Craft Beer Breweries in Queenstown

It’s been said that the Beer Industry has reached maturation globally, and in a nation where beer is a fundamental part of our culinary culture, this has been a worrisome thought for New Zealanders.  A decade ago we were asking  ‘where to from here?’.  Now we are solidly answering with ‘Craft Beer of course’!  In a recent report published by the ANZ Bank, it indicated that Craft Beers, brewed by small, independent, and traditional brewers have revitalised the beer market and now lead a local, full flavoured beer movement. In the same report of 2016, they also reported that ‘New Zealand's growing number of boutique craft breweries (there are now over 200 brands) sold beer faster than they produced it in 2016. Craft breweries now make up more than a tenth of New Zealand's beer market.’

So how has Queenstown capitalised on this emerging trend?  Beautifully and with a sense of style unique to Central Otago.  In this first post of two, we'll look at a few of our local craft breweries, and in the second we'll explore Queenstown's finest Craft Beer Houses.

Craft Beer Breweries

Searchlight Breweries

1. Searchlight Brewery 

Searchlight Brewery is a small independently owned and operated craft brewery, in Industrial Place off Gorge Road.  It’s pretty much embodies everything you’d hope a craft beer to embody.  It’s a story of passion, opportunity and shear hard work.  ‘Couple’ move to Queenstown, scout locations, work hard, build the brewery from the ground up by hand etc etc.  They pour their passion and love of their industry into every vat.  And we are not disappointed with the outcomes either.  In classic Craft Beer style, their range is quirky and fun and great to drink.  They promote a Three Beer Series:                 

Search Series: Search series is about the traditional styles, it helps you search for that style or styles you might like. They are brewed in a somewhat traditional way to introduce you to what is out there.

Seek Series: Seek out new and interesting ingredients. In the seek series we seek out fresh and local ingredients to add to our beers. Whether its locally grown berries or edible natives, they make for an interesting beer.

Evolve Series: Evolve series is all about the craft beer movement and where it is heading. We explore what is new and big within the craft beer community and try to help evolve that.

 2. Altitude Brewing 

If brewing a craft beer, and making it successful is supposed to be both challenging and fun, then Altitude Brewing has nailed it.   Their multi award winning craft beers are an absolute delight, from the thought and consideration gone into their creation and production to their clever marketing profile.  These guys are producing some seriously great beverages well created in the tradition of craft beer. 

With a tag line of ‘If You're Dedicated To Good Times In The Mountains, These Are Your Beers’, their range is fun and more local than most of us locals!  The only downer… not being able to drink and enjoy their creations within the actual brewery!

The Mischievous Kea: a fresh take on the traditional IPAs that are a favourite of many mountain folk and their urban counterparts - intensely aromatic with a palate-popping adventure

Posturing Professionals: Designed with NZ's brewing heritage in mind this award-winning beer is a salute to the old days and flavours of NZ brewing

The Goldpanner's Profit: A crisp and refreshing lager that is named after the icons of our region

Persistent High:  Slightly cloudy in appearance, this beer is best enjoyed poured with a big frothy head

Powder Day: A Pils for Aprè enjoyment or mid-summer slaking - crisp, fresh and full of character. It'll keep your tips up!

Singletrack Mind: This beer is for the wise, those that value time outdoors, and who'll enjoy this malty, caramel Red IPA with a US hop bite

Moonlight Track: A peated stout, the first of its kind in NZ. A smokey single malt nose with a smooth chocolate taste. A brew of genuine comfort.

Imperial Tahr IPA: Brewed in the hazy East Coast US style and left unfiltered to extract maximum flavour from the hops and malt, this beer delivers sensory awareness fit for a king

The Expedition Series: Take your taste buds on an epic adventure. An ongoing collection of experimental, weird and out-there ideas that might just take you somewhere you've never imagined before.

3. Wanaka Beerworks 

Founded in 1998, Wanaka Beerworks has been leading the craft beer industry from the picturesque township of Wanaka, where it derives most if its inspiration from.   Now a micro brewery with a 700L copper brew system which produces approximately 100,000L a year, the company has undergone a change of leadership a few times.  Its an hour drive from Queenstown but well worth it.  Most days you can do a tour of the brewery and get a lesson on the history and development of craft beers in NZ. The current owners have kept the original Wanaka Beerworks beers and added the Jabberwocky range of products with the production of an occasional seasonal beer.

The Beer Works Range:

Cardrona Gold: A classic golden all malt lager with a smooth malty biscuit-like sweetness and a mild hop bitter finish

Brewski Crisp: Floral hop aroma with a rich malty sweetness that is beautifully balanced by its spicy hop bitterness

Treble Cone: A treble hopped wheat Ale that’s full bodied and has plenty of character

Black Peak: A rich malty black beer infused with coffee. Moderate hop addition with a dry roasted finish

Mount Iron: A light thirst quencher ale packed full of Hop and Malt flavor

Lake Cider: Like Bobbing for apples in lake Wanaka during autumn, Lake Cider is clean, bright and refreshing

The Jabberwocky Range

Jabberwocky Central Otago Pale Ale:  New Zealand Malts and Hops come together and shine in this unfiltered Pale Ale which finishes Clean and Refreshing.

Jabberwocky Ruby Island: Rich malt flavour and a Ruby complexion are smacked full of hops to create a stunning IPA best enjoyed with the views from Ruby island in lake Wanaka.

Jabberwocky Jumboland:  Colossal like JumboLand in the Otago high country, this hop packed Double IPA will leave you gobsmacked!

Wanaka Beerworks Brewery

Queenstown Breweries

4. Queenstown Brewers 

Queenstown Brewers is a small brewing company started by home brewer and local winemaker John Wallace (and friends) back in 2012.   Like most great craft beer brewing stories, John created his range from the ‘back shed’ and managed to keep his mates well hydrated – that’s where the ‘’friends come in! From tinkering to super market shelves, Queenstown Brewers has kept the philosophy of using “only locally grown malt and hops in the beer production and the beer is not filtered or refined in order to retain maximum flavour.”   In essence, these boys have been keeping it local!

Steam Brew: Original brew inspired by the intrepid miners of the Wakatipu Gold Rush. Californian style beer. A brown ale with the smooth richness of a lager and the fruity bitterness of an ale.

The 25oz Pilsner: The 25oz Pilsner takes its name from a 25oz gold nugget that was found on the outskirts of Queenstown in 1870. It was reported in the press that the miners who found it subsequently went on a bender and kept the local Wakatipu Brewery busy for some time

Red Rye IPA: Brewed with 6 malts, a good 25% wollop of them being Rye Malt from Germany. The rest are all grown in the South Island, as are the 3 types of hops thrown in the boil

Dead Snake Porter: A dark malty beer made for the cold winter months

Long John Bottomless Golden Brew: Their summer session beer with a biscuity and juicy malt character derived from pale malts, underscored by tart citrus fruit and peppery hops.

5. Cargo Brewery 

Cargo Brewery has captured the imagination of many in this industry with its unique and innovative brewery and craft beers.  This clever company has made a visit to Cargo Brewery a day destination by converting shipping containers into a brewing house situated alongside stunning Waitiri Creek - opening up its space to visitors for both tastings, lunches, dinners and events.    And if plans succeed, then it will also welcome in NZ’s first authentic beer garden too.  And to take their passion to a new ‘local’ level, they planted 100 hop plants in October 2018 which will be used exclusively for their fresh hop beer to be sold at the cellar door and at events. The Black Seeds concert cemented Cargo Breweries as a major player in the Queenstown tour and destination market, backed up more recently with performances from Carl Cox in November 2018 and Fatboy Slim in February 2019.   This is a definite ‘must do’ if you want to experience the bigger brewery picture!

Lager:  The Easy Drinker: Bright gold in colour and captivating in aroma, Cargo Lager is a refreshing and easy drinking premium lager which offers perfect balance between malt sweetness and mild hop bitterness.

Pilsner:  Smooth and Hoppy: Light-bodied , smooth and well-balanced, the Cargo Pilsner is an all occasion beer which matches perfectly with a wide range of food. It has a hoppy, floral aroma with some malt leading into a soft mouth feel before lingering with an intricate, dry finish.

Pale Ale: Jam packed with Flavour: Our Pale Ale is easy drinking like the Cargo Lager and Pilsner but packed with citrus-laden Cascade hops. It pours with an off-white head with big bubbles and an enticing aroma of hops and malt.

IPA:  Full Bodied and Powerful: The hand crafted Cargo India Pale Ale is jam packed with hoppy goodness. Dry hopped with Pacifica and Nelson Sauvin it is a vibrant beer with full bodied flavours of citrus and stone fruit with a hint of caramel. The finish is long, expressive and bittersweet.

Porter:  Coffee, Butterscotch, Chocolate:  roasted malt flavour and sports a creamy, tan head that lasts until the final drop.   Silky smooth with a full bodied flavour brimming with malt, coffee, butterscotch and chocolate .

Waitiri:  Long, dry finish: A clean, refreshing and easy drinking NZ style Lager. Well balanced with a mild hop bitterness and crisp, dry finish.  

6. Crimson Badger Brewing  

Now this is what it’s all about!  This small brewing company is making epic Alcoholic Ginger Beer from the garage of it’s two local Queenstown owners.  Currently, they are distributing only to the local Central Otago market – only 50 litre kegs although recent growth means they hope to be delivering 330ml bottles to outlets for over the counter purchasing in the region!  Best grab one from Atlas Beer Café and enjoy!  Lets support out local lads doing great things!

Crimson Badger Brewing

7. Canyon Food & Brew Co. 

As far as epic locations go, this has to be one of the best ever!  Canyon’s award-winning beer is crafted onsite alongside the iconic Shotover River. The brewery is open and on display so you can join in on the experience of the brewing journey.  They have 4 regular brews and rotate two more with the summer / winter seasons.  Self described as ‘approachable’ and ‘memorable’ they believe they’ve struck the perfect balance between easy drinking and interesting flavours.  I, for one, enjoy the whole experience – location + food + beer.  Canyon are a short drive from Queenstown, accessible by car, bus, bike or taxi and worth the visit!  Pair it with a Shotover Jet ride and you’ve a perfect summer day!

Canyon New Zealand Ale:  An approachable take on a traditional ale. Deep amber in colour with notes of toffee, caramel and earthy spices with a light refreshing finish

Canyon Pale Ale:  Notes of stone fruit and berries complement a soft malt profile with a crisp, refreshing finish.

Canyon Porter:  Deep burgundy in colour with a bouquet of wild berries, dark chocolate and rich coffee flavours complimented by a soft luxurious mouthfeel

Canyon IPA:  Bursting with a tropical flavour, this copper coloured IPA is a showcase of NZ and USA hops. An orchard of fruit aromas will greet your senses, balanced by a biscuit malt backbone with soft spice notes and a crisp finish of pine

Canyon Schwarzbier Dark Lager:  Quenching & refreshing, this Dark Lager presents aromas of cola and coffee berry. Chocolate vanilla flavours greet you with subtle roasted malt notes and a hint of Jamaican rum.

Canyon Lager:  A brilliant straw coloured European style lager. With honey and lemon through both the aroma and flavour. Subtle floral and spice notes, this is a smooth and light bodied classic.

So, these are our top 'go to' Craft Beer Breweries.  Enjoy, and check out our next post on Queenstown's best Craft Beer houses!