When the calendar changes, it is traditional for writers, journalists and even bloggers to attempt to review the previous year, decade or century.  This almost always takes the form of a “year in review” article based entirely on Google and Wikipedia, or a Top Ten list based mainly on personal prejudices. 

I’m firmly in the latter camp.

Just before Christmas, my now traditional Top Ten Beers list was published in The Wellingtonian newspaper.  It was a considered selection of my favourite New Zealand beers of the year and unsurprisingly reflected my preference for big hoppy ales.  That said, several pilsners and stouts also made the cut.  Interestingly, every single beer on the list has been available at Malthouse during 2009 which is testament to the quality of the selection there.

So, here is the final list (with last years’ position in brackets):

10. Croucher Pale Ale (7) – This is the flagship beer from Paul Croucher’s craft brewery in Rotorua, the Aromatic Capital of New Zealand.  It remains a boisterous, flavoursome pale ale with plenty of character and charm.

9. Tuatara Pilsner (NEW) – From the beer-making superstars in Reikorangi, this Pilsner blends the classic Czech style with top-quality local ingredients.  The end result is a crisp, dry, approachable lager which can convert mainstream drinkers to craft beer.

8. Invercargill Pitch Black (10) – From the country’s southernmost brewery, Pitch Black proves that beers do not need to be overly strong to have plenty of flavour.  It showcases a wonderful balance of chocolate and coffee notes before a clean finish.

7. Yeastie Boys His Majesty (NEW) – Newcomers the Yeastie Boys have stormed onto the brewing scene in 2009.  His Majesty is a bold and cleverly-made India Pale Ale with bursts of citrus notes before an insidiously refreshing bitterness.

6. Three Boys Oyster Stout (NEW) – A modern recreation of a Victorian recipe, the use of real Bluff Oysters helps create a silky, sweet, decadent stout.  It should not work but it really does.

5. Three Boys Golden Ale (NEW) – This seasonal release had never registered on my beer radar before.  This year, a few brewing tweaks have produced a zesty, quenching summer delight.

4. Emerson’s Pilsner (2) – Now the only organic beer from New Zealand’s champion brewery, this New World Pilsner is a balance of fruity hops and cleansing bitterness.  It is the standard by which others are measured.

3. Epic Pale Ale (1) – A rare combination of full-flavour with drinkability, this is rapidly becoming a Wellington beer fixture.  The Impish brewer loves his hops and it is evident in every glass.

2. 8 Wired Hopwired IPA (NEW) – One of the first brews from a new Blenheim brewing company, this is my new beer of the year.  It has a billowing hop aroma, big passion fruit and citrus flavours, late bitterness and subtle power. 

1. Epic Armageddon (3) – Easily one of the most highly hopped beers ever made in New Zealand, this huge beer showcases massive orange and grapefruit notes, a solid malt backbone and lingering bitterness.  It should be enjoyed as if it was the last beer on earth.

Having looked back longingly at 2009, it is time to look forward eagerly to 2010 and make some bold prediction for the rest of summer.  Gazing into my crystal ball (well, actually it is a limited-edition Malthouse glass proposing ‘Cheers For 2010’ filled with Three Boys Golden Ale but the effect is quite similar), I foresee new levels of popularity for cider, wheat beers and pales ales (particularly those in the American style).  Let’s examine each prediction of popularity in turn:

Cider – I really should have published this somewhere around October 2009 when I first began to realise that cider – proper cider, not the sugary nonsense so often served in New Zealand – was going to be big.  Now, with shelves everywhere groaning under a seemingly endless array of local and imported ciders and perries this prediction has rather lost its lustre.  However, it does mean that for the first time ever I am begin to contemplate planning a blog post all about cider.  Volunteers for a tasting panel should contact Colin, the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scotsman behind the bar.

Wheat beers – I’m not sure why New Zealanders don’t drink more wheat beers over the summer.  At the tastings I regularly run around the region, wheat beers score consistently highly in the popular vote (particularly Tuatara Hefe and Croucher The Hef).  For many of the participants, this is their first taste of wheat beers and they like it.  Therefore, I confidently predict that more Kiwis will be thinking of hefes and wits as the perfect quenchers on a hot day.

Pale Ales – In my opinion, the pale ale category is one of the most fiercely contested at both the New Zealand and Australian beer awards.  It is a far cry from the situation say seven years ago where the pale ale category was quite anaemic.  Pale Ales are on a high in this country with American hops very much in vogue and a number of US-inspired offerings.  Last year, we have also seen waves of American craft beers gratefully received by New Zealand drinkers (even if legendary Stone brewer Greg Koch was not happy that his beers had made it here without his express written consent).  Saying a beer tastes “American” might not even be an insult anymore.

I have far more confidence in my drinks predictions than in my sports betting.  Here’s to a new year of great beer.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Croucher Brewing – http://www.croucherbrewing.co.nz/ 
Tuatara – http://www.tuatarabrewing.co.nz/
Invercargill Brewery – http://www.invercargillbrewery.co.nz/
Yeastie Boys – http://www.yeastieboys.co.nz/
Three Boys – http://www.threeboysbrewery.co.nz/
Emerson’s – http://www.emersons.co.nz/
Epic – http://epicbeer.com/
Impish Brewer – http://imp.epicbeer.com/
8 Wired – http://www.8wired.co.nz/
Malthouse Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse on Twitter – http://twitter.com/malthouse
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://twitter.com/beerlytweeting
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/