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New Zealand: A craft beer guide

By Holly Booth 30 October 2020

Header image courtesy of Garage Project (via Facebook)

New Zealand may be famed for its wine but when it comes to local consumption, the majority of alcohol sales come from beer. In fact, as of 2019, NZ boasted more breweries per capita than Australia, the UK, and even the US, and the rising trend in craft beer has had a large part to play in this.

But what makes their craft beers so special? Kiwi’s are notoriously proud of their land and its high-quality produce, and the same rings true regarding their hops industry, enabling brewers to create a range of flavours and strengths distinctive to each region.

With over 1,500 unique craft beers available in the local market, it’s hard to know where to start your countrywide bar crawl, so here are a few suggestions to ‘pint’ you in the right direction.

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North Island Brews

Photo credit: Tuatara Brewing (Facebook)

Tuatara, Wellington

Often referred to as NZ’s unofficial craft beer capital, Wellington boasts around 18 breweries, as well as numerous watering holes in which to sample the goods.

Tuatara beer, named after NZ’s largest reptile, is one of the regions oldest breweries and offers a wide selection of APAs, IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, and lagers. Head to the aptly named Third Eye: Tuatara Temple of Taste to try seasonal brews as well as all-time favourites.

Tuatara Brewing, 30 Arthur Street, Te Aro, Wellington (+64) 04 803 3948

Photo credit: Holly_b (via Instagram)

Garage Project, Wellington

A truly homegrown brew, Garage Project started off with a 50-litre tank (which can still be viewed working its magic) in a derelict car workshop back in 2011, and has since grown into two cellar door venues and a taproom. Fan favourites include Pernicious Weed IPA, Hapi Daze pale ale, Garagista IPA, and Hops on Pointe pilsner.

Head to the Taproom on Aro Street to experience the full range of classic flavours as well as wackier sours and ferments, plus specially crafted bar snacks.

Garage Project, 91 Aro Street, Aro Valley, Wellington. (+64) 4 801 8076

Photo credit: Sawmill Brewery (via Facebook)

Sawmill, Matakana

Established in 2004 on the site of a historic timber mill from the 1860s, Sawmill is located in Matakana, an hour north of Auckland city.

The brewery prides itself on heritage and craftsmanship, and was the first local craft brewery to start canning their beers in NZ. Releasing two seasonal beers every month, drinkers get to enjoy variation and brewers get an outlet to regularly explore their creative side. In 2016, the Smoko Room was introduced to the venue, so customers can enjoy an enticing menu offering seasonal produce as well as 14 beers on tap and organic wines.

Sawmill Brewery, 1004 Leigh Road, Matakana. (+64) 9 422 6555

Keep scrolling for the rest of the guide 👇

Photo credit: Mt Brewing Co. Brewery (via Facebook)

Mt Brewing Co. Brewery, Mt Maunganui

Sprawling sandy beaches, surf, and plenty of sunshine make Mt Maunganui a stunning place to visit for locals and tourists alike, and an idyllic place to enjoy a beer or two.

Inspired by the ocean and the long summer days, Mt Brewing Co has been brewing since 1996 and originated with a ‘UBrew’ system, where local drinkers could make their own combinations of malt and speciality grains to create and then enjoy their own beer.

Today, the brewery now brews over 4000 litres a week and boasts an onsite eatery as well as brewery tours and an online store. Well worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Mt Brewing Co. Brewery, 107 Newton St Mt Maunganui 3116. (+64) 7 575 2739

South Island Brews

Photo credit: Moa Brewing Co (via Facebook)

Moa, Blenheim

When people think of Marlborough, their first thought is usually wine-related. Rightly so, as over three-quarters of NZs wine production comes from the area. But nestled in amongst the wineries is a place of local pride and joy—the Moa Brewery.

Founded in 2003, Moa focuses on brewing super premium handcrafted beers using traditional methods as well as a few winemaking techniques local to the region. Moa boasts a wide range of ales, pilsners, lagers, IPAs, pale ales, and ciders too. Situated in the beautiful Blenheim, swing by to chill in their brewery garden after a tasting session. Even better, Moa is now NZ’s largest independent brewery exporting worldwide so you may be able to find a can on your local supermarket shelf.

Moa Brewing Co, 258 Jacksons Road, RD3, Blenheim Marlborough. (+64) 3 572 5146

Photo credit: Monteiths Brewery (via Facebook)

Monteiths, Grey Mouth

Moving down the west coast, the whole area is rich in history thanks to its gold mining past and Monteiths Brewery is no exception, with operations running under the name (both unofficially and officially) since 1868.

Last year, the Montheiths family celebrated a 150-year-old legacy and thanks to a sizeable investment from local beer giant, DB Breweries, drinkers can sample numerous brews, take a historic brewery tour, and enjoy mouth-watering food from the onsite taproom. A true NZ favourite, there’s plenty of sightseeing in the area to make this the perfect little pitstop on your journey.

Monteiths Brewery, Greymouth, West Coast. (+64) 3 768 4149

Keep scrolling for the rest of the guide 👇

Photo credit: Cargo Brewery (via Facebook)

Cargo Brewery, Queenstown

Situated in the heart of the stunning Gibbston Valley outside of Queenstown, Cargo Brewery is probably one of the most picturesque spots you can enjoy a beer on the island. It helps that the beer itself is pretty delicious, too.

The unique venue was created out of shipping containers, providing a versatile space to make their beer as well as share this process with their visitors. The brewery also offers up an epic lunch menu and has played host to some awesome music events including the Black Seeds, Matt Corby, and Ben Harper.

Cargo Brewery, Waitiri Creek, 2323 Church Lane, Gibbston, Queenstown. (+64) 0 3 441 3315

Photo credit Emersons Brewery (via Facebook)

Emersons, Dunedin

After spending a good deal of time in Scotland, Richard Emerson fell in love with the Scots’ love of all things pub-related, so he decided to return home to Dunedin and start brewing his own beer in his mum’s kitchen. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before she kicked him out and in 1992, Richard established the Emerson Brewing Co. Limited and finally had his first beer—a London Porter—ready to drink a year later.

Emerson’s continued to grow and after moving locations several times, each growing in size. Monthly sales now surpass 200,000 litres, and Emersons is a well-established name both locally and internationally. The original dark ale is still Emerson’s signature brew, but other crowd favourites include the bird dog IPA, the Southern Clam Stout, the Phantom Lord, and the 1812 Hoppy pale ale.

Emersons Brewery, 70 Anzac Avenue, Dunedin, 9016, Otago. (+64) 03 477 1812

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Holly Booth


Born in England but raised in Hong Kong since she was one, Holly is a freelance writer recently returned from a six-weeks-turned-six-months trip to New Zealand. When she’s not catching up with her friends and family, Holly can usually be found on a trail, at a gig, or hunting down Hong Kong’s best margarita. She is passionate about conservation, eco-travel, music, and fitness.