Media folk have long been renowned for their love of a tipple. And, if the StopPress Towers are any gauge, many of them seem to have a penchant for the tasty, interesting and expensive beers emanating from some of the country's numerous craft breweries. Every year, those two things are combined at Beervana's Media Brew competition, which sees adventurous beer-loving journalists from around the country paired up with a craft brewer to develop a special, one-off brew. And Dish's recently departed editor Victoria Wells and Hallertau Brewery took out the title with a NZ Wild Ale with Horopito.
The theme for this year's comp was spring and the beer could contain any yeast, liquid, grain or hops, along with one intrinsically or native New Zealand ingredient.
According to the tasting notes, the winning entry had "aromas of fresh silage, a little creamy, and a lot tart".
"When you know you’ve got good beer there’s often silence amongst the judges as it’s such a good beer, and when everyone tasted this one, they just went ‘wow’," says head judge of the Media Brew competition, Tracy Banner, who is also head brewer and owner at Sprig and Fern.
No word on whether the beer got its fresh silage qualities after being shipped to Southland and kept under a plastic sheet that was held down by a bunch of old tyres.
Three additional awards were also announced:
Runner up overall: Liberty Brewing Co./Metro Magazine (Simon Farrell- Green)
Beer: J.A.F.A Beer
Best Idea Award: Fork Brewing /Lonely Planet (Brett Atkinson)
Beer: Farmhouse du Fru Ju
Most Innovative and Creative Award: ParrotDog/Fishhead Magazine (Hadyn Green)
Beer: Dog Bone
There were plenty of weird and wonderful ingredients included in some of the brews, among them driftwood, lamb bones and smoked seafood (see the full list of entries below). We look forward to High Times being invited to participate next year.
The Media Brew competition is a nice little PR gimmick to add to the nuts and bolts of this increasingly popular consumer and trade event, and many of the brewers are pretty quirky. But the industry is getting pretty serious. And, while craft beer is coming from a very low base, it's where a lot of the growth in the beer industry is at the moment. From a branding point of view, it's a tough sell, because a big part of the consumer culture is around experimentation rather than loyalty to one brand as was the case in the past (something Moa is finding tough to fight). Some brands have gained a reputation for inventiveness in their products or marketing, namely Emerson's and Tuatara. And, despite some misgivings about Lion's purchase of Emerson's, it seems it's been true to its word and is simply investing capital to increase quantity, rather than ripping costs out and decreasing the quality as originally feared. Renaissance has also just raised $700,000 for expansion through crowd-sourcing platform Snowball Effect and publisher Jules van Cruysen's Kiwi Craft app has already beaten its Kickstarter goal of $15,000.
The Brewers' Guild reportedly expects craft brewers to capture ten percent domestic market share in the next five to ten years. But there's plenty of scope for more economic success from an export point of view, according to ANZ.
“New Zealand is well positioned to be a superpower of small brewers,” says John Bennett, ANZ general manager central region for commercial and agri. “Craft beer is where wine was 20 years ago. People with money to spend are becoming more sophisticated in their tastes, and they are looking beyond the big beer brands. Asia’s fast-growing middle classes are just starting to develop a taste for craft beer. The potential for exporters is enormous, up to 300 percent in the next decade, but New Zealand brewers and hop growers will need to significantly expand production if they’re to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Craft beer is the fastest growing segment of New Zealand’s brewing industry, currently at about 25 percent a year. In the US, one of New Zealand’s biggest beer export markets, demand for craft beer has grown ten percent annually while overall demand for beer is shrinking 0.3 per cent annually. Demand is also on the rise in Europe, but Asian markets, such as China, hold the most exciting prospects for New Zealand brewers, Bennett says.
“These consumers are increasingly looking for premium products that are authentic, high-quality and were made by a craftsman, not a factory production line. The challenge for craft brewers is to grow production quickly and without compromising quality or uniqueness."
Epic Brewing Co
Radio Hauraki: The Hauraki Breakfast with Matt, Jeremy & Laura – Matt Heath
Golden West Coast sunset. Rainforest, smoke, driftwood, piratey, herbaceous
GOOD George Brewing
Toast! – Kerri Jackson
Lime & Horopito Gose
Our modern interpretation of the Gose style. Sour, sea salt, lime zest & juice, horopito, refreshing
Monteiths Brewing Company
Dompost Beerhive Blog – Shane Cowlishaw & Michael Forbes
Raspberry Lamington Wheat Beer
Brewed with fresh spring water and a hint of raspberries
Cassels & Sons Brewery
APN Regional Newspapers - Yvonne Lorkin
Rich malt character. Distinctive Kawa leaf flavour, spicy.
Kereru Brewing Company
Beer & Brewer Magazine – Neil Miller
Imperial At- At Pilsner
The force is strong with this one. Hops and Wheatbix.
Manawatu Evening Standard – Jono Galuszka
Spicy, peppery, aniseed aroma. Smoky rye belgium saison.
Dish Magazine – Victoria Wells
NZ Wild Ale with Horopito
Aromas of fresh silage, a little creamy and a lot tart.
Cuisine Magazine – Alice Neville & Fiona Smith
Fruity, minty, fresh, subtle strawberry, dry finish
TV ONE – Max Bania
Smooth, rich, chocolately, whisky
Liberty Brewing Co
Metro Magazine – Simon Farrell-Green
Burned toffee, BBQ, bitter orange, dark chocolate, tropical citrus hops
Panhead Custom Ales
Life & Leisure – Anna Tait-Jamieson
Fuel for Lambs
Three Boys Brewery
The Press – Abbie Napier
Mt Hutt Gingernut
Biscuity, floral tea flavour. Finishes dry with a peppery gingerness.
Fishhead Magazine – Hadyn Green
Brown ale with lamb bones added to the boil.
Moa Brewing Company
Marlborough Express & Manawatu Standard - Geoff Griggs
Moa Mussels from Brussels Marlborough Stout
Briney shellfish characters with smoked mussel meet roast and belgian yeast
North End Brewery
Word on the Street – Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater
A briny Brown Ale using smoked pipis
Herald on Sunday - Don Kavanagh
Smoked dark beer with oak characteristics
Taupo Times – Kirsty Lawrence
Aroma of Strawberries and bush honey. Dry champagne style.
Deep Creek Brewing Co.
Public Address - Russell Brown
Manuka, aniseed, orange blossom, citrus, malt toffee
Lonely Planet website – Brett Atkinson
Farmhouse du Fru Ju
Pepper-Citrus Aromatics, Lemon and Spice Flavours, Sessionable Dry Finish
Widmer Brothers Brewing (USA)
All About Beer (USA) – John Holl
Clean, refreshing lager. Hoppy, sweet finish.
Young Henrys (Aust)
The Shout (Aust) – James Atkinson
Mega Wega White Thing
White Stout. Strong White Pale Ale finished with Wai-iti Hops
As part of a promotion for Freedom Farms, Epic brought two wonderful things together, making a special beer-infused sausage and a bacon flavoured beer.
The Brewers Guild also held its annual awards the night before Beervana kicked off, with Nelson's Townshend Brewery taking the big prize. So if you're wondering what to buy, check out all the winners here.