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All about the judging

By Michael Donaldson - Chair of Judges of the New World Beer and Cider Awards.

The beauty of judging beer and cider ‘blind’ is that all preconceptions go out the window and the judges aren’t distracted by brands, labels, or descriptions. It puts everyone on equal footing and as a result gives small, unheralded, breweries a chance to showcase their work against established craft heroes and global brands alike.


List of contents:

What did the Judges do?
Who were the Judges?

What did the Judges do?

Michael Donaldson, Chair of Judges, carefully selected experienced independent beer and cider judges for the 2024 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 600 different beers, ciders, seltzers, alcoholic kombuchas and alcoholic ginger beers at the 2024 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.

Entries are grouped by class and each entry was judged by a table comprising of a Table Captain, two senior judges and a junior judge (judges in training whose scores aren’t counted). 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.

beer judges

The top entries in each class were then randomised, re-tasted and ranked by a senior judging panel to determine the Top 30. This panel also determined the Supreme Winner of the awards in an exciting final round taste-off, with the top entry from each class pitched against each other. The next 20 best beers and ciders were Highly Commended, creating a Top 50 list for you to explore.

Michael Donaldson wrote the tasting notes for the Top 50 – using the judges’ original tasting notes, he then re-tasted the winners and compiled the reviews.

2024 beer judges


Who were the Judges? 

  • Michael Donaldson - Chair of Judges
    Michael is one of New Zealand’s most renowned beer writers. He has been named Beer Writer of the Year by the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards three times and was also recognised with the competition’s Beer Media Award in 2022. His writing is seen in publications from Kia Ora magazine to Stuff and the New Zealand Herald, as well as his own publications such as Pursuit of Hoppiness, Beer Nation — The Art and Heart of Kiwi Beer, The Big Book of Home Brew: a Kiwi Guide and more. Michael has chaired the New World Beer & Cider Awards judging panel since 2016 and has also judged at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards.  
  • Kelly Ryan - Deputy Chair  
    Kelly is an award-winning brewer and sought-after beer judge with experience from local and international competitions including the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, Australian International Beer Awards, World Beer Cup, World Beer Awards, International Beer Challenge and more. Beginning his career as a trainee brewer at Tui, Kelly completed stints at Fyne Ales and Thornbridge in the UK before returning to New Zealand to work with craft breweries like Epic, Good George, Fork & Brewer and Boneface. Kelly took up the role of Deputy Chair for the New World Beer & Cider Awards in 2022 and currently works with Waimea West Hops in Quality and Technical Sales. 
  • Colin Mallon - Table Captain
    With over 30 years’ experience in the beer industry, Glasgow native Colin was impressed by the diverse and experimental New Zealand craft beer scene, where he’s since put down roots. Colin owns the Sprig & Fern Taverns in Thorndon and was one of the creators of Malthouse and Fork & Brewer in Wellington, where he was responsible for launching the popular Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge in 2007. He has judged at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, the Australian International Beer Awards and the World Beer Cup.  
  • Emma Bell - Table Captain
    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 Double Vision Brewing and building her capability as a professional beer judge. 
  • Keith Riley - Table Captain  
    Keith has been a master brewer for more than 20 years. He’s worked for big names such as Coors Brewers in the UK and is currently a Group Technical Brewer at Lion Breweries. Keith has served on the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Board for 8 years and has acted as a judge in their awards for several years. 
  • Sam Williamson - Table Captain
    Sam is a beer-lover, qualified brewer and now the brewmaster at Pacific Coast Beverages, a freshly constructed facility producing beer and spirits in Mangawhai. Sam has helped produce multiple award-winning beers for many great brands over the last two decades and is a passionate brewer and beer judge, regularly participating on panels at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards. 
  • Shane Morley - Table Captain
    Shane is a qualified master brewer with over 30 years’ experience, including more than 10 years as Operations Manager at Steam Brewing Company.  During his tenure, the products Steam produce have won more than 300 medals and trophies across New Zealand and international beer awards and the earned the company the title of Champion New Zealand Manufacturer five years running. Shane has judged at the World Beer Cup USA, Australian International Beer Awards, Independent Brewers Association (Australia) Craft Beer Awards and Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards. 
  • Søren Eriksen - Table Captain
    Søren has over 15 years of brewing experience, progressing quickly from homebrewer to professional brewer, before establishing 8 Wired with his wife Monique in 2009. The pair built their own facility in Warkworth in 2014, and ten years on, powered by a passion for barrel aged and sour beers, have expanded the operation into one of the largest barrel aging programmes in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2019, they opened Barrelworks – a dedicated barrel-aging facility, taproom and hospitality venue in Matakana. Søren has judged the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards numerous times, as well as other national and international competitions.  
  • Tim Low - Table Captain
    Born and raised in Christchurch, Tim developed a passion for beer while living abroad in Germany. He began his career as a brewer in Auckland at Steam Brewing Company, before moving to Lion where he worked in quality control, coordinating the company’s sensory program. Tim joined Garage Project in 2020 and now wears many hats -- technical manager, sensory program coordinator and supporting the Hāpi Hop Breeding and Research Project with trial brewing and sensory analysis. He particularly enjoys opportunities where the science, art and community of brewing to come together, such as training people in beer tasting and judging beer competitions. 
  • Tracy Banner - Table Captain  
    Tracy, who recently marked 40 years in the brewing industry, is a respected brewer, beer judge and industry mentor. She is the owner and master brewer at Sprig + Fern Brewing Co, a brand that is also home to a growing number of owner-operated taverns. A passionate supporter of the brewing industry and community, she shares her knowledge through mentoring and training, and gives her time as a senior judge locally and internationally. Tracy also uses her exceptional sensory skills to provide tasting notes on new hop cultivars. 
  • Alyssa Hodgson  
    Alyssa has always been a fan of beer and its ability to bring people together. Passionate about giving back to the alcoholic beverages industry, Alyssa knows the importance of collaborating effectively and making the industry a better place for all. After working in several cross-functional roles, Alyssa is currently a team leader in the beverage department at Lion Breweries, the chairperson of Pink Boots Society New Zealand and a board member of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand. Alyssa is an experienced judge, having participated in both the New World Beer & Cider Awards and Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards. 
  • Damian Treacher
    Damian first found his passion for good beer after returning home from his OE, when he walked into what became his local craft beer bar, Pomeroy’s in Christchurch. Previously an automotive electrician for 12 years, his brewing obsession began like many, with home brewing. His first professional role began in 2015 as assistant brewer at The Laboratory brewpub where he quickly progressed to the role of head brewer. After four years, he made the move to Beer Baroness Brewing Company and recently has transitioned into the role of lead brewer and production manager at Three Boys Brewing Company. A winner of multiple Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, Damian has also judged for various New Zealand beer awards including the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards and local homebrewing competitions. 
  • Denise Garland
    Denise is a journalist and keen beer lover, having been involved in the New Zealand beer community for 15 years. Denise is a Certified Cicerone® and has been judging both commercial and home brew competitions for more than a decade. She was the winner of the 2019 Brewers Guild Beer Media Award and has previously worked in hospitality in Christchurch, Wellington and Edinburgh. 
  • Doug Donelan
    Doug Donelan’s impact on the brewing scene extends well beyond his country of birth, Australia, and into the one he now calls home, New Zealand. He made his way in the brewing world working for Chuck Hahn, going on to be the first head brewer at Sydney’s Malt Shovel Brewery, before becoming the inaugural chief executive of New Zealand Hops. During his 12 years in the role, he helped transform New Zealand’s hop industry from being volume and commodity-focused into one of the most exciting in the world. Doug has been judging in international beer competitions since 1998. Today, he is an Independent Beverage Consultant and was recently made a Fellow of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. 
  • Hamish Ward
    Hamish trained and worked as a molecular biologist before jumping at the opportunity to turn his passion for making beer into a career. He was head brewer at Deep Creek for ten years, where he earned multiple awards in New Zealand and Australia. He is also the head brewer of Isthmus, which he co-founded alongside wife Caroline Muller-Ward, and has grown to win its own string of awards. Hamish has judged previously at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards and New World Beer and Cider Awards. 
  • Jason Bathgate
    McLeod's Brewery Head Brewer Jason Bathgate joined the team in 2016 and has since garnered an array of awards. In addition to winning Best-in-Class trophies for Longboarder Lager, Traders Scotch Ale and Paradise Pale Ale at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, the brewery has, under his leadership, won Champion Small Brewery at the Australian International Beer Awards and Champion Medium Brewery at the NZ Beer Awards. Jason is a certified BJCP judge and has served as a judge for the New World Beer & Cider Awards, as well as the Brewers’ Guild of NZ Beer Awards. 
  • Jesse Sigurdsson
    Hailing from the bright lights of Inglewood, Jesse Sigurdsson has been brewing for 10 years and is currently the head brewer at the innovative Taranaki brewpub Shining Peak. Shining Peak's brews have won numerous local and international beer awards including Champion Small New Zealand Brewery at the 2023 Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards.  
  • 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 20 years of wine and cider-making experience working throughout Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. He headed Zeffer’s award-winning cidermaking team for eight years and recently took over as owner and cidermaker at the renowned Peckham’s Cider. 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 NZ Beer Awards for the past four years. 
  • Lauren Yap
    Lauren wears multiple hats in the beverage industry. She is an innovative brewer and winemaker at Brood Fermentation, and also the quality, innovation and sales manager for Clayton Hops. Consciously promoting the Aotearoa hop, beer, and natural wine industry, Lauren works with customers and distributors all around the world to highlight the high-quality products we have to offer. She supports women in the fermentation space having sat as a regional coordinator, the scholarship coordinator, and now as the finance liaison for Pink Boots Society New Zealand. She's sat as a trainee judge for New World Beer & Cider Awards, the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, and the NZ Fruit and Cider Awards. 
  • Mason Pratt
    Since joining Emerson’s Brewery in 2012, Mason has made his way from warehousing and packaging to become a head 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 NZ Awards and Australian International Beer Awards, as well as several years with the New World Beer & Cider Awards.
  • Matt Warner
    Matt is co-founder and brewing director 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 and now operate out of a brewery and bar in Lyall Bay. After a couple of recent years of high growth, Parrotdog won the #1 spot in the 2022 GABS Hottest 100 Kiwi Craft Beer poll with their top-selling Birdseye Hazy IPA.
  • Mike Cheer
    Mike has been a brewer, consultant and beer judge in NZ and abroad for over a decade. He is experienced with judging at the NZ Beer Awards, NZ IPA Challenge, NZ Stout Challenge and the New World Beer and Cider Awards.
  • Oli Bird
    Originally from the midlands in the UK where he started his beer career with companies like Heineken, Oli visited New Zealand seven years ago and never left. Adding to his expertise crafting English ales, he’s been brewing a wide range of styles including more juicy and hazy beers over his now six years as head brewer with Good George. Outside of the brewery, Oli continues to enjoy the great Kiwi outdoors with his family. 
  • Scott Sharp-Heward
    Scott is a brewing industry professional with over 10 years’ experience as a craft brewer in the UK and New Zealand. During this time he has always had a keen focus on sensory and quality management in brewing, and has been a judge at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards for a number of years. He now works in the supply side of brewing as a Technical Manager for Lallemand Brewing in New Zealand, supporting brewers in making great beer. 
  • Steph Coutts
    Steph is a Certified Cicerone® and beer educator and has run Craft Beer College for over 10 years. She's judged numerous competitions including the New World Beer & Cider Awards, Beer Necessities, and the West Coast IPA, Lager Than Life, Hazy and Rare Beer challenges. She's also been involved in almost all of Wellington's beer festivals, as well as the GABS festival in Melbourne. Steph works as a policy consultant and is also a registered celebrant.
  • Zane Marshall
    Zane found himself deeply inspired by the art of brewing while living abroad in Scotland, and he transferred that passion into his work upon arriving home. Building on a successful career in food technology, Zane’s now been brewing for over 10 years, the last seven of which have been at DB where he is now a quality and innovation specialist. He is an experienced judge, participating in numerous beer and cider competitions over the past six years.
  • Merophy Hyslop - Table Captain (Cider)
    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 fulltime mum, Merophy’s passion for tasting is still going strong and she continues to be involved in the industry through judging. 
  • Annika Naschitzki - Cider Judge
    Annika founded and operated Wellington brewery Tiamana, running the business for four years. She has judged for the New World Beer & Cider Awards for several years, is a regular beer judge at The Capital Awards and Beervana, and has recently begun judging on the Fruitwine and Cider Awards panel. In her free time, she grows fruit to make wine, schnaps and cider and tends to her growing flock of animals. 
  • Dylan Jauslin - Cider Judge
    Dylan is a veteran of the Wellington craft beer scene. He was the manager at Golding’s Free Dive, one of the city's premier bars, for nearly a decade. Dylan has previously served as a judge in the New World Beer & Cider Awards and in the New Zealand Cider Makers Association Awards. He has a deep passion for cider and spends his weekends making cider and cultivating a small orchard of heritage apple trees in the Wairarapa. 
Junior Judges

Becs Cope - Beer Baroness 
Caroline Muller-Ward
- Isthmus Brewing and New World x Pink Boots scholarship recipient  
Charlotte Feehan -
Abandoned Brewery  
Dan Thomas -
New World x Otago Brew School scholarship recipient  
Dave Wood -
Mean Doses, Craft Beer Capital & Funk on the Water  
Jennifer McIntyre -
Rachael Norcross -
Punky Brewster 
Si Jin Lee -
bStudio and New World x Pink Boots scholarship recipient  
Tim Newman -
beer writer and reviewer