Given just 24 hours notice that we were attending the BrewNZ beer awards dinner, we weren’t exactly prepared. We were already in Wellington, with no suitably festive attire. And we had been too busy before coming to read up on the competition. Somewhere in our optimistic plan, we were going to fit that in before the results came out…
We are generally not the biggest fans of awards dinners, and frankly were slightly dreading the whole affair. Dressing up. Banquet food. Assigned seating. Speeches. Yay. And based on what we’d heard about last year, it was going to be a long and sometimes torturous night.
Fortunately our fabulous hosts dove enthusiastically into the fashion consultant/costume hire business and got us out the door looking smart. It had been a busy day, so we never brushed up on the details of the competition, and we arrived only slightly fashionably late.
It was nice to walk into a room of familiar faces, all of them polished up and eager with anticipation. The Guild was right onto it this year, though, and had decided it was not going to be another night from hell. We had barely gotten our beer from the bar when we were ordered into our seats to start eating. Paul Mercurio was on his fourth year as MC, and having fun with bossing his friends around.
The event had to be streamlined, because over 173 of the 475 entries this year had qualified for medals. This was far more than last year, and meant there was no way everyone would get their full moment in the sun. The plan, then, was to just flash the Bronze winners on the screen, read the Silvers and Golds, then bring up the trophy winners for a brief speech and photo op.
And they got right into it. As soon as the servers had taken our mains orders, the proceedings began while we ate our starters. There were buckets of beers and ciders on the table, so you didn’t even have to go to the bar to refill. They had planned in generous breaks between courses, though, so you could mingle a bit and congratulate the winners before the next round. Fortunately, given the slick pace and presentation, the totally unprepared were able to keep in the swing.
The other great improvement, according to the regulars, was that they mixed up the category announcements, so there were big and small, local and international winners at various points. The crowd was heavily biased toward NZ craft brewers, so the polite applause and big cheers alternated quite effectively.
But there was plenty to cheer about, especially for us kids from Nelson. NZ craft, and top of the South in particular, had a spectacular night. And we had the good fortune to be seated with the Castell’s and Sons brothers, who were quite stunned by their resounding success.
We also had the questionable fortune of having Epic’s Luke and Kelly at our backs, keeping up an ongoing vaudevillian patter targeting everyone else in the room. They did provide some laughs, though, and through the very nice meal in that lovely room we had a very enjoyable evening.
We must rush off to more Beervana sessions, but we’ll tell you all about the winners soon. In the meantime, you can read through the official winners list.