Jen and I recently took a trip to New Zealand for vacation and being the beer geek I am I did some research on the best places to get a beer in the country. I did a little research on what New Zealand had going on the beer front. If things went well I figured I could convince Jen to segway to a couple of special beer spots along our Journey.
Unless you're traveling to Germany, Czech Republic, or Belgium, you won't find much about beer in the guidebook. You have to do a little Googling ahead of time. This article by a New Zealand brewmaster and beer expert, Luke Nicholas, gave me a great head start. http://www.getfrank.co.nz/top-6-beer-towns-in-new-zealand-2 It's worth a read if you're headed there and looking to taste more than their great wines. Also get the Lonely Planet guidebook. We had a couple of guide books and the Lonely planet was far and away the better. It had something to say about almost every little town we came across and much more depth in the bigger ones.
We stopped in three small craft breweries and one large brewpub chain while we were there (it's wasn't JUST a beer trip after all).
The bottom line takeaway: New Zealand is an amazing place that everyone should put on their list to visit the people and places are just wonderful. Their beer is still young but there are some enterprising craft brewers (64 or so) that are pushing the envelope. they have some of their own types of hops and are working on creating their own style. The NZ beers tend to be on the lighter bodied side. They make excellent pilsners, pale ales, and some great IPAs. Their malty beers, such as Brown ales, porters, stouts etc. tended to be thin and a bit watery. My conjecture is that the NZ palate prefers the more refreshing paler end of the spectrum. It makes sense since there is a very strong outdoor culture. When the farmers, trampers, bungy jumpers, and caravaners are done with a day of tossing their bodies around and putting in a days work outside they want something that refreshes but still bold. They tend to favor spicy pilsners and hoppy pale ales. Not a bad thing but it does slant the range a bit and I found the porters and stouts (my personal leaning) a bit wanting. So, when in Rome...
The brewers, bartenders, and people we met were all first class, friendly, and excited to meet us. I hope to go back soon. I'll be posting up a few more posts presently on some of my specific favorite breweries we tried along the way. Stay Tuned!