Before there was wine, there was beer (in my life anyway)

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Though you can often find me holding a glass of wine, swirling and sniffing like a perfumer, I am not one for doing it with beer. Beer is the working-man’s drink, a drink that represents simplicity in a complex world and I try to treat it as such. 

However, this doesn’t stop me from searching out the sensations beer can offer, especially bottlings from smaller, quality-focused breweries. 

I’m sure that you’ve noticed many of the big-brand beers that dominate the New Zealand market are bland and watery. Though Speights, Heineken, Steinlager Pure and their kind are refreshing enough after a long day, they offer little in the way of flavour. They’re the beers that sell the most because they are cheap, and at the end of the day, it’s the dollar in our pocket that makes our purchasing decisions. 

But occasionally, when the mood takes you, it is worth looking beyond the high stacks in the bottle shop chiller and into the specialist (read expensive) beer fridge. 

Call them what you will; craft, boutique, micro-brews, New Zealand has some exciting breweries that are producing beers with real character and interest. Sure they cost more, but there is plenty to be said for quality over quantity. 

I usually pick half a dozen different styles and try them over a couple of nights. Boutique beers tend to be heavier and stronger than simple lagers, therefore they are not recommended for sessions! Many of them are bottled in 500ml formats, so they’re good to share. 

There’s plenty of information out there on beer and food matches, but I find beer too heavy to go with dinner, so I prefer my beer with beer. You can’t beat that moment of getting home from work, opening a brew that you know is going to taste great and putting your feet up. (Sorry to all those with young kids, I know you never actually get to do that). 

Here are some of my favourite boutique beers; 

Emersons Pilsner 5% ABV – If you haven’t tried this yet, where have you been? This organic lager is hoppy, fruity and loved by all. 

Three Boys Oyster Stout 6.2% ABV – Made with an addition of Bluff oysters, this black, sturdy beer is silky, nutty and toasty. Though I can only ever manage one, it’s always a good’un. 

Tuatara Ardennes 6.5%ABV – Based on Belgian strong ale, its light style holds the alcohol well. It has hints of orange peel and honey – hold on, I nearly went off on a wine tangent! 

Renaissance Brewing Company Stonecutter Scotch Ale 7% ABV – This’ll put hairs on your Sporran. Tan in colour and full bodied, it’s full of chocolate, rum and coffee, like spending Christmas with your mad Scottish uncle.

Check out more at Paul Tudgay’s Wine Down site