After this year’s Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand Awards — the BGONZAs, to their friends — the headline result was unusually clear: Garage Project1 just absolutely smashed it. Their ‘Chance, Luck & Magic’ took out the Best In Show award, prompting me to buy a $49 bottle of beer (which was suitably delicious, I should note), and they won the Champion Large Brewery title in spectacularly unambiguous fashion, since at least two other breweries would need to merge and pool their winnings to come close to G.P.’s medal haul.2And they earned both honours for the second year running. After that, it might seem superfluous to dig in the weeds of the data for other stories lurking in the details, but I have my traditions, and I am undeterred — and I think there’s still some things worthy of a little more attention.
It’s beer awards night back home in New Zealand. I’ll be tuning in as best I can from over here in Melbourne1 and doubtless obsessing over various weird little details and patterns once I’ve got the full results. As I’ve tried to make the case here before,2 I think there are a few interesting stories lurking underneath the headline results that get most of the attention on the night, and you can only really find them by crunching some numbers. So let’s quickly do that for the awards that have happened since I got distracted by a) moving and b) a pandemic, so we’re all caught up and ready for more — since, as of tomorrow, I’ll have five years worth of data to play with, which feels like it’ll be a good time to go looking for trendlines…3
It’s Indie Beer Day1 here in Australia, which seems like a weirdly appropriate time to reflect on why I can’t really bring myself to care about “independence” itself. Living in a country where that word is (now) the go-to organising principle for a lot of lobbying, events, and branding — certainly much more than it is back home in New Zealand — I’ve realised how it leaves me cold. Sure, “independence” loosely correlates with some things I do care about, but the link is so flimsy that it just doesn’t make for a good guide to follow or banner to wave. As it happens, most of my favourite beers are from independent breweries, and, all else being equal, I’ll probably pick one over a non-indie alternative — but all else is very rarely equal.
I want to know how many breweries there are in New Zealand. And I honestly think it’s strange that it’s a hard thing to find out. Even the smallest of them is visible from hundreds of metres away, and they are usually literally bolted to the ground. This shouldn’t be difficult; we’re counting Kererū the brewery, not Kererū the bird. And yet every total I’ve seen hit the news for years has seemed way off ― so I decided to do my own survey, and my best estimate is that there are currently 141161.1
Last weekend gave us a fresh round of #BGONZAs — the Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand Awards.1 Continuing the new practice they started last year, the Guild has provided us not just with a list of who won what, but a full accounting of who tried to. So, like I did last time, I spent an oddly-enjoyable afternoon spreadsheeting and pivoting and entabulating the results and present them now for a little look behind the curtain at how the newly-expanded list of “Champions” are crowned, and to ponder the many different ways there are in which to succeed, and to fall short. There’s a lot going on — the awards, after all, cover most of the industry — but I think there’s a lot of interesting little details lurking.
For the holidays — the familiar public ones, but also the 14th anniversary of the first entry in my actual Beer Diary — George and I sat down to talk about what’s changed, and what hasn’t, in the time since we last did one of these. We cover a little of the long arc of news, entry into and exit from the subculture of beer (or indeed anything else), the ageing of beer and of ourselves, the surprisingly fraught nature of not drinking, and keeping things in balance in this peculiar world.
Sometimes, being nearly right is actually worse than being completely wrong. A story headlined Higher Alcohol Levels In Craft Beer Catching Drivers Out was published yesterday, and proved to be an instructively terrible example of this. It’s broadly in the ‘single out beer to be the bad guy in a story about booze in general’ genre, but goes an extra step and zeroes in on “craft beer” for some speculative shaming. Frustratingly, they built their pile of wrongness incredibly close to an important point, which they just wound up burying in crap.
I had three beers yesterday — all of them pilsners and two of them that one right there from Tuatara. Shortly before they were bought out by DB / Heineken, they changed its name to ‘Mot Eureka’ and gave it a new look. I’m not at all a fan of either move,1 but it was still tasting lovely and it was nice to get reacquainted with what once was the default beer of Wellington.2 I couldn’t help notice, though, that the new blurb on the label was complete bullshit and shamelessly revisionist nonsense.
The latest round of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards1 were announced this weekend and this year they’ve given us more data than usual to play with. For the first time, the Guild has released information on what was entered, as opposed to just telling us who won, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m the kind of nerd who watches the Olympics and wants a per-capita column on the medal tally. Raw results are one thing, but I’m curious well you did relative to how hard you tried. And now, after an hour or so of strangely-enjoyable data entry and spreadsheeting,2 I know.