What follows is an updated version of the list of New Zealand beer brands following input from readers. (Updated again, February 2023)
I started out asking the question: How often have you seen the “fact” that New Zealand has around 220 breweries?
It’s been an oft-touted number and I’ve always wondered where it comes from. It’s popped up in various places over the years — most recently in this EECA report on decarbonization of the brewing industry. Though at least they had it as “over 200”. I think much of this erroneous data comes from an NZIER report in 2019 that had the 218 number, which was unsourced.
Beer writer Phil Cook took a more hard-lined approach to this analysis three years ago when he focused on physical breweries and came up with 161.
Statistics New Zealand had a count of 174 as of last year based on how business categorise themselves. The peak was 180 in 2020, which represented a trebling in breweries from 60 in the preceding decade: rapid growth by anyone’s standards.
What I’m not sure of from Stats NZ’s data is whether, for example, Lion’s various “brands” — notably Panhead and Emerson’s and to a lesser extent Mac’s and Harrington’s are rolled into one enterprise. Ditto DB with Monteith’s and Tuatara and Asahi with Boundary Road and Founders. It feels like they probably are.
So what I decided to do was count them using the resources from Phil Cook’s original effort; Jules van Costello’s book Brewed; the regional powerhouse of SOBA, which has people on the ground throughout New Zealand who know what’s happening in their local area; the Companies Office and — somewhat usefully, Google Maps. And now readers and brewers themselves have come to me adding in some and taking out others.
Unlike Phil I did count contract breweries, because you can’t have a list of New Zealand breweries without Yeastie Boys, for example.
I omitted brands that are under one corporate umbrella but which do not have a physical brewery. So no to Mac’s, Harrington’s (Lion), Founders, Boundary Road (Asahi), Monteith’s (DB), or Southern Alps (Moa). But yes to Speight’s, Emerson’s, Panhead and Tuatara. You could argue that Boundary Road is in a grey area. Yes, it’s an invented brand and brewed by Asahi but for a long time it was the main brand associated with Independent, but I’m trying to be as clear-cut as possible so they’re not counted.
Initially, I left out large contract breweries such as Steam, B Studio and Craft Brewing Co (the brewing arm of Crafty Canners) as this is more focused on brew brands that sell to the public, whether on- or off-premise. But in reconsidering this, I’ve added them back in because if they didn’t exist then many contract brands would not exist either. And they employ people, so from a wider industry perspective they are super-relevant.
At first I was going to omit secondary breweries such as Garage Project Wild Workshop and DB Timaru, but then I started thinking about Tui and Speight’s (and how they have their own identity even though they are “secondary” to Lion’s and DB’s main operation …) so I’ve now included these.
There may be some brew brands or breweries I’ve missed, which is to be expected when there is no real register of these things! So if you know of one I’ve omitted let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and also if there’s someone on the list who has since closed. In cases where I’m unsure I’ve given the benefit of the doubt.
In total, I get 208 breweries or brew brands. There are 125 in the North Island and 83 in the South Island.
Ok, so not quite the 220 so often quoted but still — a lot! And honestly, I’m surprised. It’s more than I expected. And it’s thousands of percent more than 40 years ago when we had just two major breweries (Lion and DB) and half-a-dozen brew-sites (Lion and DB in Auckland, Lion in Christchurch, DB in Timaru, Monteith’s and Speight’s).
North of Auckland (11)
Bay of Islands Brewing Co
Pacific Coast Drinks (opening January)
North Shore (6)
West Auckland (7)
Craft Brewing Co
Central Auckland (23)
State of Play
Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen
Gulf Islands (4)
Waiheke Island Brewing
Three Fat Pigs
Central & Lower North Island (9)
Brews on Drews
Lower East Coast North Island (15)
Abbey (formerly Fat Monk)
Porirua / Hutt Valley (8)
Central Wellington (13)
Garage Project Wild Workshop
Nelson / Tasman (11)
Sprig & Fern
McCashins (name of brewery) / Stoke (name of brand)
Renaissance / Funk Estate / Level Up
Beers by Bacon Bros
Beer Baroness / Pomeroys
Bodgie (formerly Twisted Hop)
West Coast (2)
Central South Island (6)
Lower South Island (27)
Alpine Ale Works
Catlins True Brew
Lake & Wood
Rhyme X Reason
Rough Rock (Otago Brew School)
There Be Dragons