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Best New Zealand lagers and pilsners for 2024

Lagers are some of the most popular beers in the world, offering crisper, cleaner flavours than most ales. Among them, pilsners are the cream of the crop with a pale hue and bright, palate-cleansing freshness.

We’re celebrating some of New Zealand’s best and brightest lagers and pilsners with 2024’s New World Beer & Cider Awards. To help you find your new favourite in this sparklingly fresh category, we’ve pulled out our top lagers and pilsners from Aotearoa.

Scroll down to find our top picks for 2024, complete with food pairings to complete your beer tasting.

Garage project Bliss Lager

Type of beer: Lager

Brewery: Garage project

Flavours: Super smooth lager

Judges’ comments: This simple but flavoursome lager is from a brewery best known for making far more complicated beer. Bliss is brewed in the traditional lager fashion and stored at sub-zero temperatures which helps create a smoother flavour and allows microscopic particles to drop out producing a brilliantly bright beer. This has a super-clean aroma, a light touch of sweet lemon from the hops, and delicate balance that falls just on the sweet side. Bliss is a 4.5% ABV with Hollywood-level good looks and a smooth, gentle flavour.

Pairing Recommendation: Light and bright lager does well with pork & chive dumplings.

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Lakeman Primate Pilsner

Type of beer: Pilsner

Brewery: Lakeman Brewing Limited

Flavours: Crisp, refreshing, sunny citrus

Judges’ comments: Last year’s champion beer returns for another round, this time as the trophy winner in the Pilsner category. That says a lot about the reliability and consistency of the team at Lakeman’s farm-based brewery in Taupo. They’ve worked incredibly hard on perfecting this recipe and it’s an encapsulation of everything an Aotearoa-style pilsner should be: slightly sweet, a bit of diesel, some tropical fruit and a grating of citrus zest. The judges picked up that trademark diesel and underlying herbaceous character. The hop character is “very loud and carries through to palate” the judges added, noting the beer finishes dry and clean despite all that hop noise.

Pairing Recommendation: Classic Kiwi pilsner deserves a classic Kiwi BBQ of lamb chops and sausages.

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McLeod's Longboard Lager

Type of beer: Lager

Brewery: McLeod's Brewery

Flavours: Hoppier than a normal lager

Judges’ comments: The team from Waipu in Northland consistently impresses with their Top 30 presence, and their award-winning beer is a standout in the industry. Longboarder Lager is renowned for its unwavering quality, bold flavors, and impressive consistency. Its recent champion lager title at the New Zealand Beer Awards speaks volumes about its excellence, especially when competing against international giants. Every aspect of Longboarder reflects the meticulous brewing process, from its luxurious texture to its perfectly balanced flavors. With a slightly hoppy twist on a traditional European-style lager, this beer effortlessly combines boldness with beauty, creating a truly delightful and delicious experience.

Pairing Recommendation: The purity of this hoppy lager melds well with a woodfired pizza.

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Panhead Port Road Pilsner

Type of beer: Pilsner

Brewery: Panhead Custom Ales and Lion Breweries

Flavours: Light, bright lemon-passionfruit

Judges’ comments: Aotearoa’s most-awarded beer is back, baby. If Supercharger is the lead character in the Panhead movie, Port Road Pils is the supporting actor who walks away with all the awards. The judges praised the pale lemon appearance, the tight, white frothy head and the super-bright clarity — this is a very pretty beer. A “breadcrust” malt character is backed by a “light passionfruit and tropical hop aroma which carries through and integrates into the palate with good intensity”. The judges added that it was “crisp, clean, with medium bitterness balanced by malt sweetness for excellent drinkability. Fantastic beer!”

Pairing Recommendation: Zippy pilsner wants zappy spice — Thai green curry chicken.

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Steinlager Classic

Type of beer: Lager

Brewery: Steinlager

Flavours: Classic Kiwi Lager

Judges’ comments: Well, it’s about time! And it’s time to remind yourself why this durable and loved beer has been around for nearly 70 years. It was first brewed in 1958 — and has won both international awards as well as global recognition as a symbol of Aotearoa in various sporting arenas. Popping the top, you get that distinctive grainy-lemon-sulphur aroma. Full-bodied, super smooth and with that distinctive sweet-lemon character, it finishes clean and refreshing.

Pairing Recommendation: Perfect to sit beside an Indian curry such as butter chicken.

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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 IPAs and pale ales for 2024

Best New Zealand stouts and porters for 2024

Best New Zealand hazy ales for 2024

Best New Zealand wheat, saison and sours for 2024

Best New Zealand ciders 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.