The Consumer guide to the shift in New Zealand's beer market, plus we reveal scores for 7 home brewing kits.
The beer market has shifted in New Zealand, and there’s a few things you should know as a consumer.
What’s actually in the beer you’re drinking? What size drink will you get at a bar and how many of those high strength beers can you drink before you’re over the limit? We answer these questions and reveal scores for 7 home brewing kits.
The trend of beer drinkers turning to “craft” beer has meant a completely new nomenclature to get used to, but also a subtle change in culture.
Many bars now serve beers, made by boutique breweries on a smaller scale, or at least big brewery imitation-craft beers, such as Crafty Beggars, Boundary Road, or Monteiths. Where previously we solely had draught lagers now we have a variety of styles: from pilsners to chocolate oatmeal stouts to mango, chilli, and Vietnamese mint pale ales… walking into a bar can get very confusing.
Simply looking at what is on tap can be confusing. Here we’ve listed a number of popular styles to give you an idea of what to expect.
Lagers and pilsners are lighter beers made with different yeast to ales. Lagers tend to be crisper while pilsners have a softer flavour. Most mass- marketed beers are lagers. As these beers tend to be easier to drink, this is the style to start with if you’re experimenting.
Why don’t you try:
Pale ales are light coloured beers with a good amount of hop bitterness. There’s a massive range of pale ales, and new ones are being invented all the time. British Pale Ales tend to be maltier with less harsh bitterness than other pale ale styles. American Pale Ales (APAs) have big hop flavours often described as “pine resin”. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are also hoppy and nicely bitter, but without the dark resin flavour. New Zealand Pale Ales (NZPAs) are a newish style made using New Zealand hops that tend to give a nice “tropical” fruity hop bitterness to the beer. You may also come across XPAs (extra pale ales), DIPAs (double IPAs), hazy IPAs (unfiltered) and many, many other new variations. Why don’t you try:
Why don’t you try:
Stouts and porters are dark beers with strong malt flavours. Often they will have notes of coffee and dark toast. Generally, these darker beers have a higher alcohol percentage. These beers can be nicer consumed at room temperature or on a hand-pull at the bar, so don’t be surprised if you get served a “warm” beer. In recent years, some brewers have experimented with creating hoppy stouts and porters. And if you want to get adventurous, adding a scoop of ice cream to a chocolate stout makes a great float.
Why don’t you try:
Sours are beers made by a different fermentation process, usually using “wild” bacteria or yeast; this gives the beer a sour flavour. The term sour beers cover a wide variety of styles but can generally split into two groups. The most common are very light with strong, citrusy- sour flavours and usually less than 4% abv (alcohol by volume). This includes the popular Berliner-wiesse beers.
The other, less common, sours are made by barrel-aging. These tend to be darker with a stronger flavour and much higher alcohol content. These barrel-aged beers are also perfect for aging at home like wine.
Why don’t you try:
Imperial beers, sometimes known as “double”, are beers made in various styles, but most often found as stouts. They use more ingredients but the same amount of water, meaning the alcohol content is higher, averaging around 8-9% but can get upwards of 15%. As there aren’t many imperial beers made as part of a regular line-up, we suggest you just check your local bar and drink responsibly.
Beer can pretty much be made from any grain (and historically has been). Changing the grain changes the flavour, colour and mouthfeel of a beer. Wheat, rye and oatmeal are the three most common grains that brewers will use instead of malted barley. These give a soft texture to the beer.
Breweries sometimes add lactose to beers. This gives the beers extra sweetness (lactose is a sugar that isn’t eaten by yeast), as well as a slightly creamy texture. It used to be a rare practice, appearing mostly in milk stouts, more recently lactose has shown up in IPAs (sometimes called “milkshake IPAs”) and sours. This is something to be aware of for those with allergies (see below).
The vast range of beers available is already confusing, the confusion increases when beers are mislabelled.
The words "East India Pale Ale" adorn every bottle of Tui. It's a throwback to the original strong and bitter beer called Wagstaff's IPA, but the current version of Tui is a pale lager. The claim is reiterated on the Tui website (“Sometimes scoffed at for not even being an East India Pale Ale by ‘modern standards’…”). With the influx of new craft beers and all of the new popular styles, this can be incredibly confusing to consumers not to mention a potential breach of the Fair Trading Act. We asked DB to comment but got no response.
DB also produces beer in its Monteith’s range marketed as a Radler. A traditional Radler is a low alcohol light beer with lemon-lime flavour added meant as a refreshing drink. Monteith’s version is 5% abv, much higher than any drinker would be expecting.
The Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law, set beer ingredients in 16th century Germany to only include malt, hops and water (it was written before yeast was known as an ingredient). However, these days brewers are adding all kinds of interesting ingredients from chilli to chocolate to seaweed. And that doesn’t cover the array of fruit juices used in new beers.
These new ingredients have the potential to set off a number of allergies. Annoyingly many beer labels do not list the ingredients. For example, as mentioned above, lactose is added as a non-fermentable sugar.
Unlike the UK, there is no official measure of a pint in New Zealand. In fact the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment advise that: “The use of Imperial measures (eg, 'pint') for trade is illegal, so avoid using this term.” Most New Zealand bars use a 425-473ml glass closer to the American pint than the Imperial. So if you go into a bar and ask for a pint, know that it is only a colloquial term here and you cannot expect a larger size.
With the increase in higher alcohol beers, more bars are offering half pints. These glasses can range in size from 250-300ml and offer consumers more choice in how they’re drinking.
A standard drink is defined as the amount of alcohol the average person can process in an hour. So if a beer is listed as 1.5 standard drinks, that means you have roughly an hour and half before your body has processed that drink. Of course, while standard drinks are a good guide, it will change depending on your height, weight, age and health. However, if you aren’t sure of what the standard drink measurement is (say if you’re buying beer on tap) then you can use this formula:
[drink volume in litres] x [%abv] x 0.789 = [standard drinks]
So 500ml of 5% beer is: 0.5 x 5 x 0.789 = 1.97 standard drinks. This is a good number to have in mind while drinking as most beers hover around the 5% mark. If you were drinking the same amount of a 10% abv Imperial stout this number rises to 4 standard drinks. This is why half pints are a good idea.
Home brewing is going through a renaissance in New Zealand as better beers and better brewing supplies have become available. We looked at 7 brewing kits, from supermarket-level “can kits” through to more complex kits that require extra hops.