As I type these words, I sit in the Wellington airport awaiting the start of my lengthy journey to Auckland, Los Angeles and finally Toronto. It has been a long way to come to drink beer, but i think it was worth it. Here’s why.
1) One of the reasons i came here was to investigate New Zealand hops, which a number of U.S. and U.K. brewers have been taking a shine to lately. What i found is that they are exactly as interesting, characterful and flavoursome as you’ve been hearing. Not enough are being grown at present, but i expect that will change.
2) Kiwi brewers, by and large, have no idea what they are sitting on down here. Richard Emerson at Emerson Brewing has developed a wonderfully different sort of pilsner using New Zealand hops, and others have followed suit on both the lager and ale side of the ledger, but generally they seem unaware of the potential gold mine that resides in these styles. That, too, will undoubtedly change.
3) Don’t be surprised if sometime over the next couple of years you start hearing about New Zealand style beers. For me, the pilsner is the most glorious, but it will likely be the Kiwi pale ale/IPA that takes off, led by breweries like Tuartara and 8 Wired.
4) Captain Cooker Manuka Beer. Remember it.
5) The first big NZ beer presence you can expect in the U.S. will be Moa, which just hooked up with Whole foods. Watch for Five Hop and Méthode.
6) The largest craft brewery in New Zealand is miniscule by North American standards. This is a country desperately in need of both hop acreage and brewing capacity.
More later. Plane is boarding.