Kiwis are known for traipsing off into the woods for days or weeks at a time to “tramp,” complete “missions,” and drink. Tramp means hike and mission means a decent night’s rest in a sleeping bag. Drink, on the other hand, means just that. And New Zealanders know their way around hops and yeast. Want proof? Visit the innovative breweries springing up (next to hip hotels) all over the island nation.
Here’s a four-day itinerary for travelers looking to sample what might be the best sudsy stuff the Southern Hemisphere has to offer.
Day 1, Wellington
You won’t find Garage Project‘s beers outside NZ (yet), so visiting its headquarters should be your first priority. Founded as a nano-brewery, this small production, cult favorite prefers producing one-off experimental kegs to responsible corporate behavior. They work with unusual ingredients such as sumac and use hops that smack of marijuana.
Once you’ve tried a few exotic flavors, head over to Parrot Dog, where three Matts run the show. Sample the full line-up at their downtown cellar door, but leave room for BitterBitch, one of the best beers on the island. Chat up one of the Matts before heading to Fork and Brewer for lunch. The large brewpub – set up by the people behind The Malthouse and Tuatara – makes food because it complements the beer they brew on site and the microbrews that flow from its 40 taps.
Full? Great, time to drink again. Head to Hashigo Zake, which owner Dominic Kelly modeled off Japanese craft bars. Expect extreme and quirky brews. Have a lot of them before crashing at the Museum Art Hotel.
Day 2, Wellington and the Kapiti Coast
Rent a car and head to Regional Wine & Spirits, the most acclaimed alcohol retailer in all of NZ. Engage beer specialist Kieran Haslett-Moore in a deep chat on suds and taste from in-store taps. Let him tell you what he thinks is good. He knows more than you. Just don’t drink too much because Kereru Brewery, where Bostonian Chris Mills turns out original English style beers is a 45-minute drive north of the city.
Take a breather and go for a walk before jumping in the car and driving an hour west along a windy, scenic road to Tuatara Brewery, where 45-minute tours only accommodate 20 and advance booking is advised. You’ll want to drink and loiter. Do just that before returning to your hotel in Wellington.
Day 3, Blenheim
Catch a 20-minute morning flight to Blenheim from Wellington and drive to the Moa Brewing. Given your early arrival, start with the breakfast beer, a blend of wheat malt, floral Nelson hops, and cherries. Get something solid in your stomach before leaving for Renaissance Brewing, which is famous for its Stonecutter Scotch Ale. From there, hop over to 8 Wired Brewing Company – named one of the top 100 breweries in the world by Ratebeers – to check out the wet-hopped version of their flagship IPA (they have no cellar door, so you’ll have to taste it at nearby Dodson Street Beer Garden). The brewers here also experiment with barrel aging, souring, and brett-infected beers so ask a lot of questions before checking into the Hotel d’Urville and heading over to the Grovetown Country Hotel and Pub for more Wired beers and an early, drunk dinner.
Day 4, Nelson
The two-hour drive to Nelson brings you to the heart of NZ hops production. As such, a lot of the local operations are family owned. Founders is run by a family of brewers with six generations and nearly 160 years of experience behind them and Stoke is run by the McCashins, the country’s first family of craft brewing. Enjoy both before heading to Free House, an airy bar in former church with focus on cutting-edge brews. If you’ve got it in you, walk to the Moutere Inn and back in time. The local favorite is the country’s oldest continuously operating pub and the perfect place to get happy before heading to The Sails Motel and collapsing.
Extra Points If You Find These Beers: Yeastie Boys, Epic, Liberty, Three Boys, Mussell Inn, Moon Dog, Panhead