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Masterton judge measures NZ’s best brews

Craft beers at Sup Brewery. PHOTO/FILE

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There were almost 700 entries in this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards competition, which found a way to go ahead despite the pandemic.

Beer judge Annika Naschitzki. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The annual brewery battle was affected by covid 19, but that didn’t stop the judges, including Masterton’s Annika Naschitzki, from determining the best 30 beers to hit supermarkets.

Naschitzki used to run a brewery in Wellington, Tiamana. As a brewer, she became increasingly involved in judging beer.

“It helps you develop your knowledge and taste,” Naschitzki said. “It’s always really great fun to see your friends and get a feel for the industry.”

The New World Beer & Cider Awards has been running for eight years, but it looked a little different this year.

Unlike previous years, the organisers determined three central locations, Auckland, Wellington and Nelson, to bring judges together in a safe way, avoiding any “risky travel”.

“Normally, we all sit in a massive room together for two days.”

From March 14-17, about 60 judges evaluated various beers and ciders.

The beer was coded, and the judges were not allowed to know where it was from. There were also measures to ensure brewers could not judge their own products.

The judges used international standards and general quality and style guidelines when it came to criteria.

For example, a lager shouldn’t be very heavy, shouldn’t have certain flavours and should not be darker than amber.

“We really want to make sure that the customers get the best beers,” said Naschitzki.

“We also ask ourselves if we would give this to our friends as a good example of that style.”

One of Naschitzki’s favourite parts of judging is “seeing the variety and how beer develops”.

“Every year there is something new.

“When I was brewing, it was all west-coast IPAs which are heavy hoppy IPAs.

“This year, we had a lot more lagers, light summery beers. You can see how the trends develop over time and what’s available.”

While brewing commercially as a business involves other skills such as accounting and marketing, Naschitzki said the best way to enjoy brewing without the stress is to explore home-brewing.

“I would recommend getting a nice kit for yourself at home and entering homebrew competitions. Make it your goal to win gold. If you are doing it for the love of beer, that may be a little less stressful over time.

“I was really impressed with how they looked after us and ensured that we were all safe under these circumstances. It takes a lot to organise.”

Naschitzki said she would love to judge the event again in the future.

“It is a great event. It helps me a lot to develop as a judge, and it was a good time.”

The winners and 70 highly recommended beers and ciders are yet to be published.

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