It’s been two months now since I departed the UK for pastures new, and while I’m still keeping a close ear to the ground in terms of what is happening in the beer scene back home, I’m feeling pretty integrated with New Zealand and its thriving beer scene. The country is home to around 200 breweries, and – in a similar vein to the UK – has seen tremendous levels of growth in the last few years (around a 300% increase in the last decade)
The relative strength of the New Zealand beer scene can be seen in the global reputation of its breweries, which continue to out-perform those from countries with far greater populations and infrastructure. It also happens to produce some of the finest hops in the world, with varieties such as Motueka, Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Gem proving especially popular with US craft brewers (so much so, that a new $13.25 million, 7-year programe to further develop the hop growing industry was launched last month).
Back in the UK, however, New Zealand beer is relatively hard to get hold of, with only a handful of breweries importing their beer into the country – primarily through the New Zealand Beer Collective. The Collective is the exclusive importer and national distributor of a select few New Zealand breweries, and if you’ve drunk a beer from Aotearoa it is likely that it was brought over by the Collective (with the notable exception of Yeastie Boyswho brew under contract in the UK with West Berkshire Brewery and Fourpure, among others).
So what exactly does New Zealand beer taste like? Well that’s sort of like asking ‘How long is a piece of string?’ Just like in the UK, there is now a huge breadth of styles being produced in New Zealand, and picking out a defining characteristic is neigh on impossible. Instead, it’s probably easier for me to tell you about three breweries in the New Zealand Beer Collective who I think are worth seeking out in the UK.
Kiwi breweries – three to seek out
8 Wired Brewing – The brainchild of nomadic former gypsy brewer Soren Eriksen, 8 Wired are now permanently based in Warkworth, around 40 minutes north of Auckland, and producing some of New Zealand’s finest sour beers. Look out for the brewery’s excellent Wild Feijoa, a barrel aged made using native fruits.
Behemoth Brewing Company – Brewing here there and everywhere they can squeeze themselves in, Behemoth enjoy something of a cult status in New Zealand thanks to its political inclinations (Dump the Trump IPA anyone?) and charismatic mascot Churly, who appears on all its cans.
Parrotdog – Based out of Lyall Bay in New Zealand’s craft beer capital of Wellington, Parrotdog produce consistent, modern, hop forward beers that stand up to the very best in the UK and beyond. Colin, the brewery’s West Coast IPA, and Susan and Keith (both NEIPAs) are three beers you don’t want to miss.