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All about the judging

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

Every year I’m blown away by the quality of the brews that come to the fore in the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top 30. 


What did the Judges think?

I shouldn’t be – we have excellent judges and their job is to find the very best beers and ciders on offer, and those that make it to the Top 30 represent the top 5% of all the entries, so it’s a high bar. But still, I’m always impressed and inspired by what we showcase. 

Every year we get layers of consistency from New Zealand’s most respected craft breweries – with the likes of Garage Project, Liberty, Behemoth, 8 Wired, Sawmill, Panhead, Deep Creek, McLeod’s and Zeffer coming through as perennial top performers, albeit with different beers from year to year. And in saying that, massive kudos to Panhead for having their Port Road Pilsner in the Top 30 for the third year running. In my opinion it’s the benchmark Pilsner in New Zealand. 

A hat-tip too, to Emporium in Kaikōura. It’s also their third straight in the Top 30, albeit with two different beers, but it’s a mighty fine achievement for a relatively new and small brewery.

While on the subject of threes, how about Liberty Brewing from Helensville bringing home the hops with three beers in the Top 30 – a Pale Ale, an IPA and a double IPA. It’s safe to argue that they are possibly the best producer of hoppy beers in the country right now.

And every year we also get a series of newcomers. Some might have been camping on the edge of the Top 30 and it’s no surprise to see them shine, so welcome Urbanaut, Baylands and Cassels. 

But others come out of nowhere to shock and delight us with their beer – this year that includes Lake Tekapo’s Burkes Brewing Co, Auckland’s Isthmus Brewing and Crooked Cider from the Kāpiti Coast.

We also get old friends returning – the likes of Renaissance, with their iconic Stonecutter Scotch Ale, and Townshend’s with the hoppy Amber Ale, Sutton Hoo.

There were a number of standout categories this year. 

First, we introduced a class specifically for hazy Pale Ales and IPAs after previously judging them alongside their traditional relatives. The huge number of entries shows how popular these beers are with consumers and the five that have come through the arduous judging process are all surprisingly different while adhering to the baseline qualities we look for in these beers: lush tropical fruit, creamy body and a sweet finish. 

It’s no surprise that the two biggest hazy producers in the country are represented, with Garage Project bringing the ground-breaking Party & Bulls#*t, and Behemoth landing with Be Hoppy #3. But I was rapt to see Burkes Brewing at the top table with their #Fakenews Hazy IPA. For a small brewery based in remote Lake Tekapo, it shows you can make good beer anywhere in this country right now. You probably couldn’t get a place more different to Lake Tekapo than Saigon, but Vietnam is represented in the Top 30 with Some Sorcerer from Heart of Darkness, who have their beer brewed under licence by Behemoth in Auckland. And Baylands from Petone round out the hazy category with Off Shore Bandit.

In contrast to the hazies, I would draw your attention to the two “Brut” beers from Auckland brewery Urbanaut, who have proven the kings of this super-dry, refreshing style. Their flagship Copacabana Brut IPA and their Miami Brut Lager (in the delicate 250ml can) are brewed using the same techniques invented to create low-carb beers so there’s no residual sugar. It creates a light, airy, easy-drinking style that I thoroughly recommend if you find the hazies a bit too heavy.

The other class I want to reference is what we capture with “sours and barrel-aged”. The sheer number of these beers in the Top 100 is remarkable. The three that made it through the Top 30 are the tip of a very deep iceberg of flavour. The 2.9% peach-infused White Mischief from Garage Project shows how much flavour you can get into these types of beer, while the Deep Creek Aloha Guava and Passionfruit sour is so perfectly-balanced and refreshing. And 8 Wired are back with their inimitable Wild Feijoa Ale – this is easily the best vintage of this remarkable beer that takes two years to make. 

Another new class for us was judging seltzers, alcoholic kombucha and alcoholic ginger beer. This was a real eye-opener for the judges as it’s the first time – as far as I can tell – that a national competition anywhere in the world has judged this relatively new class of beverages. The one that shone through, a spicy alcoholic ginger beer from Zeffer, is a real delight.

What did the Judges do?

Michael Donaldson, Chair of Judges, carefully selected experienced independent beer and cider judges for the 2021 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 more than 650 different beers, ciders, seltzers, alcoholic kombuchas and alcoholic ginger beers at the 2021 judging event. Blind-tasting means judges only see the beer or cider in the glass, never any bottles or brands and judges don’t taste any of their own products entered into the competition.

The New World Beer & Cider Awards offers the opportunity for New World liquor managers to become Associate Judges. This provides a unique opportunity to learn to evaluate beers and ciders alongside the professional judges and upskill with knowledge that can then be shared with staff and customers in store. In addition, New World grants an annual Associate Judging scholarship to a student from Otago Polytechnic’s Level 4 brewing course, and this year also provided opportunities for up-and-coming industry representatives, welcoming two members from Pink Boots. While Associate Judge scores do not count towards the final results, it is an incredible chance for these ‘judges in training’ to put their palates to the test at one of the country’s largest awards and learn from some of the country’s best brewers and cidermakers.

Entries are 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. Michael wrote the tasting notes for the Top 100 – using the judges’ original tasting notes, he then re-tasted the winners and compiled the reviews.

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 the third time in 2018. His writing appears in Kia Ora Magazine, Brews News, Stuff and Drinksbiz. He is also the publisher of The Pursuit of Hoppiness 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.

  • Geoff Griggs (Table Captain)

    Geoff Griggs (Table Captain)

    Geoff has been described as a “tireless and fastidious reporter of the New Zealand brewing scene”, having written for numerous magazines, newspapers and trade publications. He is the only New Zealand beer writer to be credited in Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson’s definitive books and was honoured to write the New Zealand chapter in Jackson’s The Eyewitness Companion Guide to Beer. A former executive committee member of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand and former president of Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA), Geoff is Chief Judge of the National Homebrew Competition and member of many 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 New Zealand 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 USA in Nashville, he has also been a judge for national beer competitions including the New World Beer & Cider Awards for the last six 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.

  • Kelly Ryan (Table Captain)

    Kelly Ryan (Table Captain)

    Currently Brewery Manager at Upper Hutt's Boneface Brewing, Kelly is a respected and sought-after beer judge having judged multiple local and international beer competitions. After starting off as a trainee brewer at Tui Brewery, Kelly later completed stints at Fyne Ales and Thornbridge in the UK as well as Epic Brewing Company and Good George in New Zealand. He was recently Head Brewer at Wellington's Fork & Brewer, winning back-to-back Champion Small Brewery of New Zealand titles. Kelly’s beers and ciders have won numerous awards.

  • Merophy Hyslop (Table Captain)

    Merophy Hyslop (Table Captain)

    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 and 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 (Table Captain)

    Ralph Bungard (Table Captain)

    Ralph discovered his true passion for good beer while working as a scientist at the University of Sheffield before 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.

  • Sam Williamson (Table Captain)

    Sam Williamson (Table Captain)

    Sam is a beer-lover and qualified brewer. 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, regularly participating on panels at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) National Homebrew Competition.

  • Shane Morley (Table Captain)

    Shane Morley (Table Captain)

    A qualified master brewer with over 30 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 been a judge at the World Beer Cup USA, AustraliaTran International Beer Awards, Independent Brewers Association (Australia) Craft Beer Awards and Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards.

  • Tracy Banner (Table Captain)

    Tracy Banner (Table Captain)

    Dubbed the 'Mother of New Zealand 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 include 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.

  • 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 in 2020 opened a flagship brewery/bar and eatery in Mount Eden, Auckland. Behemoth now exports to 12 different countries. Andrew loves coming up with new brews and in 2020 Behemoth released over 100 brand new beers. Andrew has been judging the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards for the last four years.

  • Annika Naschitzki

    Annika Naschitzki

    Annika founded and operated Wellington brewery Tiamana, running the business for four years. While this is her first time on the New World Beer & Cider Awards judging panel, she has featured as a regular beer judge at The Capital Awards and Beervana. Taking a hiatus from brewing, she now grows fruit to make fruit wine, schnapps and cider, spending her free time gardening and tending to her growing flock of animals.

  • Cameron Burgess

    Cameron Burgess

    Cameron is co-founder and head brewer at Southpaw Brewing Company in Christchurch, founded in 2016, where he has won many awards. Cameron has over ten years of experience in brewing in both New Zealand and Canada and is New Zealand's first-ever recipient of a Diploma in Brewing (level 6). Cameron has judged in the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards many times and is a regular judge at many other awards around New Zealand.

  • Carmen Gray

    Carmen Gray

    Carmen brings fresh new experience as a first-time cider judge at the New World Beer & Cider Awards. After a career as a chemical engineer, she retrained as a winemaker and travelled the world making and judging wine. With experience gained working in cellars across France, Austria, Australia and New Zealand, Carmen most-recently set up her own cider label Elemental Cider, using specialty cider apples grown on her orchard. Carmen also facilitates the Fruit Wine & Cider Makers Association of New Zealand and organised the 2020 New Zealand Cider Awards.

  • Colin Mallon

    Colin Mallon

    With over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Glasgow native Colin was impressed by the diverse and experimental New Zealand craft beer scene, where he’s now put down roots. Colin owns the 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 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.

  • Damian Treacher

    Damian Treacher

    First-time New World Beer & Cider Awards judge Damian first found his passion for good beer after returning home from an OE in Europe, when he walked into what became his local craft beer bar Pomeroys in Christchurch. Previously an automotive electrician of 12 years, his brewing obsession began like many, with home brewing. His professional career began as assistant brewer at The Laboratory brewpub where he progressed to the role of head brewer, before becoming head brewer at Beer Baroness Brewing Company two years ago. A winner of multiple Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards, Damian has also judged for various New Zealand Beer awards including Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards and local homebrewing competitions.

  • David Nicholls

    David Nicholls

    David brings over 35 years’ brewing experience to the New World Beer & Cider Awards judging panel. After 20 years brewing with DB and Heineken around the world, and 14 years as Head Brewer at Moa Brewing Co., he recently launched his own venture, DNA Brewing. His brews have earned a number of accolades, including Champion Beer of New Zealand in 2018, and Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals at the International Brewing Awards. David has been judging for 15 years, including for the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards as well as the International Brewing Awards in Burton on Trent in the UK. Continually seeking to squeeze 34 hours into a day, David also owns and operates his own hop importing business and 6-hectare Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in Marlborough.

  • Denise Garland

    Denise Garland

    Denise is a journalist and keen beer lover, having been involved in the New Zealand beer community for more than a decade. Denise was the winner of the 2019 Brewers Guild Beer Media Award and has been judging both commercial and home brew competitions for eight years. She is a home brewer and has previously worked in hospitality in Christchurch, Wellington and Edinburgh.

  • 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 World Beer & Cider Awards and in the New Zealand Cider Makers Association Awards. When he can get away from the bar, he spends his weekends making cider and cultivating a small orchard of heritage apple trees in the Wairarapa.

  • Emma Bell

    Emma Bell

    Emma 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.

  • Hamish Ward

    Hamish Ward

    Hamish joined Deep Creek as Head Brewer in 2013. Formerly a Molecular Biologist, he jumped at the opportunity to turn his passion for making beer into a career. In his time at Deep Creek he has won multiple awards including Champion Small Brewer 2017, Champion International Lager 2019, Champion Medium Brewer 2019 at the Australian International Beer Awards and Champion New Zealand Beer 2019 at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards. Hamish has also judged previously at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards.

  • 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.

  • Matt Warner

    Matt Warner

    Matt is Co-Founder and Head Brewer at the award-winning Parrotdog brewery in Wellington. A student homebrewer 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 New Zealand Awards 2018, and Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge Champion 2018. 

  • Nathan Crabbe

    Nathan Crabbe

    A newcomer to the New World Beer & Cider Awards judging panel, Nathan has been a part of the Christchurch beer scene for over ten years. After trying his hand at homebrewing, he joined the team at Harrington’s Breweries in 2010, before becoming Head Brewer at Four Avenues Brewing, where he contract-brewed for some of New Zealand’s best craft beer brands. Nathan now brews at The Fermentist. Holding an IBD Diploma in Brewing and IBD Certificate in Cidermaking, he has picked up his own fair share of awards, including 11 BrewNZ medals for contract brewers, and the 2011 BrewNZ trophy for British Ale with Harrington’s.

  • Simon Henderson

    Simon Henderson

    Accomplished wine and cidermaker Simon brings 14 years of brewing experience as a first-time judge at the New World Beer and Cider Awards this year. After first becoming interested in wine while working at a winery in Margaret River, he schooled in Viticulture & Oenology before moving towards cidermaking. Simon has crafted award-winning innovative ciders with Carlton & United Breweries in Australia, while Cidermaker at Harvest Cidery in Gisborne. He also holds an IBD diploma in brewing.

  • 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.

  • Stephen Wood

    Stephen Wood

    Stephen’s passion for good beer led to a career when he began working in craft beer bars in his native England and Australia, before eventually settling in his home away from home, New Zealand. He has recently stepped into a head brewer role at Searchlight Brewery in the picturesque Queenstown after brewing for both Hallertau and Deep Creek in Auckland for the last five years. Stephen judges for several local competitions including the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards and Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) National Homebrew Competition.

2021 Associate Judges

  • Andy Minehan - New World Ferry Road
  • Grenville Caughey - Otago Polytechnic Scholarship recipient
  • Jarrod Mackereth - Foodstuffs North Island
  • Lucie Campbell - The Lumsden / Pink Boots 
  • Nathan Windley - New World Feilding
  • Stacey Walsh - Little Beer Quarter / Pink Boots
  • Tim Newman - Pursuit of Hoppiness