Blenheim's Moa top of the hops

Moa Imperial Stout
Moa Imperial Stout

We are just into the third week of the new year and already Kiwi beers and brewers are attracting accolades.

The results of the latest Capital Times Beer Necessities survey were released last week. Run annually since 2005 by the Wellington freebie newspaper, the survey invites Kiwi brewers to submit their beers for judging by three experts. Although the beers are judged loosely according to style, in this competition it's not the main criteria. More important are technical quality, balance and drinkability.

Contrary to popular belief, beer judging is an arduous task, but never more so than at this competition where the entire process is limited to just one day. With that in mind I salute this year's judges, Kieran Haslett-Moore, David Wood and Ryan McArthur, who ploughed their way through 93 beers in just 10 hours. Beers are judged on a five-point scale - half points are allowed - with five points representing a world-class beer. Beers scoring four points or more are deemed "very good".

In 2009, only eight beers scored four points or higher, but in this latest competition 24 beers achieved that status: "More and more craft brewers are making better and better beers", Kieran concludes.

The award for the competition's best beer went to Marlborough's Moa Brewing Company, whose Moa Imperial Stout scored a perfect five points. In their notes, the judges concluded the beer "pours a deep black with a nice healthy head. Big aromas of dark chocolate and oak wine barrel lead into a complex palate of chocolate, roast and pinot noir-like oak. Complex and skilfully executed. World class". No other beer scored five points.

The Blenheim brewery can also claim to be the competition's top scoring brewery by being one of only five with a beer receiving 4.5 points. Moa Blanc Evolution, a wheat beer spiced in the Belgian style was suitably endorsed: "Pours a light straw with an enthusiastic head. Complex fruity esters and coriander spice combine backed up by some nice malt and a tart wheat finish." Meanwhile, another of Moa's Belgian-influenced beers, St Joseph's, received four points.

Moa's success is all the more remarkable if you consider the huge volume of beer Dave Nicholls and his brewing team are cranking out of Moa's tiny (1000 litre) brewhouse. Currently working three shifts per 24-hour period, Dave and his team must be clamouring for the arrival of Moa's shiny new 5000 litre twin-kettle brewhouse which will be ordered later this month.

Kapiti brewer Tuatara took overall second place with five beers achieving four points or higher. Tuatara IPA, American Pale Ale, Double Trouble and Ardennes each scored four points while Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale managed 4.5, the judges noting: "Catty tangy hop aromas combine with some nice tropical notes before a well balanced and highly drinkable palate. Classy."

Another Marlborough brewer, Soren Eriksen of 8 Wired Brewing, continued his winning ways. New Zealand's Champion Brewer of 2011 received 4.5 points for 8 Wired Haywired, as well as a glowing recommendation from the judges: "A complex and original hop aroma with citrus and herbal notes alongside some nice esters gives way to a palate that balances stonefruit and tangerine hop flavour with some nice balancing malt and a slightly tart finish. An original New World Wheat Ale." Three more 8 Wired beers - Big Smoke, Tall Poppy and Hopwired - each received four points.

The Top of the South's dominance of the leader board was further enhanced by McCashin's Brewery, whose Stoke Bomber Smoky Ale was awarded 4.5 points and Stoke Gold, four. Meanwhile, Nelson-based champion home brewer-turned pro Dale Holland will be proud that his Dale's Doppelbock also received a four.

Rotorua-based Croucher Brewing was the other big winner. Croucher Pilsner scored a 4.5, and Croucher Pale Ale and Patriot, a black IPA, both received four points.

Perennial award-winner Emerson's of Dunedin picked up fours for Emerson's Pilsner and Bird Dog IPA, while the Wellington-based contract brewer Yeastie Boys went one better with fours for Golden Perch, nevaRRaven and the delightful, Earl Grey tea-infused Gunnamatta.

The Yeastie Boys received another major accolade last week from Stephen Beaumont, the respected Canadian writer and co-author of the World Atlas of Beer. Describing creators Stu McKinlay and Sam Possenniskie as "audacious" Stephen concluded: "For beer that is bold and flavourful and deliciously irreverent, the Yeastie Boys are my choice as Australasian Brewery of the Year."

Congratulations to all the winning brewers.


The Marlborough Express