OPINION: In the 50 years since rugby, racing and beer were the dominant pillars of New Zealand society, we have travelled far.
We are a far more diverse country in all respects, making our identity more complex, and well, interesting.
Let's face it, rugby, racing and beer - while carrying a comforting whiff of nostalgia - were not a particularly good advertisement for the New Zealand way of life.
Rugby is still our national game, but its playing popularity among the young has been surpassed by football and its mass appeal has been challenged by other sports, such as rugby league (in a good year).
There's also a trend, shown by dwindling crowds, that too much rugby devalues its appeal.
Racing has been in the doldrums it shows little sign of emerging from.
Beer consumption has been in a slow decline, as our wine industry has flourished.
But bubbling away within the shrinking amber empire, there is a niche industry on the rise that reflects the country's maturity.
Even the working man's, and increasingly woman's drink, has become more complex and interesting thanks to the craft beer industry that is also helping to put Nelson on the map.
Craft beer eludes easy definition, but typically it's made in small breweries in one particular place, has a strong, distinctive taste (as opposed to the often sweet and bland mainstream products) and often a quirky name.
Craft beer still only makes up 3 per cent of the overall beer market, but consumption and production is growing. Between 2008 and the end of last year, smaller craft breweries (producing less than 40,000 litres a year) doubled from 15 to 30.
Hotelier and former All Black Terry McCashin pioneered the resurgence of craft beer when he opened his Mac's brewery in Stoke in 1981, breaking the DB and Lion stranglehold on the industry.
The big boys eventually got their hands on Mac's but the McCashins are now back in the craft game. They are putting Stoke on the beer map with new brews and a quirkily decorated bar - more like someone's comfortably lived in lounge.
The quality of the hospitality and venues that have grown up with craft beer is also getting noticed with the Lonely Planet guide toasting the Nelson beer trail.
It notes the distinctive attractions of The Free House, the Moutere Inn, Mapua's Golden Bear and Golden Bay's Mussel Inn. The Sprig and Fern's Milton St craft beer bar was last week named the best in the country.
Nelson's claim to being New Zealand's craft beer capital may be disputed by that other capital.
Wellington probably does have the advantage of sheer numbers. But Nelson has history and hops on its side.
As the hop-growing centre of the country, its temperate climate provides a central ingredient for good brews both here and overseas.
Exports of local hops have recently turned up in Nelson-themed ales in England and California.
This is not to suggest we are defined by our beer or consumed by it. It's just another example of how a small industry with dedicated, innovative people can bring a smile, as well as tourists and jobs to our corner of the world.
As a shorthand for the region's identity, perhaps we could come up with another three words.
Sun, trolley racing and craft beer?
- © Fairfax NZ News