the results are never announced until the gala dinner, this year well hosted by Te Radar.  With the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation and a radio school-trained voice-over guy, he announced all the medal and trophy winners in the seventeen categories.   Without doubt, the ultimate accolade is the crowning of the Champion New Zealand Brewery which this year went to Harrington’s Breweries of Christchurch.

The Champion New Zealand Brewery is selected by the judges using a formula which measures a brewery’s medal performances across the board. [1] From the audience, it looked like a very tight contest this year with no one brewery dominating.  In the end, Harrington’s took the big gong with gold medals for their Pig & Whistle dark lager and Baltic-Ler Baltic Porter, silver medals for the Rogue Hop pilsner and 2011 Anniversary Dark, a bronze for Saddler Lager.  Congratulations to Carl and his hard-working crew.

People are often surprised to find out that Harrington’s is over 20 years old and a brewery of considerable size (probably in the top ten for New Zealand).  In part, this is because Harrington’s focussed on their home region of Canterbury for many years but now their beers are increasingly available around the country.  Harrington’s repeatedly say they have the biggest range of beers in the country and – for once – this does not appear to be marketing hype.  At any given time, Harrington’s has at least 25 beers on offer, plus two ginger beers. [2]

One of my favourite beers from their range is the Harrington’s Hop Tremor (7.4%), a crisp IPA with seven hop additions.  Despite the heavy hopping and relatively high alcohol percentage, it is a relatively refined and balanced drop with notes of orange marmalade before a lingering dry finish.  It is more of a hop rumble than a hop explosion.  Hop Tremor is part of the Harrington’s Brewers Selection along with Anvil (a strong pilsner) and the aforementioned Baltic-Ler.

Against my express written instructions, Black America Pale Ales have become hugely popular in the last year.  At the vanguard of this movement was the Croucher Brewing Company of Rotorua, better known as Paul Croucher and Nigel Gregory.  Their trail-blazing Croucher Patriot Black IPA (5.5%) pours dark but is packed full of US hops.  The result is a black beer with a tan head, fruity nose, roasted body and long finish.  It is packed with notes of caramel, chocolate, coffee, guava, mango and passionfruit – the last three thanks to the generous additions of American Amarillo and Simcoe hops.

Next up is a beer that many seasoned beer commentators [3] never expected to see – an Epic beer made entirely and proudly with New Zealand hops.  The Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas has been a long time fan of American hops and occasional critic of New Zealand hops.  However, not only is Epic First Batch (6.8%) the first all New Zealand Epic brew but also the first commercial beer to use the new Waimea hop. It has quite a different feel to the standard Epic beer but is hoppy, characterful and quenching. 

Malthouse’s beloved Hopinator – the Modus Hopperandus – has again been filled up with chillies.  Following the recent success of Epic Hop Zombie poured through habernero chillies, [3] the stakes have been raised with a new beer and the addition of two chillies this time.  mike’s Single American Pale Ale (SAPA) (6.7%) is a balanced drop normally but the late addition of habernero and smoked chipotle chillies will certainly kick it up a notch.   SAPA is one of four new non-organic beers from mike’s.  Director Ron Trigg laughingly calls the quartet “mike’s illegitimate sons.”

Finally, from my heralded American beer desk, the iconic Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (7%) is hitting the taps at Malthouse.  This is absolutely one of my favourite American IPAs packed with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial hops.  It has enormous citrus notes, a finish that lasts for hours but enough malt backbone to give at least the illusion of balance.

I have enjoyed this beer at the Bear Republic Brewpub.  It was there I learned the story of their name as the Bear Flag Republic (or California Republic) is scandalously not taught in history classes here.  Basically, an area of Northern California declared independence from Mexico and held that position for nearly 26 days, during which time most people in the area were unaware of the uprising.  It is chiefly remembered because their flag had a grizzly bear, a star and the words “California Republic”, all of which were adopted into the official Californian state flag.

Finally, in further good news, Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor has yet more new beers to unleash.  All he needs is a few more taps to be freed up…

Next time, we drink Radio New Zealand.

[1] It is easier to understand than the Duckworth-Lewis Method and has far more mathematical integrity than the MAP formula used by an Australian statistician to ‘prove’ Australia really won the London Olympics.

[2] Ginger beers do not, of course, count as beer.  This information was simply provided as a public health warning to stop inattentive punters accidentally buying them. 

[3] Including, but certainly not limited to, me.

[4] This mix was known as “Hot Zombie”.  When mixed with both ‘regular’ Hop Zombie and Garage Project’s Super Angry Peaches IPA it became a “Super Hot Angry Hop Zombie”.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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