I have been thinking recently, how much the Auckland craft beer scene has changed in the past year. It’s as if the city has finally lifted its head out of its ass the sand to take a look around; discovered that Wellington and Christchurch were onto something, and decided to step up.
Auckland has seen several new pubs open which went straight for the craft beers (big welcome to Number One Queen Street Cafe, and the new Lumsden freehouse in Newmarket) Additionally, I have noticed more and more restaurants offering a few craft beers along with the usual fare (Meredith’s, and Sails for example).
You don’t have to live in a pub to find great beers as the wine and liquor stores are starting to offer a great selection of craft beers. Liquorland Newmarket, Village Winery in Mt Eden, and Glengarry wine stores, to name a few, have all joined the party. What a delight to be tempted by a large range of craft beers from all over the world instead of the pyramids built from cases of tasteless lagers of one brand or another*. The big change for me has been the Waitakere trust. If you are unfamiliar, the trust controls all alcohol sales in Waitakere. This includes the liquor stores, and the bars. No alcohol is sold in the grocery stores. Unfortunately, their choice of beer sold had been typical big brewery brands. In just the past six months, the Trust has started to pay attention to the market and now offers a limited craft beer selection, including Renaissance and Harrington’s. Finally, I can hop down the road a buy a proper beer. I think a big influence out west was Lincoln Road Wines – now renamed Blanc. They have fully embraced craft beer with a huge dedicated section and 6 fill-your-own taps (be still, my heart!)
So why the sudden change? I figure there are two main reasons. First, it is simple economics. Craft beers are starting to impact the market in New Zealand and everyone can see the trends in the US and UK where craft beers have continually grabbed market share from the big breweries when the total market shows declining overall consumption. Secondly, Lion brewery’s purchase of the Emerson’s brewery, likely had influence. Now that Emerson’s is available in the bars licenced to Lion, consumers are starting to get some choice.
Along with the new offerings in Auckland, there has been demand for information; people want to know what the hype is about. The New Zealand Beer festival has been revamped and the last two years has been held in the Cloud with a great showing from the various craft brewers offering tastes to sold-out crowds. SOBA Auckland runs City of Ales beer festival (29th June 2013 – mark your calendar!). Additionally, many of the liquor and wine stores have been offering craft beer tasting events, frequently with one of the brewers in attendance.
No one is happier about this turn than me. I love that people are willing to try new things, and experiment with different styles of beer. Plus, since I am a huge geek, I love talking about the beers, the process, the aromas & flavour profiles and how they are achieved. And now the interest in craft beer has introduced a whole new group of people with whom I can share ideas.
Over the next few months, I will be updating the Auckland Craft Beer guide, adding the newcomers and adding review dates to all the listed pubs.
*As a side note, I think it would be interesting (in a scientific sort of way) to blind taste all the big brand lagers to see if there really is a difference in style or taste. I just don’t want to be forced to purchase a 6-pack of each to do the research.