New Zealand is a country with a taste for the finer things in life – wine, seafood, produce and meat are of the optimum quality so there’s no reason the beer shouldn’t be right up there. In recent years, New Zealand has seen something of a beer revolution and the thirst for craft beer is at an all-time high. Small batch brewers are popping up all over the country, creating and pouring some of the finest ales so that even the fussiest connoisseur will find something to whet their whistle. Their famous beer festival, Beervana, is happening in Wellington, New Zealand from 11 – 12 August 2017. If you are heading for a road trip, here’s our ultimate guide to New Zealand’s Best Craft Beer Breweries!
1. Northland: McLeods Brewery, Waipu
McLeod’s is an award-winning, small-batch brewery with an eye on modern takes to traditional styles. Every drop is made, bottled or kegged at their home taps at McLeod’s Pizza Barn. Sample fresh McLeods beer matched with delicious homemade pizzas in a quirky, fun location.
2. Auckland: Sawmill Brewery, Matakana
The Sawmill Brewery, one-hour north of central Auckland, is an independent brewery established in 2004 in an old sawmill. However, the brewery has since moved to a new location in Matakana, a country community full of artisan producers, growers and farmers. Sawmill Brewery runs tours and after some tastings of their pilsner, IPA, pale ale and crystal wheat ale, you can enjoy food matched to your beer of choice in the Smoko Room.
3. Auckland: Hallertau Brewery, Riverhead
Known throughout New Zealand, West Auckland’s Hallertau Brewery is a leader in the local craft beer boom. The recently refurbished beer garden is a welcoming family-friendly spot for a long lunch over some gourmet food and a sampling paddle.
4. Hamilton Waikato: Good George – Hamilton, Cambridge
The Good George Brewery opened in Frankton, in Hamilton, in 2011. The original St George’s Church site was in need of some love and attention but it provided a divine space for a brewery and dining hall. The brewery equipment is on full view to the bar, dining areas and expansive garden bar. The food is great too. Good George is available in several establishments, including the recently opened Good Union in nearby Cambridge.
5. Bay of Plenty: Croucher Brew Pubs – Rotorua, Tauranga
When visiting Rotorua or Tauranga, be sure to check out the BREW bars to taste the award-winning Croucher Beers. On Eat Street – in Rotorua’s hip dining precinct – BREW is a great place to sip craft ale after a day of exploring the bustling tourist town. Or pop in for an ale at BREW Tauranga on the seaside resort’s main dining strip.
6. Gisborne: Sunshine Brewery
Sunny coastal Gisborne – the first town in the world to see the light of each new day – has the Sunshine Brewery which has been turning out delicious batch-brewed beer using all natural ingredients since 1989. Pop into the taproom for tastings, a quiet beer and a bite to eat after a day on beautiful Waikanae Beach.
7. Taranaki: Mike’s Organic Brewery
Taranaki was ranked #2 in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions 2017 for a bunch of reasons that no doubt include Mike’s Organic Brewery. A 30-minute drive north of New Plymouth, visitors can meet Mike, take a brewery tour, taste the beers and tuck into a wood fired pizza on the sunny deck.
8. Manawatu: Brew Union
In Palmerston North – a lively university town with a central square – Brew Union (EST. 2017) is the new place for beer lovers to gather. Enjoy a cold pint of craft beer and some great food. Brew Union’s 1200-litre micro-brewery brews house beers, served alongside up to 12 guest beers from around the country.
9. Wellington – Craft Beer Capital: Garage Project
Wellington craft brewery Garage Project set out to create beers that were different and challenging to the palate. Their quirky beers include the ‘Unami Monster’ using New Zealand grown kombu (kelp), Japanese Katsuobushi (dried fermented bonito flakes), smoked malt and seawater, and the ‘Cabbage and Kings Imperial Oyster Stout’, brewed with 10 dozen fresh Te Matuku Bay Pacific oysters, and infused with the local flavours of horopito and manuka smoked malt. Make a beeline to their cellar door in the hip suburb of Te Aro.
10. Kapiti Coast: Tuatara
Tuatara is a craft beer success story hatched on the Kapiti Coast, just north of Wellington. The superb range of ales, porters and pilsners are brewed with passion. Named after a living dinosaur, the tuatara is unique to New Zealand and the Tuatara bottles give a nod to their namesake with a beautiful reptilian texture, a great take home souvenir. The recently opened brew pub The Third Eye is Tuatara’s home in Wellington city for those who can’t make it up the coast.
11. Nelson: Mussel Inn, Golden Bay
The atmosphere is laid-back and family friendly at Golden Bay’s Mussel Inn. Two hours along the coast from Nelson, this iconic pub is famous for its home-brewed Captain Cooker Manuka Beer – a red brown beer flavoured with manuka tips. It’s a tribute to New Zealand’s first-ever brew, produced by Captain Cook to combat the dreaded scurvy. The Mussel Inn grows some of its own hops, as do many local breweries as the Nelson region is the hop centre of New Zealand.
12. Greymouth: Monteiths
Monteiths Brewery in Greymouth, on the South Island’s west coast, has been around since 1868. Learn about the history of this iconic New Zealand beer on a brewery tour and conclude by sampling an ale (or two) along with a tasty platter. Monteiths’ large range of beers can be found all over New Zealand, popular with those partial to the amber liquid.
13. Canterbury: Brew Moon, Waipara
Belinda Gould worked as a winemaker before setting up Brew Moon craft brewery in 2002. Just north of Christchurch in the Waipara wine region, the taproom and restaurant features street art by local graffiti artist Wongi Wilson. Belinda and son, brewer Toby McCauley, produce full-flavoured delicious brews including Hop Over Vine, a combination of riesling and pale ale; Blood Moon, inspired by a lunar eclipse; and Olé Molé, with a spicy Mexican flair.
14. Christchurch: Three Boys Brewery
At Three Boys Brewery each small-scale brew is a living product – unfiltered and unpasteurised, just as nature intended. The beers are brewed, bottled, and canned on site to guarantee quality and freshness. Private tours of the brewing space, led by one of the brewers, includes bread and cheese, beer tasters and a Three Boys branded souvenir glass to take home. Tours require a minimum of 12 people and pre-booking is essential.
15. Southern Lakes: Wanaka Beerworks
Wanaka Beerworks, operating since 1998, has become a local institution and grabbing a Brewski at Kai is a true ‘must-do’ in Wanaka. Having seven types of permanent beers, the crisp and distinctive Brewski 4.8% is easily their bestseller. Wanaka Beerworks operates tours every day with a tasting bar and café.
16. Dunedin: Emersons
Emerson’s Brewery, which has been turning out consistently award-winning stouts, lagers, ales and more since 1993, last year moved into big new premises where beer enthusiasts can get up close and personal with their favourite tipple, and the people who make it. The brewery and the beers are the creation of Richard Emerson, food technician turned brew-meister, who started out making beer in his downtime at work and then in the family kitchen, before moving into a friend’s garage in 1988. The Taproom and Restaurant are just a short walk from Otago’s Forsyth Barr Rugby Stadium.
17. Southland: Invercargill Brewery
The Invercargill Brewery began in 1999 in a garage but now it’s found in bespoke premises in downtown Invercargill. The Pitch Black stout is famous around Southland and their wider range is much loved in the craft beer community. There are walk-in tours and, if you time your visit correctly, you may catch a lively local band playing in the brewery’s Asylum function space.
We hope you find our ultimate guide to the best New Zealand’s craft beer breweries useful for your coming road trip. Do share with us your experience in the comments section below.