Every year, the New World Beer & Cider Awards throw up a more diverse collection of the country's best beers and ciders, and this year’s selection seemed to have more creativity and breadth than ever.

The Top-30 — the elite 5% from more than 600 entries — features a swag of hazy beers, reflecting the market dominance of that style. There are six hazies in the Top-30, which marries up with the fact they accounted for 20% of entries. Adding in the pale ales and IPAs, roughly half the winners are of the hoppy variety, which again reflects what people buy.

But the real buzz for me was the fact that three classic, and slightly esoteric European styles found their way into the Top-30. Add in two (two!) no-alcohol beers, a low-carb beer, a smoked stout, a champagne-yeast fermented lager and some undiscovered gems from the regions and you really do have no excuse for not finding something you love.

Here are my 10 highlights:

Bach All Day and Garage Project Tiny non-alcoholic IPAs

This is the first time the awards have judged non-alcoholic beers in their own category (as opposed to them being thrown in with normal ABV beers of the same style). They still had to score at gold-medal level to get in the running for a Top-30 spot and both of these were adjudged world class. I’ve sampled nearly every no-alcohol beer available on the New Zealand market in the past two years and the judges got it right: these are the two standouts.

Emerson’s Weissbier

I mentioned “classic” styles at the start and this doubly fits the bill in that it’s also a New Zealand classic. First brewed in 1995 and tagged a “cloudy wheat beer”, it achieved a rare international honour for the era, with a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards in 1996. But it was ahead of consumer tastes — being cloudy and tasting like banana lollies meant punters thought it was “off”. Brought back as part of Emerson’s heritage series, it’s now ripe for appreciation thanks to the onslaught of hazies, which have adjusted our palates (and eyes) to fruity and cloudy beers.

The Theoretical Brewer Mad Hatter Hazy IPA

One of the best things about these awards is the democratisation at work. Because beers are judged blind, brand and history have no sway. This allows little guys to step on to the big stage. This beer was a huge eye-opener for the quality, intensity of flavour and generosity of spirit. Brewed in the New Plymouth suburb of Bell Block by a former chemical engineer, it is gem, now discovered.

Michael Donaldson's top picks from the New World Beer & Cider Awards 2022.


8 Wired A Fistful of Raspberries

Brewed in the traditional Belgian style known as framboise, with a tonne of raspberries added to a base of a wild-fermented ale, this is sweet and tart, lush and funky. It’s a beer to be shared and matched with food. It’s esoteric and challenging and I adore it. Have it with a chocolate dessert for maximum impact. 

Garage Project Pernicious Weed

Beer judging and popular opinion don’t always go hand in hand, but this is a rare alignment. Pernicious Weed is the first beer that Garage Project officially poured at their launch and it’s become a huge fan favourite on sites like Untappd and in the annual GABS Top-100. And now the legend has been validated in the best possible way. Brewed with a classic Kiwi hop combo of Nelson Sauvin and Rakau, this is deeply lush and resinous. 

North End Bones of the Land

Another classic Belgian-style beer with a romantic history. Saisons, or farmhouse ales, are the traditional style of the French-speaking Wallonia region in Belgium (and across the border in France, a similar style is bière de garde). Rustic, slightly spicy, effervescent (you’ll get wet fingers opening this can), lemon zesty and slightly hoppy, this is a beer lover’s beer.

Epic Blue

Low-carbohydrate diets and drinks are more than a fad. In the beer aisle this is one of the fastest-growing categories, with data from New World showing a 20% increase in sales over the past year. Low carb used to mean a little devoid of flavour and a hollow mouthfeel, but Epic Blue will make you forget anything you think you know about low-carb beer. It stood up to other pale ales in the competition on flavour alone. 

Urbanaut Hacienda Disco Beer

A boundary-pushing style, this pumped-up lager is 6.5% ABV but feels lightweight, slender and full of hoppy goodness. Given a secondary fermentation with champagne yeast to make it super-dry, it is the very definition of what Urbanaut do so well. 

Bootleg T-Straight Burnout Smokey Stout

Bootleg’s tribute to their Waikato roots, this beer celebrates a rite of passage (or perhaps a lifestyle choice?) of doing burnouts on the Te Rapa straight. But it’s more than burnt rubber bogan-eering here. This is an incredibly balanced beer where the smokiness fits in with, and extends, the wider mocha stout flavours.

Brave Brewing Bottle Rocket

Brave Brewing are firmly focused on their local Hastings area and deliberately don’t push wider afield than Hawke’s Bay. This helps to give their beer cult-like status because it’s hard to find. The Bottle Rocket is one of the very best pale ales made in New Zealand and it’s great to see it ranged nationwide.

Declaration: Michael Donaldson is the chair of judges at the New World Beer & Cider Awards.
See the full list of winners.