New Zealanders have been rather partial to a beer, ever since Captain Cook brewed the country’s first beer on 27th March 1773 in Dusky Sound. To combat scurvy amongst his sailors he experimented with using rimu and manuka, thinking: 

” would make a very wholesome beer, and supply the want of vegetables, which this place did not afford…”  - James Cook, A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, Volume 1

A fair few Kiwis have shown a preference for beer over vegetables since then. Captain Cook’s beer included the tips and leaves of manuka; it is the inspiration for the popular Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, brewed by the Mussell Inn at Onekakā, Golden Bay, since 1995.

From 1917 until 1967 pubs had to shut at 6p.m., leading to the infamous “six o’clock swill” as workers attempted to drink as much as possible in the hour between work ending and the pub shutting. For much of the twentieth century the beerscape was dominated by two major breweries, and most of their output was lager or draught and pretty unremarkable. We’ve come a long way since then. Rather than a handle of generic, bland beer, set on a wet towel emblazoned with a major brand’s name, you can now enjoy any manner of intriguing brews, created with love by micro-breweries around the country.

To celebrate this diversity of deliciousness we’ve put together an edit combining some of our favourite things – places you can enjoy a flavoursome beer on holiday, preferably with a pleasing view, and places you can take the children too, if you have them. 

Note - beer is many things to many people, and some of our best friends despise “craft beer”, thinking it the preserve of snobs and hipsters. However, we think it’s fantastic NZ has such a choice of homegrown beers with character, produced with passion by small, locally owned breweries, run by people who get all excited about the magic of combining water, hops, malts and yeast to make a fine beer. Without adding sugar, preservatives and the like.



Reputedly, New Zealand’s first commercial brewery was established in Kororareka, near present day Russell, in 1835. While we don’t know of any micro-brewery currently located in Russell, you can enjoy a craft beer in historic surrounds at the Duke of Marlborough or The Gables (re-opening September) .

Waipu Cove

Further south, Waipu Cove is a beautiful piece of coast, great for a swim or a surf. After that you might fancy a cold drink - head to Waipu Pizza Barn, a very popular spot for a meal, with a range of craft beers, and a play area for children.

Where to stay

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Auckland City

Our largest city has its fair share of great microbreweries and places to try a local craft beer. In the city, an established brewpub with a traditional feel and a loyal following is Galbraith’s Alehouse. For a more modern, designy aesthetic, and a great range of local and imported craft beers that you can enjoy there with food, or take away, try Brothers Beer in the City Works Depot. Brothers Beer stocks bottles from talented, Auckland craft-brewers such as Epic Beer, Schipper’s Beer, and Liberty Brewing Co. Brothers Beer have recently opened Brothers Juke Joint at 5 Akiraho St, Mt Eden, which offers BBQ food, a sandpit and loads of vintage toys, as well as great beers. Other bars that have local craft beer on tap include Vultures’ Lane, downtown, and The Lumsden Freehouse, in Newmarket.

Out of town

If you’re after a scenic, child-friendly spot to enjoy a craft beer, we highly recommend The Sawmill Cafe up in Leigh. After a day snorkeling at Goat Island or running about on Pakiri Beach, the children can wander in the lovely garden while you enjoy a drop from Leigh Sawmill Brewing Company, with good food too. Another favourite is Hallertau Brewbar in Riverhead, very handy after working up a thirst mountain-biking at Woodhill. We like the way you can watch the kiddies on the playground while sampling Hallertau’s various brews, with bread and dips. Waiheke Island Brewery is based at Wild On Waiheke vineyard - you can try one of their brews after a spot of archery amongst the vines, or other outdoor activities. There’s a playground, trampoline and sandpit for children. Deep Creek Brewing Co. make small batch, full-flavoured beers, from their brewery in Brown’s Bay. You can enjoy a beer straight from the gleaming tanks, with good food and great views of the beach. You’ll find them at Orewa and Waiheke as well.


The New Zealand Beer Festival takes place in March in Auckland, with craft beer, food matches and live music.

Where to stay

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Whitianga: Bay Brewery Bistro

It’s best to drink beer in the shadow of the brewery, according to Bay Brewery Bistro, in Whitianga. Or in their sun-dappled garden bar, as the case may be. They cook with local, fresh produce and organic, free range meat -  a fitting accompaniment to lovingly crafted beers. Which we imagine would taste especially good after a day out fishing or messing about in boats.

Hot Water Beach, Hahei: Hot Water Brewing Co and the Pour House

At Hot Water Beach, you might want to surf or dig your own little hot pool, then head to Hot Water Brewing Co. for a local beer and bite to eat outdoors. They do their Golden Steamer Ale, Kauri Falls Pale Ale and Walker’s Porter in cans, so you could add to someone’s rare can collection while you’re at it. If you’d like to try something from the Coromandel Brewing Company, they have recently opened the Pour House, their new brewery and bar in Hahei. Try the Good as Gold Pilsner or Easy Rider Pale Ale with their wood fired pizzas, handmade on the premises.

Where to stay

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Bay of Plenty


Rotorua is a bit magic, with all that thermal activity and wafting steam. There’s plenty of scope to work up a thirst, mountain-biking the legendary trails of Whakarewarewa or paddling, swimming or running round any number of scenic lakes. So fortunately Paul Croucher and Nigel Gregory, of the award-winning local Croucher Brewing Co, have opened their own pub and coffee roastery, Brew, where you can slake your thirst and tuck into a meal. There’s a Brew Tauranga too, if you’re over that way.

Mata Beer, Kawerau

What do we know about Kawerau? Forestry, Sarah Walker, BMX… Yes, but another Kawerau woman deserving of note, respect and a raised glass, is Tammy Viitakangas, Managing Director and Head Brewer at Aotearoa Breweries, maker of the award-winning Mata beers. These beers are hand-crafted, using only natural ingredients, and 100% pure artesian water sourced specially from a local acquifer. Not only do the family behind Mata make very flavoursome beers, they also work hard at sustainability, and have beer match recipes, such as Mata Manuka with BBQ Chilli Kelp Crayfish. Nice. You can enjoy Mata beer on tap at Vaudeville, a quirky and theatrical new bar in Mount Maunganui.

Where to stay

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Visitors might come to Taranaki for the surf, the mountain, whitebait, or festivals such as Womad or the Garden Spectacular. If you’re in the ‘Naki we strongly suggest you stop off at Mike’s Organic Brewery in Urenui. Mike’s Organic Ale has won numerous awards, and Mike’s Coffee Porter won awards at BGNZ three years in a row. You can try a tasting selection of excellent, organic beers, in a cool old railway hall building, and then buy your favourites by the bottle to take away with you. You can take a brewery tour, there’s pizza and other food, outdoor seating and a quirky, relaxed atmosphere. The annual Oktoberfest at Mike’s is on October 25th in 2014. Dress up and revel in games, live music, food and flowing beer; tickets always sell out so book early.

Where to stay

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Wellington - the Craft Beer Capital

Wellington has gone a bit nuts for craft beer. Touting itself as the Craft Beer Capital, there’s a website to prove it, with a handy printable beer map, so you can work your way around the city’s 17 craft beer bars, 8 established breweries or brew bars, and two contract brewers. You can get stamps on your map, like kiddies at the zoo, or just revel in the beer-fervour, try some amazing brews and good food to match.

Craft Beer bars

Hashigo Zake (“Cult Beer Bar”) offers a mind-boggling array of beers from here and abroad, which you could soak up with a made-to-order pie, or udon noodles.  For excellent beer and food matches try Fork and Brewer – they have 40 taps on a giant barrel, and a flair for superb food too. They use beer and brewing by-products imaginatively in some dishes. If you’re after somewhere very child-friendly where you can enjoy a craft beer, fresh food or coffee, try The Southern Cross. It’s a welcoming place, with a sense of community, lots of different spaces, board games, and loads on, from knitting circles to great live music. The Sprig and Fern in Tinakori Rd is also good for families. Rogue and Vagabond has an outdoor area, where you can enjoy a beer, with your dog at your feet. For a bit of greenery, try the Hop Garden on the lower slopes of Mount Victoria. The bar has twelve taps, and a vine-covered garden patio – there’s an emphasis on outstanding food and wine too. If craft beer is a religion in Wellington, then The Malthouse is its high altar, according to Tuatara at least. The Malthouse, in Courtenay Place, has a gob-smacking 27 taps, covering a who’s who of craft brewing in NZ. There are 6 separate fridges set at the perfect temperatures for serving their respective contents.

Craft breweries

Yeastie Boys Stu McKinlay and Sam Possenniskie have earnt a big reputation and a truckload of accolades, especially for their flagship beer, Pot Kettle Black. Their favourite beer is their smoky Rex Attitude: “an audacious ale that looks like a premium lager but drinks like an Islay whisky. Be afraid.”.

Garage Project create a dizzying list of beers, many experimental, which you can read about on their beautifully designed and often hilarious website. Garage Project picked up a Silver Medal at the World Beer Cup for their Cockswain’s Courage Double Barreled Porter. Their cellar door is a handsomely tiled place, and their inventiveness extends to Mash Bones, delightfully packaged chews for pooches, made from spent mash.

Parrotdog have won awards for their Bloody Dingo (Imperial Red IPA) and Bitter Bitch (IPA). There’s an off-license at their brewery in Vivian St, should you wish to head down and fill up your rigger.

Upper Hutt

In Upper Hutt, Kereru Brewing are keeping it local, using NZ Gladfield malts and NZ hops to create both traditional and gluten-free craft beer. They’ve won medals for their Moonless Stout, and For Great Justice, Wood Fired Toasted Coconut Porter. Charmingly cheerful labels too.


Tuatara is a wildly successful brewery and while they’re not quite in Wellington, they’re just a train-ride away in Paraparaumu. They brew true to style, making the effort to get Belgian yeast for Belgian ales, for example. Tuatara has won oodles of awards for their Hefe and their Pilsener, amongst others. Their brewery tour gets a thumbs up.

Where to stay

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Nelson - Golden Bay

Nelson - The Craft Brewing Capital

Towering hops! Nelson and beer go way back.  In the 1840s German and English settlers found the temperate Moutere region to be perfect for growing hops, and beer has been brewed here ever since. Hops are a vital ingredient in beer, providing the bitterness to balance the malts, as well as helping to preserve the beer. Hop gardens were important to early Nelson, with school holidays timed to allow all the family to help with the harvest. Nelson is still the centre of NZ’s hop-growing industry, producing hops that are famous here and abroad thanks to the unique aromatic varieties that have been cultivated. Toss around hop names like Riwaka, Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Jade if you’re bluffing as a beer boffin.  Head to Nelson’s Craft Brewing Capital website to download the Nelson Beer Trail map, then spend some time wending your way around interesting breweries and bars, making the most of the famous Nelson sunshine.

Breweries and Craft Beer bars in Nelson

Founders has been brewing in Nelson since 1854, when Joseph Dodson started making beer here. Six generations later, his family are still proudly brewing. The Founders Brewery, Bar and Café is set in Founders Heritage Park. There’s outdoor seating in the Hop Garden and front courtyard, and more inside.  There’s a playground to keep the nippers happy.

Stoke beers are brewed by McCashins Brewery, which also makes Rochdale Cider. Terry and Bev McCashin bought the brewery from Rochdale Cider in 1980, back in the dark days when beer is NZ was produced by a big, commercial duopoly. Terry and Bev started hand-crafting beer from organic, local ingredients with their Mac’s brand, since taken over by Lion. You can hear the tale of NZ’s craft-brewing revolution on a tour of the brewery ($10), then sample some of their award-winning Stoke beers at the busy café and bar. It’s open all day, with coffee, wood-fired pizza and other good food.

The Sprig and Fern Brewery makes full flavoured, unpasteurised craft beers and ciders in Nelson, from natural ingredients. Head brewer Tracy Banner owns the brewery with her husband Ken. Tracy has spent decades perfecting her brewing techniques in the UK and NZ, and has a slew of awards to show for it. You can buy the full range of beers in Sprig and Fern taverns – there are 8 of them. The Milton Street Sprig and Fern in Nelson was named NZ’s Best Bar in the 2012 Hospitality NZ Awards. You can hang your bike on the flash rack outside, order food from the bar, or get takeaways from next door delivered to your table.

The Moutere Inn was built in 1850 and is believed to be the oldest pub in NZ. It was originally a resting place between Richmond and Motueka, in the midst of the hop-growing area. Drink in the views, the history and something from the astonishingly diverse drinks list. Craft beer is served through three traditional beer engines, thirteen other taps and in bottles, or try local wines if you’d rather. Meals are served from midday, Wednesday to Sunday.

The Mussell Inn (re-opening September) is set in Golden Bay, a 2 hour drive over the Takaka hill from Nelson. Built and run by the Dixon family, it’s a rustic place, with lots of chunky wooden furniture, an open fire, homemade food such as their famous steamed mussels, and a leafy garden area outside. They have live music, and a big local following. The Mussel Inn flagship brew is Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, flavoured with the freshly picked tips of the manuka tree, in a nod to the first beer brewed in NZ, by Captain Cook. They brew other beers, cider and their own soft drinks too.

The Freehouse regularly gets called the best pub in Nelson, or even NZ. It’s set in an old church, with a sunny garden, featuring a Mongolian yurt. They take beer very seriously, and offer a huge and ever-changing range. They also provide food, board games and a great atmosphere.

Craft Beer Festivals in Nelson

Marchfest is an annual beer and music festival held in Founders Park in Nelson, with entertainment for all the family.

Where to stay

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Breweries of note in Blenheim

Renaissance Brewing Company only use locally grown hops, to produce their range of award-winning beers. They’ve won medals for their Elemental Porter, their Marlborough Pale Ale and many others. Taste their work next door to the brewery at the Dodson Street Ale House, which has the entire Renaissance range on tap, as well as beers and ciders from further afield. Dodson Street also offers a beer garden and family friendly pizzeria.

Moa Brewing Company was founded in 2003 by Josh Scott, son of well-known Marlborough wine-maker Allan Scott. Josh Scott qualified as a winemaker but was always more interested in brewing beer. Producing beer got him in a spot of bother at boarding school, but has led to success and accolades in the last decade. Moa beer is handcrafted with a focus on local ingredients, including NZ hops; unfiltered and unpasteurised, it benefits from winemaking techniques such as barrel-aging and bottle fermentation, and some, such as the award-winning Blanc Evolution, are even sealed with a muselet – the fancy little cage top that stops the cork bursting out. Visitors are welcome at the brewery, Jacksons Rd, Blenheim, from 11am-5pm.

Inspired by the famous Kiwi can-do mentality, Søren Eriksen started 8 Wired Brewing Co in Blenheim in 2009, and in 2011 the company was named NZ Champion Brewery at the Brewers’ Guild of NZ Awards – fast work. 8 Wired is also the only NZ brewery in the Top 100 Brewers in the world for 2014. Try one of their beers at their local “home turf”: Scotch Wine Bar, 26 Maxwell St, Blenheim, where you’ll find 4 permanent 8 Wired taps, and a goodly selection of bottles, burgers and tapas.

Where to stay

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Christchurch has a proud tradition of brewing and enjoying good beer. This continues despite the earthquake of February 2011, which wreaked havoc on the city. While the quake forced the closure of the legendary Dux De Luxe venue, the Dux continues with separate brewing, live venue and restaurant arms. New venues have opened, and the choice and quality of beers on offer seems ever-increasing.

The Tannery is an exciting post-quake development in a historic precinct. The arcade houses a range of boutique shops, restaurants and bars, including Cassel’s and Sons Brewery. Cassel’s and Sons are passionate craft brewers, using a sustainable wood-fired brew kettle, artesian water and natural grains. Despite their losses in the quake, they’ve come back twice as strong, with a brewery, bar, live music venue and café. There’s an outdoor area, good food and lots of happy punters.

With Lion Breweries Christchurch plant closed by the earthquake, successful craft brewery Harrington’s is now the largest brewer in the city, with breweries, outlets and restaurant bars.  Harrington’s is a family-owned brewery, started in 1991 by John Harrington – the “Big John” beer was named in his honour. Harrington’s offers contract brewing, as well as producing at least 16 beers of their own, such as the award-winning Pig and Whistle Mild Dark Ale, and the Clydesdale Stout.

Another Christchurch institution is Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn. “It’s craft beer heaven” according to one beer enthusiast. There are 13 regular taps and 11 guest taps, with two permanently dedicated to the Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired. Set in a heritage building that was the official Wards Brewery in the 19th century, “Poms” has charm, comfort and history. It’s owned and run by Steve and Victoria Pomeroy, looking after the beer and the food and aesthetic side respectively.

Canterbury Malt

Canterbury is one of the best places in the southern hemisphere for growing malting barley. The grain waving in those golden fields makes its way into a number of fine local beers. Two Thumb Brewing Co, Three Boys, Cassels and Sons and the Twisted Hop are just some of the brewers using Gladfield Malt, along with others up and down the country.

The Twisted Hop in Woolston is a craft brew pub making cask beer in the traditional English way. Their beers use Canterbury malt and NZ hops, and undergo the final fermentation in the barrel they’re served from. Try their cask-conditioned beer, served by hand pump, at 12 degrees; there are guest beers and ciders too. There is seating indoors or out on a sheltered deck, and the food gets good reviews too.

Canterbury Craft Beer Festivals

In March Christchurch’s beer enthusiasts flock to the Great Kiwi Beer Festival. At the last festival about 13,000 ate, drank and made merry, while bands played and the sun shone in Hagley Park.

Where to stay

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Queenstown Lakes

Craft Beer Brewers around Queenstown-Lakes

Wanaka Beerworks has been making craft beer since 1998. They’re famous for Brewski, Cardrona Gold, and a range of seasonal beers, with names celebrating the alpine environment. The stronger Brewer’s Selection beers have interesting ingredients such as spelt and cardomom.The tasting room is open from 11am- 4pm, and there are tours of the brewery at 2pm, except on Wednesdays.

Queenstown Brewers is a small contract brewery started by John Wallace, who uses South Island malts and NZ hops to make traditional beer styles with a Kiwi twist.

Craft Beer Bars around Queenstown-Lakes

For craft beer in Queenstown try Atlas Beer Cafe, a small, friendly place tucked at the back of Steamer Wharf. They have Emersons on tap, outdoor seating, are open from breakfast on, and get rave reviews for their steak.

Set in the pretty surrounds of historic Arrowtown, The Fork and Tap serves up craft beers and cider, local wines and good food. There is a sunny garden bar outside, and it’s very family-friendly, with a children’s play area and sandpits. If you want to stock up on craft beer and local wines to take back to the bach, try Pembroke Wines and Spirits in Wanaka. They’re friendly, knowledgeable, and you can have a drink with the locals while choosing.

Where to stay

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Craft Beer Brewers in Dunedin

Emerson’s Brewery makes full-flavoured, true to style, natural, living beers with great consistency. Brewing legend Richard Emerson started Emerson’s Brewery in 1992 and in 1997 Emerson’s won the NZ Champion Brewery Award. Emerson’s Pilsner with its Riwaka Hops and unique fruitiness has won awards and is much-loved. (I remember how revolutionary and delicious it seemed compared to other beers in the ‘90s) The Weissbeer and Bookbinder Bitter have also won awards and fans. Emerson’s does not appear in the Beer Tourist guide, because in 2012 Emerson’s was bought by Lion, owned by Kirin, so it doesn’t fit the locally-owned criterion. Richard Emerson has stayed on and Emerson’s still produces fantastic craft beer.

Green Man Brewery makes hand-crafted, batch brewed beers according to the Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516. They also make cider, ginger beer and some brews with unsual additions, such as tequila. Sustainability is a focus too, with effort put into reusing bottles and keeping down the carbon footprint. There are brewery tours for $20, with tastings.

Velvet Worm Brewery is named after the rare Velvet Worm caterpillar found only in Dunedin. The brewery is fittingly small, unique and local. Velvet Worm produces craft ales and cider.

McDuffs Brewery has been brewing ales with natural ingredients since the ‘80s. McDuffs is set in the middle of Dunedin’s student zone, making it handy for all those scarfies to head into the brewery shop at 695 Great King Street Dunedin to pick up a six pack, rigger or keg.

Craft Beer Bars in Dunedin

Albar at 135 Stuart St, is a cosy little bar with traditional hand-pump beer, and Emerson’s on tap. They also serve tapas and many, many whiskies.

The Bund, a rather stylish Café, Bistro and Bar at 16 The Octagon, sits next to the Regent Theatre. They currently have Velvet Worm on tap, and Emersons by the bottle. The menu looks very tempting and they’re open from 8am.

Inch Bar, at 8 Bank St, opposite the Botanic Gardens in north Dunedin, is a tapas bar and live music venue. They have Tuatara and Emersons on tap, as well as Velvet Worm, at times.

Plato, a relaxed, retro-styled restaurant at 2 Birch St, is also home to Birch Street Brewery. There’s craft beer on tap, lots of seafood, live music some nights, and plenty of quirky memorabilia.

If you’d like some rock ‘n’ roll with your beer, head to Chick’s Hotel a legendary gig venue in Port Chalmers.

Also in Port Chalmers, The Portsider Bar and Restaurant at 31 George St, gets glowing reviews for its craft beers, good food, décor, friendly atmosphere and log fire.

Dunedin Craft Beer Festivals

Dunedin Craft Beer Expo offers over 100 unique beers, matched with great food and music in Dunedin’s most photographed building, the Dunedin Train Station. Sat 20th September, 2014

Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival is a celebration of the brewing and culinary heritage of Otago. Held at The Forsyth Barr Stadium, it takes place on Sat 4th October 2014.

Where to stay

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Craft Beer in Invercargill

Invercargill Brewery is NZ’s southernmost brewery. Steve Nally makes boutique beers and cider, as well as doing contract brewing for other craft brewers. Pitch Black Stout has won many awards, and apparently goes nicely with chocolate cake or seafood such as Bluff oysters. For $20 you can do a brewery tour with tastings, at 1pm. Take along a flagon or rigger, and fill up with your favourite brew. You could bring it along for a picnic in the nearby Queens Park, which has landscaped gardens, a golf course, duck pond, playground and kiddy zoo. You might want to stock up for a jaunt around the scenic bottom of the South Island too, in search of those oysters perhaps.

Where to stay

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