Craft beers catching up with wine

Top-shelf wines making way for craft beers

Last updated 05:00 29/07/2014
Bethel Woods Bar
NEW VINTAGE: Williams Pub Company directors Jamie Williams, left, and Andrew Williams have taken of the Wine Loft on The Terrace and will be turning it it into Bethel Wood - a bar specialising in beer and smoked meats.

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Wine is making way for ales, stouts and lagers as craft beer bars continue to spread throughout the capital.

Williams Pub Company is starting a beer bar in The Terrace, replacing the Wine Loft, as the hospitality industry says the craft beer market is catching up with the popularity of fine wines.

The company already owns several bars in Wellington suburbs, including Gasworks in Miramar and The Khandallah Trading Company, and director Jamie Williams said its first foray into the central city would meet a gap in the market in The Terrace.

The new bar - named Bethel Woods, after the location of the Woodstock festival - would cater to the after-work trade and serve meats cooked in two specially imported smokers, Williams said.

The plan was to cater to all beer drinkers, with options from Tui through to the hardest-hitting craft creations. "You start down in something quite plain Jane and go up to a monster . . . There's an opportunity in the market to not isolate anyone."

There was still a demand for wine bars, but they worked better in smaller spaces, whereas the Wine Loft could hold 250 people, he said. There was also an opportunity to invite in a much wider crowd, because while wine drinkers would still visit beer bars, it often wasn't true in reverse.

"Every day now they [the Wine Loft] have people asking is that the only beer on tap."

The plan was to have unique food choices and a fun atmosphere for the Friday night crowd, attracting everyone - not just beer drinkers - "before the call of Courtenay Place gets them". It is hoped the bar will be open by mid-September.

Bethel Woods will be the latest in a string of craft beer bars opening in Wellington in recent years, and Hospitality Association Wellington president Jeremy Smith said there was definitely a shift in focus towards beer, but it was echoing the shift that happened a few years ago with wine.

"You can go into any half-decent gastro-pub and find a half-decent wine list . . .

"Beer maybe lost a bit of popularity when the breweries were producing beers that appealed to a broad range of palates."

Bars today knew the importance of having a strong wine list, and would continue to have them, but the shift now was the introduction of equally diverse beer selections.

The demand in the market was to have quality offerings for all, not just a niche market, he said.

"You cannot in today's market just be one thing and attract enough people around that one element - the market is too competitive and too small."

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According to Statistics New Zealand, there were 288.8 million litres of beer available in New Zealand last year, which was a 3.2 per cent increase on the previous year.

Available wine also rose by 3.6 per cent, reaching 105.9m litres.

- The Dominion Post


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