Turning water into wine was a miracle. But today winemakers are turning to brewing and adding craft beer to their product ranges.
The attraction is understandable. Beer, quite obviously, is far more diverse than wine, using at least four ingredients and including many different processes. And while mainstream beer consumption is falling, and wine consumption has been relatively stable, craft beer consumption is showing healthy growth.
In the South Island, Giesen Wines has just opened its new brewery in Christchurch, producing Kaiser Brothers beers based on the family’s German brewing heritage.
In Hawke’s Bay, Abbey Estate in Bridge Pa also houses Abbey Brewery, which has built a good reputation for its Fat Monk beer range. And Petane Station in Esk Valley has family connections with its next-door neighbour, Zeelandt Brewery. Other brewer/winemaker projects are fomenting in the Hawke’s Bay hills.
It’s not just one-way traffic, as brewers look to winemakers for skilled staff. Qualified winemakers are turning up in breweries all over the country, valued for their understanding of the art and science behind fermentation.
Brewers have also been turning to winemakers for their distribution contacts, particularly as restaurants and cafés becoming increasingly important markets for bottled craft beer and all its food matching possibilities. Sacred Hill’s distribution arm, Quench Collective, has an excellent craft beer portfolio including 8 Wired (Brewers Guild Champion Brewery 2011), Funk Estate and Liberty.
These building links between winemakers and craft brewers probably reflect a shared audience, as consumers are increasingly looking to beer to provide flavours, experiences and food matches. For years this was wine’s territory and now it has to share. Beer lists are getting bigger, and beer is no longer relegated to the last page of a good wine list!
Supermarkets are also contested territory, as Single Alcohol Areas, as defined under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, confine wine and beer to a limited and isolated corner of the store. With no opportunity to expand the department, winemakers are developing craft beer brands to preserve their precious space on the shelves.