Liberty Brewing has landed three hoppy beers in Top-30 at this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards.
The result couldn’t have come at a better time after the brewery suffered a setback when its distributor went into liquidation last month.
The awards, run by the New World supermarket, offer a huge boost for smaller breweries as the retailer guarantees the Top-30 winners get ranged and promoted in New World stores across New Zealand for a month.
While Liberty are already big enough to have a strong supermarket presence, owner and founder Joe Wood says the timing of the awards is perfect after they were left scrambling to ensure supply when Quench Collective went into liquidation.
“It’s bloody great timing,” Wood said.
“We’re really grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase our beer – especially in the South Island, where we’re not traditionally ranged.”
In the period leading up to Quench going out of business, Wood saw an obvious decline in sales but business has started to pick up again after they promoted their on-premise sales rep into a broader role.
“We’ve managed to get things back under control but we had to put in a huge amount of work to get there.”
Liberty’s achievement of having three hoppy beers in the Top-30 is unparalleled in the seven-year history of the awards as the pale and IPA categories are the most fiercely contested. The beers that came through for Liberty are: Oh Brother Pale Ale, Knife Party IPA and Citra Double IPA.
“These are all beers that we’ve been working on for years and years and we’ve got the process nailed now.”
A number of breweries are regulars in the Top-30 – the likes of Garage Project, Sawmill, Bach, Panhead, McLeod’s, Boneface, Deep Creek, Behemoth, Emporium and 8 Wired feature perennially.
But as always there are surprises – and this year, one of New Zealand’s most geographically remotely breweries – Tekapo-based Burkes Brewing – earned nationwide recognition for their #FakeNews Hazy IPA.
Other notable trends were the introduction of a specialist hazy category in the awards. This accounted for 100 of the 656 entries across the competition, second only to pale ale which drew 107 entries. Reflecting that level of popularity, five hazies made it into the Top-30.
And for the first time in a major awards, the panel judged beer-based seltzer, alcoholic kombucha and alcoholic ginger beer. Of the 27 entries across this new range, only one made the Top-30 – Zeffer Alcoholic Ginger Beer.
The awards also offered a return to national prominence for Motueka-based Townshend Brewing.
Townshend took the title of Champion Brewery at the 2014 New Zealand Beer Awards but suffered setback when a contract brewing partnership with Tuatara went wrong. That forced owner-brewer Martin Townshend to retrench his operation and focus on his local area.
But after his Sutton Hoo American Amber Ale earned a place in the Top-30, Townshend hoped it would continue to push the brewery back into the national spotlight as they continue to get stronger.
“I did have the rug pulled from under my feet a few years ago – but I only had myself to blame. And then Covid smacked us in the teeth – yet still we’ve survived,” Townshend said.
“This award is a fantastic bonus and let’s hope it helps out enormously.”
The New World Beer & Cider Top-30
- 8 Wired Wild Feijoa
- Bach Duskrider Red IPA
- Baylands Offshore Bandit
- Baylands Sky Surfer
- Behemoth Be Hoppy #3 Hazy Pale Ale
- Boneface The Darkness India Stout
- Burkes #Fakenews, Hazy IPA
- Cassels APA
- Crooked Cider Apple Blackcurrant
- Crooked Cider Pure Apple
- Deep Creek Aloha
- Deep Creek Redwood
- Emporium Get to da Choppa
- Garage Project Party and Bullshit
- Garage Project White Mischief
- Heart of Darkness – Some Sorcerer Hazy IPA
- Isthmus 3D IPA
- Liberty – Citra Double IPA
- Liberty – Knife Party
- Liberty – Oh Brother Pale Ale
- McLeod’s Paradise Pale Ale
- Panhead Port Rd Pilsner
- Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale
- Sawmill Baltic Porter
- Sawmill The Doctor
- Steinlager Tokyo Dry
- Townshend Sutton Hoo Amber Ale
- Urbanaut Copacabana Brut IPA
- Urbanaut Miami Brut Lager
- Zeffer Ginger Beer
Note: The author was the Chair of Judges for the awards
Below is the official media release announcing the results of the competition.
Cheers all round as New Zealand breweries make Top 30 list
First-time winners share ranks with NZ’s most-loved names in beer
Some of New Zealand’s newest and smallest breweries have been recognised alongside many of the country’s most-loved names in beer in the 2021 New World Beer & Cider Awards announced today.
Seven first-time winners from around the regions have made this year’s prestigious Top 30 list, sharing the podium with well-known brands like Steinlager, Panhead Custom Ales, Garage Project and Liberty Brewing Company.
With these wins, comes the opportunity to get discovered by beer-loving shoppers nationwide as the top beers and ciders hit shelves in more than 140 New World supermarkets from today.
It’ll be a first for these up-and-coming breweries, like Burkes Brewing Co from Tekapō – one of the country’s smallest and most remote craft beer producers, Baylands Brewery – a fast-growing family business from Petone, and Crooked Cider – a mother and daughters team based in Ōtaki and Gisborne.
For others, like Christchurch’s Cassels Brewing Co and Motueka’s Townshend Brewery, it’s a chance to showcase years of local success on the national stage, while relative new-comers like Auckland’s Urbanaut Brewing Co and Isthmus Brewing Co will get the opportunity to make a big impact further South.
Beer writer, author and Chair of Judges for the Awards Michael Donaldson says beer-lovers and novices alike can get excited by the range of beers and ciders that have come to the fore in this year’s competition.
“New Zealand’s most experienced and celebrated brewers and cidermakers judged their way through more than 650 entries over two days to discover these best-of-the-best beers and ciders.
“Judged blind – the independent panel weren’t privy to any brands along the way, so beer-lovers can have confidence that these winners really stack up based on their quality and taste alone.”
He says the judges were blown away by the Top 30 this year. “It should be no surprise – New Zealand is home to a world-class brewing industry, but the quality of this year’s winners is truly excellent.”
As well as new brew brands to explore, shoppers will again be treated by the return of some of New Zealand’s most respected craft breweries.
Behemoth Brewing, Deep Creek Brewing, Garage Project and Sawmill Brewery each have two winning beers in the Top 30, while Matakana’s 8 Wired Brewing, Upper Hutt’s Boneface Brewing Company, Kaikōura’s Emporium Brewing, Waipū’s McLeod’s Brewery, Blenheim’s Renaissance Brewing and Zeffer Cider in the Hawke’s Bay all celebrated repeat success.
“We also have two standout trifectas,” highlights Donaldson.
“Liberty Brewing Company built on all its previous years with a triple Top 30 win this year – another feat from these craft beer darlings who were named the country’s best brewery in the last Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards. And Panhead’s Port Road Pilsner raced into to the Top 30 for the third year running – making it arguably New Zealand’s best pilsner.”
2021’s biggest beer trends
Trending styles also won big after the introduction of two new classes, one for hazy beers and another for alcoholic seltzers, ginger beer and kombucha.
“The haze craze has certainly hit New Zealand, and the huge number of entries in the new hazy class, well over 100, shows just how popular these cloudy beers are with consumers,” explains Donaldson. “The five hazy winners – again from a mix of both established and new producers, are all surprisingly different while still sticking to those-must have hazy qualities: lush tropical fruit, creamy body and a sweet finish.”
In contrast, two “Brut” beers from Auckland brewery Urbanaut, which are made using the same techniques invented to create low-carb beers, offer a dryer option for those that find hazies too heavy.
Another round of applause goes to the sours and barrel-aged class, which showcased evolving consumer tastes and brewers who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries with three Top 30 brews and a total of 12 across the Top 100.
Donaldson described this years’ Top 30 winners, including a 2.9% peachy-delight, a deeply tropical sour and a vintaged feijoa ale, as “the tip of a very deep iceberg of flavour, with many more great examples from the sour, barrel-aged and fruited category also recognised in the Award’s Highly Commended list.”
And finally, the new alcoholic seltzers, kombucha and ginger beer class – a first for a national competition anywhere in the world, uncovered an inaugural win for a ginger beer from Zeffer. “This beauty from these Hawke’s Bay cider specialists was the clear front-runner and a welcome addition to the Top 30.”
A full list of the Top 30 winning beers and ciders is below. All winners, as well as the 70 Highly Commended brews, can also be found on the New World website at newworld.co.nz/Top30