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Best New Zealand IPAs and pale ales for 2024

IPAs and pale ales are beloved for their hoppy character, often complemented with herbal, fruity or citrus flavours.

Dive in to discover the best of the best New Zealand-made IPAs and pale ales for 2024 plus our favourite food pairings for each beer.

b.effect Social Experiment West Coast IPA

Type of beer: IPA

Brewery: b.effect

Flavours: Smooth sweet and savoury

Judges’ comments: Wanaka-based b.effect has made a stylish entrance as newcomers to the Top 30. Founded by James Hay in 2015, b.effect draws inspiration from the "Butterfly Effect" concept coined by meteorologist Edward Lorenz. Their latest creation, part of the ever-evolving Social Experiment series, showcases the Mosaic hop known for its exceptional fruit-savoury profile. This brew boasts bold flavors of blueberry and basil, earning high praise from judges who described it as fresh, tropical, and expertly crafted. It's a beer that's sure to leave you wanting more!

Pairing Recommendation: Super smooth IPA works with spicy fried chicken.

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Brave Brewing Co - Terrible Lizards

Type of beer: IPA

Brewery:  Brave Brewing Co

Flavours: Big peach hop character, smooth

Judges’ comments: Terrible Lizards — a reference to the film Jurassic Park — won the IPA trophy at the New Zealand Beer Awards last year. In achieving a Top 30 spot here this year, the judges think this is one of the best IPA on the market in Aotearoa. They loved the blend of peach, pine and perfumed hoppy notes, and were ecstatic about the balance achieved between the juicy hops, rich malt, and just-right bitterness. “It’s peachy with hints of fresh green grass. Rounded on the palate with some lovely carbonation. Finishes with a solid, lingering bitterness but with balance. Lovely length. Well-made beer. Very approachable and great drinkability.”

Pairing Recommendation: Punchy IPA can handle rich, sweet St Louis-style pork ribs.

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Emerson's Reverb NZ IPA

Type of beer: IPA

Brewery: Emerson's Brewery

Flavours: Juicy Fruit chewing gum

Judges’ comments:  Emerson's Reverb, one of the top four beers from the esteemed Dunedin brewery, stands out as the sole all-Kiwi IPA in this year's lineup. This beer beautifully showcases the power of Aotearoa-grown hops, proving that they can rival the beloved American varieties often favored in IPAs. With a pungent aroma of grapefruit, and rosewater. Emerson's Reverb strikes a perfect balance between a weighty malt presence and a dry, refreshing finish that truly allows the hops to shine. The fruity hop notes gracefully transition into a delightfully punchy bitterness, earning high praise from judges as a "classic IPA" with a fruity hop aroma, a dry palate bursting with fresh, intense citrus hops, and a satisfyingly high level of bitterness.  

Pairing Recommendation: Fruity hops go well with pork & fennel sausages.

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Parrotdog Thunderbird

Type of beer: IPA

Brewery: Parrotdog

Flavours: Juicy, clean, light & bright

Judges’ comments: Thunderbird was released less than a week before judging and went straight into our Top 30 — a sure sign the brew team has nailed the flavour profile first time around! Calling it a Bright IPA indicates, clearly, that this is not a hazy, with Parrotdog recognising there’s a demand for crystal clear beers. But it’s also not a “heavy” IPA — in either ABV or hop bitterness. Rather it’s light, bright, juicy, slightly sweet — all the flavours of a hazy but with “brilliant clarity,” noted the judges. "Drinks very nicely. Nice juicy tropical hoppy flavour with sweet malt structure, well integrated. Nice bittering well balanced with a lingering pleasant aftertaste. Well-made beer, very drinkable IPA.”

Pairing Recommendation: Light and juicy IPA would love pork schnitzel.

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Lakeman Big Hairy APA

Type of beer: Pale Ale

Brewery: Lakeman Brewing Limited

Flavours: Well-rounded, hoppy-malty. Big

Judges’ comments: Taupo-based Lakeman claimed two of the top 3 spots in the pale ale category. Big Hairy is their original brew from when they started out 11 years ago and it’s been refined and tweaked over the years. While their other Top 30 pale ale, Taupo Thunder, is an Aotearoa-style pale ale, this is an out-and-out American Pale Ale. The classic US hop aroma delivers citrus, diesel, and fresh-cut grass. The malt density creates sweetness to counter the big hops. The judges raved about the “well-rounded” character, noting the way the fruity hops and delicate bitterness are interwoven with fresh malt character on a “big pillowy palate”. “Great beer. Would drink again,” they said.

Pairing Recommendation: Hefty hoppy beer equals nachos with heaps of cheese.

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Lakemans Taupo Thunder NZ Pale Ale

Type of beer: Pale Ale

Brewery:  Lakeman Brewing Limited 

Flavours: Citrus, pine, passionfruit, sweet over bitter

Judges’ comments: Lakeman had an outstanding competition with three beers in the Top 30. Taupo Thunder is a celebration of two distinctive Aotearoa hops Riwaka and Moutere and delivers a distinctive sweet passionfruit aroma on the nose. That moves aside as grapefruit and pine characters take over on the palate. There’s a toffee-like malt character that amps up the sweet notes and allows the robust hop character to blend in seamlessly. The judges were impressed with the presentation and balance of this beer. “Presents well. Well-balanced, well-made beer. Very drinkable. I would happily enjoy a pint at the pub.”

Pairing Recommendation: A Kiwi-hopped beer brewed on beef and lamb farm? A roast leg of lamb.

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Panhead Supercharger APA

Type of beer: Pale Ale

Brewery: Panhead Brewery

Flavours: Orange zest, tangy bitterness

Judges’ comments: Supercharger returns to our Top 30 for the second year running, and it’s hard to argue with the judges when they consistently pick this out of a line-up. Supercharger, aka the Orange One, commands the attention of your tastebuds with its citrus and tropical fruit hop aroma and flavour. Its popularity across a wide demographic of beer fans. The key to Supercharger’s success is the perfect balance between malt and hops. The judges noting it had “just enough malt to carry the citrus hop bitterness”. In the pantheon of Kiwi craft beers, it’s one of the greats.

Pairing Recommendation: Robust beer wants a robust dinner, so steak and chips with caramalised onions.

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Thirsty for more top New Zealand beers?

If you’re after dark beers, lagers or more unique craft varieties, don’t forget to check out the articles linked below, or browse the Top 30 from the New World Beer & Cider Awards 2024 using our Beer Finder.

Not sure what you like? Our craft beer guide will walk you through what makes craft beer special and the different styles and flavours you can find in Aotearoa.

Related articles:

Best New Zealand craft beers for 2024

Best New Zealand cider and alcoholic gingerbeers for 2024

Best New Zealand lagers and pilsners for 2024

Best New Zealand stouts and porters for 2024

About the author

Michael Donaldson 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. He has been the Chair of Judges for the New World Beer & Cider Awards since 2016.

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). He is the 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.