New Zealand is a beer-loving country if there ever was one.
Beer accounts for 63% of alcohol sales, stacking up to a rather impressive 64.7 litres of beer per person each year. The beer industry is stronger than it’s ever been and continues to grow, with more and more craft breweries opening on a yearly basis.
It may seem as though the New Zealand beer industry is hitting capacity in the market, but with only 10% of brewed beer being exported, there is still limitless potential for growth.
Join us as we find out everything you ever wanted to know about New Zealand beer brands, culture and what to drink!
Brief History of New Zealand Beer
The history of New Zealand beer is not particularly fascinating, as the indigenous people of New Zealand did not brew beer or any other alcoholic beverage. The first beer brewing in New Zealand started with the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century and continued at a slow and private pace until the first commercial brewery was started in 1835. English brew methods were introduced in the coming year, greatly influencing the style and types of beers that are still enjoyed in New Zealand today.
What Is The Most Popular Beer In New Zealand?
Speight’s original holds the title of the best-selling New Zealand Beer brand. Brewed by the lion breweries, Speight’s original beer is a New Zealand Draught style lager. Speight’s original is a malty beer with notes of fruits and hops on the back.
What Are The Other Major Beer Brands In New Zealand?
New Zealand is not a stranger to numerous breweries and New Zealand beer brands, With over 190 active breweries, it’s understandable that the New Zealand beer market is a vast one. Amongst these brands, there will always be a few that rise to the top.
- Speight’s – Speight’s is the top beer brand in New Zealand and the biggest beer brewery owned by Lion Breweries.
- Steinlager – Another heavy hitter by lion breweries, Steinlager is one of the biggest beer brands in New Zealand.
- Emerson Brewing Company – Emerson Brewing Company started off as what can be considered a craft brewery in 1993 but has now grown to a point that it can rival some bigger beer brands available in New Zealand.
- Panhead Custom Ales – Panhead Custom Ales is now owned by Lion Breweries, but that was not always the case. Starting out as a small craft brewery, the company saw growth described as a runaway train. Today, they still brew what can be considered craft beers, although the scale of production may be leaning away from the craft status.
- Monteith’s Brewing Company – Another small family run brewery which was eventually bought out by a larger brewery, except this time, not by Lion but by DB breweries. Monteith’s growth has been exponential as they rival some bigger New Zealand beers.
Does New Zealand Have Good Beer?
New Zealand beers are great.
Great in this case may be an understatement.
The competition between craft breweries in New Zealand is high, which has led to some of the highest quality beer to be found anywhere in the world. At the World Beer Awards in 2021, New Zealand-based Cassels Brewing Company managed to win the award for the best American Pale Ale.
This is not a one time event either, in the previous year Cassels Brewing Company won the award for best Milk Stout, beating out the world-famous Guinness. With the ever present competition, each brewery in New Zealand is striving to make the best, with this has come some truly world-class beers.
How Much Is Beer In New Zealand?
Drinking beer in New Zealand is not a cheap hobby.
With an average price of $6.12 (American dollars, not NZ dollars) beer in New Zealand is on average $2 more expensive per unit. While this is expensive, it is still well worth it for some of the fantastic New Zealand beers on offer.
Which New Zealand Beer Sponsors The All Blacks?
Steinlager have proudly been the sponsor of the All Blacks in one form or another since 1986.
What Are The Different Styles Of New Zealand Beer?
New Zealand style Draught is the most popular beer style in New Zealand. A variety of ales and lagers can also be found on a large scale. When it comes to the craft brewing industry in New Zealand, the sheer quantity allows for virtually every style of beer to be made. You would be hard-pressed to not find a beer to your liking in the New Zealand craft beer industry.
What Are The Best New Zealand Beers To Try?
New Zealand has a variety of award-winning beers that can compete with the best in the world, some of which are available throughout the country in any bar or restaurant.
- Speight’s Summit Ultra – The People of New Zealand are more health conscious than ever, with the additional carbs in the average beer not always being welcome. Speight’s Summit Ultra offers a crisp, refreshing lager with 75% less carbs than the average beer in New Zealand.
- Speight’s Gold Medal Ale – An award-winning Ale with deep flavouring of malt and hops. Speight’s Gold Medal Ale is well worth a try for any lover of deep flavoured and non-sweet beer
- Steinlager Classic – Steinlager classic provides a very balanced beer, which anybody will love. Crisp and refreshing with a tangy, citrusy finish.
What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in New Zealand?
Craft and Microbrew beers are where New Zealand beers really start to shine through, as there are thousands of great beers to try.
- Garage Project Mutiny on the Bounty – This imperial flavoured stout brings an incredibly complex favour of rich coconut, breadfruit and vanilla. For a fan of stout, this will not disappoint.
- Liberty Prohibition Porter – this imperial porter is best described as fruitcake aged in bourbon barrels. The front is sweet with charred wood and spices, with a finish as heavy as they come.
- Garage Project Chocolate Beer – The richest of chocolate aromas with a pallet perfect chocolate, minus the sweet. You would have a hard time finding a smoother or more delectably flavoured stout.
- 8 Wired Gypsy Funk – Aged in wine barrels for up to 2 years and then dry hopped results in one of the most sour, yet unique beers around. This is a must-try for any lover of sour things.
- Liberty Citra Double IPA – An incredibly strong, yet perfectly balanced double IPA. A sequence of sweet, sour and bitter all in perfect harmony leave this as one of the best double IPA’s in the business.
What Are The Best New Zealand Beers To Pair With New Zealand Food?
New Zealand is famous for some incredible seafood dishes which are a must-try when visiting. When it comes to beer pairing, the local craft beer scene will surly have you covered. While some particular seafood like oysters may favour a sour beer like the 8 Wired Gypsy Funk, there are some fantastic “do it all” beers with pair well with virtually any seafood. Any lighter pilsner will work especially well with the best food New Zealand has to offer.
How To Order A Beer In New Zealand
In New Zealand, the same norms apply as they would in any western based country. Be polite and ask for a beer. There is no special lingo used apart from a slang term for beer “piss” which can be considered inappropriate in some settings, so best not to use it.
Regional areas will often have their own nicknames, but none that would change your experience in ordering a beer. The only factor to keep in mind when visiting a bar or restaurant in New Zealand is that tipping is not expected, but appreciated, unlike in other countries.
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.
Jump To a Section Below
- Brief History of New Zealand Beer
- What Is The Most Popular Beer In New Zealand?
- What Are The Other Major Beer Brands In New Zealand?
- Does New Zealand Have Good Beer?
- How Much Is Beer In New Zealand?
- Which New Zealand Beer Sponsors The All Blacks?
- What Are The Different Styles Of New Zealand Beer?
- What Are The Best New Zealand Beers To Try?
- What are the Best Microbrew or Craft Beers in New Zealand?
- What Are The Best New Zealand Beers To Pair With New Zealand Food?
- How To Order A Beer In New Zealand