Food & Wine
Ron Trigg doesn't need to be told the demand for "craft beers" is on the rise – he already knows.
"It is definitely starting to take off," the Zimbabwean-born brewer says.
He bought Mike's Organic Brewery, near Urenui, three years ago and has doubled production each year since then.
The Brewers Guild of New Zealand recently announced sales of higher-priced New Zealand "craft beer" are up 11 per cent while mainstream beer sales have dropped 5 per cent.
Craft brewers focus on low-volume, high-quality products that cost a little bit extra.
Mr Trigg says getting his product on to supermarket shelves and into bars and restaurants was hard work in the beginning.
However, after a bit of education and with New Zealanders drinking habits changing, things have taken off.
"People are drinking less and they are looking for something a little bit more special," Mr Trigg said.
To allow his products to be served on tap, he has also invested in importing fully self-contained German counter top dispensing units.
"It is a really smart system and we think it has its merits and it certainly has its followers now," he said.
Guild Chairman David Cryer says it's becoming fashionable to pay a little more and take more time drinking a better, traditionally brewed New Zealand beer.
"That's a marked change from the traditional two, three or more bottles in a session that has been so much part of the New Zealand culture for so long," Mr Cryer said.
He believes the increased popularity of "home grown" beers is due to the variety, more heightened taste and world-class quality of our product.
Mr Trigg says even the younger generation, who were often berated for their drinking habits were leaning towards the craft products.
"The encouraging thing for us is there is a bunch of kids in their early to mid-20s who are trying organic beers. Just to see them buying it and experimenting with it is a change.
"They know that they have to pay a bit more for the good stuff," he said.
The brewery produces six products – lager, ale, pilsner, strawberry blonde, double IPA and a whiskey porter.
The beers cost about $14 a four-pack although the porter, which comes in a 750ml bottle and only 400 bottles were produced last year, sells for $25 a bottle.
Mr Trigg says customers were not put off by the cost. A Wellington retailer who bought one case had to place another urgent order after only three days.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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