22 July 2014 - Best Beer HQ

Beer and breweries in New Zealand

Beer and breweries in New Zealand

In spite of its reputation as a world-class purveyor of wine, New Zealand is in actual fact largely a nation of beer lovers.

Beer accounts for more than 60% of total alcohol sales and, at around 75.5 litres of beer consumed per person per year, New Zealand ranks 21st in the world in terms of beer consumption per capita. Not bad for a country of just over four million people.

Beer in New Zealand

A duopoly of big breweries – Lion Breweries and DB Breweries – dominate New Zealand beer sales, but the country is also home to numerous thriving microbreweries that are starting to gain traction with the average Kiwi consumer.

In fact, in the 12 months to the start of April last year, sales of craft beer in New Zealand went up 30% compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, even country pubs are now serving craft beer alongside mainstream Kiwi beer like Speights, Lion Red and Tui.

The majority of beer brewed in New Zealand is lager – either pale or amber in colour – and with a quantity of 4-5% alcohol. The most widely recognised style of beer from this part of the world is New Zealand Draught (see below), which is generally a malty, amber-coloured lager.

History of beer in New Zealand

Captain James Cook introduced beer to New Zealand when in 1773 he ordered a batch to be brewed in the hopes of protecting his sailors from scurvy. Because the main ingredients of beer weren’t introduced there until Europeans in the late 18th century, his beer was made from the bark of the native rimu tree, leaves, wort and molasses.

New Zealand’s first commercial brewery opened in Russell in the Bay of Islands in 1835. It was during this time that the fledgling country inherited many of the brewing traditions and styles of its motherlands – namely England and Ireland.

Much later, in the 1930s, Kiwi inventor and brewer Morton William Coutts created the continuous fermentation process. Beer made in this way is commonly known as New Zealand Draught and remains fairly popular to this day.

Major New Zealand breweries

Lion: Speight’s, Steinlager, Lion Red, Lion Brown, Emerson’s, Mac’s craft beers

DB Breweries: DB Draught, Tui, Monteith’s

Independent Breweries: Boundary Road Brewery

Popular international beer brands brewed under licence in New Zealand: Heineken (DB), Tiger (DB), Amstel (DB), Carlsberg (Boundary Road), Tuborg (Boundary Road), Budweiser (Lion), Stella Artois (Lion), Guinness (Lion), Corona (Lion).

Notable microbreweries in New Zealand

Emerson’s Brewery, Dunedin (now owned by Lion)

Epic Brewing Company, Auckland

Hancock & Co, Auckland

Harringtons Breweries, Christchurch

Moa Beer, Marlborough

ParrotDog, Wellington

Three Boys Brewery, Christchurch

Tuatara Brewery, Paraparaumu

West Coast Brewery, Westport

Yeastie Boys, Wellington

International Beer New Zealand /