Our lead story in this issue stems from one of the more curious decisions at the Brewers Guild Awards held in Nelson in September.
Before I touch on that let’s acknowledge the huge strides made by the Guild this year. The creation of awards for best large, medium and small breweries was a brilliant addition. It spread the love in a fashion that relates to the state of the industry. Congratulations to Lion, Parrotdog and Fork Brewcorp for their awards – I don’t think anyone could argue with the fact these three all make superb beer and it’s great they can all be recognized.
The addition of the champion exhibitor trophy was also a masterstroke. It implemented a system many punters (take a bow Phil Cook) have long argued for and rewards consistency. The fact it went to Bach Brewing – one of this magazine’s loyal and long-term supporters – is a great result.
There are too many other awards to mention here but the one we’ve focused on in this issue is Monteith’s Original Ale winning the trophy for New Zealand Lager. It’s a complicated story which Jono Galuszka explains well.
SOBA, the publisher of Pursuit of Hoppiness, is a consumer-oriented organisation on a mission to educate, promote, and advocate for quality beer. Education outside the inner circle of beer devotees is critical. That’s shown by the fact that one of the most frequent questions I get asked at events is: what’s the difference between a lager and an ale?
So when a beer labelled as an ale wins a trophy for lager it’s bound to create confusion. This is not a pot shot at Monteith’s – they’ve probably entered the beer in the right category – and I have some sympathy for the Guild in terms of how they’ve interpreted the ambiguous style guidelines.
But one the key bonuses of any award is the ability to stick a medal on your packaging to encourage consumers to try it. As a consequence brewers have a responsibility to ensure their labelling reflects the contents of the bottle or can otherwise we’re leading customers up the garden path.
Hopefully the Guild can get this sorted and avoid a repeat in future years.