Friday, 14 December 2007

Beer O'Clock: Stu's 2007 beer picks

beerYes, it's that time again when we look start to look back at the year that's been and, if we haven't drunk enough to forget most of them -- and as Humphrey Bogart used to say, the trouble with the world is that everyone is just one drink behind -- we begin to gather from the tangled skeins of this year's memories some sort of order.  The task this year, beer-wise at least, falls to SOBA's Stus, who's drunk enough to know what's what, and just enough to remember.  Herewith Stu's beer awards for 2007:

NZ beer of the year:
Invercargill's Smokin' Bishop. In a craft beer market so dominated by hoppy pale ales and lagers, it's fantastic to see the little brewery differentiating themselves with something completely different. Smokin' Bishop is a strong, rich and malty red lager with a whiff of manuka-fired billy-tea. A splendidly moreish drop that beat off some extremely stiff competition to win the specialty section at BrewNZ 2007.

Best brewery:
Emerson's of Dunedin
continue to amaze and astound with a wide range of year-'round beers and a fantastic range of annual seasonals (think 'Taieri George', 'APA' and this year's new addition 'JP'). Not only is Richard Emerson the most passionate brewer in New Zealand, he's now employing one of the other most awarded and passionate brewers -- Chris O'Leary, the man whose Limburg range taught New Zealanders about wheat beers.

Best bar:
Auckland's 'Galbraith's Ale House' takes out a hotly contested fight - reminiscent of a classic Ranfurly Shield battle - against New Zealand's only other real ale bar: Christchurch's 'The Twisted Hop.'  These two bars are so completely different from each other, yet are both so similarly welcoming and beer-centric.  Great beer, great food, great wine, great service, great times. Galbraith's wins by a nose because of it's slightly wider variety of beer (note also that Galbraith's still remains New Zealand's best - and possibly only - example of a genuine ale house in an ex-country-and-western nightclub).

Best bottle store:
Wellington's Regional Wines and Spirits. Is there any other? Well, yes, there are a couple worth looking for: Wellington's Rumble's and the Island Bay New World; Christchurch's Beer Emporium; and, I'm hearing good things about Auckland city's Victoria Park New World. The strength of Regional's, besides their amazing drink selection and fantastic staff, is that anyone in the country can purchase from them via mail order system.

Best beer list:
The Malthouse, Wellington, beats off some solid competition from Hallertau Brew Bar in Riverhead, the best supporter of local craft beer. The Malthouse beer list, which numbers well over 100, covers off every occasion - and every type of beer drinker - with beers ranging from Heineken, Sol and Corona, through all the best NZ craft beers, to exquisite sipping ales like Rodenbach Grand Cru and Samuel Adam's implausible Utopias (26%!!!). When are New Zealand's restaurants going to take our amazing product seriously and arrive on the 'beer list' scene. (note: don't be scared off by the Scotsman's nostrils).

Best publication:
After a bit of a shaky start, Australian magazine 'Beer and Brewer' is really starting to hit it's straps. With more than half of the articles in the last issue being written by New Zealanders, or about our beer, we lovers of kiwi beer hope they continue to improve and receive support. Look out for the magazine at your local newsagent.

Best beer judge:
Blenheim-based beer writer Geoff Griggs is tireless in his judging commitments this year. Added to his usual judging tally (NZ International Beer Awards, BrewNZ, Consumer Magazine and The Capital Times Beer Survey) was the inaugral SOBA National Homebrew Championships (145 entries, and Geoff tasted every single one of them over two days). Geoff's certainly tasted more beers than anyone has had hot dinners! And he's doing most of that for little more than "thanks Geoff."  Top bloke.

Best local beer blog:
Wellington cheesemonger, homebrewer and beer judge Kieran Haslett-Moore has arrived on the blogging scene with his thoughtful blog: 'Beer from the Motherland'.  It's the first local beer blog since RealBeer  that has caught my eye, and it'll be interesting to see how it develops over the next year. Cheese lovers would be advised to keep an eye on this blog also.

Best homebrewer:
This highly sought award will be announced this Sunday, at the awards party for SOBA's National Homebrew Championships. Come along to the Boatshed, on Wellington's waterfront, to find out (and taste )a wide selection of home - and commercial - craft brewed beer. Some of my own beers will even be making a rare (and probably brief) public appearance.

Feel free to let us all know your own "Bests" in the comments. And keep on drinking great beer!

Slainte mhath, Stu Tags:


  1. Best Bottle Store...

    Stu, how could you leave off two absolute stars? Hamilton's Hamilton Wine Company - don't be fooled by the name, knowledgeable and friendly service, and a huge range (usually over 100 beers), and Christchurh's "The Beer Emporium" - the most dedicated beer lover in NZ, and over 500 beers. Yes. 500. Rumbles pales in comparison to either of these, and a supermarket is still just a supermarket. :) Good work Regional though. Always a necessary visit on trips to the Capital. Mad props to Kieran too. Beers From The Motherland is one of my top 5 blogs.

  2. The Beer Emporium is in there. I know little aboutthe Hamilton Wine Company but I do remember you saying they stocked Duchesse de Bourgogne, so they deserve to be in the mix.

  3. Agreed about the dearth of beers to be found at restaurants - I'm six of having a selection of five. I recently watched a British cookery show which featured a restaurant that concentrated on beers, and serving food to match the different beers they sold (which were many).

    A real niche in NZ for something along similar lines.

    Mark Hubbard

  4. ... whoops. 'sick of, not 'six of', and I've only four of them tonight.

  5. Cheers for the kind words, both Stu and Greig.

    Hamilton Wine Co gets a favorable nod from me! However I think Regionals still gets my vote, particulary with the recently upgraded fill your own system which allows retail punters to access draught only beers such as Booky, and at times Monks Habit ect at a sharp price.


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