The earthquakes are history and Christchurch’s craft beer community is back in action. Here’s a six-pack of reasons why you should visit soon.
1. The good stuff doesn’t leave town
Sure, you know Three Boys, Cassels & Sons and Twisted Hop – their labels are on shelves and taps around the country. But their limited releases and brewer’s reserves are not bottled and don’t leave Christchurch. And since Cassels and Twisted Hop have their own bars, these short runs might not be available at any other venue. If you want to experience Cassels IPA, Three Boys Red Ale or American Brown, or Twisted Hop’s cask ales, you’ll have to visit Christchurch.
2. The industry is back on track
Christchurch brewers undoubtedly have their challenges. The good news is that these are exactly the same challenges facing brewers in the rest of New Zealand: getting bigger premises, finding and commissioning new equipment, and generally keeping up with growing demand. When your problems are the same as the rest of the country, you’ve survived the recovery phase.
For example, Christchurch’s largest brewer Harrington’s was doing a lot of contract brewing and bottling before the quakes. Now it is in a new, larger brewery (ex-Matsons), is commissioning new plant, and is once again available for brewing, bottling and canning contracts. That’s back in business.
3. The Laboratory
Martin and Lisa Bennett of Twisted Hop have built and just opened The Laboratory in Lincoln, 23km south-west of Christchurch. It has its own microbrewery, ably overseen by Martin (aka Professor Dodsworthy) and also features Twisted Hop brews. Many are cask-conditioned, and if you enjoy a locally-brewed cask beer, off a hand pump and served in an imperial pint, The Laboratory is well worth the drive.
4. City bars
You don’t have to go country to find a good beer. Pomeroy’s Englishy snugness is being joined by a new cafe, Little Pom’s, and has the rebranded Pomeroy’s Brewery. Cassels & Son’s Brewery @ The Tannery is expanding the brewery operation. Check out the limited releases and the pizzas. Volstead is just my kind of dive bar, and again it serves many tap beers that don’t make it out of town, including local small brewers like Ghost and Golden Eagle.
5. It’s boomtown
Ok, the recovery is taking longer than expected – it will be the work of a generation after all. But compared to the rest of New Zealand, in business-as-usual mode, Christchurch is a construction boomtown. There’s plenty of cashed-up workers, with hard physical jobs, looking for a tasty craft beer at the end of their day.
Getting back into business after a long series of earthquakes took commitment and imagination. That innovative spirit continues in the brewing scene. One example – look out for craft beer cans with a nitrogen widget. Remember you heard about it first at Beertown.NZ!
Beertown.NZ visited Christchurch last week at its own expense