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All about the judging

Beer and cider lovers rejoice – our fifth annual New World Beer & Cider Awards were, simply, the best yet. We had the most entries, most judges, and – most importantly – the best quality products we've seen. And what a range of flavours.

What did the judges think?

From a cider that tastes like rum and raisin, to a feijoa ale, to an IPA made with peaches, to one of the best dark beers you’ll lay your hands on – we’ve got something for everyone. Hand on heart I can say we’ve uncovered a primo selection of pilsners, pale ales and IPAs, all with individual character. There’s a range of classical styles; a German doppelbock and Scottish-style Wee Heavy from Sprig & Fern, a classic Belgian Witbier from Emporium, a traditional cider from Peckham’s that has to be tasted to be believed, to a modern Porter from McLeod’s that is so refreshing and light.

Plus there’s a range of experimental and out-there beers such as Garage’s Project’s “peach milkshake” IPA, Liberty’s Hoptical Illusion (a double IPA masquerading as a pilsner), an Epic-Sparks Imperial Stout that is beyond gorgeous, a passionfruit and juniper sour beer from Fork Brewing…and a chamomile tea wheat beer from Yeastie Boys.

Back in March the 32 judges (24 senior judges and 8 associate judges) were overjoyed at the quality of the 600-plus beers and ciders presented to them. The tinkling of glasses for "gold medal" standard was frequently heard. This made our job of selecting the Top 30 a much tougher task than we imagined, but it was a good problem to have.

The quality was so high that I have no problem recommending the 70 Highly Commended beers and ciders. In effect, our Top 30 are 24-carat golds while the 70 Highly Commended beers are 18 carat golds – explore them at your leisure.

I was particularly pleased with the range of IPA, specifically the variety. In the India Pale Ale category we’ve got something for everyone; the sweeter, softer style of a hazy IPA, the traditional West Coast-style, a double IPA, a fruited IPA and a session IPA at less than 4 percent ABV and an amazing low alcohol “small” IPA at 2.5 percent in the form of Croucher’s Lowrider. It’s an exciting array showcasing different interpretations of this popular style.

One of the other aspects I noted was the quality of beer in the sour, barrel-aged and fruited category. The sour beers were particularly notable, contributing to nine of the Top 100 beers, which reflects the growing popularity and careful execution of this style.

As Chair of Judges I’m always excited to see what new breweries have suddenly leapt to the fore – and there are three or four here that I would call relatively unknown such as Duncan’s from Raumati, Emporium from Kaikoura, Paynter’s Cider from Hawke’s Bay and Fork Brewing from Wellington – but what struck me was the consistent performance of some of New Zealand’s better known breweries and cider-makers who are proving that quality across the board is one of the reasons they are successful.

It was a cut-throat competition given the incredibly high quality but it was pleasing to discover a Top 30 that features standard bearers of the New Zealand industry, international heavyweights and local rising stars. 

It's a mix that will definitely please New World customers, which is the sole purpose of what we do.

Michael Donaldson, Chair of Judges

What did the Judges do?

Chair of Judges, Michael Donaldson, carefully selected 24 experienced beer and cider judges for the 2019 New World Beer & Cider Awards. He specifically sought experienced and well-respected judges who could provide a range of expertise on different styles.

The judges blind-tasted and evaluated 637 different beers and ciders at the 2019 judging event. Blind-tasting means judges only see the beer or cider in the glass, never any bottles or brands.

The integrity of the competition and the robust procedures were maintained by Craig Bowen, Chief Steward, who also ensures judges don’t taste any of their own beer entered into the competition.

New World offers the opportunity for Liquor Managers, New World Owners and brewing industry trainees with an interest and passion for beer and cider to become Associate Judges and evaluate the entries alongside the professional judges. Michael Donaldson and Geoff Griggs selected and trained the eight Associate Judges. The Associates provide a score and opinion on each entry, but their scores don’t count towards the final mark. It's an incredible experience to spend two days in the company of some of the country’s best brewers and cidermakers, judging, discussing and analysing the beers and ciders entered into the competition.

Entries were grouped by class and each entry was judged by a table comprising of a Table Captain, two judges and one associate judge. The judges sniffed, sipped, tasted and debated each entry’s qualities using a collaborative judging approach that evaluates technical excellence, balance and, most importantly, drinkability.

The top entries in each class were then randomised, re-tasted and ranked by the Table Captains and Chair to determine the Top 30. The next 70 best beers and ciders were Highly Commended, creating a Top 100 list  for you to explore.