Fresh (or more accurately, not so fresh) from last week’s Beervana in Wellington, Neil Miller gives a wrap on the competition.
The biggest week on the New Zealand beer calendar is over with a record number of entries in the Brew NZ beer awards and record crowds at the Beervana festival. It was a bit of a bumper time at Malthouse too with the trusty bar propped up by an even higher than usual number of brewers, judges, stewards, writers, anoraks, experts and aficionados.
A panel of international and domestic judges sampled well over 300 beers and awarded coveted gold, silver and bronze medals. The key Best in Class trophy winners were:
European lager styles - Baltika N7 Export
European ale styles – Harrington’s Pig and Whistle
New Zealand, US and international ale styles - Epic Armageddon IPA
Stouts and porters – Invercargill Brewery/Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black
Wheat and other grain styles – Tuatara Hefe
Flavoured and aged styles - Emerson’s JP 2009
New Zealand lager and premium lager - Emerson’s Pilsner
Specialty, experimental, aged, barrel- and wood-aged styles - Moa Dark Reserve
Packaging – Mike’s Organic Brewery
Full results here.
Alert readers will notice that many of these winning beers have featured on this very blog, not that there is any causal relationship.
The supreme awards go to the international and local champion breweries of the year based on the strength of their entire range. This year, Deschutes (USA) was selected as the champion international brewery. Emerson’s Brewing Company of Dunedin was rightly crowned champion New Zealand brewery for 2009. After accepting his multiple trophies, brewer Richard Emerson urged the big crowd to be passionate about good beer and to keep the industry growing.
Perhaps suspecting that he was going to do very well at the ceremony, Richard (right) was sharply dressed. That has not always been the case. Emerson’s brewery manager Chris O’Leary recalls Richard arriving at a previous Brew NZ wearing two different shoes. Apparently, Richard had gotten up at 5am in the dark, slipped on his shoes and travelled all the way to Wellington. Chris says “being the observant, caring guy I am I let him wear that combination for a day then advised him that he was wearing one brown shoe and one green shoe. Ever positive, Richard replied ‘Bugger – oh well, at least I’m wearing one shoe from each of my favourite pairs!’”
It is hard to talk about Richard for any length of time without mentioning his irrepressible sense of humour. When asked at a recent tasting “how do you make a dark beer,” he immediately responded with a completely deadpan “we brew it at night.” Some attendees even apparently wrote this down.
Personally, I’m particularly delighted to see the Emerson’s Pilsner do so well. It has been one of my favourite beers for a number of years and has been tasting fantastic recently (even though it is no longer bottle conditioned). It is more of a New World interpretation than a completely traditional pilsner but the final product is balanced and full of flavour. It has a healthy citrus nose and a robust body bursting with delicious lush fruit (including orange and sometimes passionfruit) before a long dry finish.
The Pilsner is one of only two organic offerings in the ever-growing Emerson’s range of beer. Unlike some producers, Richard is not content with a beer just being organic - first and foremost it has to be a good beer. Richard has said “I’m thinking more about the flavours first.”
I wrote an article about Richard for Beer and Brewer magazine where I had the chance to ask him what he thought the secret to good beer was. His answer was “the best ingredients and 'the good old Pint test!' A good beer is all about flavour, balance and drinkability. How does the beer taste? Does it have some ‘wow’ factor? Could I drink 4 or 5 pints of this?”
When it comes to Emerson’s Pilsner, the answers are “yes” and “absolutely yes.”
In that same article, Richard revealed that, in a cruel twist of fate, he threw away the best beer he ever made. Here is that story:
He made a beer with Vierka Munich yeast but says it “was terrible to ferment and didn't taste that great after two months in the bottle.” Needing the bottles for more brews, he dumped virtually all the beer down the drain. The two dozen he kept sat forgotten for a year.
When he returned to New Zealand, he recalls his Dad pouring him “this wonderful glass of sparkling clear beer with huge fluffy head.” Even after sniffing and tasting it, Richard was adamant the beer was Duvel. Only when he saw the actual bottles did he realize it was his abandoned beer. He was speechless - an extremely rare occurrence. Even today, discussing the loss of this wonderful beer provokes an anguished sigh.
Congratulations to Richard and the team at Emerson’s for their success at the 2009 New Zealand Beer Awards.
PS: Congratulations too to Not PC’s former beer co-correspondent Stu McKinlay, whose excellent Pot Kettle Black was deservedly announced Champion Stout and Porter. Well done Stu!