Arrivals & Departures New Zealand's beer revolution

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

First they ruled with their pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, now New Zealand is pulling out the big guns when it comes to craft beer.

Over the past five years New Zealand has seen small batch brewers popping up all over the country.

Tourism New Zealand has launched a handy craft beer trail to the best ale destinations in the country.

Here’s a tasting of some of the country’s best:

Northland: McLeods Brewery, Waipu 

McLeods is a small-batch brewery where every drop made, bottled or kegged at their home taps at McLeod's Pizza Barn.

Auckland: Sawmill Brewery, Matakana 

One-hour north of central Auckland, The Sawmill Brewery is an independent brewery that was established in an old sawmill before moving to Matakana, a country community full of artisan producers, growers and farmers. Sawmill Brewery runs tours followed by tastings.

Auckland: Hallertau Brewery, Riverhead 

West Auckland’s Hallertau Brewery is a leader in the local craft beer boom. The recently refurbished beer garden is a welcoming, family-friendly spot.

Waikato: Good George, Hamilton and Cambridge

The Good George Brewery opened in Frankton, in Hamilton, in 2011. In the nearby town of Cambridge, the former St George’s Church site has provided a divine space for a brewery and dining hall.

Bay of Plenty: Croucher Brewing, Rotorua and Tauranga 

Try to full range of Croucher Brewing's beers along with other New Zealand drops at the BREW bars on Eat Street in Rotorua or along Tauranga’s main dining strip.

Manawatu: Brew Union 

In Palmerston North, Brew Union is the new place for beer lovers to gather.

Gisborne: Sunshine Brewery 

Sunshine Brewery’s name is no coincidence. Located in sunny coastal Gisborne – the first town in the world to see the light of each new day – the brewery has been turning out batch-brewed beer since 1989. (Pictured at top.)

Taranaki: Mike’s Organic Brewery

At this brewery 30-minute drive north of New Plymouth, visitors can meet Mike, take a tour, taste the beers and tuck into a wood-fired pizza on the sunny deck. 

Wellington: Garage Project 

Wellington craft brewery Garage Project set out to create beers that were different and challenging to the palate. Their quirky beers include the Umami Monster using New Zealand-grown kombu (kelp), Japanese katsuobushi (dried, fermented bonito flakes), smoked malt and seawater, and the Cabbage and Kings Imperial Oyster Stout, brewed with 10 dozen fresh Te Matuku Bay Pacific oysters and infused with the local flavours of horopito (a herb) and manuka smoked malt.

Kapiti Coast: Tuatara 

Just north of Wellington, Tuatara is named after a living dinosaur unique to New Zealand. The Tuatara bottles nod to their namesake with a beautiful reptilian texture. Recently opened brew pub The Third Eye is Tuatara’s home in Wellington.

Nelson: Mussel Inn, Golden Bay 

Two hours along the coast from Nelson, Golden Bay’s Mussel Inn is famous for its home-brewed Captain Cooker Manuka Beer – a red-brown beer flavoured with manuka tips. It’s a tribute to New Zealand’s first-ever brew, produced by Captain Cook to combat the dreaded scurvy.

Greymouth: Monteith's Brewing Company

Monteith's in Greymouth has been around since 1868. Learn about the history on a brewery tour.

Canterbury: Brew Moon, Waipara 

Belinda Gould worked as a winemaker before setting up Brew Moon craft brewery in 2002. This heritage is reflected in Hop Over Vine, a combination of riesling and pale ale brewed by Gould and her son, brewer Toby McCauley. 

Christchurch: Three Boys Brewery 

At Three Boys Brewery each small-scale brew is a living product – unfiltered and unpasteurised. Private tours are led by one of the brewers.

Southern Lakes: Wanaka Beerworks 

Wanaka Beerworks, operating since 1998, has become a local institution. It runs tours every day, with a tasting bar and cafe.  

Dunedin: Emerson's Brewery  

Emerson's Brewery moved into big new premises last year. The brewery and the beers are the creation of Richard Emerson, food technician turned brewmeister, who started out making beer in his downtime at work and then in the family kitchen, before moving into a friend’s garage in 1988.

Southland: Invercargill Brewery

Invercargill Brewery began life in a garage but now it’s found in bespoke premises in downtown Invercargill. There are walk-in tours.

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