Beer highs and lows of 2010

Cheers 2010, you’ve been a good year for New Zealand beer fans.

The highlight for me was the exponential spread of good graft beer. Several mainstream (tied) pubs here in Wellington renegotiated their supply contracts this year and now stock craft breweries like Epic and Emerson’s alongside mainstream taps. Bottled craft beer is turning up in many pubs too.

Some Wellington cafes and restaurants have a beer range that is broader than some beer pubs. They don’t make a big fuss about it, or call themselves a beer cafe. It is just part of being a good cafe, and fits in naturally with good food, wine and coffee.

The mainstream outlets, especially pubs, deserve to be supported. I’m sure the mainstream breweries will try to force tighter contracts and evict craft beers, and that would be a setback. Let the outlet know you value a good beer range when you see it.

The low point of my beer year was the closure of the Mac’s Brewery. This was one of the more innovative breweries in the country and showed a genuine commitment to craft beer from its owner Lion Nathan.

That commitment ended suddenly this year when the brewery closed. The last seasonal brew was the 2010 Brewjolais. This was a Mac’s innovation and tradition started by former head brewer Colin Paige using fresh – undried! – hops. Brewjolais was alive – every year was different, due to annual variations in the hop crop, and the beer changed over time as the hop presence matured.

Mac’s went from producing Brewjolais in autumn to flogging flavoured cider in spring. Sure, running a specialist craft brewery was bound to be more expensive than producing Mac’s in Lion’s larger plants, but that’s only an expense if you fail to leverage the innovation and build a boutique niche, which Mac’s was capable of doing.

It’s a real shame that Mac’s has gone from exciting products to dull, reactive promotions. Mac’s now simply tries to match competitors’ product ranges rather than leading and showing initiative. It was good to see a major brewer acting so confidently, and the brewery’s closure was the biggest loss to brewing this year.

On a personal note, thank you and happy Christmas to everyone who has read and enjoyed NZBeerBlog this year. I started the blog six months ago for purely personal reasons – I like beer and I like writing. In the process I have met lots of passionate beer merchants and makers and drinkers, and enjoyed our conversations.

Thanks too to those readers who have asked me to comment on your brews, and those who have left comments – especially those who think I’m wrong and tell me why. That’s what a good beer conversation is all about.

So cheers NZBeerBlogees, see you in 2011.

Martin Craig
Follow us on Twitter @nzbeerblog

4 Responses to “Beer highs and lows of 2010”

  1. It’s been great reading the blog this year Martin.

    A very beery xmas to you and yours, and hopefully we can raise a glass in the new year.




  2. Yeah Martin, I second that. Have enjoyed reading the blog. Xmas is over, enjoy boxing day and have a great new years.

    zum Wohl!



  3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much effort put into spamming as the above post! I don’t know whether to be admiring or horrified! :)


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