09 August 2009

Top 6 "Must Try" New Zealand Beers - 2009

With 50 small breweries in New Zealand there is a massive number of beers one must try to find the best the country makes. So if you are just starting your search for the best New Zealand beers, or someone just visiting New Zealand with limited time on your hands, here are the Top 6 "Must Try" New Zealand beers.

These beers are world class, coming from the most innovative and adventurous brewers in New Zealand. If you have the time, try the rest of the beers from these breweries you will be seriously satisfied. Actually this list probably lists the top 6 best breweries in New Zealand.

(Note: this list is based on the beer being available in bottle, also the ranking lists the beers based on availability (i.e. number of outlets it's available in). It's hard to list the great beers from brewpubs as they are only in one location, and batches vary, or are extremely small)

1. Epic Armageddon IPA - from the brewers of the Supreme Award winning Epic Pale Ale comes Armageddon IPA. This beer was inspired by a trip to San Diego in 2008, and drinking many of the mind blowing hoppy double and imperial IPA's on offer. This beer breaks new ground for massive hop useage in New Zealand. Brewed using US grown Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade, it's a hop monster. In a country where most people don't even understand what craft beer is, this beer is light years ahead of its time. If brewed on the West Coast of the USA, people would understand why. Its all about the hops. 6.66% alc/vol Buy Now

2. Invercargill Smokin Bishop - who would have thought that one of the most envelope pushing beers in New Zealand would come from the conservative south, and would be a big smokey Rauchbier style. This beer is all about the awesome huge smokey aroma and flavour. When people try this they are just blown away on every front, aroma, flavour, and the fact it is from New Zealand. Way to go Steve. Actually Invercargill Brewery is now coming of age and the whole range is very solid and well made, and each beer should be tried. 7.0% alc/vol Buy Now

3. Three Boys Oyster Stout - with actual Bluff oysters used in the brewing process, some even say they get a briny note. This beer is a glorious stout and one that should be hunted down and tried, and better yet if you can find it on tap. (inside tip, try Pomeroys in Christchruch for it on tap). As with the previous two beers, this is currently only a seasonal release, and as with what might happen to the above two also, the success and demand for these beers are likely to see the season available extended to all four seasons. There are some world class beer available in New Zealand. Buy Now

4. Mussel Inn Captain Cooker - first brewed by Captain Cook on his discovery of New Zealand, this beer uses freshly picked tips from the Manuka tree. This beer is amazingly floral and fragrant to the point you give it a double take, not actually believing that a beer could possibly smell like this. The intensity is only slightly less in the flavour, and is remarkably drinkable. Not only is this an incredibly flavourful beer but is uniquely New Zealand. It may even contain health benefits but you aren't allow to imply that in relation to alcohol, but wasn't that why Captain Cook used it in the first place? 4.0% alc/vol Buy Now

5. Hallertau Porter Noir - this is another beer inspired by the cutting edge of craft brewing on the planet - "beers with bugs". If you get it, you get it, and I just don't have room here to explain. This is a porter style beer aged for 4 months in oak barrels previously used for pinot noir wine, which is infected with Brettanomyces. Sounds pretty dumb to put beer in a barrel that is infected with spoilage organisms, but wait till you try this beer, WOW. This beer is complex, it goes beyond beer, with flavours from the wood, hints from the wine, and the additional fermentation from the Brett. which gives it a sourness. You have to try it. 6.6% alc/vol

6. The Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner - this is the best example of the use of New Zealand hops in a beer available in New Zealand. Many breweries here just miss the point, and either get the variety wrong and get it too grassy and harsh, or go the other way where it has too much passionfruit and tropical notes. The Sauvin Pilsner nails it. The hop aroma and flavour is still very prominent but the balance is awesome which is why this is a must try. Possibly best to try it on tap at The Twisted Hop. 5.0% alc/vol

20 March 2008

Top 6 - Best Beer Supermarkets in New Zealand

Up till now I hadn't really thought much about supermarkets offering the best available selection of beer in New Zealand. As of late though with more of my time looking for the better supermarkets to get Epic stocked in I have become aware that there are some that may possibly be the best outlets for beer in the country.

Supermarkets in New Zealand have only been selling beer for 8 years, so not long. Most only range a selection of mainstream brands (local and imported), and a very limited selection of styles.

Yes that means it is all lager, and near-lager beers (i.e. NZ mainstream draught beers). Especially poor for selection is Foodtown/Countdown which is run by a computer program which is only one step removed from SkyNet, as it ranges beers based on % of shelf space and turnover, not what the customer wants.

The owners and liquor buyers on this Top 6 list show real vision and foresight to stock interesting and hard to find beers from around New Zealand and the world. With special interest in supporting the fledgling craft brewing industry.

Top Six Best Beer Supermarkets in New Zealand

1. New World Blenheim

2. Fresh Choice Springlands, Blenheim

[I would like to give a big shout out to Geoff Griggs who has single handedly influenced these top two supermarkets into there fantastic range of beers, and has educated the people of Marlborough who are willing to buy and sample from this extensive range of beers]

3. Island Bay New World, Wellington

4. New World Hasting City

5. New World Victoria Park, Auckland

6. Center City New World, Dunedin

There maybe some other gems out there so please let me know in the comments below.

Your vote, or make a comment

27 February 2008

Top 6 - Beer Towns In New Zealand

I have done this poll a number of times over the years and thought this would be a good opportunity to expand on just the city name. Here are the some of the best beer outlets that make these towns the best.

1. Wellington - what a great selection of beers all within walking distance. The Malthouse with its massive selection of bottled beers and tap beers. Also doing a great selections of craft beer are Bar Edward, D4 (new), Matterhorn, the list goes on, (actually I can't think of all the others right now) There is the bottle shop Regional Wines & Spirits with the largest selection of craft and imported beers in the country, including an ever changing selection of the best craft beer on Fill Your Own flagon. And Wellingtons only brewery (Lion Brown / Wellington Brewing / Shed 22 / Mac's Brewery, what every it's name is today) Mac's Brewery always with something new and innovative on tap. Special mention to Tuatara Brewery ,which is really a Wellington beer brand at heart but is based up the road in Waikanae, but is found all over Wellington and is great beer.

2. Auckland - three good brewpubs Galbraith's Alehouse, Hallertau & the Shakespeare Tavern. A number of beer themed pub chains Belgian Beer Cafe, Cock & Bull, Speight's Alehouse, Mac's BrewBars, and the Monteith's bars. Plus a number of independent bars slowly pushing the craft beer barrow, such as Suite. And home of Epic Brewing Company, with its award winning Epic Pale Ale

3. Christchurch - a couple of great brewpubs Dux de Lux (best beer garden in NZ), The Twisted Hop, also just out of Christchurch is Brew Moon. Also in town Three Boys, Wigram, and Harringtons. Some good beer bars include Zymergy, Pomeroy's and Cook n with Gas.

4. Hamilton - as much as the locals complain about not having enough in the way of good beer, they do have Hamilton Wine Company, a Belgian Beer Cafe and a Cock & Bull. Plus the secret Ruakura Campus Club, with great beers on tap at club prices.

5. Nelson - the hop growing region of New Zealand has a growing number of small breweries, Founders, Lighthouse, Tasman, Bays, Townsend and special mention to The Mussel Inn, not quite Nelson but worth the effort. The greatest thing about the Nelson region are the guys that run Dead Good Beer Events and regularly put on beer festivals.

6. Dunedin - well I needed a number six and the rest of New Zealand is a bit lean apart from one offs in towns with a brewery. Dunedin does have the old Speight's brewery which offers a great tour into a historical New Zealand brewery. And there is the Emerson Brewery as well. Eureka Cafe also offers a selection of craft beer.

What is you favourite New Zealand beer town

19 February 2008

Top 6 - Lost Kiwi Beers

Over time beers come and go due to many reasons. A lot of it these days is that everyone wants to drink international style lagers (or should I say drinking brands) that are bland and boring. So I thought I would come up with six beers that I would like to try again once, now that they are not available anymore.

1. Kiwi Lager - New Zealand's lost lager. The one that could have become our nations signature beer. DB had to stop making Kiwi Lager as part of their deal to start production of Heineken. Thanks Heineken.

2. Malt Mac - this was the most interesting beer to come out of Mac's. It was made with peated malt so had a big peaty scotch whisky taste, but behind that was a huge Cascade hop hit. Also was exported to the Michael Jackson Beer Club in the USA and was featured beer for a month.

3. Montieth's Sasion - best example of D Saaz in any beer made in New Zealand. A shame the public of New Zealand didn't get it (understand it I mean). Also a shame that they announced this beer on the same day they announced the closure and layoffs at the Greymouth Monteith's Brewery. It was possible the beginning of the commercialization of what had been an exciting brand with interesting beers.

4. Monteith's Dopplebock - I'm talking about the 7% version that was within style and the marketing people that didn't know anything about beer, hadn't called it a Winter Ale on the label. This beer was even better years after its best before date (yes a cellared beer, even vintaged can you believe it) as the slight oxidation continued to increase the malt. Awesome malt.

5. Mac's Hop Harvest Pilsner - this was the second best Mac's beer that was ever made. The hop aroma and flavour was at a level that could justify the term "hoppy". Nice work Mr Goldman.

6. Leopard Continental Lager - I'd like to try this again due to the fact it was one of my very first memories of drinking beer, and drinking from one of the old steel cans when I was a kid. It just tasted like beer then, be nice to have known what it actually tasted like. (not the rehashed version Lion came out with a few years ago, I'm talking about the 70's)

I could have included the likes of Australis Benediction or Romanov (cause I still have some), and the 1998 Pink Elephant Mammoth, or any number of obscure one off beers that most of the nation didn't get to try, but I didn't

Have a vote and make a comment on your own Lost Kiwi Beers.

05 February 2008

Top 6 - Beer Festivals in New Zealand

As craft beer quickly becomes more popular, and the selection of beers from craft breweries grow, we are seeing more and more Beer Festivals popping up around the country. Since we are heading into February we are hitting the peak month for getting out and sampling beer.

A Beer Festival should be that opportunity for you to sample beers you don't usually drink or don't have access to in your local market or area where you drink and shop.

1. Blues Brews & BBQ's - Mt Maunganui
This is the most successful beer festival in New Zealand, having just completed its 13th festival on 10th January 2008. The winning formula seems to be the mix of a good selection of beers, good food, entertainment in a family friendly environment. Glass size is manageable at 280ml, so you aren't tipping out much if you discover a dud beer. Historically 12,000 tickets sell out in 90 minutes. Not many people outside the local area know about this festival cause unless you have queued for your tickets you don't get to go. If you are keen to go, make sure you are in town the first week of December when tickets go on sale.

2. New Zealand Beer Festival - Auckland
This festival is the new boy in town and with the history of the previous Auckland based beer festivals it will be interesting to see this one make it past it's second year. I believe it will, as it is run professionally and with a long term vision to be bigger and better. Branding is solid and there is a huge spend on a broad range of media advertising. Interesting venue - in the stables of Ellerslie Racecourse, but it does give the insurance to shelter if it was to rain. 24 beer companies, 50+ different beers. Glass size is on the large side for sampling at 330ml but all beers this year are set at $5. 23rd February 2008

3. BrewNZ - Wellington
This year sees the return of the public side of BrewNZ with a public day at the Town Hall. Now that the Brewers Guild of New Zealand is running the show on behalf of the brewers, we are likely to see something that showcases the greatest beers New Zealand has on offer. Dates still to be finalized, September 2008.

4. Blues Brews & BBQ's - Blenheim
See above, another successful Blues,Brews & BBQ's festival held in the South. Have had issues with Police and the use of glassware in the last 12 months. See background story

5. Kumeu Beer Wine & Food Festival - Auckland
New organizers last year, so it will be interesting to see how this on goes on Saturday 9th February 2008. Only four breweries represented this year, but worth a visit, only 20 mins out of Auckland.

6. Brewfest - Wellington
Brewfest the unknown. Trenthem Racecourse. Sounds like a good selection of breweries, if we could just get an official list. 16th February 2008. We'll know in a couple of weeks.

What is your favourite Beer Festival in New Zealand? Vote now.

26 January 2008

Top 6 - Pseudo Imported Beers

It seems a shame that the large brewers of this country have had to license international brands to produce here because NZ'ers won't drink the locally brewed beers. Is this a reflection of the recipes the local brewers had come up with like Steinlager? or the use of the local malt and hops?(Maybe). Then again Kiwi Lager was a pretty good beer back in the early 90's before Heineken told DB they would have to drop it if they wanted to be able to brew Heineken.

Top 6 [in the order of volume?]

Heineken - DB, Auckland

Stella Artois - Lion, Auckland

Guinness - Lion, Christchurch

Kilkenny - Lion, Christchurch

Carlsberg - Independent, Auckland

Tuborg - Independent, Auckland

The list could be longer but I had to pick six. But don't forget Amstel, Amstel Light and Orangeboom are also brewed in New Zealand now.

I think the introduction of Steinlager Pure has been the largest success of the NZ beer market in the last 10 years. Kiwi's want a beer they can call their own. But for the longest time they tried to drink Steinlager, but the headaches just made it too hard. Now that the beer has been reformulated and has a flavour profile and drinkability very similar to Heineken it is a winner.

How to vote on this one?? Would you even want to? What is your top Pseudo Imported Beer in New Zealand, give it a go.

22 January 2008

Best Brewpubs in New Zealand - January 2008

Brewpubs - breweries attached to a pub, providing an outlet and means to sell their beer. Possibly the best and most successful way of brewing and selling your own beer in the New Zealand market, because you control your own outlet. Plus the brewer achieves full retail pricing for their beer. It's also the best way for a drinker to meet the brewer because he is either brewing or out drinking with the customers.

1. The Mussel Inn - location makes you forget the rest of the world so you can enjoy the beer,(thats because you have just driven to the end of the earth to get there) good range of beers and other alcoholic beverages made from locally grown produce, must try the Captin Cooker Manuka Beer, also available in Belgium.

2. Galbraith's Alehouse - award winning real ale, European lagers, guest beers from local micro breweries, excellent selection of imported English and Belgian Ales, wonderful food, nice outdoor area, great building (old public library). Must not leave without trying the Resurrection.

3. Hallertau - has the best selection of bottled craft beer, from around New Zealand, in one place, food is good, if there is a group go for the plater, beer to try has to be Stuntman (if available) 10% of crazy hopness.

4. The Twisted Hop - bit hard to find but once you are there on one of those long sunny Canterbury afternoons you aren't likely to leave. Real Ale plus a selection of other craft beer. Good pub food. Try a pint of Challenger.

5. Dux de Lux - the best garden bar in New Zealand, backs out onto the Art Center and can hold hundreds of people, a must visit for the Buskers Festival. Beer to try Nor'wester won some great awards over the years and delivers great flavour.

6. Shakepseare Tavern - this is the grand daddy of brewpubs in New Zealand with it opening in 1986. A selection of 11 different beers. Food is pub fare, and the location is very central. The only Brewpub in New Zealand with its own accommodation onsite, and at very competitive pricing for central Auckland. Beer to try Pucks Pixilation, 11.2%, not because it is strong but because it delivers flavour and drinkablity without the alcohol burn.

So you don't agree? Vote for your favourite Brewpub, and/or post your comments below