Breweries battle it out for title of best beer as Aotearoa's drinking culture changes the game

Breweries are battling it out for the title of best beer at the New Zealand Beer Awards.

For our fastest-growing style of beer, it's a case of less is more thanks in part to a change in our drinking culture. 

This Beer Baroness drop looks just like any other beer, but it's not quite. Its head brewer Damian Treacher told Newshub it's "called Little Mighty, so it's an all-American hops IPA but just at 2.5 percent".

So too is Choice Bros' pint.

"Rebel Rebel, which is 2.4 percent," said Choice Bros head brewer Manaia Hunt.

And neither is a tipple of Behemoth's hazy IPA. 

"This year we've entered our Responsibly no-alcohol hazy IPA," Behemoth Brewing Company Founder Andrew Childs. 

All entries are in the No and Reduced Alcohol Category, one of 15 classes in this year's New Zealand Beer Awards.

"It still tastes like a beer. I think that's the one thing I want when consuming a low-alcohol beer," said head brewer at Beer Baroness, Damian Treacher. 

Competition judge Oli Bird told Newshub: "If you can get a beer and you can't even tell it's a non-alcoholic and its got a great drinkability, love the aromas, free of off flavours, then it's a gold medal every time."

Healthier lifestyles and a change in the binge-drinking culture help fuel the fastest-growing style of beer.

"It's a booming little thing right now. Loads of people are really pushing to get more of those sorts of beers," said Hunt. 

"We really wanted people to experience the flavour and aromas we have in Behemoth Beers without the alcohol, whatever the reason you're not drinking," Childs said.

Stewards deliver the beer already poured, meaning judges have absolutely no idea whose drop is in which glass.

It's all determined by things like look, smell and of course taste.

The environment is tightly controlled. Head judge Tina Panoutsos said judges make sure they're not wearing scented deodorants. 

"We're not wearing perfume, haven't got perfume skincare."

Judges are on the lookout for that perfect pint across 15 classes. The best of the best will be crowned next month.