So Beervana is done for another year. Many beers were tasted, and some people throughout the city spent some of their weekend nursing their heads. But everyone who attended will surely have a beer that sticks with them, it may be because it changed the way they think about a style, it opened up their eyes to what is possible with beer, or it possibly revolted them.

The Panhead Brewery Media Brew, made with the Beerhive Blog guys, comes to mind. Just Desserts is a Kiwifruit beer, with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, it was green and thick like puree – challenging everyone’s idea of what a beer should be.  It ended up winning second equal in the Media Brew awards, along side the Jaffa Stout from Deep Creek Brewing and Don Kavanagh (NZ Herald). Top prize went to 66 Jet Planes, an India ‘Plane Ale’, from Epic and Sarah Harvey (Sunday Star Times). This end of the stadium is where I headed straight away – the Festive and Media Brews always push the envelope on what can, some would say shouldn’t, be done with beer.

I sat in on one of the seminars, ‘Where to from Beer?’ where I got to hear 5 people, who live and breathe beer, talk about what they thought was possible for the future of New Zealand brewing. Everyone agreed that the beer market today doesn’t closely resemble the beer market of 10 or even 5 years ago.  As Stu McKinley of Yeastie Boys pointed out, up until a few years ago the beer audience had two ‘options’ – you had Lion or DB, with vary little separating each the brews, and because of this many older people chose to drink wine, because of the variety that was offered. Now Wellington alone has over 10 craft breweries and the range of beer available to New Zealanders has never been bigger.

Geoff Griggs, a Beer commentator and the current president of the NZ Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA), contended that there were people 5 years ago that wouldn’t drink an IPA and now it is one of the more popular styles of beer. He thought it’s likely there’ll be an increase in the number of malt and sour beers available, perhaps a great option for those that aren’t attracted to the extremely hoppy varieties currently on taps around town.

Dominic Kelly of Hashigo Zake fairly pointed out that some beer drinkers have been put off smaller beers/breweries but breweries like Tuatara and Emerson’s are offering a larger range of beers, a middle ground, for those that are either not interested in chilli coffee stouts (or other fantastic inventions) or wish to avoid the beer geek/snob environment that some perceive.

Reese Drake, who deals with beer going into New World supermarkets, said that there has been a 40% increase in craft or craft inspired beer over the last year and that this is fantastic for brewers and drinkers alike. He argued the word ‘Craft’ should be left alone and that a good beer is a good beer, customers should let brewers do what they do well and if people like it they’ll drink it. I agree with the sentiment but I feel there are large breweries, with deep pockets, that have the ability to create ‘independent breweries’ and pretend to be something that, in reality, they are not. Perhaps such breweries can be considered to be producing the gateway beers for those who will go on to be educated beer drinkers. Danny Philips (Lion Breweries) certainly wanted more young people drinking craft beer and he argued that this is something a brand like Crafty Beggars can encourage. I couldn’t find a website for Crafty Beggars so have provided links to articles for and against such brands.

One issue that often arises in beer talk is that of gender. Again times are changing and the days of manly, meaty, masculine men being the only ones drinking beer are hopefully moving behind us. Drake said that the female market is huge for New World and it’s great that the large variety available means people are now able to get the beers they want. Griggs acknowledged that most beer is marketed at men. He argued that the gender divide is rubbish and shouldn’t exist and so really, what men vs women want is irrelevant. A beer is a beer and a consumer is a consumer. He pointed out that in his personal experience there are plenty of women who prefer a strong, malty beer to a light, floral brew.

Part of this change in perception of beer, breweries and branding has lead to what McKinley called Rock Star Beer – beer with personality. The Garage Project Workshop was a great example of this where they had a replica of their premises set up like a stage – the stars (brewers Jos and Pete) working the stage with brews including The Hot Buttered Bastard Rye (a mulled beer) and the Fire Poker Blended Cockswain’s Courage Porter (heated with a hot poker) both spectacles to see. I’d argue that a huge part of the rock star beer culture comes down to the age we live in where a strong community has developed that supports brewers and their craft. Consumers are able to talk with the brewers and learn more about what they are doing, they’re not miles away in huge factories where a head brewer only appears occasionally.

I had a quick chat with Soren Eriksen of 8 wired and he said that at the moment the beer market is an easy one to be in. There are so many people wanting more, wanting new, wanting something different and all the brewers have to do is keep doing what they love to do.

As I told him, and tell every brewery at Beervana, it’s a great thing we have going here, if you guys keep making the stuff we’ll keep buying it!


My picks of the festival (not that I got even close to trying them all)

(In no particular order)

Red Ryder Red Rye IPA – Baylands Brewery

Bumaye – 8 Wired

Hot Buttered Bastard Rye – Garage Project

Drop Hop Cider  – Good George (Winner of BGNZ Cider Award )

Mike’s 3rd nut – Mountain Goat Brewery

Acid Freaks Balsamic Baltic Porter – Brewcult

Oh Kamiyo – Funk Estate