On The Hops
Cityscape talks to some of the city’s brewing craftspeople about the reasons for the craft beer boom, their motivations, and a few of their drops to watch out for.
Jumped on the craft beer/boutique beer appreciation train yet? With the number of craft breweries in the country increasing from just 3 around 1980 to closer to 80 today, it’s fair to say our beer horizons have massively expanded, and with increasing numbers of bustling brew-pubs, beer-focussed bars/cafes/restaurants, boutique beer stores and local craft breweries popping up, Christchurch might just be getting ideas about giving Wellington and Nelson run for their money in the contest to be the nation’s craft beer capital.
Local brewers all agree that New Zealand is part of a worldwide surge of interest in craft beer at present, perhaps spurred on in particular locally by the sense that there’s a bit of catching up to do. “I think the main driver is the fact that New Zealand is rediscovering the huge range of styles and flavours that beer has to offer. We no longer think of beer as just the brown fizzy stuff that monopolised the local market in the past” says Three Boys’ Ralph Bungard. Raindog Brewing Co’s Sean Harris concurs, “There’s a world of styles and flavours of beers that craft brewers and consumers are rediscovering that was lost to the corporate pale bland lagers that took over the world in the last century.”
The city’s craft brewers are excited to lead the movement back to variety and quality for the nation’s favourite tipple. “Beer choice in New Zealand has for so long been limited; we are finally enjoying the variety of flavours and styles the rest of the world has been enjoying for so long” says Golden Eagle Brewery’s David Gaughan.
Part of the advantage that craft brewers have is agility, with smaller-scale logistics making it easier to turn out special or seasonal brews and keep the variety that consumers are after coming. “Variety is my inspiration; I love bringing the flavours of the world into my beers and putting my own little twist on the official styles” says David. It’s a rare craft brewer that doesn’t have one secret or seasonal project on the go somewhere. Winter at Three Boys is all about Oyster Stout “…which happens to be New Zealand’s most awarded beer!” Ralph notes proudly. “But we are just in the process of brewing our Red Ale and our Smoked Ale again; they will be great over winter.” Golden Eagle also has a seasonal brew in the pipeline, as David reveals: “We are doing a series of beers termed the 'Four Saisons'. We release our winter variety in July, called Marilyn – an 8.5% dark beer spiced with rum and anise.” At Raindog, it’s not a case of a new brew this winter, but rather some previous hard work now really starting to hit its stride. “My Singularity Imperial Stout has had close to a year of cellaring now and is starting to taste great!” Sean says, bidding us to keep an eye out for 500ml bottles of the brew in question over the colder months.
Meet the Makers
Former engineer David Gaughan followed his true passion by creating Golden Eagle brewery in 2010. Golden Eagle’s beers have been making a name for themselves since the get-go, with the likes of The Bitter End (referred to as the most authentic English Bitter in New Zealand), the Big Yank American IPA (a dark, hoppy IPA at 7.5%) and the blacker-than-black Coalface Stout picking up fans both locally and nationally.
Family-owned Three Boys Brewery have made a name for themselves with the personal attention they pay to each of their small-scale brews, carefully mothering each batch until their unfiltered, unpasteurised beer leaves their Ferry Road operation. The goal is a simple one: turning out the best possible beer with the finest possible taste. It’s an approach that’s seen them rack up awards aplenty, and demand for their liquid gold sees it exported as far as the UK.
Raindogs Brewing Co sneak bold and tasty beers out of their shared space with Golden Eagle Brewery on Riccarton Road. Local ingredients are used in the creation of brews like the Apothecary Amber, brewed with Kiwi hops, and the style-bending (and grammatically apt) Oxymoron Black IPA, a hoppy, drinkable IPA-like beer that is nonetheless black as a stout
or porter (drink with your eyes closed to minimise confusion!).
Other local breweries doing the business include Harringtons, Hop Baron, Wigram Brewing Company, Fiasco, Two Thumbs Brewing Co., Monsoon Beer, Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn and Ghost Brewing Company.
Once almost the exclusive domain of wine enthusiasts, food matching is now being taken seriously as a discipline for beer too (anything wine can do, beer can do as well!). Here are a
few handy rules of thumb when making your order or whipping up the perfect food-and-beer combo yourself at home:
LAGER Asian, BBQ, Beef, Cheese, Fish, Indian, Italian, Lamb, Mexican, Pork & Ham, Poultry, Seafood, Spicy
NZ DRAUGHT BBQ, Beef, Game Meat, Lamb, Pork & Ham
PALE ALE BBQ, Beef, Cheese, Dessert, Fish, Game Meat, Indian, Italian, Lamb, Pork & Ham, Poultry, Seafood
PILSNER Asian, BBQ, Cheese, Fish, Indian, Italian, Lamb, Mexican, Pork & Ham, Poultry, Spicy
WHEAT Asian, Cheese, Dessert, Fish, Seafood
DARK BEER BBQ, Beef, Cheese, Dessert, Game Meat, Pork & Ham, Seafood
POMEROY’S OLD BREWERY INN Home to brewing aristocracy in the form of the Beer Baroness (Ava Wilson), Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn (or Pom’s to those in the know) continues mid-19th Century brewery traditions established by their building’s original owners, Wards Brewery, and like to mix things up at their heritage site with their own craft beer on tap, served alongside some of the country’s top craft brews (including numerous seasonal and limited run varieties) and international stars. Match a brew to something from their menu of superior pub grub.
VOLSTEAD TRADING COMPANY You’ll find craft beers of all stripes and a super relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy them at Volstead – there’s one of the widest selections available in the city, and something to tickle your fancy no matter what your specific tastes are. Choose from local brews, plenty of Godzone’s best from up and down the country and famous world beers from as far afield as Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Wales, and the US. The Mexican street food goes down a
CIVIL & NAVAL Lyttelton den of cool Civil & Naval makes a concerted effort to be the biggest little brew bar, paying careful attention to their beer selection. Three draft beers rotate daily and beers from 12 local breweries are available – if they can’t drive to the brewery, they don’t do business! As a rule of thumb, on their taps you’ll find a blonde, a hoppy number, and a dark, while further back in the fridge you’ll find a host of local brews by the bottle, including Lyttelton’s own Eruption Brewing. The newly covered beer garden is a great place to relax with the bevvy of your choice and some tasty tapas.
THE BEER LIBRARY When Beer Library owner Garth Peterson moved here from Chicago and couldn’t find enough craft beer to buy for his own liking, he took it upon himself to solve the problem directly. Garth’s beer-lover’s haven in Sydenham now offers the largest selection of craft beer available in the region, with a huge bottled selection, a tasting lounge/reading room, and a draft station for growler/rigger fills. Time to go check something out of the library!
CASTROLS GARAGE The revamped Castrols Garage at the corner of Victoria and Montreal is taking beer as seriously as its former incarnation took sammies, with Golden Eagle Pilsner, IPA, and Stout on tap, as well as Harringtons Rogue Hop Pilsner, Cassels Milk Stout, and Raindog’s APA. In addition to all the Christchurch brews there’s an extensive bottled range from Altitude Brewery (Queenstown), as well as a few North Island gems. Line up a gourmet pizza and a pint at the start of your Vic Street pub crawl, or just settle in for the evening!
KAIZUKA EATERY & GARDEN BAR The new eatery in Cashmere takes its beer seriously, and is another bar admirably dedicated to supporting local brewers. They feature 8 taps and 4 hand pumps which regularly change, with the likes of Golden Eagle, Cassels, Fiasco, Three Boys, Tuatara, and the Twisted Hop’s ales, with options from an easygoing 2.7% right up to a hearty 6%. Can’t decide? Go for an $8 tasting paddle and try three different beers, talk to the bar staff who are all trained up on suggesting a beer that to suit your specific tastes, or just grab the week’s $10 pint. If you’re peckish they’ll sort you out with some good gastro-pub fare, too.
Keep these on your craft beer radar, too: The Twisted Hop and their English-style real ale in Woolston, the darkroom’s excellent range of national and international tap and bottled craft beers, Amberley-based brewery Brew Moon’s locally-infused flavours, Cassels and Son’s popular gastro-pub hangout The Brewery at The Tannery, sipping seasonal releases in civilised surroundings at The Villas, newly-opened craft beer fillery Punky Brewster, the garage-grunge-chic of the newly relocated Smash Palace, The Institution’s boutique craft beer haven with a speakeasy feel, boutique brews by the bucketful at Dragons Den Social Lounge, and a sweet little selection on tap and by the bottle at the southern-fried Boo Radley’s.