Added fizz for our hospitality

20:08, Oct 08 2012
Sprig and Fern
CHEERS: It’s been a big year for Tracy and Ken Banner, owners of the Milton St Sprig and Fern. They are pictured here with staff celebrating winning the trophy for Best Bar award from the 2012 Hospitality NZ Awards.

How much great beer news can we get in a week? First, Nelson's Craft Brewing Capital Beer Trail Map made the top 12 new attractions in the Lonely Planet New Zealand guidebook. Then, the Milton St Sprig and Fern was named Best Pub in New Zealand.

Both of these accolades are bigger than Nelson - they speak to the whole country, and will be noticed by the world. We have reached the point where Nelson will be drawing tourists to New Zealand . . . for beer.

Those of us who care perhaps a little too much about this have been shouting and waving and wanting people to notice for years. “More Breweries per capita . . . !” “New Zealand's first freehouse . . . !” “New Zealand's oldest pub . . . !” “The only commercial hops in New Zealand . . . !” “Craft Brewing Capital . . . !” But that gets you only so far.

People have to come, and they have to have a memorable experience before they start telling others, privately or publicly.

What is finally making Nelson stand out is the quality of our beer hospitality. The Lonely Planet calls out a few notable places to have a tipple.

The Mussel Inn has long been known for adding good beer to an already quintessentially Golden Bay-style pub. Golden Bear in charming Mapua has great food, with the only California brewpub menu in the country.


The funky charm of the Free House still has Wellingtonians envious, even with their rash of new beer bars. And the Moutere Inn is so remarkable as a genuine local country pub plus good beer that the guide changed their map to include them.

They probably struggled to limit themselves to this list as there are more places equally inviting. We recently got an update from one of our local SOBA (Society of Beer Advocates) volunteers saying that he now distributes the SOBA newsletter, Pursuit of Hoppiness, to 58 locations serving craft beer in the region.

While Golden Bear and Mussel Inn happen to also be breweries, the Lonely Planet was moved by the drinking experience. And for Sprig and Fern, while they only serve their own award-winning craft product, again this prize was all about the environment in the pub.

Nelson wouldn't have reached this point if we didn't have so many people putting their souls into making excellent craft product, but sadly we have to admit that the beer alone doesn't create buzz for a region (outside of beer fanatic circles).

The normal person, who may or may not care if they are drinking craft, is more likely to notice their beer when it's served in a welcoming, clean, comfortable place with good food.

With the news that Sprig and Fern is on tap at The Lounge in Tahuna and about to open their sixth pub in the region around the corner in the old Amigos restaurant, that Kraut's will be reopening soon in Montgomery Square and that Cafe Affair is revamping their beer menu, hopefully this list will just keep growing.