With pure water and locally grown barley and hops it’s no wonder that New Zealand produces some of the best beer on the planet.

There are literally dozens of fine brews waiting to be savoured, including excellent national lagers like Steinlager and NZ PURE, produced respectively by Lion Nathan and Independent Liquor. Some of Steinlager’s better-known stable-mates are Mac’s and Speight’s, each of which comes with a bit of a legend and in a variety of styles.

The other big player is DB, which includes the Monteith’s brand, Tui, and more. Visiting the iconic Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka is almost a rite of passage for beer devotees, and tours are also available at Speight’s in Dunedin, the newly revamped Monteith’s in Greymouth and Mainland Brewery, Timaru.

Those wanting a real taste of New Zealand should look beyond mass-produced beer, and sample ales produced by over fifty boutique breweries spread from the north to the very south. These craft/premium beers are batch-brewed in micro and macro-breweries and brewpubs using the very best ingredients, nurtured along by passionate brewers. Boutique brewers are usually happy to discuss their processes and products, so even if they don’t officially provide tours, ask anyway. Check them out on
www.brewersguild.org.nz.

Auckland’s beer heroes are Brothers Beer. Their brewery in City Works Depot features beers brewed on site and a huge selection of bottled beer. Brothers now have two additional breweries - one in nearby Mt Eden featuring an American-style BBQ restaurant on site, and another in Orakei Bay Village with a stellar gourmet burger menu.

To Auckland’s west is Hallertau, with a bar and food cooked in an outdoor wood-fire. Set amongst the vineyards of Matakana is Sawmill Brewery, offering seasonal local food and takeaway beers for the beach.

Visitors to Bay of Plenty can stop in at one of Crouchers two ‘Brew’ bars, located in Rotorua and Tauranga, whilst in Hamilton check out Good George, a brewery located in an old church, and Pilot Brewery’s ‘The Barn’, 15 minutes away in Te Kowhai.

Wellington is New Zealand’s self-proclaimed Craft Beer Capital. Visit Garage Project – a brewery in an old petrol station in Te Aro or nearby ParrotDog, run by three guys called Matt. Back in the CBD check out Choice Bros and Fork’n’Brewer.

Nelson is where our world famous hops are grown. Sample fine ales from Golden Bear, located right on historic Mapua wharf. Set in the middle of Motueka’s hop fields is Hop Federation, and Richmond is home to Eddyline.

In Christchurch visit Three Boys and Cassels, both in Woolston, whilst Pomeroys, located by the Avon River in a 150 year old building serves a wide range of beers and innovative pub fare.

Heading further south, in historical Oamaru is Scott’s, known for their gluten free beer. In Dunedin visit Emerson’s, one of the pioneers of the New Zealand brewing scene.

For a complete list of craft breweries, head to www.beertourist.co.nz

Image: Brothers Beer sampler.