GOLOCAL

A Northland brewery has been "given a shot in the arm" with two of its brews making the top 30 beers and ciders in the country.

McLeod's Brewery's winning drops are McLeod's Great Migration IPA and McLeod's Longboarder Lager.

Head brewer Jason Bathgate, who owns the business with brothers Clayton and Geoff Gwynne, said the brewery had entered six or seven beers in the annual New World Beer and Cider Awards, and the final two were narrowed down from the top 100.

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Longboarder Lager is the brewery's "flagship beer", a German-style pilsner made in the traditional manner but using New Zealand hops instead of German hops.

The "heavily hopped" Great Migration, is an international IPA with 6.8 per cent alcohol and a blend of New Zealand and US hops.

"It's a fantastic honour and will mean a huge boost of sales from around the country," Bathgate said.

"It gives us a nice shot in the arm, especially at this time of year and with Covid when sales will be down."

Head brewer Jason Bathgate said making the top 30 was a fantastic honour. Photo / supplied
Head brewer Jason Bathgate said making the top 30 was a fantastic honour. Photo / supplied

The brewery has been entering the awards for three years. The first year it made the top 30 for its Tropical Cyclone Double IPA followed by Pioneer Brown Porter last year.

The awards are highly competitive, Bathgate said, and mean beers get nationwide release and are sold at all New World supermarkets around the country.

"To get into the top 30 is incredibly difficult so we're a bit gob-smacked. Great Migration has always been a strong seller, but we've never been able to get an award for this beer. We're really excited to see it got some recognition this year."

New Zealand-owned and locally made brands were the big winners in this year's awards.

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An independent judging panel, comprising 25 experts from across the industry, put their palates to the test over two days of judging in Wellington in early March.

Each entry was judged blind and assessed on its merits using a collaborative approach based on technical excellence, balance and drinkability.

Chief judge Michael Donaldson said beer and cider lovers have plenty to be excited about after judging this year's New World Beer and Cider Awards. Photo / supplied
Chief judge Michael Donaldson said beer and cider lovers have plenty to be excited about after judging this year's New World Beer and Cider Awards. Photo / supplied

Judge chairman Michael Donaldson said the winning list exemplifies what the local brewing industry has to offer.

The country's beer and cider lovers have plenty to get excited about, he said.

"These awards are open to entries from all over the world, but New Zealand brewers proved their might once again. Almost all the Top 30 winners are New Zealand made and owned, being crafted in all corners of the country by some of our best brewing talents."

Of the Top 30, 29 are made in New Zealand - the Swinkels Family Brewers from the Netherlands contributed the only true import with their 0 per cent alcohol beer.

Other winning beers were from Auckland, Wellington, Gisborne, Taupo and Hawke's Bay.

Sawmill Brewery in Matakana won an award for its Sawmill Pilsner and 8 Wired Brewing Warkworth won an award for its 8 Wired iStout.

McLeod's has expanded the brewery recently, almost tripling its capacity, and now makes all its beer in-house.

The expansion included new brewing equipment such as bigger and additional fermenters, and doubling the size of the brew house, setting them up for continued growth over the next few years.

During level 4 lockdown the website was expanded so customers could buy products, which resulted in a steady flow of online orders.

The next step is to have a canning line in by end of the year.

Tui stalwart gets an education on beer


It's often said that when you come home from a hard day's yakker, it doesn't matter what you're drinking as long as it's cold.

I tend to agree - after spending 12 hours under the sun, there's nothing better than coming home to something cold, having that first sip and the customary sigh of satisfaction afterwards.

Up until now, my choices in alcoholic beverages has been fairly consistent. I grew up in Hawke's Bay, so Mangatainoka's pride and joy, Tui, has always been a regular brew of mine.

It's seen as a traditional New Zealand beer, just as Lion Red and Speights are. It's a beer I see myself enjoying for many days to come. However, after heading to the McLeod's Brewery in Waipū, I'm having a bit of a rethink.

Northern Advocate reporter Adam Pearse (left) getting an education on beer from McLeod's head brewer Jason Bathgate. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Northern Advocate reporter Adam Pearse (left) getting an education on beer from McLeod's head brewer Jason Bathgate. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Given my history, my experiences with craft beer have been fairly short and unpleasant. Nevertheless, this local brewery's recent award-winning brews - the Great Migration IPA and the Longboarder Lager – make strong cases for themselves.

Of the IPA, head brewer Jason Bathgate says, "You're going to get some really nice, fruity notes on the nose, some lemon, orange, pineapple, a little bit of pine tree."

I have to be honest, I couldn't quite taste the pine tree and I'm not sure how you go about determining the flavour of a pine tree, but the man seems to know his stuff and his beer certainly backs him up.

A number of the McLeod's brews have strong links to Northland. In particular, the Far North Chili Pils – infused with Kaitaia Fire chili hot sauce.

It's not often the Northern Advocate's Adam Pearse is left smiling after tasting a craft beer. Photo / Michael Cunningham
It's not often the Northern Advocate's Adam Pearse is left smiling after tasting a craft beer. Photo / Michael Cunningham

If you've ever tasted a Tui, you'll know its chief flavours are nostalgia and not much else. With the Chili Pils, you're hit with an initial burst of flavour and a spicy aftertaste that won't throw you off your chair, but it'll put a spring in your step for sure.

Like much of the McLeod's range, the Chili Pils has clear ties to Northland and New Zealand culture – something even this Tui stalwart can respect.