Region's craft brewing industry laid beer

A pint of Three Piece Wheat beer at The Free House.
Marion van Dijk

A pint of Three Piece Wheat beer at The Free House.

Last year according to ANZ beer consumption fell by 3 per cent yet the market share of craft beers grew from 3 to 15 per cent low alcohol, yet flavoursome beers have grown 105 per cent in sales,

Here in Nelson and Tasman we have some 70 bars and cafes where they are sold as well as supermarkets where craft beer sales have increased from 1 per cent to 30 per cent and another 17 per cent of overall sales.

At one time it was just bearded 30 somethings who bought craft beers but now it is 20 to 60-somethings with more and more of these being females who are discovering the many varied flavours and it is acceptable for them to be seen drinking beer, even in 'pint glasses'

A tasting tray of beer at McCashins Brewery.

A tasting tray of beer at McCashins Brewery.

Rigger fills of craft beer can now be found at some Liquorland stores and the Craft Beer Depot in Achilles St.

Macs beers are now brewed by Lion as the brewery here was too small to meet the growing demand in Lion bars and bottle shops. The recipes they use are still as Tracy Banner, now owner of Sprig and Fern created them with some additions. Emerson's beers are still brewed by Richard Emerson in a brand new brewery in Dunedin built by Lion to meet the growing demand for their beers.

The 6th generation of the Duncan family, continue to brew at Founders Park although their bottled beers are brewed in Auckland to recipes devised by the Duncans.

Martin Townshend of Upper Moutere, having been crowned champion New Zealand brewer in 2015 now has some of his beers made under contract by Tuatara, another larger craft brewer, in Auckland. Some Mussel Inn beers are brewed under contract due to demand outstripping ability to brew.

The McCashin family, having sold the name Macs, now brews two new ranges of beer under the Stoke label with their products going all over New Zealand and abroad. They also contract brew for other smaller brewers. Totara at Wakefield are unique in that they are the only brewery, probably in the world that grows its own hops.

New hop fields are being planted to meet the worldwide demand for New Zealand hops and a research centre in Riwaka is developing new varieties with different flavours, resistance to disease better cropping and so on.

There is no official definition but to my mind it is a beer that has been produced by an individual or individuals who know and love the subject, has the ability to choose and blend the many hop varieties and malts made from both barley, wheat and other grains that are found locally here as well as from around the world.

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The only other ingredient is water. This can affect the flavour. This is taken either from the local supply which as you know can vary in taste or from an artesian well on the brewery site. Townshends and Stoke have this facility.

One definition of a craft brewer is that it cannot be more than 25 per cent owned by a larger brewer, normally just a few enthusiasts who love and like beer.

Hops are the natural preservative in beer so any beers advertised as having no preservatives must mean that they don't use hops, so how do they make beer?

Craft Brewers do not need to spend money on advertising or cut price deals. Most have difficulty in keeping production up to meet demand.

They are 'batch brewed' not brewed by a continuous flow process. They are more likely to have slightly different characteristics from one brew to the next as opposed to exactly the same bland product, year after year.

A 'Real Ale' is neither filtered nor pasteurised but it only has a life of a few days, once the cask has been tapped and some of the contents served. Then only has a life of maybe 2-3 weeks once it has been brewed and put into casks.

Part of this is to allow it to mature. During this time it also undergoes a secondary fermentation that produces carbon dioxide and increases the a.b.v. (alcohol by volume or strength) after this it turns to vinegar.

The CO2 gives the beer its natural sparkle in the glass and on the tongue. Secondary fermentation can be found in some bottled beers. They have to be poured very carefully so as to leave the sediment in the neck of the bottle. They are of course not pasteurised. This sediment is not in anyway harmful, it just looks cloudy. A "bright beer", served from a hand pump or just gravity has been filtered but not pasteurised.

Locally produced craft beers, and we are after all here in the Craft Brewing Capital of NZ (16 out of 125 + breweries at the last count are here in the Top of the South) may be from 4 per cent to 11 per cent abv. Five per cent is probably the median.

So always ask what the a.b.v of any beer that you are drinking is, otherwise you could so easily find yourself over the drink drive limit. This happened to me once in nearly 60 years but as I have a campervan I was able to sleep it off before driving.

The cost of craft beers is higher because they cost more to produce, the ingredients are bought in smaller quantities than the 'big boys' and are usually served in Imperial pint glasses which in NZ are not legal but should be called 570ml glasses which are about 20 per cent larger than the NZ 'handle'. Again, drinkers need to be aware of this.

The higher price is compensated for by the fact that the drinker will be satisfied with fewer pints and the clientele are less likely to be obstreperous - , loud, yes but not unpleasantly so.

 - Stuff


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