Five things I’ve learnt in 2015

By BeertownNZ Tue, 15 Dec 2015 National

It takes a lot of work to produce a pint of beer

This year I’ve met barley growers, maltsters, hop specialists, Coopers, brewers, brewery consultants, financiers, a cicerone, wholesalers, retailers, bar owners and bar staff. All of them play an essential role in getting your beer into your glass.

Like a lot of townies, I am distanced from the rural and industrial areas where the good stuff happens. In Wellington, where good beer is everywhere, it is easy to forget that most New Zealanders don’t share the access and options I enjoy. Being a beer fan in Wellington right now is a unique privilege.

Many clever people have worked hard to make your beer. Don’t take it for granted, but appreciate it, savour it, share it.

Beer is about bringing people together

Beer is the original social media. Meeting face-to-face and talking over a beer is a very effective way to discover common ground and settle differences.

The reason so many different countries have so many different beer styles, cultures and stories is that beer is a social experience. It is egalitarian and inclusive. It brings people together. Anyone who uses beer as an excuse to create differences, hold grudges and keep boycotts doesn’t understand what beer is for.

'I will produce indifferent beer in small volumes, and sell it at above average prices and low profit margins’

No brewer ever sat down and written this mission statement. So why do so many do it? Is it because…

Untappd is not your friend

The ongoing quest for novelty is hurting brewers and beer drinkers.

Untappd builds its audience by 'rewarding’ beer fans for trying as many different beers as possible. I have met people who would rather have a bad new beer than another glass of something they enjoyed before. Mugs.

Brewers have told me this year that sales drop off in the third and fourth batches of a new beer, as drinkers drop it for something new. The real shame is that our brewers are clever people, who can always think of ways to improve a beer if we encourage them to keep making it.

2015 – More, better beer!

This was a corker of a year for beer drinkers. It set records for the volume of craft beer produced in New Zealand – maybe 25% more than was made last year. Quality is also improving, as shown by the number of medals awarded at this year’s Brewers Guild Awards. More beer and better quality.

It was also a year of significant anniversaries. Tuatarastarted 15 years ago, and its connections to The Malthouse and Bar Bodega started the craft beer infrastructure here in Wellington.

Epic turned ten this month. Owner Luke Nicholas has made enemies and friends in the past decade, but his beer speaks for itself. Epic Pale Ale introduced hoppy US pale ales to New Zealand, and it was ground breaking. Even a decade later, Epic Pale Ale or its highly-rewarded younger brother Armageddon IPA are still the best beers available in many New Zealand liquor stores.

There must have been something in the stars in 2005, because Three Boys and Renaissance both turned ten this year too. Like Tuatara and Epic, Three Boys and Renaissance have produced excellent beers for years and must now work hard to stay noticed in the rapidly growing industry they helped to pioneer.

Next year? I predict the trend to sours will balance out, with brewers returning to flavour rather than having willy-waving contests over the lowest pH. 8 Wired is already setting the way. Craft beer volumes will continue to show double-digit growth – we are nowhere near the end of this current growth phase. As for Beertown.NZ in 2016 – well, I’m keen to find out!

Thanks to everyone who has supported, read, and most importantly shared Beertown.NZ in 2015. Enjoy your break, try a new beer or two, and check out an old favourite. We are living in a Golden Age – let’s enjoy it!

By BeertownNZ Tue, 15 Dec 2015 National