Last week I reviewed some of the big winners at this year's Brewers Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards. In this week's column I'd like to give a nod to some of our smaller, less well known brewers, who also won awards in Wellington.
Going through the best-in-class awards it was encouraging to see some of New Zealand's smallest and newest brewers going home with trophies.
In the US Ale Styles category - a catch-all class for pretty much anything with a big hit of American hops - the trophy went to Liberty Brewing's Yakima Monster. Created by Taranaki-based craft brewer Joseph Wood, Yakima Monster is a beautifully balanced US-style IPA that bursts with hop aroma and flavour over a richly sweet caramel malt backbone.
The use of British Golden Promise pale malt in combination with caramalt rewards Yakima Monster (6 per cent) with a luscious sweet canvas that tempers the beer's intense American hop accent, thus giving it great drinkability - a rare and admirable quality for an American-style IPA.
Joe's wife Christina summed up most people's feelings regarding her husband's achievement: "I am incredibly proud of him. I always knew he had the skills and passion to make it happen."
Looking to step up production, Joe recently brewed his first batch of Liberty beer at Tuatara's newly enlarged brewery in Paraparaumu. With luck, contracting production at Tuatara should make his beers much easier to find for those of us who live outside Taranaki and Wellington.
In the International Ale Styles category the best-in-class award went to Wellington's ParrotDog Brewery.
Just a few months after installing a brand new 2500-litre brewhouse in a former motor workshop at the bottom of Vivian St, the three youthful Matts - Matt Warner and Matt Kristovski (both former home brewers) and Matt Stevens (a chartered accountant) - took the trophy for their BitterBitch, another IPA.
Having sampled BitterBitch on several previous visits to Wellington and always found it overly hazy, with a tart yeasty bite that masked the malt and hops, I was delighted to be served a much brighter looking pint of it at Wellington's LBQ (Little Beer Quarter). As I hoped, the lack of yeastiness allowed the delightful aromas and flavours of the sweet malt and herbaceous, fruity local hops to shine through. It was a joyful experience! If the Matts can maintain this level of quality they should have no trouble selling the ParrotDog beers to a wider clientele as they gradually increase production.
Another fledgling Wellington brewer, Garage Project, went one better, receiving two best in class trophies.
Having previously brewed on a tiny, 50 litre (one keg), setup in a former petrol station in the city's Aro Valley, brewer Pete Gillespie, his brother Ian, and marketing guru Jos Ruffell recently installed a shiny new brewhouse (Do you see a recurring theme here?) and a steady stream of beers has followed.
At the awards Garage Project took best-in-class awards for Dark Arts, a 6.8 per cent coffee bock, in the Flavoured and Aged Styles category, and Ziggy's Carrot Cake - Pete Gillespie's remarkable (gingery, orange, nutty) beery recreation of his mother's carrot cake recipe - in the competition's special Festive Brews category.
Meanwhile, expat Englishman Martin Townshend achieved a long-held ambition by winning the best-in-class trophy in the Cask Conditioned Styles category. The Rosedale (near Upper Moutere) real ale specialist took the award for HM's Black Strap Porter, a beer brewed in honour of my mate, Kieran Haslett-Moore - the ‘black strap' in question, a reference to his beard!
On the subject of Kieran, I'd like to congratulate him on the success of his Regional Best Bitter, which took top honours in the British Ale styles category.
- The Marlborough Express