Last year a small Kerikeri brewhouse entered a national competition hoping "to get our beers out there".

It worked. Kainui Brew Co took out three prizes, including a gold medal, in the 2018 New World Beer and Cider Awards, and was soon filling orders for craft beers to sell in New World stores across New Zealand.

Self-taught brewer Gary Henwood, who has a growing reputation for his experimentation with flavours and styles, and the resulting products' charmingly quirky names, is entering Kainui Brew Co again this year.

Henwood had only started turning his brewing hobby into a small, seven-barrels, boutique business the year before.

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His passion and calm search for perfection saw the fledgling brewhouse turn out the best porter in the comp.

Kainui Brew Co's Rank and File - really, a step ahead of the rank and file.
Kainui Brew Co's Rank and File - really, a step ahead of the rank and file.

In fact, Kainui Brew Co won three medals from four entries last year — that gold for its Rank and File porter, silver for its Postman Pilsner and bronze for its Summer Love Saison.

The biggest prize was having New World buy the small, rural brewery's product.

This year in this fifth year of competition, there are more chances for small local breweries and cidermakers to get their best brews on those supermarket shelves.

An expanded panel of expert judges will sniff, swirl and sip their way through hundreds of entries to find the Top 30 beers and ciders, those brewers rewarded with prime space and promotion in New World stores nationwide.

The next 70 highest ranked beers and ciders will be Highly Commended, and will be celebrated in a Top 100 list featured on the New World website.

Returning chairman of the judging panel - which comprises 24 experts from across the industry and eight associate judges in training - is beer writer Michael Donaldson.

New Zealand is full of great beer and cider-making talent, but that means it's often hard for customers to know where to start, he said.

"Putting the best 30 beers and ciders in the spotlight, with the endorsement of experienced judges, makes it easy for people to explore new products and find a new favourite."

A top place in the awards can be a game-changer for entrants.

Open to breweries and cidermakers, large and small, from around New Zealand and the world, entrants don't have to be an existing New World or Foodstuffs supplier.

But it is essential they have the ability to supply enough stock, with minimum stock requirements set for each class.

Entries close on Friday.