Gazing into my beer-filled crystal ball

00:26, Aug 19 2014

As you may be aware, the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards are coming up soon - really soon.

This Thursday night, the glitterati of the nation's beer scene - if we can call a bunch of people who make and write about booze for a living glitterati - will congregate to discover who makes some of the best beers in the country.

I, sadly, will not be among them; the last time I was around glitter I needed to get the suit I was wearing dry-cleaned.

Also, my day job is getting in the way.

Partly because I'm sulking about not making it to the awards, but mainly because I can, I have made a list of who I think will win the big awards on the night.

And as I needed something to write about, I thought I would share some of my predictions with you.


Champion overseas brewer: Samuel Adams. It is always Samuel Adams, because they enter every freekin' beer they brew into every damn beer competition known to man, even if they do not distribute in the country the competition is held. I am waiting for the day they try enter the SOBA-run National Homebrew Competition, just because they have not won it yet. 

Best cask ale: It will have to be something from Townshend's Brewing. While his bottle-conditioned ales have been available nationwide for some time, Martin Townshend's casks have been difficult to find outside of the Nelson area he calls home.

But thanks to Hashigo Zake in Wellington shipping them in, I've managed to sample some of Townshend's "real ales".

The carbonation, flavour and texture of the beers from casks was always so much more interesting. You can pick any of his beers to take the title, but I'm hoping it is his perfectly balanced JC IPA. 

Best manufacturer: A new category for the awards, the champion manufacturer award looks to reward breweries that make beer for other people.

In short, if a beer is brewed in a brewery by another company and scores points, those points also go towards the manufacturer.

If this award was around in 2011, when 8 Wired Brewing won champion brewery, Renaissance probably would have taken out this new award due to all of 8 Wired's beer being made there.

While Invercargill Brewing may be at the forefront of most people's minds for this award - they make Yeastie Boys and more - my money is on Steam Brewing in Auckland. 

The reason you possibly haven't heard of them is because they very rarely make their own beer.

They are best known for being the site where Epic and 8 Wired brew their beers. There is also a large group of breweries that make beer and cider there, but for some reason are shy about saying so.

With the combined quality of Epic, 8 Wired and the other breweries, I see Steam being hard to beat.

Unless, of course, Kereru's manufacturing portfolio - Funk Estate, North End and Schipper's - is judged to be stronger.

Champion brewery: This is always a difficult pick. The beers from the likes of Yeastie Boys and Garage Project are always great, but often fall outside of the style guidelines.

Newcomers like Bayland's Brewing have hype in the beer community, but are possibly missing the portfolio required.

Previous winners Emerson's and Tuatara are class acts, and Sprig & Fern consistently rack up a bodacious swag of medals most years.

But the smart money will be on Renaissance Brewing. Last year they won best small brewery in Australasia and the Australasian brewing awards and champion New Zealand brewery at the New Zealand Beer Awards. If they do win it, I would bank on it giving their equity-raising drive a massive boost; the more medals you have, the more likely you are to bring in the bucks.

Beer writer of the year: New Zealand's beer writing scene is, frankly, in rude health. The first two winners of this award, Phil Cook and Michael Donaldson, continue to fire out excellent copy. Neil Miller has improved upon his high standards in every way possible, while Geoff Griggs always has something worth saying.

But it is a relative newcomer who has my vote.

No, not Dylan Jauslin, although his slant on the scene is always entreating (Recycling Bin Bingo, anyone?).

Jason Gurney's two blog projects - The Beer Money Blog and Brew Hui - are my pick of the bunch, and make him my writer of the year.

It is not just because his topics are interesting; writing about drinking good beer cheaply and the journey into home brewing will always going to suck me in.

No, I like Gurney's work because it is well written, personal, and about things almost anyone can relate to.

Does it stand up to the guild's guideline of ''outstanding contribution''? Possibly not.

But I know Gurney's work is bloody good, and that is good enough for me.

Who do you think will take home the trophies from the Brewers Guild of New Zealand awards?

Manawatu Standard