Wellington reigns as craft beer capital in sweep of SOBA awards

Garage Project brewery founders (from left) Jos Ruffell, Pete Gillespie, and Ian Gillespie. The brewer has been again ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Garage Project brewery founders (from left) Jos Ruffell, Pete Gillespie, and Ian Gillespie. The brewer has been again crowned best brewery in the 2015 Society of Beer Advocates Awards.

Wellington breweries have taken out the top two craft beer awards, confirming its status as the capital of all things hoppy.

The 2015 Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) Awards have decreed Upper Hutt's brewery Panhead Custom Ales' Supercharger APA as the country's best beer, and Wellington's Garage Project as the nation's best brewery.

It's nothing new for either brewery, with Garage Project winning the same award the previous year and Panhead winning best beer for its Vandal IPA .

Panhead owners Mike and Anna Neilson at their Upper Hutt brewery. Their Supercharger APA was crowned best beer in the ...
Mike Heydon

Panhead owners Mike and Anna Neilson at their Upper Hutt brewery. Their Supercharger APA was crowned best beer in the the 2015 Society of Beer Advocates Awards.

Garage Project, based in Aro Valley, is run out of an old garage and is known for it's wide range of small batch experimental beers.

In 2015, it was recognised in the Deloitte 500 as the fastest growing New Zealand company, growing more than 600 per cent in one year.

READ MORE:
Interview: Panhead owner Mike Neilson
Garage Project crafts top spot in 2015 Deloitte Fast 50
Panhead joins Wellington beer delegation to Portland

 Jos Ruffell, one of the co-founders of Garage Project, said the award was a signal the brewery was on the "right path".

"It think it's because we are brewing so many different beers and that's exciting."

In 2015, Garage Project release about 35 beers, and Ruffell said this year some big changes would allow it to experiment even more with different styles.

He believed Wellington's dominance in the SOBA awards came down to a healthy community of brewers supported by local drinkers willing to give unusual beers a taste.

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"In Wellington it really is a perfect storm... there is this audience that is willing to try new things."

Former Tuatara brewer Mike Neilson started up Panhead, named after the Harley-Davidson panhead motor, in Upper Hutt in 2013.

The brewery has already won awards overseas for its beers.

Nielson said the award was "validation" for the brewery, and the Supercharger APA brew.

"We were slogging away in the brewery over Christmas while everyone else is enjoying the sun. This validates what we are trying to do."

The brewery had taken off so fast, Nielson hadn't even had time to set-up a website.

"It's just crazy but we have loved every moment of it."

Elsewhere, Finney's Home Brew Emporium in Christchurch took out the top award for best home brewing store.

In regional awards dozens of restaurants, bottle shops and bars were recognised.

In Auckland, Brothers Beer was recommend as the best bar, Hallertau the best restaurant, and Hop Scotch the best off-licence.

In Christchurch, Pomeroy's was deemed both the best place to drink and eat, with The Beer Library the best option for a takeaway brew.

In Wellington, Hashigo Zake was the best bar, Ortega Fish Shack the best place to drink and eat, and Regional Wines and Spirits the best off-licence.

SOBA President David Wood said nearly double the number of awards were given out this year, compared to last year.

"More and more venues are taking beer seriously, which was reflected by the increase in votes regionally and nationwide."

The awards are given based on votes from SOBA members around the country.

THE WINNERS

National Awards

Best Brewery: Garage Project
Best Beer: Panhead, Supercharger APA
Best Home Brew Store: Finney's Home Brew Emporium

Regional Awards

Best Bars:
Brothers Beer (Auckland)
Good George Dining Hall (Waikato)
The Hour Glass (Taranaki)
Rutland Arms Inn (Whanganui)
Hashigo Zake (Wellington)
The Freehouse (Nelson)
Dodson Street (Marlborough)
Pomeroy's (Canterbury)
Albar (Otago)

Best Restaurants:
Hallertau (Auckland)
Gothenburg (Waikato)
Ortega Fish Shack (Wellington)
Pomeroy's (Canterbury)
Ombrellos (Otago)

Best Off Licenses:
Hop Scotch (Auckland)
Hamilton Beer and Wine Company (Waikato)
Liquorland, Fitzroy (Taranaki)
Regional Wines and Spirits (Wellington)
Fresh Choice, Richmond (Nelson)
The Beer Library (Canterbury)

Best Beer Events:
SOBA City of Ales (Auckland)
SOBA Mountain Ales (Taranaki)
Pacific Beer Expo (Wellington)
MarchFest (Nelson)
South Island Beer Festival (Canterbury)
Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival (Otago)

 - Stuff

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