A touch of Kiwi: Imbibe's top New Zealand beers

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

31 January 2019

With a number of New Zealand beer events currently happening around the UK and New Zealand’s national holiday just around the corner (Waitangi Day, 6 February), we've been tasting a wide range of intriguing brews from the other side of the world. Here are six that can add Kiwi character to your beer selection

New Zealand has a thriving craft beer scene, with about 200 breweries currently in operation. Much of the distinctive character of the nation's beer comes from the beautifully aromatic hops grown on its own soil, mostly around the city of Nelson.

The most popular type of hop is Nelson Sauvin, named after Sauvignon Blanc, the grape variety that put Kiwi wine on the map. The hop and the grape share the same distinctive gooseberry aroma. 

New Zealand's beers aren't all about hops, though. The country's brewerys channel lots of other inventive methods into their creations, making beers that show great aromatic character and originality.

8 Wired, Stone Free Hoppy Sour Apricot Ale

Yes, Kiwis can do sours too. This is fermented with apricots and aromatised with Riwaka and Taiheke hops, which lend distinctive passion fruit, lime and grapefruit aromas to the beer.

This hoppy sour pours a bit cloudy, with an evanescent head reminiscent of cider. The nose shows a very light intensity and the palate is refreshingly acidic. It’s a quaffable sour that benefits from its light body, as well as the comforting smooth mouthfeel that comes from the use of oats in the recipe.

4.5%, £50/24x33cl

Funk Estate, Sophisticuffs

Funk Estate is based in Mount Maunganui, North Island. The brewery does what it says on the tin: its beers are fun, funky and would certainly be Jimi Hendrix’ favourites if he was still alive. The range features a number of hop dominated brews and some stouts.

The Sophisticuffs is all made with local hops, relatively light in colour but quite intense on the nose. It’s a very refined IPA, elegant. On the nose it shows aromas of grass, resin, eucalyptus and a certain salinity, while on the palate it delivers a good bitterness, well-balanced by a marked caramel, malted element.

6.0%, £41/24x33cl

Craftwork, Red Bonnet

This is a Flanders red ale made by a couple of mavericks who pretend to live in the 19th century, making beer in a tiny brewery in North Otago, on the South Island. Their beers are mainly Belgian in style; the lineup includes barrel-aged and sour beers, farmhouse ales, tripels and quadrupels.

The Red Bonnet tastes typically Belgian, but some Kiwi character comes from the use of local hops. The youngest brew is blended with a one-year-old batch that aged in Pinot Noir barrels. The blend is then aged again for another six months. If you like big Belgian classics such as Cantillon, you will like this one.

6%, POA

Parrotdog, Bitterbitch IPA

This IPA is made by one of the largest craft breweries in the country. It’s made with both American and New Zealand hops, blending the classic West Coast IPA flavours with a touch of Kiwi identity.

The nose is rich, with caramel, resin and balsamic notes, but also hints of prunes and a little roastiness too. On the palate it’s generous in flavour, but only medium-bodied. It's velvety, with a well-balanced bitterness. This is a sessionable IPA that is perfect with food.

5.8%, £42/24x33cl

Yeastie Boys, Big Mouth Session IPA

Yeastie Boys was established in Wellington in 2008 by Sam Possenniskie and Stu McKinlay and quickly became one of the leading craft breweries in the country. Today, Sam oversees production in New Zealand, while Stu leads the operations in London, brewing much of what’s available in the UK with partner breweries.

Big Mouth pours fairly hazy. The nose is intense, with citrus tropical fruit, a hint of honey, some papaya and a touch of spicy herbaceousness. The palate is creamy and citric, with a marked grassy bitterness from the use of Kiwi-only hops.

4.4%, £35/24x33cl

Three Wise Birds, Gone Bush

New Zealand hops are such a great ingredient that can ideally complement cider too. Gone Bush is a single varietal cider made with Braeburn apples, then dry-hopped with Motueka, which gives it some extra aromas of mint and fresh-squeezed lime.

The resulting drink is a fresh, crisp, medium cider with a clean nose of ripe apples and blossom, and a creamy palate.

4.5%, £35/24x33cl

All beers are available to the on-trade through the New Zealand Beer Collective


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