In recent years, pale and amber lager, the largest alcoholic beverage sector in terms of sales volumes, have tended to decline as a result of declining demand for standard and economy products. Conversely, ale production in New Zealand is mostly by small independent breweries and brewpubs. The Shakespeare Brewery in Auckland was the first brewery to open in 1986 for the “craft” or “premium” sector of the beer market. In 2010, the craft/premium beer sector grew by 11%, to about 8% of the total beer market. This happened against the backdrop of a shrinking beer market, where beer availability fell by 7% in volume terms in the previous two years.
With a growth rate of 25% per year, craft beer and microbreweries were blamed for the fall in alcohol sales by 15 million liters in 2012, with Kiwis choosing more expensive premium beer. on cheaper brands. The craft beer market in New Zealand is diverse and progressive, with a full range of ales and lagers brewed here. New Zealand is fortunate in that it is located at an ideal latitude for barley and hop growing. A breeding program has resulted in new hop varieties unique to New Zealand and many of these new hop varieties have become the basis for New Zealand craft beer.
Given the small market and relatively large number of breweries, many breweries have spare capacity. Recently, there has been a growth in contract brewing, where a brewery contracts to use space at existing breweries to bring beer to market. Examples of contract brewers include Epic Brewing Company, Funk Estate and Yeastie Boys.
In 2011 and 2012, New Zealand faced hop shortages that affected several brewers across the country. The shortage was primarily caused by a shortage of hops in North America. Brewers Guild president Ralph Bungard noted that Americans are struggling to get their hands on kiwi hops as they become increasingly fashionable in the American microbrewery market. One specialty brewery, Tuatara Brewery, has just started producing American pale ales. When a shortage of American hops arose, they created an Aotearoa pale ale with New Zealand hops.
The most widely known style of beer that has emerged in the country is New Zealand draft beer. It is usually a malt lightly hopped amber lager with an alcohol content of 4-5% by volume. Martin Cornell, a British beer writer, has suggested that New Zealand Draft is partly an evolution of the late 19th century mild ale that was popular among British workers, many of whom emigrated to New Zealand. However, the beer is usually brewed using a continuous fermentation process and lager yeast. During the six-hour brewing period, beer was poured from kegs directly into the customer’s beer jugs using a hose and tap.