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Emerson’s head brewer Mason Pratt (far right) and the brewing team with the winning Weissbier ...
Emerson’s head brewer Mason Pratt (far right) and the brewing team with the winning Weissbier (from left) Jamie Scrimgeour, Jim Falconer, Gary Dawe, Aisling Byrne and Dorothy Hislop. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
A beer brewed by Emerson’s in Dunedin has won the inaugural supreme title at the New World Beer and Cider Awards. Rebecca Fox talks to Richard Emerson about his Weissbier.

Described as a "masterpiece" by the head judge at the New World Beer and Cider Awards, Emerson’s Weissbier has come a long way since its debut back in 1995.

Back then, Richard Emerson was brewing on a shoe string budget at his first brewery in Grange St and with the help of his father’s contacts at the University of Otago was able to store and grow a weissbier yeast they had imported from a university in Weihenstephan, Germany.

"I wanted to introduce New Zealanders to more flavour-filled beers, beers that I had discovered on my trips through Europe."

Richard Emerson
Richard Emerson
Back in the early 1990s, New Zealanders typically drank lager, dark and draught styles of beer, so this was a new concept.

"There were frustrating times, explaining that weissbier was meant to be cloudy and have a large foamy head. Nowadays, some of the most popular beers are hazy, but not every hazy beer has to be hoppy, and Weissbier opens people’s minds to the array of flavours a beer can have."

The flavours which make the beer special for Emerson are driven by the yeast, rather than hops.

"Lovely aromas of banana lollies, flowing into flavours of woody spice and effervescent tartness. The weissbier is a visual treat, hazy golden colours with a beautiful creamy head."

It hit a high note, winning a trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards that same year.

"I was so underprepared, I had to get a sponsor to be able to fly to Australia and accepted the trophy in a secondhand suit."

Emerson’s decided to bring back the Weissbier after showing the brew at Beervana in 2020 where it was raved about.

"As we were serving the beer, along with one of our talented young brewers, Mason Pratt, we came up with the idea that if we could medal in the New World Beer Awards, we would put it in a can."

So, this year, they "took the risk" and canned the Weissbier staying true to is traditional brew and style as part of a Heritage series, giving the brewery a chance to bring back some old-school Emerson’s beers.

"And the plan worked, well it went a little better than we had hoped."

Describing the competition as very tough, they are extremely proud of the award, he says.

While struck down with Covid-19 when the news came through, Emerson says they have still celebrated.

"We have celebrated, by brewing more Weissbier. Seems you can never have enough."

The awards’ top 30 have also been announced with Rhyme X Reason of Wanaka getting a place for the first time with its Space Monkey lager and pilsner.

Chief judge Michael Donaldson says the Top 30 is a showcase of some of the best brewing talents and innovators in the country.

"It’s great to be able to celebrate these new and less-widely known names alongside heritage brands like Steinlager, and popular craft breweries like Panhead and Sawmill, which continue to experiment and perform at the top of their game.”

Comments

There is only one kind of Weissbier, and it's definitely not brewed in New Zealand.