A frequent topic of discussion here at Beer Jerk Towers is “which New Zealand brewery has the best core range?”
While it’s often easy to get sucked into the cycle of new releases and exciting experiments that keep us on our toes, core range beers have the advantage of constant iteration, allowing breweries to practice and perfect their favourite recipes. Along with a cheaper price point and reliable availability, what’s not to love?
A big part of the discussion around core range beers is the question: what makes a core range the best? Is it the one that nails hoppy styles, one that has a solid base in tradition, one that has its own unique twist, or is simply the best value? I can’t answer that for you but I can present you with a highly subjective list, that you can angrily disagree with, which details some of the best core ranges in the country for your consideration.
Parrotdog are a brewery at the top of their game. Having hit their stride at their state-of-the-art Lyall Bay brewery and transitioned their range to cans, they are putting out some of the best hoppy beers in the country. The range is characterised by the clean and bright finish across all their beers, with their Rifleman (XPA), Falcon (APA), Hawkeye (SIPA), Bitterbitch (IPA) and Birdseye (Hazy IPA) all nailing their styles to deliver big flavour in just the form you want it.
Honourable Mention – Liberty: With a range that includes Oh Brother (Pale Ale), Yakima Monster (APA) Knife Party (IPA) and C!tra (DIPA), how can you go wrong?
Boneface are a brewery that is steadily growing and reinforcing their status as a player to be reckoned with. From their brewery in Upper Hutt’s Brewtown development, they are releasing a deliciously diverse range of beers on a regular basis. From their original releases – The Juice (Dry Hopped Gose), Outlaw (IPL) and The Darkness (India Stout), to the new kids on the block – Snaggletooth (IPA) and The Wizard (Hazy Pale Ale) – they are hitting it out of the park in a range of styles.
Honorable Mention – Yeastie Boys: For over a decade this veteran has been brewing overlooked, innovative classics like Gunnamatta (Early Grey IPA) Pot Kettle Black (Pacific Porter) and Rex Attitude (Peat Smoked Golden Ale) alongside staples like Digital IPA, White Noise (Wit) and Bigmouth (Session IPA).
If you’re looking to emulate the European masters in a New Zealand brewery, look no further than Hawke’s Bay’s Zeelandt. Brewer Christopher Barber is dedicated to the tradition of the craft and treats the brewing process with the utmost respect and patience, with proper conditioning, long lagering and attention to detail. This is reflected in their clean and elegant core range, featuring beers like Jerry Rig (Munich Helles), Good Thief (Pilsner), Guv’nor (ESB) and Black Monk (Schwarzbier).
Honorable Mention – North End: If your inclination leans towards Belgian styles rather than German and English, North End’s Table Beer, Saison and Quadrupel are probably right up your street!
Some breweries have always put tradition to the side and forged their own path. Duncan’s brewery revel in flying in the face of brewing history with ingredients which would make Reinheitsgebot-loving Germans turn in their graves. Their Yum Yum Lager (with Yuzu), Coco Husk (Stout), Juniper IPA and Whippy (Mango Milkshake IPA) all take a beloved style and inject them with new layers of unapologetic, in-your-face flavour.
Honorable Mention – New New New: Innovating with their eye catching branding as well as their ingredients, this Dunedin brewery always has their own take on a style. From Pepper Pepper Pepper (Chili Pils) and Sun & Glory (Raspberry Berliner), to Sun Sun Beer (Tropical Brown Ale) and Super Rye (50% Rye Pale Ale).
Nelson’s Eddyline brewery are the new kids on the block when it comes to canning, but with years of experience in multiple breweries overseas, Mic and Molley Heynekamp bring a wealth of knowledge to the beer scene. Part of that experience is around the success internationally of their 440ml six-packs. These aggressively-priced beers like Trail Carver (APA), Crank Yanker (IPA) and Summer In The Citra (NEIPA) all deliver huge bang for your buck at $30 for six. Keep an eye on Eddyline to disrupt pricing in 440ml cans across NZ as they continue to push nationwide.
Honorable Mention – Good George: Sometimes overlooked outside of their hometown of Hamilton, the guys at Good George have been quietly competent in putting out their Lager, Pale Ale and IPA at affordable prices all over the country.