Innovative Napier brewer Hawke's Bay Independent Brewery has come a long way since former hotelier Basil Diack first brewed new beer Mates 17 years ago.
But he and chief executive Greg Forrest didn't have to go far at the weekend for one of its greatest achievements, the Best Cider Trophy at the Fruit Wine and Cider Makers Awards held at the County Hotel in Napier at the weekend. The awards were also judged locally, by experts at the EIT.
The brewery had three entries in the awards. It has been making cider since taking over the Ballydooley label and rehitting with the Kingston brand after moving from a plant in the Onekawa Industrial District six years ago to the cidery site at Meeanee and opening its popular tasting venue, the Filter Room Ale and Cider House.
The top honour went to its Kingston Scrumpy as judges lined it up against the only other gold-medal winner, the Old Molt Boysencider of Redwood Cider Company, specialist cider producers in the Nelson region for 65 years.
The other Hawke's Bay Independent entries, Kingston Original and Kingston Perry, were each awarded a silver medal.
It was the first time the brewery had won the award. It didn't enter last year when it had been in the Brew New Zealand Awards, mainly beer-focused and where, Mr Forrest says, the judges "would have been looking for different things".
"We're pretty proud," he said, holding the small trophy.
In this case it wasn't size that counted. "It's the honour," he said.
Awards were also made in six fruit wine categories, the major honours going to a Garrison Red Boysenberry Medium from Taranaki's Sentry Hill Winery, and a medium from feijoa specialists Lothlorien, of Warkworth.