April 14, 2013 by Doug Coutts
For too long New Zealand beer drinkers have been dictated to by the country’s two giant brewing companies, Frothisuds and Fruit of the Mustelid. Between them, they produce several million hectolitres of flavourless, colourless, fizzy pap that, while selling well, provides New Zealander beer fans with little choice other than lager, pale ale, porter, bitter, stout or pilsner. According to the new breed of craft brewer.
Sorry, that should have started on a new line. According to the new breed of craft brewer, things are changing. New Zealand beer drinkers are in for a treat, says Chuck Morhopsen, co-chair of the Wellington Regional Craft Brewers Association. And with a degree in business management and a diploma in marketing already under his belt at the age of 22, he knows what he’s talking about.
“Beer is more than hops, water, malt and …. just them,” he says. “It’s a whole way of life, a holistic experience and drinkers aren’t getting that from the major breweries in New Zealand.” Exactly what they are getting he says he’s too polite to say. But what he is prepared to say is that craft brewing is about to turn beer production on its head, providing season drinkers, occasional tipplers and teenagers alike with more choices than ever before.
“We’re experimenting with different flavours, different brewing methods and, most importantly, different labels,” he says. Sometimes we get right it right, sometimes we don’t – what’s important is it all gets bottled and sold to someone.”
And people are buying. Chuck says sales at his own boutique craft brewery It Gets Worts have gone through the roof. “Yeah no, we had to move them to a new mezzanine, to make more room for the bottling operation.”
He says the secret of the new range of craft beers is variation. “We vary things. Ingredients, brewing temperatures, staff payment levels – anything we can to produce something that’s more unique than the unique brew we came up with the day before.”
Chuck’s reluctant to say exactly what differentiates a boring old brew from one of the new craft numbers. “It’s a lot of whole different things – sometimes we put a kilo of raw hops in each bottle, sometimes we’ll add sesame oil or fish paste to the brew, sometimes we’ll all eat a chili and cough into the vat – it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it’s got a tricky name, a fancy label with a deliberate misspelling and a bit of scribble on it, and it’s sold by someone with a look of scornful disdain.”
There’s no denying that. Sorry, that sentence should have continued. There’s no denying that craft brew is definitely big business and it’s getting bigger all the time. What’s uncertain is how long the bubble will last before it bursts like the head on a chocolate and coriander sextuple-hopped pale porter pilsner. Cheers!