Beervana better than ever

Beervana, Westpac Stadium
Beervana, Westpac Stadium

A certain major sports event meant the biggest week in New Zealand beer was moved to August this year.

This schedule change did not prevent a record number of entries in the 2011 New Zealand Beer Awards or record crowds at Beervana, the nation's biggest beer festival.

Amazingly, 465 beers were entered.

The ultimate award went to exciting Blenheim brewery 8Wired, which was selected as the champion brewery of New Zealand 2011-12.

One of the Yeastie Boys duo lives in Wellington, and their Rex Attitude beer picked up the prestigious Morton Coutts award for innovation.

The hugely challenging Rex is made with 100 per cent smoked peat malt, an ingredient generally used sparingly in beers, if at all.

Wellington's Tuatara Brewing Company, a previous champion, also had success with two "best in class trophies", two gold medals – Tuatara Ardennes, Hefe – and three bronze medals – Tuatara APA, XI and packaging.

XI, strong and stout flavoured with artisan liquorice, was brewed especially for the event and was based on the theme "Let's go black".

In recent years, Beervana has been held in the Town Hall, but the new owner, malt magnate David Cryer, and his team moved the festival to the Wellington Stadium concourse.

During four sessions, more than 200 beers were available from more than 80 breweries.

Most products were from New Zealand craft producers, including new Wellington breweries The Garage Project and ParrotDog.

The food selection, perhaps a weakness in previous years, was outstanding, with beer-friendly dishes provided by some of the city's best restaurants.

Chef Martin Bosley was the festival's culinary director and his influence was immediately evident.

There was a series of seminars, including beer and food matching with top chefs, explanations of the festive brews, sensory evaluation and expert discussions of malt and hops. Each session involved a live brewing demonstration.

The media brew contest, won by Victoria Wells of Dish magazine with the Epic Brewing Company, was popular.

Three of the four sessions were sold out, with the crowds noticeably younger and more gender-balanced than previously.Neil Miller

The Wellingtonian