Christchurch’s Kaiser Brew Garden was named the supreme winner at the 2023 Lion hospitality awards this week, after scooping both the best bar and top marketed establishment honours.

The Riverside Market microbrewery is the latest enterprise of German-born Theo, Alex and Marcel Giesen, founders of Giesen Wines in Marlborough.

As the story goes, the brothers' connection with beer dates back to an 1860s family beer recipe from the maternal side of the family, the Kaisers.

They ran the Kaiser brewery in Bavaria from the 1930s until the 1970s when it was purchased by brewing giant Heineken.

The brothers’ interest was piqued when they were given the handwritten recipe while visiting cousins in Germany. They came back to New Zealand and, in 2016, established their microbrewery.

Theo, Alex and Marcel Giesen are the brains behind Christchurch’s Kaiser Brew Garden.
(Image: Giesen Wines) 

The awards, held at a black-tie affair attended by more than 400 guests in Auckland on Wednesday, saw 23 venues and hospitality establishments acknowledged across a range of food and accommodation categories. Judging was done by a panel of industry peers.

There were also five recipients of "people’s choice" awards, including Craggy Range Winery head chef Casey McDonald, who was crowned chef of the year. 

NZ-born McDonald joined the Hawke's Bay winery and restaurant in 2019, his latest gig in a career that started in Wellington at Citron restaurant. 

At the age of 25, he found himself at The Square, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Mayfair, London, followed by a stint at Melbourne's Cumulus Up and Cumulus Inc as head chef in charge of six kitchens.

Chef Casey McDonald has worked at top establishments in Wellington, London and Melbourne and is now at Craggy Range Winery's restaurant in Havelock North. (Image: Craggy Range)    

QT Hotels general manager Doron Whaite and SkyCity Entertainment’s GM of hospitality, David Allott, landed leader of the year honours across accommodation and hospitality, respectively.

A Christchurch institution, the Richmond Club, won a people’s choice award and the city’s Hornby Club was honoured for excellence in the gaming club, RSA or sporting venue category.

There were also three winners based in Queenstown: QT Queenstown was acknowledged as the best hotel in the land, Botswana Butchery as the best restaurant and the Locker Room as the best sports bar.

A highlight of the awards ceremony was the induction of Tony Crosbie into the Hospitality NZ Hall of Fame. 

Crosbie, who started in the industry in 1983 as an apprentice chef at the Invercargill Licensing Trust’s Ascot Park Hotel, has owned 28 hospitality businesses.

Through his Christchurch-based South Island Hospitality Group, he still operates 14, as well as a catering company in Marlborough, and employs around 250 staff.

Tony Crosbie was honoured for his 40 years of service to the hospitality sector. (Image: Supplied)

Hospitality NZ chief executive Julie White said Kaiser Brew Garden and the other winners had done an “exceptional job” in what were still very trying circumstances following the hangover of covid and in a mix of some of the best finalist lineups in years. 

Lion’s country director, Craig Baldie, said the brewer was “in awe” of hospitality operators for how well they had performed in the face of the huge challenges the industry was continuing to go through.

And the winners are ... 

Best Bar – Kaiser Brew Garden, Christchurch.

Excellence in a Gaming Club, RSA or Sporting Venue – Hornby Club, Christchurch.

Best Country Hotel – Theatre Royal Hotel, Kumara, West Coast.

Best Sustainability / Environmental and/or Recycling Practice – Aura Accommodation, Rotorua.

Best Hotel – QT Queenstown, Queenstown.

Best Luxury Accommodation – The Landing, Te Tii, Bay of Islands.

Best Mid-Scale Accommodation – Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park, Whitianga.

Best Restaurant – Botswana Butchery Queenstown.

Best Marketed Establishment – Kaiser Brew Garden, Christchurch.

Outstanding Achievement in Training and Workforce Development – Wynyard Pavilion, Auckland.

Best Local – Sprig + Fern Berhampore, Wellington.

Best Sports Bar – The Locker Room Sports Bar, Queenstown.

Best Destination Venue – Tantalus Estate, Waiheke Island, Auckland.

Best Cafe – Toad Hall, Motueka.

Best Restaurant in an Accommodation Venue – Esther at QT Auckland.

Best Motel Over 25 Rooms –  Awa Motel, Whakatāne.

Best Motel Under 25 Rooms – Palazzo Motor Lodge, Nelson.

Best Gaming Venue – Woodbourne Tavern and Motels, Renwick.

Best Late Night/Entertainment Venue – Miss Gee's Bar and Eatery, Tauranga.

Best Fine Dining – Craggy Range, Hawke's Bay.

People's Choice – Richmond Club, Christchurch.

Overall Highly Commended – The Landing, Craggy Range.

Supreme Winner – Kaiser Brew Garden, Christchurch.

(Source: Hospitality NZ)