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Real Ale in New Zealand

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Not much yet, but we live in hope. The authoritative source on beer in New Zealand is realbeer.co.nz but try also the enthusiastic chaps at Hops and Glory.

The interest in micro brewed ales is growing in New Zealand, as people become more discerning. Hand pumps and craft breweries have been springing up, but there is a long way to go. One problem is that there is little knowledge about how to care for the living product that is cask ale. It needs a suitably cool cellar to enable it to be stored and served at 10 degrees C and for a lot of potential outlets, that would be difficult or expensive. It seems that the best hope is for real ale to concentrate on a role as a "boutique" product for now, served to the cognoscenti in a small number of outlets, but growing in an appropriately organic way, as more people try it and are converted by its fresh cool taste and subtle variations of style and flavour.

I understand that Beer Festivals are held occasionally but generally none of the beer is on cask. Hope for the future if those committed brewers and lovers of cask beer can make it happen!

North Island

It's been a while since I made it here, but I understand from reviews that Galbraith's Ale House is still selling cask beer from a trio of hand pumps. See their web-site. Opened in 1995, it was the first real ale brew-house in NZ for decades.

When I visited on a rainy and windy night, I was captivated by the warm pub atmosphere. I had a good meal and enjoyed each of the three cask beers on sale. They were all easily up to the standard that gets a pub into the Good Beer Guide in the UK.
I was made to feel very welcome and found myself having an impromptu tour of the spacious brewery immediately adjoining the bar. I was even given a lift back to my digs at closing time!

2 Mount Eden Road,
Mount Eden, Auckland
Ph +64.9.379.3557
Fax +64.9.307.6721



And now for something completely different! A private bar where only bed and breakfast guests can try the beer. Wassail Brauhaus is in Egmont Village, 12 Kilometres south of New Plymouth on the North Island and offers cask beers brewed on-site to the privileged guests. Lunch and evening meals can be ordered although there is an excellent restaurant a few minutes walk away. Three hand pumps serve unfiltered and unpasteurised cask beers; a Pale Ale, a Best Bitter and a Chocolate Stout. I understand these are all fairly high gravity. Seems like the perfect place to stay!



South Island


The Twisted Hop
6 Poplar Street, Lichfield Lanes,Christchurch,
New Zealand
Ph. 03 962 3688

Set in a tastefully converted warehouse in a former industrial area, now being developed as a retail and hospitality area, this is the only real ale in town, dispensing cask beer from three hand pumps. The usual range includes two beers named after their predominant hop, the full bodied special bitter Challenger (5% alcohol by volume) and the light fruity Goldings (3.7% abv). The third is often Twisted Ankle ( a strong dark ale at 5.9% abv), although they also produce seasonal beers
I had a very enjoyable couple of hours in here, meeting some old friends who live out in the wop wops. The fresh fish & chips were superbly complemented by the three cask beers on sale. I only wish I had had more time.
If this pub was in England, it would be a Good Beer Guide candidate. There may not be many cask beer pubs in New Zealand, but the standard is impeccable!


Here on the South Island, the Townshend Brewery produces real ale. Aside from the brewery itself in Rosedale near Nelson, there are only two pubs where you can find this on hand pumps. Bottle conditioned beers are available. Here is a useful report we have seen.

No sooner had I published this than I heard from the brewer, Martin Townshend, doubling at a stroke my knowledge of real ale pubs in the country! Here is his helpful description;

My beers (all ales) are available on tap (through beer engine) permanently at NZ's oldest pub, the Moutere Inn and Nelsons The Free House. This includes a farmhouse style cider vintage produced from our own orchard from some 33 different varieties of cider apple from Spain, France and mainly the UK.
Folk are more than welcome at the brewery (by appointment) throughout the year for tastings and tours and hope fully by the end of the year an off licence will allow cellar sales.
Bottle conditioned examples of the brewery's entire range is available through BeerNZ distribution and consequently at some supermarkets in the south island. A small bunch of bars and cafes also stock the bottled product.


Moutere Inn
Claiming (with some justification, having been built in 1857) to be New Zealand's oldest Inn, the Moutere Inn boasts three hand pumps and is a regular outlet for the locally-brewed Townshend real ales.
It has sold Three Piece Wheat, Monterey Lager, Cathcart's NTA, Old House ESB, Number 9 Stout, Dinner Ale and Dr Jen's Mild as well as a cask cider Rosedale Cider. It also stocks occasionally Twisted Hop beers brought in from Christchurch, including Challenger & Goldings.
The current team of Dave Watson, Andrew Cole, Martin Townshend and Kieron Lattimer took over the Moutere in late 2008 and pride themselves on the cask beers as well as their regularly changing range of beers from other micros who do not yet produce it in real ale form. Their commitment is illustrated by the fact that they had the cellar specially built to enable them to store and serve real ales at the right temperature.

The Inn is at 1406 Moutere Highway in Upper Moutere a few kilometres west of Nelson. Evening meals are served 5-9pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a menu ranging from light snacks such as white bait, mussels and salads through to Thai curries or steak meals.
There is regular live music, a pool table, dart board and chatty bar-staff. The pub also has backpackers accommodation at reasonable rates.

The Free House

Claiming to be the first free house in New Zealand, independent of any tie to one brewer and selling the products of craft brewers, The Free House is set on Collingwood Street in central Nelson, in the heart of the country's hop-growing region.
Three hand pumps serve real ales, usually from the locally-based Townshend Brewery, including No 9 Stout (4.9%), Cathcarts NTA (3.8%) and Old House ESB (5.1%)., although Twisted Hop beers from Christchurch have also featured, including an Oatmeal Stout.
The building is unusual, the ecclesiastical-style of windows betraying its original use as a Dutch Reformed Church. There is no piped music and there is a pleasant outside drinking area. Food is served although if you prefer you can bring in a curry in from the Indian café over the road!



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