer. Hoppy!”
Baylands Petone Pale Ale
Ava Nakagawa is perhaps best known as the manager of popular Christchurch pub Pomeroy’s but a few years ago she built a brewery out of the back of the pub and brews there under the Beer Baroness label. This has notes of mandarin and is smooth and creamy on the palate.
Beer Baroness First Lady APA
Behemoth is one of the industry leaders when it comes to hazy-style beer, where the accent is on sweet hop oils, creamy mouthfeel and a gentle bitterness. The judges loved the “easy to drink” tropical fruit juice flavour and the nicely restrained bitterness.
Behemoth Brain Smiles Hazy Pale Ale
A newcomer out of Hamilton, Bootleg has already made waves with their award-winning IPA and they’ve shown a real skill in creating this XPA. The malt body is extremely light and gentle allowing the Mosaic hop to shine in all its fruity goodness. Lovely drop, pretty can.
Bootleg Mosaic XPA
An industry stalwart, Brew Moon has been a key business in the north Canterbury seaside town of Amberley for a number of years. The judges were impressed by the “great hop aromatics, good drinkability and nice malt characters”. Strong bitterness.
Brew Moon Amberley Pale Ale
Croucher Brewing is a flagship business in Rotorua. They rebranded a couple of years back to reflect the outdoor adventure spirit of their home town. This is a “lovely” beer the judges said, with rosewater and pine notes, great balance and an “emphatic finish”.
Croucher Enduro Pale Ale
Big Rig is a reference to a bright yellow Foden steam-powered truck Emerson’s use in many of their promotions. The beer is equally interesting. The judges praised its “seamless” balance, zingy malt and gentle malt, with one asking, “Can I have another?”
Emerson's Big Rig APA
Wellington’s Garage Project are best known for the exciting, outlandish and experimental beers but this little baby is as much a testament to their brewing skill as any. Just 2.2 percent ABV but with more flavour than you’d expect and great hoppiness to boot.
Garage Project Fugazi Hoppy Session Ale
Hamilton’s Good George deliver constantly reliable products and always feature in this competition. Their APA has notes of piney hops, trademark hop-malt balance and pleasing palate weight. Great beer for craft lovers and newcomers alike.
Good George APA
Based on the shores of Lake Taupo, Lakeman developed something of a cult following a few years ago, thanks to a combination of great beer and branding based on a mythical Bigfoot-type creature, Hairy Man. This is light and bright and bursting with hop oils.
Lakeman Brewing Co Hairy Dust Xtra Pale Ale
Another from Taupo’s Lakeman. Orange peel and pine from the hops are well-matched to a sweet malt, creating an overall effect that’s incredibly drinkable with the accent on a slightly sweet-over-bitter finish.
Lakeman Brewing Co Taupo Thunder New Zealand Pale Ale
Based in Silverdale in Auckland’s northern suburbs, Laughing Bones have riffed off the new “Brut IPA” style with this XPA which refers to making the beer super-dry, like the champagne. Expect a super-light body, delicate but defined hop character and very dry finish.
Laughing Bones Bone Dry Brut XPA
Liberty Brewing, from Helensville, is a family-based enterprise rooted in Auckland’s north-west and this beer pays homage to the good folk of that area who often suffer for choice in a Trusts-run area. Extremely refreshing and incredibly drinkable said the judges.
Liberty’s take on an XPA delivers bags of flavour on a body that’s just 4.7 percent ABV. Sweet fruit on the nose, a bantamweight body that looks crystal clear in the glass, and a long, lingering finish. “Great beer, perfect,” said our judges.
More like, “Oh boy!” This is just a hoppy delight that sparkles and dances across your palate. Bustling orange zest up front and a fresh and lively carbonation make it a great post-workout, post-lawns type of beer. Lingering hoppy, marmaladey finish. Delicious.
Liberty Oh Brother
One of the first American Pale Ales to hit the market in New Zealand and still one of the best. Yakima (pronounced Yak-a-ma) is a hop growing region in the US. Juicy citrus hops and grainy malt took our well-travelled beer judges back to America.
Liberty Yakima Monster
Mac’s in recent years have gone from middle of the road to more edgy craft and this is a crowd-pleasing interpretation of an APA that ticks all the boxes as you’d expect from a Lion-owned brewery. Judges’ assessment: “Fantastic beer. Well made. Big and juicy.”
A small beer at 2.5 percent but impeccably made by the “big boys” at Lion. Judges found it fresh, hoppy and palate-cleansing; praising the beer for its good use of bitterness, balance and gentle flavour.
Mac's Mid Vicious
McLeod’s in Waipu, two hours north of Auckland, make some of the best-loved beers in New Zealand. This is another testament to the quality of their products. Just 3.7 percent ABV but bursting with orange hops and caramel malt. “Great pale ale,” was the verdict on this sessionable gem.
McLeod's Heathen Session Pale Ale
Mike’s is a Taranaki stalwart and proudly stands as New Zealand’s oldest craft brewery having been founded in 1989. The judges were rapt with the mouth-watering “dank juiciness and lingering bitterness”. They concluded, “Bloody nice 4 percenter.”
mike's Kaitake Session Pale Ale
North End are based at Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast and are best known for their more esoteric Belgian-style beers. But this complex pale ale shows the brewing nous of Kieran Haslett-Moore. Hop notes and yeast esters are intertwined with a gentle sweet malt.
North End Super Alpha
An English classic imported to New Zealand and the judges picked up on the exemplary nature of this traditional pale ale. They loved the restrained, earthy English hop aroma, awesome malt structure, great balance and the “lovely” texture.
Timothy Taylor's Landord
A brand new brewery out of Taranaki that references a landmark north of New Plymouth. The brewery is a classic Kiwi operation – set up in the basement of a house owned by Joe Emans and Sarah Markert-Emans. A clean, easy-drinking pale ale.
Three Sisters Brewery - Rain in the Face
Bach Brewing have been around for just over five years but in that time have netted a boatload of awards with the emphasis on boldly hoppy beers. This is “zingy, crisp” with a lingering bitterness. Our judges don’t often use emojis but this one got a 😊
Bach Brewing TAILFIN American IPA
Initially made as a collaboration with Vietnam’s Heart of Darkness Brewery (the name’s derived from a play on the character Kurtz from Joseph Conrad’s novel). Real juiciness up front, creamy body and a smack of bitterness to round it off. Insane flavour.
Behemoth Churtz Insane Hazy Double IPA
Newish brewery out of Auckland’s north-west with a pared-back branding and great beers. A Red IPA is a hard style to do well but this is executed brilliantly. “Great example,” said the judges, praising the fantastic hop-malt interplay. Expect peaches, berries and caramel.
Colab Brewing 'The Commissioner' Red IPA
New Zealand’s most lauded and influential beer has been around for more than 10 years and inspired a host of imitators but still stands tall. Impeccable balance between pine, citrus, rosewater hops and smooth malt with good minerality and pleasing bitterness. Spot on.
Epic Armageddon IPA
Arguably New Zealand’s favourite double IPA – it’s one of the beers that started Garage Project on the path to brewing stardom. Huge grapefruit and apricot hoppiness, big resinous body, booming alcohol, it’s just full noise when it comes to flavour.
Garage Project Pernicious Weed Double IPA
A showcase for New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hop which throws off characters like sauvignon blanc grapes, diesel, gooseberry and a some dank cat pee (in a good way). Judges noted “grape, lime, dank, earthy, sweaty” in their descriptors. Hop-heads’ delight.
Liberty Sauvin Bomb
Another technically excellent, perfectly presented beer from Mac’s. The judges noted the “REALLY NICE” (they put the capitals in not us!) use of hops and praised this “lovely” beer for its great balance.
Mac's Green Beret
A standard bearer for the Bay Of Plenty brewing scene, Rocky Knob have had a cult following for some years thanks to their Snapperhead IPA. Here they’ve gone for a 2.5 percent “mini” IPA and won more fans with the juicy dank hop aroma and caramel maltiness.
Rocky Knob Undies
Brewed originally as a collaboration with Polish brewery PINTA using Polish hops – although this is all about the big malt. A Baltic Porter is a rich, boozy style but our judges loved the way the alcohol was well-hidden in this one, praising it as complex and drinkable.
8 Wired Baltyk-Tasman
Upper Hutt brewery Boneface featured in our Top 30 for the first time and backed it up with a highly commended “India Stout”, which translates as a hoppy American-style stout. Coffee, toast, milky chocolate, a hint of ash and a dry, hoppy finish.
Boneface Brewing The Darkness
This is one of those unusual beers in that it’s well-aged. Brewed in 2015 for Tuatara’s 15th birthday, hence the XV, this Imperial Russian Stout is like drinking chocolate-coated raisins dipped in sherry.
Tuatara XV Russian Imperial Stout
An absolute classic and the beer that founded the Emerson’s empire 27 years ago. Notes of light milky chocolate and just a hint of ash on the lightest body. This proves just how drinkable a porter can be – delicate and lovely.
Emerson's London Porter
Mike’s CMS (it stands for Chocolate Milk Stout) has been regularly lauded over the years, and it’s no different now. Creamy, smooth texture, with layers of chocolate, milky coffee, oats and licorice. “Fantastic beer,” was the adjudication.
mike's CMS Chocolate Milk Stout
Sparks has a Top 30 imperial stout made in conjunction with Epic and they further their credentials as a one of the best brewers of dark beers in the country with this beauty. Soft, warm, smooth with a lovely ash kick – “highly drinkable”.
Sparks Outlander - Extra Stout
8 Wired in Warkworth are arguably New Zealand’s best producer of fruit-infused sour beers. This one delivers waves of apricots on the nose but then integrates the sweet notes with the tartness of the base beer. “It’s like a sour fruit drink. Yum,” said our judges.
8 Wired Stone Free
Deep Creek are based in Silverdale, in Auckland’s sub-tropical northern suburbs. And they’ve nailed the tropical fruit punch elements of this beer. Zesty lime and passionfruit dominate followed by a subtle sourness. “Well made, yum!” was the verdict.
Deep Creek – Aloha – Guava Passionfruit Sour
Umeboshi translates from Japanese as salted or fermented or pickled plums. A better translation for this Gose-style is that it’s tart and salty with plum notes woven through a cleverly refreshing brew.
Emerson's Umeboshi Gose
Epic are now the hop kings of New Zealand brewing but as proven by their Top 30 placing they do darker beers exceedingly well. This is a big beer made smooth – think espresso coffee, vanilla, cocoa powder, rich malt, sweet stewed fruits and warming heat. Winter goodness.
Epic Epicurean Coffee & Fig 2018
If there’s one barrel-aged beer you should try it’s this. Unbelievable flavour balance of cherry, redcurrants and subtle vinegar notes. It’s a sweet and sour delight that tickles your palate and engages your brain. It’s a little bit challenging for the uninitiated but do give it a go.
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Heady mix of chocolate and rich coconut – “think Griffin’s Krispie biscuits,” said the judges. The coconut is prominent and decadent but the light, delicate body belies the sweet character and makes it oh-so-drinkable. “Moreish,” was the decision.
Kereru For Great Justice Coconut Porter
Irish and stout together conjure images of the famous Dublin brand but this is nothing like that. Aged in whisky barrels to create intense vanilla notes with undertones of coconut. Rich and strong with whisky and vanilla prominent. Complex and fun.
Lakeman Brewing Co Hairy Craic Irish Cream Stout
Judges loved the balance here of beer and whisky barrel character. Under the whisky you’ll find chocolate and a clean roastiness. The judges were most impressed by the way everything was integrated and no single character dominated, with the alcohol heat well contained.
mike's Whisky Porter 2018 Barrel Aged
This is like a little hummingbird of a beer. Lots of moving parts combined into a beautiful and featherlight whole. A sour beer of just 2.5 percent ABV with hibiscus, lime juice and a funky saison yeast. Zesty, spritzy, citrus and spicy with refreshing dry finish.
North End Petit Luna
A popular and complex offering from Sawmill. This soured wheat beer is flavoured with hibiscus flower tea and fermented with passionfruit pulp to create a dry, tart and refreshing drop. Judges loved the passionfruit kick.
Sawmill Passionfruit Sour
Chocolate and coffee, with licorice and caramel coming along for a silky ride into decadence. The judges raved about the smooth texture, complex flavours and the way the beer stayed sweet without becoming cloying. “Great! Incredibly smooth,” they said.
Sawmill Chocolate Stout
Adding oysters to beer was apparently a New Zealand invention around 100 years according to beer historians. The practice fell out of favour until Three Boys brought it back with this multi-awarded winning cult beer. Expect dry coffee and salted chocolate.
Three Boys Oyster Stout
This is a farmhouse style beer that lets the yeast create a lot of flavour. There’s orange on the nose, followed by bubblegum, clove and white pepper. Superb drinkability with dry, tart finish. Excellent food beer.
Garage Project Mon P'tit Chou French Farmhouse Ale
We had one Wee Heavy in the Top 30 with Sprig & Fern’s Scotch Ale and this is another fine example of a rich malty style that’s not well known in New Zealand. Judges loved the “chocolate on toast” character with one saying, “I could drink this all day.”
Kereru Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
An American-style hoppy amber beer that offers pine and red berries blended with light cocoa and caramel. Judges thought it showed great balance. “Piney and berry hops, juicy esters and cocoa, just burnt toffee…fits style perfectly.”
Lakeman Brewing Co Hairy Godfather American Amber Ale
Ah, good old Speight’s Gold Medal Ale. A classic drop. In this case we’ll say “it is what it is” – a fine example of what we call a New Zealand Draught, the variety that you find in pubs up and down the land.
Speight's Gold Medal Ale
This is quite a strong drop of beer but it hides it so well. Smooth, rich and malty with a great palate weight that offers burnt sugar, poached peaches a touch of treacle. “Rich and satisfying,” was the verdict.
McLeod's Traders Scotch Ale
Dunedin brewery New New New is, well, relatively new. And they’re also doing new things with interesting spins on traditional styles. This is described as tropical brown ale. Judges said, “Pineapple lumps and affogato”.
New New New Sun Sun Beer - Tropical Brown Ale
The name references the Mt Maunganui post code but the beer is definitely American in its influence. A hoppy brown ale delivers chocolate and biscuit coupled with hop fruitiness. Judges praised the way the flavours walked in step.
Rocky Knob 3116 Post Code
Scott’s is based in Oamaru after transplanting from Auckland a few years ago and have become a destination brewery for those in the area. This light, golden ale is just 2.9 percent ABV but caught the judges’ attention with its good balance.
Scotts Explorer Light Ale
Gisborne-based Sunshine is one of New Zealand’s oldest craft breweries, dating back to 1989 and after being sold by the original owners a few years ago has gone through an extensive rebrand and built a new brewery. This ginger-spiced summer ale says “Gizzy” all day.
Sunshine Brewing Summer Ale
An imported cider from Spain that offers “intense and complex barnyard aromas,” said the judges. They loved the rich and full-bodied texture coupled with a bold minerality and good tannins for balance – “well-balanced, complex and drinkable”.
Maeloc Sidra Extra Ecologica
This flavoured cider delivers on its promise: “Ripe feijoa and apple aromas, medium body, very well integrated feijoa and cider flavours, clean and refreshing, great balance, very crisp finish, very drinkable, a great example.”
Old Mout Feijoa Cider
Peckham’s were the star producer in the cider category this year with three in the Top 100. This is another traditional cider that the judges praised for its “quirky, smoky barnyard aromas, moderate weight, nice balance and complexity”.
Peckham's Classic Moutere Apple Cider
Another from Nelson-based Peckham’s with their signature complexity. Floral, honeyed apples on the nose give way to a full-bodied cider that’s lightly carbonated and finishes with a very good tannin structure. “Lovely richness and well-balanced, great character.”
Peckham's Reserve Home Block Cider