There was a huge awards dinner, a celebrity MC, quite the social media flurry, a well-watched live webcast and, in the following days, a deluge of press releases in my in-box from breweries – large and small – who had done well on the night. [2]

I was one of the many hundreds in attendance at the ritzy Sky City Convention Centre. Those aware of my notoriously poor travelling skills will not be surprised to find out that the simple 350m walk from my hotel to the venue took me to the Sky City Car Park, then the Sky City Hotel, then the Sky City Convention Centre, then completely the wrong table.

I may have still been wandering the wild streets of Auckland looking for the dinner if I had not spotted a group of prominent beer people milling around an entrance. Carl Vasta was there and wearing a smart suit. I felt I really should have to show him my driver licence and beg to be let in because “my friends are already in there, please? [3]

The “wrong table” gaffe was quite spectacular even by my own standards. The Brewer’s Guild had kindly given me a ticket as I was presenting an award later but I was not sure which of the fifty or so tables I would be on. There were walls covered in seating allocation charts and I thought “knowing my luck I will be on the last sheet I read.” Wrong – my name leapt off the third sheet and I carefully noted it said “Table 8” in the top left corner.

I sat by myself at Table 8 so long that Carl Vasta came over to mock me for being a Larry No-Mates. Just as well I hadn’t tried the “my friends are already inside” line getting through the door. Then, when I looked destined to dine alone, ten people turned up… to the ten person table… that I was already sitting at. Ever the smooth operator, I offered to check the boards and resolve the clear misunderstanding.

The truth was simple yet embarrassing. On further scrutiny, it did not say “Table 8” in the top left corner. It said “Table #”, as it did on every single sheet. Your actual table number was next to your name. Next to mine it clearly said “20” which was thankfully a long way away from Table 8 helping preserve any shreds of dignity I may have had remaining. Yes, I am a communications professional and I misread a hashtag as a number eight. Better go check what I’ve been writing on my Twitter account…

Once I was finally seated in the correct position, I gave a signal that the ceremonies proper could begin. The celebrity MC was Hilary Barry who was quite excellent. She does have a real interest in craft beer and, thanks to the Beer Awards dinner, I can now say I was hugged and flipped off by the Mother of the Nation in one night. Admittedly she did flip off the whole audience as a punchline to a joke and that was the point that someone alerted her to the live webcast. For some reason, Maurice Williamson’s name came up immediately after that…

I’ll do a more comprehensive analysis of the results next week [4] but there were several personal highlights I’d like to discuss. The biggest of them was presenting this year’s Beer Writer of the Year Award. Now, the downside was actually having to give up my beloved accolade. The upside was that it went to Jono Galuszka, a writer (and human being) I have long admired. For the record, I have long predicted on this blog that he would one day win the award (much to his embarrassment).

Now, the next downside was that Jono was not there. Some unkind presenter may have suggested it “was past his bed time.” However, on the upside, the same presenter had presciently arranged for Michael Donaldson, a former winner himself, to accept the trophy on Jono’s behalf. On the downside, Michael completely missed his cue. [5]

Finally however, Mr Donaldson made it to the stage and graciously accepted the award. He revealed a little known piece of trivia – that Jono had accepted the trophy on his behalf two years earlier. Another little known piece of trivia is that Jono recorded an awesome reaction video on a rugby field in Tawa – the suburb where I grew up. [6]

As promised in the last blog, I asked him the hard questions on Twitter:

“Are you really old enough to drink?” – Yes. [7]

“How do I work my iPod?” – Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

The later was of course a trick question as I have never owned or successfully operated an iPod. Jono has a long connection with Malthouse as a former bartender and now judge in the West Coast IPA Challenge. He managed to achieve his beer writing success despite now living in Palmerston North and spending most of his time reporting on the courts and the council. Congratulations champ – a well deserved honour!

Unit Manager Ciaran Duffy took time away from celebrating his birthday yesterday to compile a list of eleven award winning beers from the New Zealand Brewer’s Guild Beer Awards 2015 that are currently on tap at Malthouse. Here are the beers and brief comments from me about each in brackets:

Gold and Trophy – Epic Armageddon IPA (continues on its medal winning ways. Personally, I’m celebrating the result by drinking one as I write this)

Gold – 8 Wired HopWired IPA (a beer that seems to always appear on my annual Top Ten because it is fundamentally awesome)

Gold – mike’s Chocolate Milk Stout (I told gentle readers it was a fine example of the style)

Silver – Tuatara Helles (this beer does not get enough respect, including from me. It is a perfect example of a classic German style and those Germans know something about lager…)

Silver – Liberty Halo (one of my favourite New Zealand pilsners of all time. Look for the picture of Joe on the label…)

Silver – Tuatara Pilsner (a stalwart at my beer tastings and often the first taster offered to punters overwhelmed by Malthouse’s range. Tasting particularly good at the minute)

Silver – Fork Brewing Pitch Fork (a crazy Brett infused Saison featuring spelt, rye, sour barley, lime, grapefruit and orange)

Silver – Liberty Yakima Scarlet (still takes a lot of my money)

Silver – Renaissance Voyager IPA (a British inspired IPA which I feel I have not tried nearly enough)

Silver – ParrotDog Otis (silky oatmeal stout with plenty of bite)

Bronze – Baylands Woodrow’s Veto IPA (long my go-to beer in the Baylands range and for reasons that become obvious once you stick your nose above this juicy hop rocket)

Next time, we drink to the Scottish Rugby team who are currently perfect and winning the Rugby World Cup. I say we call it off early and give them the trophy now! [8]

[1] Recycling is good for the environment. That applies to jokes too surely?

[2] One day I’d love to see a release that said something like “at last night’s awards ceremony, the Hobbling Scotsman Brewery entered eleven beers and received absolutely no awards. Our brewers paid $200 a head to see some horrible swill walk away with sackloads of medals, and have vowed to head butt any judges they see until such time as they develop taste buds.” Probably the only reason Liberty Brewing have not done such a release – because it sure sounds like something Joe would say – is that they always win sackloads of medals…

[3] I just wasted five minutes on an internal debate about whether it was a driver’s licence, drivers’ licence or driving licence before I realised I was currently sitting on mine. It is officially a “driver licence.”

[4] Unless Colin has me writing about fruit infused sour tea beers in retaliation for the “Hobbling Scotsman Brewery” reference in [2] above…

[5] You had one job, Donaldson!

[6] Pay attention. These will be Trivial Pursuit questions some day.

[7] This checks out. I have seen photos of his fluorescent “Yes I am 18” bracelet at Greater Wellington Brew Day.

[8] Sigh. Time for the usual disclaimers: For the Rugby, I was born in Scotland. For the Pitch Fork, I have an ownership interest in the Fork Brewery but obviously no creative control over this beer. For the Beer Writer Awards, I was one of a panel of judges. I did not enter.


Neil Miller

(Former NZ) Beer Writer (of the Year 2014-15) Sniff…

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