A friend over from Australia took a motorcycle trip around New Zealand recently and he tapped me up for taprooms to visit on the road less travelled, so I figured, since I was compiling a list for him, I’d share it here.
McLeod’s Pizza Barn
2 Cove Road, Waipu
It’s a given for any list of taproom visits in New Zealand. The hugely popular Pizza Barn has the freshest McLeod’s beer on tap and to take away and a fantastic menu of the most delicious and generous pizzas you could hope to find. The place is usually packed in summer evenings but if you arrive early enough you’ll get a table — otherwise grab a beer and practice the seldom-used virtue of patience, i.e. adjust to Northland time and chill out with a glass of Paradise Pale Ale.
8 Wired Barrelworks & Sawmill Smoko Room
56 Matakana Valley Road (8 Wired) and 1004 Leigh Road (Sawmill)
Matakana is blessed with two great beer locations and we couldn’t pick one over the other, so best do both! Right in town, 8 Wired’s Barrelworks is where they store all their barrel-aged beer in a huge hangar-like building. There’s a great array of beer on tap including the more esoteric offerings, but my go-to would have to be the Hopwired IPA. On the road out of town to Leigh, the Smoko Room is a gorgeous spot with stunning food and a range of Sawmill’s best. I thoroughly recommend everything but do enjoy a Home Grown Lager with your lunch.
Auckland Beer Mile
Start at 2 Mt Eden Road
The Auckland Beer Mile is more than a mile but it’s well worth the walk and it’s the perfect method to while away an afternoon in the big smoke. I fully recommend starting at Galbraith’s at the top of Mt Eden Road with a pint of Hudson Golden Ale and working your way downhill to Kingsland and Morningside, picking off, along the way — Fridge & Flagon, Churly’s, Garage Project Kingsland, Urbanaut, Morningside Drinkery — before wending your way back to Brothers Beer in Mt Eden, where you can Fill Yer Boots on a great tasting non-alcoholic beer.
452b Tauwahare Rd, Matangi
Bootleg Brewing are located in the Old Matangi Dairy Factory (from the website: when you come in the gate follow the driveway to the left of the old dairy factory building and you will come to a large carpark at the back. We are situated on your right). You need to believe the instructions as you might fear you’re in the wrong place as this brewery is best described as “Chernobyl Chic”, but the setting is perfect for an upstart brand that’s making some great beers. Try something brewed on-site like the T-Straight Burnout Smokey Stout.
Jimmy Coops Lakehouse
10 Roberts Street, Taupō
Lakeman Brewery is set on a farm high above Lake Taupo and for a long time, owners James and Elissa Cooper have planned to have a rustic barn-style taproom to complement their sheep and cattle run. But Covid-19’s impact on the tourism sector made them think twice and instead, with the help of local hospitality gurus Vaughan and Leanne Nairn they’ve opened Jimmy Coops Lakehouse. It’s bright (Yellow! Aqua!), it’s right on the waterfront and it’s packed to the gills with Lakeman beer. Their Taupo Thunder Pale Ale has lakeside sipping written all over it.
49 Awapuni Road, Gisborne
Sunshine Brewing has been an integral part of the New Zealand beer landscape since 1989 when the brewery was founded. It’s had a big refresh in recent years with new branding and some belting beers coming out including their unique East Coast Saison. But they still have their retro range intact, including the flagship Gisborne Gold, with its original branding and summertime smash-ability. Catch a wave, walk up from the beach and have a pint. The definition of perfection.
205 Queen Street East, Hastings
Brave Brewing is located in the former dispatch area of the old Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune newspaper buildings. When the newspaper (now Hawke’s Bay Today) moved to new premises, the old earthquake-risk buildings were strengthened and modernised to create a retail and café space, so there’s a bit of history to the area that my journalistic soul appreciates. The taproom has food, rigger fills and some of the best beer in New Zealand. It’s a rite of passage for any beer lover to have a Tigermilk IPA on-premise.
87 Devon Street West
The growth in the Taranaki brewing scene has been dramatic in recent years. For a long time, the region was known for the legendary Mike’s in Urenui, with a drought of good beer downtown. All that’s changed in recent years with Mike’s moving into town and being joined by Shining Peak and Three Sisters, which won the champion small brewery title at this year’s New Zealand Beer Awards. They are located inside the old New Plymouth Savings Bank building and a well-supported crowd-funding effort this year has allowed them to redo the fit out. Whatever is the latest in the Soor Plums series is the go.
Double Vision Brewing
128A Unit E, Park Road, Miramar
There’s no shortage of good beer in Wellington. You don’t have to walk far in the city before you find a great bar or brewpub, but out in the ‘burbs things are starting to buzz, including Parrotdog’s Lyall Bay brew bar. But Double Vision are carving a special niche in Miramar. Located close to the Weta Cave tourist attraction, they also draw the après-bike crowd discovering Miramar’s superb mountain biking trails in the vicinity of the old Mount Crawford prison. Ride the Repeat Offender trail and stop in at DVB for a Repeat Offender Pilsner afterwards.
Garage Project Wild Workshop
7 Marion Street, Wellington
Call this a wild-card entry, but it’s a side of Garage Project that’s not widely known. The Wild Workshop Cellar Door is open only on Friday and Saturday afternoons until 8pm and you can expect the providence of the programme: barrel-aged sours, spontaneous ferments, beer-wine hybrids and fruited beer. Sit among the amphoras and foeders, soaking up the sights and smells of a working brewery. After a taster or two — perhaps Chance Luck & Magic — grab a flagon from one of the six taps.
26 Rapaura Road, Renwick
There’s more to Blenheim (aka Boomtown) than wine, you know. Boomtown Brewing’s taproom and garden bar are set in a stunning tree-laden garden in the heart of Renwick wine country. They have their own six core range beers on tap as well as an extensive list of local wines. Relax on bean bags on the lawn or at large picnic tables with a Pelorus Pilsner and let the kids — and dogs — play freely. The food truck on-site offers handmade pizzas and tacos. There’s also a covered veranda and heater for the cooler days. Open Wednesday to Sunday 12-6pm.
483 Main Road, Riwaka
Hop Federation is a “blink and you’ll miss it” pitstop in gorgeous Riwaka hop country before you head over the Takaka Hill to Golden Bay or set off on the Abel Tasman track. This is where you stop to top up supplies and fill your riggers. It’s open Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm (6pm Thurs-Sat) and always has a great range on tap. The new Server Not Found XPA is your holiday-signifier beer.
57a Beach Road, Kaikoura
Not many things go together as well as beer and golf. At Emporium you get great beer and a fun little mini-putt golf outing to boot. There are also escape rooms on site for those who like their games a little more thrilling. The brewery, owned by Paul and Laura Finney, has been regularly winning awards since its inception six years ago and the range of beers on tap is always changing. My recommendation is the Get to Da Choppa Wit. At just 4.2% ABV it’s got serious flavour and you can have a pint and still sink a putt.
12 Markham Street, Amberley
Perhaps it’s the out-of-the-way location in Amberley, north of Christchurch, but Brew Moon is something of an under-appreciated legend in the New Zealand craft brewing scene. They’ve been around for 20 years now and make excellent beers. The taproom and pizzeria feature 16 taps poured directly from the brewery next door as well as some great local Waipara wines. Their Hop Head IPA is one of the original brews and stands the test of time as a Kiwi classic.
Two Thumb Brewing
352 Manchester Street, Christchurch
The burgeoning Christchurch brew scene is developing a vibrant personality and there’s a real charm to Two Thumb, where you can get excellent beer, indulge at a resident food truck and listen to live music including graduates from their Garage Band Initiative, set up by founders Dave Dixon and Mark Limber, who are former musicians themselves. Two Thumb also have a second home at 380 Colombo Street, which they bought off Lion when it was known as The Fermentist. But best to see where it all began and get yourself a Yorkshire Bitter on handpull and be transported.
10 Lyndhurst Street, Westport
Last year Westport-born Luke Robertson returned home from Melbourne to buy the old West Coast Brewery (aka Miner’s Brewery), rebranding it as Shortjaw. In a part of New Zealand desperate for more great breweries, they are doing god’s work in the region. Try a Kiwi Dark Lager — a beer that traces its heritage back 30 years, when Miner’s Dark was first brewed in the brewery. An easy drinker that’s packed with flavour.
10 Harbour Street, Oamaru
This cult brewery has moved out of co-founder Lee-Ann Scotti’s basement to an historic building at 10 Harbour Street, smack dab in the famed Victorian Precinct. It’s an absolutely gorgeous space, straight out of Belgium. From the exposed rafters to the ornate bar and lovely décor, it’s a popular spot with locals and pilgrims alike. Do order some local Whitestone Cheese with your beers, which range from the esoteric to the more esoteric, but for those who can’t go anywhere without having a hazy IPA, you’ll be looked after via guest taps. If there’s a Grisette on tap I’ll have that: a lively, fruity, slightly hoppy Belgian-style beer originally created for miners after a hard day’s work.
Burkes Brewing / Blue Lake Eatery
Main Road, State Highway 8, Lake Tekapo
Technically you’re visiting the Blue Lake Eatery & Bar in Tekapo, but it’s the home of Burkes, the once unheralded brewery which has leapt onto the national stage over the past two years with a series of awards. Seb Burke, a former helicopter engineer, had a prestigious Top-30 gong two years running at the New World Beer & Cider Awards for his #FakeNews Hazy IPA and then double-downed on glory by winning the Champion Beer of New Zealand in 2021 with Unforgiven Porter.
No Name Alley, Dunedin
Dunedin’s newest taproom and brewery is a short walk from the Octagon and a great place to weigh anchor. Tucked down No Name Alley, the old-bonded warehouse has been opened up with full-height windows across both floors complementing the stone and exposed beam interior. Paul and Karen are the hosts serving 10 beers from their 1500 litre on-site brewery shoe-horned in the back of the taproom over two floors. The Saison and farmhouse beers with local ingredients add variety to the expected pilsners, stouts and IPAs. Homemade pizzas soak up the alcohol perfectly.
827 Frankton Road, Queenstown
Perched on the shores of Lake Wakatipu is the only brewery to win two trophies at this year’s NZ Beer Awads. This is a welcoming, laidback and charming little taproom with beer at great prices. Altitude’s range includes the Mischievous Kea IPA, a beer that’s steadfastly stayed true to its English roots with a lovely malty palate and well-integrated hops. But you must try whatever edition of Jam Sessions is on tap — these fruited sours are proving a juicy hit.
60 Anderson Road, Wānaka
Right in the heart of Wānaka, the b Effect taproom is a great way to end a day blazing the mountain bike trails in nearby Sticky Forest. The taproom features a selection of the brewery’s finest, including some of the stuff you won’t find in cans elsewhere, plus some guest taps. The tables have maps of the region’s mountains to get you thinking of new adventures and the outdoor area is a good spot to relax after a day outdoors, beer in one hand, buttermilk fried chicken in the other.