The craft beer scene in New Zealand is buzzing right now with innovative breweries popping up all over the place, making interesting, flavourful beers and putting their own twists on traditional styles. But it’s fair to say that this wasn’t always the case. Until the late 90s, New Zealand was pretty well dominated by two main breweries, making “green bottle happy juice for the 19th hole”, and it was a country better known for it’s excellent new world wines
But despite being several thousand miles down under, the beer revolutions of the USA, UK and Europe inevitably began to influence our Kiwi cousins and soon home-brewers were becoming commercial brewers and Kiwis began saying ‘S’up bro’ to flavour & taste in their beers. It helps of course that they grow some of the fruitiest hop varieties of anywhere in the world, with the Nelson Sauvin hop being their shining light. Grown in Nelson and so named due to it’s similar taste profile to the sauvignon blanc wine, it is a hop much lauded by breweries and beer geeks the world over, helping to propel the New Zealand beer scene into the international spotlight.
Here in the UK we’ve long been a little bit starved of New Zealand’s finest craft beers, which is probably to be expected given the distance they have to travel to get here. Until now that is. We’re really excited to be able to bring you a fantastic selection of some of the most exciting New Zealand breweries and will be looking to add to the range throughout the year.
Award winning Renaissance Brewing
is situated in the heart of Marlborough wine country at the top of New Zealand’s south island. They were setup with the aim of making top end beers that rival their grape based cousins. Influenced by traditional British ales, they of course put their own unique Kiwi twist on things.
Voyager India Pale Ale – 6.0%
Inspired by the IPAs of yesteryear, Voyager is brewed using Nee Zealand and European speciality malts before being hopped first with Kiwi homegrown hops before being finished off with the traditional English hop Fuggles (as a nod to IPA’s roots). The result is a seriously hoppy beer, bold and robust but well balanced by the fruitiness of the kiwi hops.
Abundance Baltic Cherry Porter – 6.0% ABV
for the first time for Christmas 2013, it became Renaissance
‘s most successful beer ever launched when it emptied from their warehouse within 3 hours of it being available. There was even rumour of black market bartering occurring for it between distributors! A big full bodied porter brewed
with cherries, this beer has all sorts of roasted coffee, chocolate, malt & subtle hop notes fighting it out with each other.
Three Boys Brewery
Three Boys Brewery is based in Christchurch and were one of the early pioneers of the craft beer renaissance in New Zealand back when they setup in 2004. Founded by Ralph Bungard, a former scientist who developed his palate whilst living in the UK, Three Boys was borne out of a frustration both with academia and the poor range of beers available in NZ at the time. They keep their range tight, focusing on the classics such as wheat, stout, IPA & pilsner and put a ruthless focus on ensuring that only the best quality beer leaves through the brewery door.
Three Boys IPA
We currently have the IPA available in bottle (having previously had it on growler fill where it flew out). As you’d expect, it’s a beer heavily hopped with New Zealand hop varieties so you can expect plenty of tropical fruits, grapefruit and lychee in the nose and a bitter dry finish on the palate.
8 Wired Brewery
Like so many great breweries, 8 Wired was born out of an obsession with home brewing that went from hobby to full blown career. Setup by Soren Erikson with his wife Monique, most of the beer is actually produced at Renaissance Brewery, who kindly let them rent their kit to produce a range of incredible award winning beers. 8 Wired are frequently placed in the rate beer top 100 breweries in the world, the only brewery in the Southern Hemisphere with that honour. They also have the largest collection of barrel aged beers of anyone down under – around 200 barrels, mainly from local Marlborough vineyards.
Saison Sauvin – 7.0% ABV
True to the original style although amped up in terms of alcohol to 7%, Saison Sauvin is a modern interpretation of the traditional farmhouse style. Brewed using a Belgian yeast, the funky earthy flavours are certainly present but they are prefectly balanced out by the use of the fruity Nelson Sauvin hop (see where the name comes from?!).
The Big Smoke Porter – 6.0% ABV
The Big Smoke pays homage to the smoked beers of Germany and sees a liberal use of Bamberg rauchmalz, a specialty smoked German malt, added to 8 Wired’s classic porter. The smoke mingles beautifully with the rich, dark roasted chocolate flavours of the porter, creating a beer that pairs perfectly with a variety of food, from smoked BBQ to strong cheese, and from hearty stews to rich caramel chocolate puddings.
Yeastie Boys are Stu McKinlay and Sam Possenniskie, a couple of brewers who burst onto the NZ craft beer scene in 2009 when they won 2 awards for their flagship porter Pot Kettle Black. They’ve since gone on to win more awards and create several more innovative beers. And all whilst holding down day jobs in other industries!
Gunnamatta IPA – 6.5% ABV
Gunnamatta was originally created for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular 2012 with the Yeastie Boys finding their inspiration from Australian music – Paul Kelly to be precise. The resulting beer is a hugely floral India Pale Ale that is “dry-leafed” with a massive load of Earl Grey Blue Flower tea whilst a liberal use of New Zealand hops ensures plenty of tropical fruit notes to contrast with the tea. Given that beer and tea are the world’s two best drinks, this beer is something pretty special.
Pronounced Too-ah-tar-rah, Tuatara is another brewery borne out of a passion for beer and a frustration at lack of choice. Founded in the late 90’s by Carl Vasta, an engineer and classic backyard brewer, Carl cobbled the brewery together himself. Growth has been pretty epic and Tuatara now brew over a million litres of beer every year! The philosophy is a simple one – brew great beers true to the style and, to quote Carl, “It says Bohemian Pilsner on the bottle not because it reads poetry and plays the bongos but because that’s where the yeast is from. Likewise for our Belgian ales.” That’s a philoposphy we can get our heads round and we’re looking forward to seeing more of their range hitting our shelves later this year.
Aotearoa Pale Ale – 5.8% ABV
Part of their ‘New Age’ range, Aotearoa Pale Ale takes the spirit of the American style and reanimates it with a hopping regime that’s Kiwi to the bone through use of Pacific Jade, Nelson Sauvin, Cascade, Motueka. Aotearoa is a multi award winning beer and a great introduction to the Tuatara range.
As well as making intensely tasty ales, Tuatara also package their beers in spectacular bottles, with the necks resembling the body of an ancient lizard…or dinosaur. A reference to the tuatara, we’re a little unsure where fact ends and fantasy begins – so it may be worth doing a bit of your own research on the origins around that!