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All about the judging

By Michael Donaldson, Chair of Judges, New World Beer & Cider Awards

Every year this competition amazes me with the wonderful assortment of styles and intensity of flavours that come to the fore. But this year is the most mind-blowing yet. From a zero percent beer that the judges scored 98 out of 100 to an 11.5 percent imperial stout aged in whisky barrels and everything in between – there’s something for everyone.

What did the Judges think?

And yes, you read that right, a zero percent beer that was nearly perfect. It’s called Bavaria Wit 0.0% and there’s so much flavour it’s scarcely believable. There’s bubblegum and botanicals on the nose, a full creamy body and a clean finish. It’s brewed with acai extract which adds a guava flavour. “Blew my mind”, said one judge. We guarantee you’ll love this whether you’re after zero ABV or not.

The quality from some of New Zealand’s smaller producers also fills me with pride about what we have on offer in this country.

All the craft heavyweights are represented: Garage Project, Behemoth, Epic, Panhead, Good George, Parrotdog, Sawmill, 8 Wired, McLeod’s, Sprig & Fern, Three Boys, Bach… it’s literally a who’s who of go-to beer brands. But standing shoulder to shoulder with them are some operators not often seen outside their regional bubble.

So, step up Brave Brewing and Zeelandt, both from Hawke’s Bay, Lakeman – a farm-based brewery from Taupo, Emporium from Kaikoura and Sunshine from Gisborne – one of the original craft pioneers now making some of the best beer in New Zealand. Add to that list the re-emergence of Renaissance – a brewery that almost went bust a few years ago but is back with one of the iconic beers of the original New Zealand craft scene.

I’m also rapt to see the representation from “Brewtown” – the collection of Upper Hutt breweries who have made their city a real beer destination. This list includes Kererū, Boneface and Panhead in the Top 30 along with Te Aro Brewing in the Highly Commended (Top 100).

A closer look at some of the beers in the Top 30 reveals a range of lagers that captures all that’s great about this style. From the easy-drinking Heineken Light (yes, we have global giants in this competition!) to McLeod’s deeply flavoursome Longboard Lager to Zeelandt’s chocolately dark lager, to an India Pale Lager from Boneface. It appears the lager revival is well underway.

Speaking of diverse – check out the pilsners. The three in the Top 30 run the range from Brave’s more traditional European-style People’s Pils, to Panhead’s ramped-up Kiwi version, Port Rd Pils, with Sawmill Pilsner nicely bridging between the two. On that note I’d also recommend trying Sunshine’s Summer Ale – a hoppy pale ale bursting with sunny tropical fruit character. It is Gisborne in a glass.

Hazy? You want hazy? Well, you’re well-catered for here. From Bach Brewing’s Juicy AF hazy pale ale to Behemoth’s multi-award winning Me Time Mosaic and, of course, Garage Project with yet another of their fantastic “fresh” IPAs. If you haven’t got aboard the haze train, now’s the time and there’s no better place to start than these three.

The range and quality of hoppy beers in the Top 30 is simply amazing – all the best producers are represented but I was delighted to see Lakeman’s Hopadelic IPA. This brewery, owned by James and Elissa Cooper, uses bore water from their Taupo farm to make some great beers adorned with their distinctive “Hairy Man” logo, which has had something of a cult following for a while. 

The other on-trend beer style next to hazy, is sour and we’ve got two remarkable drops here. Garage Project’s well-named Electric Acid Dry Hop Test is a hoppy sour beer that will quench any thirst, and Emporium’s easy-drinking Drop Cover Hold – a beer made with an unusual Norwegian yeast strain that creates delightful tropical fruit aromas.

With winter closing in around us, I couldn’t think of a more perfect line-up of darker beers – from Sprig & Fern’s rich, slightly smoky Scotch Ale, to the super chocolately Elemental Porter from Renaissance, the sweet, light stout from Sunshine right through to a couple of big boys: 8-Wired’s silky smooth iStout and Kererū’s booming Night Spirit, an imperial stout aged in whisky barrels.

At the other end of the spectrum, the three ciders are light, bright and delightful.

Every year Peckham’s brings a stunning offering to this competition and the blended Farmhouse Cider (made in the same way as non-vintage champagne) that came through this year is beyond exquisite. Zeffer’s Rosé Cider drinks like a fizzy rosé wine – it has the same intensity of flavour and summery flavours. And Good George’s Passionfruit Cider is a study in harmonious flavours.

As I said, something for everyone – whatever your flavour preference and you can be assured it’s top quality.


What did the Judges do?

Chair of Judges, Michael Donaldson, carefully selected 24 experienced beer and cider judges for the 2020 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 600 different beers and ciders at the 2020 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 with an interest and passion for beer and cider to become Associate Judges and evaluate the entries alongside the professional judges. Michael Donaldson selected and trained the eight Associate Judges who 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 senior 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.

Who were the judges?

  • Michael Donaldson (Chair of Judges)

    Michael Donaldson (Chair of Judges)

    Michael is one of New Zealand’s most renowned beer writers and was named Beer Writer of the Year by the Brewers Guild of New Zealand for a third time in 2018. His writing appears in North & South, The New Zealand Herald, Stuff and Drinksbiz. He is also the editor of The Pursuit of Hoppiness magazine published by the Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) and author of New Zealand's definitive beer history; Beer Nation: The Art and Heart of Kiwi Beer as well as The Big Book of Home Brew: A Kiwi Guide and The Hopfather, the biography of Emerson's founder Richard Emerson. Michael has chaired the New World Beer & Cider Awards judging panel since 2016 and has also judged at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards.

  • Brian Watson (Table Captain)

    Brian Watson (Table Captain)

    Founder and Director of Good George Brewing and a qualified brew master, Brian has over 25 years’ experience in the industry locally and internationally. He has been judging beer since 1998, participating in many national and international competitions throughout his career in the US, New Zealand and Australia. Brian has been involved in the installation of more than 60 breweries around the world. His passion, expertise and character are well known throughout brewing circles.

  • Geoff Griggs (Table Captain)

    Geoff Griggs (Table Captain)

    Having written for numerous New Zealand magazines, newspapers and trade publications over the last 25 years, Geoff is the sole Kiwi writer to have been credited in Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson’s definitive books. Geoff was also honoured to write the New Zealand chapter for Jackson’s final book, The Eyewitness Companion Guide to Beer. A former executive committee member of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand and former president of SOBA, Geoff is Chief Judge of the National Homebrew Competition and is a regular member of national and international beer judging panels.

  • Joe Wood (Table Captain)

    Joe Wood (Table Captain)

    On a mission to find more flavoursome beers, Joseph Wood found his calling in homebrewing and later brewery ownership. Today Joseph and his wife Christina own and operate the Liberty Brewing Company – 2019’s Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards champion brewery, now located in Helensville. He is admired for creating some of the country’s most progressive craft beers and for his fierce commitment to quality. In addition to his participation in the World Beer Cup in Nashville, he has also been a judge for national beer competitions including the New World Beer & Cider Awards for the last five years.

  • Justin Oliver (Table Captain)

    Justin Oliver (Table Captain)

    A qualified winemaker with over 20 years’ experience, Justin is also an accomplished cidermaker, producing a number of multi-award-winning ciders for several leading New Zealand cider companies. He is currently immersed in making delicious organic cider for Bohemian Cider in Matakana. He is also a leading cider judge, having served at the New Zealand Cider Awards since 2014 and The New World Beer & Cider Awards since 2015.

  • Sam Williamson (Table Captain)

    Sam Williamson (Table Captain)

    Sam is a beer-lover, qualified brewer and production manager at the Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. He has received international acclaim from the Institute of Brewers and Distillers, earning joint runner-up Young Member of the Year 2013, and has helped produce a number of award-winning beers during his career so far. Sam is an experienced judge and regular participant on panels at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards and SOBA National Homebrew Competition.

  • Shane Morley (Table Captain)

    Shane Morley (Table Captain)

    A qualified master brewer with over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Shane is currently Operations Manager at Steam Brewing Company. Shane’s products have been awarded over 300 medals and trophies at New Zealand and international beer awards. Shane has also judged at the World Beer Cup USA, Australian International Beer Awards, Independent Brewers Association (Australia) Craft Beer Awards and Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards.

  • Stephen Plowman (Table Captain)

    Stephen Plowman (Table Captain)

    Stephen first attempted making beer during his Otago University years. Undeterred by the facial expressions of his peers, he foisted brew after brew upon them, ever-so-gradually honing his craft while obtaining a Degree in Geology. Stephen later took an unpaid internship at a Perth craft brewery and the rest, as they say, is history. These days with his infinitely patient wife Hayley they own their own Auckland-based brewery Hallertau, where he throws caution to the wind in the brew tanks and develops some of Riverhead’s finest beers.

  • Tracy Banner (Table Captain)

    Tracy Banner (Table Captain)

    Dubbed the 'Mother of NZ Brewing', Tracy is the owner and Master Brewer at Sprig & Fern Brewery. There are 12 owner-operated Taverns and one Little Sprig venue currently under the Sprig & Fern brand with a continued view to expand. Tracy has been recognised for her services to the Brewing Industry which includes imparting knowledge and training to the brewing community and judging nationally and internationally. Tracy also works with industry bodies using her exceptional sensory skills providing tasting notes on new hop cultivars.

  • Alex Biedermann

    Alex Biedermann

    Starting his career in his native Germany, Alex has over 20 years’ experience in the beer industry. A qualified Brewer and Malster, he also holds a Master Brewer (Diplom Braumeister) qualification from the Technical University of Munich in Weihenstephan. His work has included dozens of brewing projects in over 20 countries including New Zealand, where he now resides. His local beer judging experience includes the Australian International Beer Awards and the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards.

  • Andrew Childs

    Andrew Childs

    Andrew started Behemoth Brewing in 2013 after leaving his legal career with the aim of making bigger tasting beer. Behemoth has brewed its beers at great breweries around New Zealand and is now in the process of opening a brewery/bar and eatery in Mount Eden, Auckland. Behemoth now exports to 12 different countries. Andrew loves coming up with new brews and in 2019 Behemoth released 52 brand new beers. Andrew has been judging the Brewers Guild Awards for the last four years.

  • Anita Mitchell

    Anita Mitchell

    Anita first fell in love with the beer industry while volunteering at a brewery in France in 2012. Upon her return to New Zealand she started at Three Boys Brewery where she worked her way up from loading bottles on the line to brewing contract and house beers. She has worked as a brewer in Australia and most recently was Assistant Brewer at McLeod’s Brewery in Waipu. Anita has judged at the Brewer’s Guild of New Zealand Awards, Australian International Beer Awards and SOBA’s National Homebrew Competition.

  • Caleb DeFrees

    Caleb DeFrees

    Caleb is the Production Manager at Gladfield Malt in Dunsandel, Canterbury, where he manages the production staff and day-to-day operations of the malt-house. Caleb’s expertise combines a culinary background, including training at the Culinary Institute of America, a bachelor’s degree in Food Science from Cornell University and over 8 years’ experience in the New York restaurant scene with a diploma in Brewing Modules through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. He regularly judges beer competitions both in New Zealand and internationally.

  • Carrie McLachlan

    Carrie McLachlan

    Carrie brings a wealth of experience as a first-time judge at this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards. She worked for Little Creatures in their pack and brew teams in Perth and Geelong before joining Garage Project 5 years ago, first as a brewer and now as quality manager. Carrie has also been involved with entering beers in the Brewers Guild Awards for the last few years, notably as part of Garage Project’s team who won big in 2017. She also holds a BSc in Food Science and a Diploma in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling.

  • Colin Mallon

    Colin Mallon

    With 25 years’ experience in the industry, Glasgow native Colin Mallon was impressed by the diverse and experimental New Zealand craft beer scene, where he’s now put down roots. Colin owns the newest Sprig & Fern Tavern in Tawa and was one of the creators of Malthouse and Fork & Brewer in Wellington. He has judged at the Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand Awards, the Australian International Beer Awards and at the World Beer Cup in the USA – the largest competition of its kind. Colin is also responsible for the creation of the popular Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge which he launched in 2007.

  • Dylan Jauslin

    Dylan Jauslin

    Dylan is a veteran of the Wellington beer scene and manager of Golding’s Free Dive, one of the city’s premier bars. Dylan has previously served as a judge in the New Zealand Cider Awards and as an associate cider judge in the New World Beer & Cider Awards. When he can get away from the bar, he spends his weekends making cider and cultivating a small orchard of heritage apple trees at his rural property in the Wairarapa.

  • Emma Bell

    Emma Bell

    Emma Bell developed a thirst for good beer in the sweltering heat of Sydney, Australia. After moving to Canada she seized the opportunity to work for a start-up craft brewery, Townsite Brewing, running tours and tastings. This experience contributed to a discerning palate, an appreciation for food and beverage pairings and a keen interest in the science and witchcraft of brewing. Since returning to New Zealand in 2015, she has been brewing professionally at Kereru Brewing Company and building her capability as a professional beer judge.

  • Jody Scott

    Jody Scott

    Jody was born and raised in the cider region of the United Kingdom. He has a first-class honours degree in winemaking and over 12 years of wine and cidermaking experience. With experience throughout Europe, the USA, Australia and NZ, he now heads Zeffer’s cidermaking team and has led them to a number of prestigious cider awards. He has been a beer, wine, cider and spirits judge at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, International Wine Challenge, Air New Zealand Wine Awards, and the Australian Cider Awards. He’s been part of the beer judging panel at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards for the past four years.

  • Kieran Haslett-Moore

    Kieran Haslett-Moore

    Kieran is a founding partner and Head Brewer for North End Brewing Co, former beer specialist for Regional Wines and Spirits, beer writer for Capital magazine and a founding member of SOBA. He has been a beer judge since 2007, judging for BrewNZ, the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards, the NZ International Beer Awards and SOBA National Homebrew Competition.

  • Keith Riley

    Keith Riley

    Keith has been a master brewer for almost 20 years. He’s worked for big names such as Coors Brewers in the UK and is currently Head Brewer at Lion’s Pride Brewery in Auckland, where he’s responsible for all beer production and quality control. Keith is on the board of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand and has acted as a judge in their awards for the past six years.

  • Mason Pratt

    Mason Pratt

    Since joining Emerson’s Brewery in 2012, Mason has made his way from warehousing and packaging to become a lead brewer. His role has a particular focus on research and new product development. He has previous experience judging beer at both the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards and Australian International Beer Awards.

  • Matthew Warner

    Matthew Warner

    Matt is Co-Founder and Head Brewer at the award-winning Parrotdog brewery in Wellington. A student home-brewer with big ambitions, Matt (along with two other Matts) founded the company in 2011. The brewery has grown to a new facility and to win a slew of awards, including Champion Pilsner and IPA at New World Beer & Cider Awards 2018, Champion Medium Size Brewery at Brewers Guild of NZ Awards 2018, and Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge Champion 2018.

  • Merophy Hyslop

    Merophy Hyslop

    Merophy’s unshakeable interest in cider started with making her own from the apples in her small family orchard. She studied Viticulture & Oenology at university before embarking on an eight-year career in the wine industry. Working vintages around the world allowed her to also visit the famous cider areas of England and France, eventually leading her back to Nelson where she was Cidermaker & Innovator at Redwood Cider Co for five years. Now in the role of full-time mum, Merophy’s passion for tasting is still going strong and she continues to be involved in the industry through judging.

  • Ralph Bungard

    Ralph Bungard

    Ralph discovered his true passion for good beer while working as a scientist at the University of Sheffield, going on to become the proud owner of Three Boys Brewery in Christchurch. He has had many years of association with the Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand as an Honorary Member and regularly judges beer competitions in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

  • Søren Eriksen

    Søren Eriksen

    Søren has more than a decade of brewing experience under his belt, progressing from homebrewer to professional brewer before establishing 8 Wired with his wife Monique in 2009. After being ‘gypsy brewers’ with no brewery to call home, they built their own facility in Warkworth in 2014. 8 Wired brews a wide range of beers but has a particular passion for barrel-aged and sour beers. Søren has judged the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards numerous times, as well as other national and international competitions.


2020 Associate Judges

  • Andy Minehan - New World Redcliffs
  • Bradley Walker - Matakana 4 Square
  • Duncan Hammon - New World Brookfield
  • Jarrod Mackereth - New World Matamata
  • Michael Seiler - Otago Polytechnic Scholarship recipient
  • Nathan Windley -  New World Feilding
  • Ross Carter - New World Opotiki
  • Vinit Sehgal - New World Metro Queen Street