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How to Explore New Zealand's Craft Beer Scene

Visiting a craft brewery is a must-do for beer enthusiasts while they are in New Zealand.
By · November 18, 2023
How to Explore New Zealand's Craft Beer Scene

New Zealand's craft beer scene has experienced a surge in popularity and innovation recently, making visiting a craft brewery a must-do for beer enthusiasts while they are here.

From Auckland to Invercargill, there are plenty of local breweries worth checking out. Smaller breweries have overtaken regional beers as the drink of choice for beer lovers. Throughout the country you’ll find a diverse range of craft breweries, each offering their own take on brewing.

What type of craft beers to expect in New Zealand

One thing is for sure: New Zealand brewers love their hops. Here, Pale Ales are heavily influenced by the American craft brewing scene and are more hoppy and less malty than English pale ales. IPAs are supremely popular as well. New Zealand has developed a more local flavour to their IPAs that’s more tropical and slightly different to an English or American IPA.

American pale Ales (APAs) are also very popular but will taste different to an American Brewed APA thanks to locally grown hops. New Zealand is great hop-growing country which influences the flavour profiles of most locally brewed beer. It’s just another reason why beer lovers need to visit a range of breweries and bars while they are here!

German wheat beers and regular lagers are slightly less popular than APAs and IPAs. You’re still likely to find them on the tasting menu, but a lot of breweries may only have one or two of these more subtle flavour varieties. You’ll also find porters, stouts and sour beers at most breweries, but again, only in a few varieties.

Local beer brands to look out for in New Zealand

New Zealand has a thriving craft beer scene. In most cities and towns, you can buy beers at the supermarkets, and some supermarkets do a good job of stocking craft beers that are popular the length and breadth of the country. Look out for:

Panhead (Upper Hutt)

Panhead is a local brewery located in Upper Hutt, just outside Wellington. Known for its inventive and bold brews, craft beer lovers like Panhead for its innovative flavours, with standout beers like the Supercharger APA and Port Road Pilsner.

Garage Project (Wellington)

Hailing from the craft beer hub of Wellington, Garage Project is celebrated for its experimental eclectic range of brews. This brewery has gained international recognition for incorporating unconventional ingredients and brewing techniques. Visitors can expect a constantly changing lineup of beers available at the tap room in Aro Valley, Wellington.

Parrotdog (Wellington)

Another highlight from the capital city, Parrotdog, is celebrated for its well-balanced beers that offer a delightfully smooth taste. With a focus on quality and consistency, Parrotdog has become a staple in the New Zealand craft beer scene. Their Bitterbitch IPA and Falcon APA are among beer lovers' favourites.

Emerson’s (Dunedin)

Originating from the South Island city of Dunedin, Emerson's Brewery has a rich history and a reputation for producing classic, well-crafted beers. Emerson's is especially recognised for its London Porter and Bookbinder beers and was one of the first craft breweries on the scene in 1991.

Behemoth (Auckland)

Based in Auckland, Behemoth Brewing Company is known for its bold flavours. The brewery doesn’t take itself too seriously when it comes to both its beers and its marketing. Their most memorable creations include the 'Dump the Trump' American IPA and the 'Lid Ripper' Hazy IPA.

Cassels (Christchurch)

Nestled in Christchurch, Cassels Brewery has a focus on quality and tradition. The brewery, housed in a historic grain and seed store, produces a range of craft beers, with their Milk Stout being a standout favourite. Cassels offers visitors a unique blend of history, ambience, and really good craft beer.

Good George (Hamilton)

Originating from Hamilton, Good George Brewery is known for its commitment to high-quality ingredients. They offer a diverse beer lineup, including the popular Sparkling Pale Ale and IPA, as well as a range of delectable ciders.

Tuatara (Kapiti Coast)

Tuatara Brewery, located on the Kapiti Coast, is recognised for its commitment to using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. The brewery is known for its diverse range of beers, with the Tuatara APA and Pilsner very popular.

Sawmill (Matakana)

Situated in picturesque Matakana, an hour north of Auckland, Sawmill Brewery combines artisanal brewing with a stunning natural backdrop. Sawmill is celebrated for its XPA and New Zealand Pale Ale.

Urbanaut (Auckland)

Urbanaut Brewing Co., based in Auckland, is known for its more adventurous approach to brewing. The brewery's diverse beer range, such as the Copacabana Brut IPA and Kingsland Pilsner, and fun branding, make them a must-try on the craft beer scene. Their more out-of-the-box flavours include Lemon Meringue Hazy IPA, Toasted Marshmallow Hazy IPA and a Lime Sherbert Sour.

Top beer festivals to look out for in New Zealand

Beervana Wellington, August

Beervana is the most well-known event on New Zealand’s beer festival calendar. Hosted over two days in August each year, more than 60 breweries from around the country get together at Wellington’s stadium to promote their brews. There are also live bands, music, DJs, silent discos and food stalls to keep you entertained and fulfilled during the day. Tickets also tend to sell out quickly.

Beers at the Basin, November, Wellington

Another Wellington institution is Beers at the Basin. Hosted just as the weather starts to pick up, it’s the perfect event for grabbing a picnic blanket and some snacks and trying out a wide range of beers, street food and local tunes.

The Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival, November, Dunedin

The Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival is one of the most iconic annual events on the calendar. The festival brings together great brews, great music and entertainment and great food for two days of unmissable fun.

Auckland Craft Beer Festival, Auckland

The Auckland Craft Beer Festival showcases some of the country’s best beers. Combined with amazing street food and local bands, you can even try your own beer recipe and win the opportunity to craft your brew commercially.

MarchFest, Nelson

MarchFest puts a unique twist on a beer festival. Think you’ve tried all the beers there are to try? Think again. Each beer at MarchFest has been brewed specifically for the event and has never been available to the public. Held in Nelson, which has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand, it’s the perfect location for trying uniquely crafted beers.

The Great Kiwi Beer Festival, Christchurch, January

The Great Kiwi Beer Festival is a great way to kick off the new year. Held at the end of January in the beautiful and central Hagley Park, this festival brings together great beers, foods and some of New Zealand’s best bands.

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