HADYN GREEN wanders down memory lane for his best beers of the year and decade.
Two thousand and nineteen is over and so is the decade. The time for reflection is natural. I’ve had a lot of beers in the last 10 years. According to Untappd I’ve had just under 800 different brews, or 80 new beers every year (not including all the times I forgot to check in). That’s a lot of reflecting.
Beer Of The Decade
When it comes to figuring out your best beer it’s not just complex flavours and balance. It may be about the location. Peroni might be a boring beer but drink it on the top of Mt Everest and it could be the greatest beer you’ve ever had.
It’s why I know my greatest beer was a lager I had sitting on a beach in Rarotonga on my honeymoon. The day was hot, I was drying in the sun after snorkelling over the coral reef outside the little house we had rented, and my beautiful wife was doing the same. The beer was ice cold and I could still taste the salt on my lips from the ocean.
I don’t even know what beer it was. We had brought a bunch with us, so it could’ve been a Sawmill Pilsner, ParrotDog Lager or Garage Project Beer. It might have even been a Matutu Mai, the local beer brewed on Tuatara’s original kit. It honestly doesn’t matter; that was the best beer I had, and I may never forget it.
Beer Of The Year
My favourite beer for 2019 is a tougher choice. I think it might be one of the many beers I shared in Berlin with a friend I had made the previous day. We sat outside of a bar called Lager Lager in the fading light of a warm late September evening, before autumn really took hold. I was trying to only drink beer from Berlin, or at least Germany, but the first one I had was collab with Yeastie Boys (listed as being a UK brewery).
We spent our time swapping stories with the staff, including the owner who was from Wellington. Typical that I go halfway around the world to drink at a bar owned by a Kiwi.
Brewery Of The Year
Brewery of the year is more of a science. There are only a few that I haven’t had a bum beer from. They’re the same breweries that I would’ve said were my favourite last year too: Deep Creek and Urbanaut.
These two Auckland breweries are killing it. Urbanaut makes solid, does-what-it-says-on-the-label beers, even if the label says “Champagne Pilsner”. Their tiny cans of Brut (super dry beer) and their mixers (two small cans sold together for you to mix in your own proportions) are innovative and, oddly, kinda fun.
Meanwhile Deep Creek have been filling up the sour beer market with some excellent beers. From the fantastic (and perfectly named) Diep Kriek to their Tiki series. But this year they’ve stormed in with some amazing pale ales as well, especially hazys. Misty Miyagi and Lotus are now some of my staples.
Brewery Of The Decade
Brewery of the decade is simple: Garage Project. No matter what you think about them, GP have redefined brewing in New Zealand. At this point GP could release an empty can and people would queue for it.
I remember covering them when they first started in Aro St. An empty space with a 50-litre kit in one corner, a couch, and a series of old fridges cut up to hold makeshift fermenters. Now they have a Wellington brewery, a barrel house, and contract brew.
They pushed trends on us. When cans were still seen as inferior to bottles, Garage Project forced even the swankiest restaurants to serve canned beer for Wellington on a Plate. “Don’t want cans? Sorry you’re not getting our beer.” To say they backed themselves is an understatement.