Hawke’s Bay not only about wine- also beer


Hawke’s Bay is one of Aotearoa’s premier wine spots, drawing in tourists from across the country and around the world.

But the region has recently been making a name for itself because of its craft beer offerings, with several taprooms opening just in time for summer.

RNZ explored three local breweries to see what the fuss is about – two of them have just opened bars and and the other is due to open one later this year.

From print to pint

Giant Brewing has opened a pub in Havelock North, with the owner, former journalist Chris Ormond, switching careers to beer brewing about half a decade ago.

Ormond explained after years of working in print, including a stint in Parliament’s press gallery, his first ever beer harks back to his old job.

“The first beer I made is a New Zealand Pale Ale which we’ve abbreviated to NZPA because NZPA [New Zealand Press Association] was a company I worked for for several years in Wellington. It was deliberate and it amused some of my former work colleagues.”

It was his time in Wellington and passion for exploring beer that led him to switch careers.

“I lived in Wellington when the industry started taking off. I loved going to regional wines and spirits and stocking up on all the different beers that were coming out and it just became a bit of a hobby and when I moved to Hawke’s Bay I started homebrewing.

“I did an intensive one week brewing course in Wellington a few months on on but other than that, it’s been trial and error.”

Although he was glad to be out of the unsettled news industry, Ormond said it had been years of hard work to finally get to the point where he’s seeing the returns from his investment in beer.

“I think five years of hard graft and not much return is starting to pay off.”

He said the recent influx of craft beer breweries and bars in Hawke’s Bay is a symptom of the industry’s revival around the world and reflective of New Zealand’s changing drinking habits.

“Instead of going and buying a 12 pack of the commercial lagers, they’ll buy less of maybe a stronger and more flavourful beer.”

Revitalising the city

A few kilometres down the road is a new taproom in central Hastings, settled in the ‘eastside’ – a revived part of the city where many new speciality shops are starting up.

Brave Brewing, which has been a popular local brew for a few years, has kicked it up a notch by opening a new taproom in the area late last year.

Owner Matt Smith grew up in Hastings, but left to study audio engineering, sociology and politics in Auckland, among lots of travel.

He said he first got into beer “by accident”.

“I was travelling in America and a few friends that I was with just loved going to brew pubs and tasting different beers and just kind of geeking out on it, I don’t even think I drank beer at all at the time.

“I first got real fascinated by the science of it and just how you can pull four different ingredients together and manipulate them in a way and they naturally turn into this delicious thing.”

Returning to Hastings where he grew up, Smith transformed his home garage into a commercial brewing operation.

Now, he said he was trying to revitalise the city.

“Hastings is one of those quiet, sleepy, I don’t know, maybe slightly run down places as a kid.

“When I was 18 I just wanted to get out of here and you know, move somewhere, quote-on-quote, more interesting. But coming back 10 years later and actually investing in trying to lift the town and contribute to making it cool has been really fun.”

Bottling Europe in the Bay

Over in Eskdale, just after drivers turn off towards Taupō from Napier, sits Zeelandt, hidden in a large shed off the highway.

Brewer Christopher Barber moved here from Huapai, a small community north-west of Auckland.

When he arrived in Hawke’s Bay, he noticed one thing local hospitality was lacking – good beer.

“There’s some really great restaurants and honestly the wine was pretty good so you’d go to the restaurants, they’d have these amazing wine lists and at that time their beers were pretty poor.”

So he started producing European-style brews of his own.

His big plan for 2021 is to build a garden bar at the brewery, hoping to open it in September.

Barber said he had no regrets about the move from the big city to start from scratch – he said the key was lifestyle and family.

“We moved out of the biggest market in New Zealand, which is Auckland, and set up in a small market so that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but we’re a family business and we’re all about making a nice sustainable business [and] lifestyle so we’re more I guess that way inclined than hitting the big markets, export markets.”

These three brewers are encouraging visitors to Hawke’s Bay this summer not only to try the wine, but to stop off for a taste of local beer too.





You may also like