The New Zealand craft beer community was patting itself on the back as the Australian International Beer Awards results were announced last Thursday.
“It was Kiwi gold rush for at (sic) the 2016 Australian International Beer Awards in Melbourne last night, with 13 New Zealand breweries winning gold medals,” the Brewers Guild said. “Moa mops up at world’s largest beer awards,” said Moa proudly, “proving itself as a lead contender on the global stage.”
For the Kiwis at the trophy ceremony, though, it felt more like putting on a brave face. We were hoping and waiting to see a Kiwi on the podium, and we waited in vain.
Mainstream media coverage ignores a couple of important points – gold medal winners won A gold medal, not THE gold medal for the category; and no New Zealand entries won a trophy.
AIBA is a big deal. This year saw 1793 beers from 326 breweries and 36 countries, and it’s frequently cited at the world’s biggest international annual beer competition.
The awards have a complex structure, ranked into three tiers: medals, finalists, and trophies.
Medals are awarded as bronze, silver and golds, and there’s no quota of how many must be presented in each category. 108 golds, 321 silvers and 531 bronzes were awarded this year, a 54% success rate.
Finalists are shortlisted from the gold medallists, with zero to 18 finalists in each category this year. Of the 113 finalists, 11 were New Zealanders.
Then finalists are cropped again to find the trophy winners. Thirty trophies were awarded on Thursday. None came back to New Zealand.
The Brewers Guild described last year’s results (six of 28 trophies) as “testament to the quality, calibre and international standing of the New Zealand brewing industry”. It describes this year’s results (0/30 trophies) as “testament to the quality, calibre and international standing of the New Zealand brewing industry”. By that measure our quality, calibre and international standing are slipping.
Winning an AIBA medal is an achievement to be celebrated, but don’t let the media coverage convince you this year was yet another high point for New Zealand beer. It’s a reminder that the global craft beer industry is developing fast, and not just in increased consumption.
All over the world, and especially in Australia, craft brewers are getting better as they get bigger. Improved quality, consistency, innovation and production are all essential to build the international standing of the New Zealand brewing industry.
Previous AIBA results prove New Zealand is capable of cutting it in international competition. Our brewers are smart, our ingredients are superlative. There’s plenty we can teach the world, and there’s plenty we can learn too.