If there was ever a country that enjoyed a cold beer, it’s New Zealand. Beer sales are responsible for 63% of the alcoholic beverage market, which works out to an impressive 64.7 litres of beer consumed per person annually. An increasing number of small, independent breweries are contributing to the beer industry’s robust growth.
The New Zealand beer industry may appear to have reached its market saturation, but with only 10% of brewed beer being exported, there is enormous room for expansion. Not only is there an abundance of craft brewers, but the big breweries are also pushing for innovation and new products.
An Overview of Beer in New Zealand
The ancient people of New Zealand did not produce beer or any other alcoholic beverage, so the history of New Zealand beer is not very interesting. When Europeans settled on the land in the 18th century, they brought with them a tradition of brewing beer.
This practice began slowly and privately, but by 1835, the country had its first commercial brewery. The following year saw the introduction of English brewing techniques, which would have a lasting impact on the flavour and variety of beers consumed in New Zealand today.
As one might expect from a country with over 190 active breweries, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to delicious New Zealand beers. There will always be a handful of leaders among these brands. Lion Breweries’ flagship brand in the country has some of the most recognisable brews in the area. Another one of Lion Breweries’ heavy hitters, Steinlager is a fan-favourite among brewing enthusiasts.
How Many Varieties of New Zealand Beer Are There?
The beer style with the most success in New Zealand is New Zealand Draught. There is also a wide selection of ales and lagers available in bulk. The sheer size of New Zealand’s craft brewing industry makes it possible to produce nearly every variety of beer imaginable. Their craft beer scene is so diverse that it would be difficult to not find a beverage that tickles your taste buds.
Which New Zealand Beers Are a Must-Try?
You can find some award-winning New Zealand beers not just in bars or restaurants but online too, as they hold their own against the best in the world. And here are some must-try examples for you to consider:
Speight’s Summit Ultra
New Zealanders are becoming increasingly health-conscious and may not appreciate the extra carbohydrates typically found in beer. Speight’s Summit Ultra is a low-carb lager that has 75% fewer carbohydrates than the typical New Zealand beer. This beer is light, crisp and easy to drink with a slightly hoppy finish.
Speight’s Gold Medal Ale
This is a malty and hoppy ale that has won numerous awards. If you enjoy non-sweet beers with robust flavours, you should give Speight’s Gold Medal Ale a try. The lightly bitter taste of this ale is complemented by a smooth, buttery finish that lingers in the mouth.
Anyone can appreciate the well-rounded flavour of Steinlager Classic. Light and zesty, like the citrous at the end of lemonade, this beverage is a welcome refreshment. There are thousands of excellent beers available in New Zealand, but they all start to shine in the craft and microbrew categories.
The Garage Project Chocolate
This is the beer with the deepest chocolate flavour without any sugar. You won’t find a stout with more mellowness or more enticing flavour anywhere else. Its creamy texture and roasted chocolate notes create a unique tasting experience that leaves you wanting more.
Wired Gypsy Funk
Extremely sour and one-of-a-kind beer is 8 Wired Gypsy Funk, aged for up to two years in wine barrels before being dry hopped. If you enjoy sour flavours, you absolutely must try this. The subtle hints of oak, spice and fruit add complexity to the beer’s tartness. With its intense flavour, this beer is certain to be a hit.
New Zealand Beer and Local Cuisine
When in New Zealand, don’t leave without trying one of the country’s world-famous seafood dishes. If you’re looking for a good beer to go with a meal, the local craft beer scene has you covered. It’s true that some seafood, like oysters, goes better with a sour beer like 8 Wired Gypsy Funk, but there are also great “do it all” beers that go with just about any seafood. It goes without saying that the finest cuisine New Zealand has to offer pairs splendidly with any lighter pilsner.
New Zealand Beer Etiquette
Whether you like to occasionally enjoy a beer at the local bar or you are a fanatic up-and-coming beer-brewer in search of homebrewing supplies and ingredients, the rules in New Zealand are the same as those in any other western nation. As per usual, one is to ask for a beer politely.
The only slang term for beer is “piss,” which is best avoided because it is considered rude in some circles. Local areas may use their own slang terms for things like beer, but you won’t notice any significant differences when you go to order one. When visiting a bar or restaurant in New Zealand, the only thing to remember is that tipping is not expected, but always appreciated.