Forget the Landscape: Beer is the Real Reason to Visit New Zealand

Moa Brewing Co. New Zealand beer

American craft beer receives most of the attention, but other brewing destinations around the globe are certainly worth highlighting — like the New Zealand beer industry, for instance.

Sure, a trip to New Zealand will take Americans a long flight, but some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world alone would make the trip worth it. Add in fishing, adventure sporting, golfing, bustling cities, and some great beer, and there are no excuses not to look up flights (which include nonstop options from the U.S. by Air New Zealand, United and American Airlines).

It’d be a shame to go to this Pacific Ocean island and focus solely on beer, but it’d also be a shame to go all that way and not experience any New Zealand beer. Here are some of the highlights of the great New Zealand brewing scene.

First Stop: Wellington

The nation’s capital could also serve as New Zealand’s beer capital. Residents have supposedly dropped the “craft” from “craft beer,” referring to it as simply “beer” (as it probably should in the U.S.). The city likely consumes up to 50 percent of the nation’s well-crafted brews.

With a bunch of cool beer bars — including one in the basement of a former police station — and more than a dozen breweries, Wellington has more than enough brews to satisfy the pickiest palates. The town also hosts Beervana every August, a celebration of the country’s beer.

Beervana

Beervana/Facebook

The best bet for a great beer is Garage Project, a brewery housed in a former gas station and Jaguar mechanic garage. The brewers craft beers today with the same philosophy as when they started with a tiny system and continue to make interesting beers, like Angry Peaches, Bang Bang, and Bossa Nova. If the experimental brews are too much, just grab BEER, a simple and traditional pilsner. Garage Project has collaborated with Sierra Nevada and, more recently, Stone Brewing on a Double IPA with kiwi, yuzu, and habanero.

Tuatara Brewery

Tuatara Brewing

Also worth a visit would be Tuatara Brewing, just north of the capital. A large selection of draft and bottle options at the tasting room make the trek well worth it. Other cities touting hot beer scenes include Auckland and Nelson.

Don’t Forget the Other Breweries

There are plenty of optionsin Wellington to keep beer lovers busy, but the entire country has more than 90 breweries, including Moa Brewing and Deep Creek Brewing Co.

Deep Creek Brewing Co. won the 2017 Champion Small International Brewery at the Australian International Beer Awards. The famed spot  separates its beers by projects, like the Steam Funk Beer Project, Lupulin Effect IPA Project and the Nero Dark Beer Project. Deep Creek boasts three locations in Browns Bay, Auckland, and Waiheke Island.

Moa Brewing Co.

Moa Brewing Co.

Moa Brewing Co., located in the wine-making region of Marlborough, is your best bet for trying New Zealand beer in the U.S. without making the lengthy flight. The brewery distributes to Chicago, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

Moa’s standard lineup include a lager, pale ale, IPA, and pilsner, but the reserve collections includes South Pacific IPA, made with New Zealand hops, and Pilsner Methode, a pilsner finished with Champagne yeast and a New Zealand hop. Other beers in the reserve range include the Belgian Tripel St. Josephs, a five-hop English IPA, an oak-aged imperial stout and a North Pacific American Pale Ale.

It’s All About the Hops

New Zealand hops have gotten a lot of love from American brewers, specifically the white wine notes of the Nelson Sauvin and the citrusy Pacific Jade. Hops have thrived in New Zealand’s climate, much like the nation’s wine grapes.

The country’s farmers grow more than 25 varieties of hops, including American hops like Chinook and Willamette and U.K. hops like Fuggle and Golding. The climate and and soil offer a unique terrior to each crop.

But it’s New Zealand’s own species which help make the industry stand out, like the mojito lime-like Motueka, the orange zest-y Pacifica, the passion fruit-laced Riwaka, the peach and apricot Wai-iti, and the stone fruit- and fig-noted Rakau.