With 50 small breweries in New Zealand there is a massive number of beers one must try to find the best the country makes. So if you are just starting your search for the best New Zealand beers, or someone just visiting New Zealand with limited time on your hands, here are the Top 6 “Must Try” New Zealand beers.
These beers are world class, coming from the most innovative and adventurous brewers in New Zealand. If you have the time, try the rest of the beers from these breweries you will be seriously satisfied. Actually this list probably lists the top 6 best breweries in New Zealand.
(Note: this list is based on the beer being available in bottle, also the ranking lists the beers based on availability (i.e. number of outlets it’s available in). It’s hard to list the great beers from brewpubs as they are only in one location, and batches vary, or are extremely small)
1. Epic Armageddon IPA – from the brewers of the Supreme Award winning Epic Pale Ale comes Armageddon IPA. This beer was inspired by a trip to San Diego in 2008, and drinking many of the mind blowing hoppy double and imperial IPA’s on offer. This beer breaks new ground for massive hop useage in New Zealand. Brewed using US grown Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade, it’s a hop monster. In a country where most people don’t even understand what craft beer is, this beer is light years ahead of its time. If brewed on the West Coast of the USA, people would understand why. Its all about the hops. 6.66% alc/vol Buy Now
2. Invercargill Smokin Bishop – who would have thought that one of the most envelope pushing beers in New Zealand would come from the conservative south, and would be a big smokey Rauchbier style. This beer is all about the awesome huge smokey aroma and flavour. When people try this they are just blown away on every front, aroma, flavour, and the fact it is from New Zealand. Way to go Steve. Actually Invercargill Brewery is now coming of age and the whole range is very solid and well made, and each beer should be tried. 7.0% alc/vol Buy Now
3. Three Boys Oyster Stout – with actual Bluff oysters used in the brewing process, some even say they get a briny note. This beer is a glorious stout and one that should be hunted down and tried, and better yet if you can find it on tap. (inside tip, try Pomeroys in Christchruch for it on tap). As with the previous two beers, this is currently only a seasonal release, and as with what might happen to the above two also, the success and demand for these beers are likely to see the season available extended to all four seasons. There are some world class beer available in New Zealand. Buy Now
4. Mussel Inn Captain Cooker – first brewed by Captain Cook on his discovery of New Zealand, this beer uses freshly picked tips from the Manuka tree. This beer is amazingly floral and fragrant to the point you give it a double take, not actually believing that a beer could possibly smell like this. The intensity is only slightly less in the flavour, and is remarkably drinkable. Not only is this an incredibly flavourful beer but is uniquely New Zealand. It may even contain health benefits but you aren’t allow to imply that in relation to alcohol, but wasn’t that why Captain Cook used it in the first place? 4.0% alc/vol Buy Now
5. Hallertau Porter Noir – this is another beer inspired by the cutting edge of craft brewing on the planet – “beers with bugs”. If you get it, you get it, and I just don’t have room here to explain. This is a porter style beer aged for 4 months in oak barrels previously used for pinot noir wine, which is infected with Brettanomyces. Sounds pretty dumb to put beer in a barrel that is infected with spoilage organisms, but wait till you try this beer, WOW. This beer is complex, it goes beyond beer, with flavours from the wood, hints from the wine, and the additional fermentation from the Brett. which gives it a sourness. You have to try it. 6.6% alc/vol
6. The Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner – this is the best example of the use of New Zealand hops in a beer available in New Zealand. Many breweries here just miss the point, and either get the variety wrong and get it too grassy and harsh, or go the other way where it has too much passionfruit and tropical notes. The Sauvin Pilsner nails it. The hop aroma and flavour is still very prominent but the balance is awesome which is why this is a must try. Possibly best to try it on tap at The Twisted Hop. 5.0% alc/vol