I am writing this in the city of Auckland. It is the last day of a ten day trip to New Zealand. The main purpose of my visit was to attend a meeting of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on the Dynamics of Economic Spaces. The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘New Resource Geographies”. I made a presentation on changes taking place in the American hops industry as a result of the growth of the craft brewing sector. The meeting was in Palmerston North, an inland town of about 85,000 residents, located on the eastern Manawatu Plains of the country’s North Island.
As always, when I travel, I enjoy exploring the beer scene in the places I visit. Like many developed economies New Zealand has an emerging craft beer scene. According to a 2016 report there are 168 craft breweries in this country of 4.5 million people. Craft beer accounts for fifteen percent of the country’s beer sales.
After Palmerston North I took the bus south to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. A city of 400,000 Wellington has a vibrant craft beer scene. This was my third visit to New Zealand, but my first to Wellington. While there I took the opportunity to visit one of the city’s craft breweries. Black Dog Brew Co. was established in 2011. Located right in the heart of the CBD the brewery was a comfortable walk from my hotel. I arrived at the brewery mid-afternoon on a Saturday. As I approached I was a little surprised to see that it seemed to be packed with people – they were spilling out onto the streets. I had stopped in at a few bars on my way to the Black Dog and the Saturday afternoon patrons were few in number. But, as I got closer, I noticed something unusual about the crowd at Black Dog – many of them had dogs in tow. As it turns out my visit to the brewery coincided with the annual fundraiser that the brewery holds for the Wellington branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I made my way through a throng of people and dogs and found a seat towards the back of the bar. As I looked round I counted probably a dozen dogs who sniffed around as their happy owners enjoyed a brew. Last year’s event attracted forty or so dogs apparently. This was the third year that the brewery had hosted this fundraiser. And each year they have brewed a special beer; the proceeds from the sale of which are donated to the Wellington SPCA. In 2015 the brew was Skater Hater, a hoppy Pilsner. It was named after one of the dogs who regularly frequents the brewery and has a particular disdain for skateboarders. This year the brewery produced XPCA, a New Zealand Pale Ale. While I was there one of the brewery’s owners, Simon Edward, said a few words about the event and thanked everyone who had come out in support.
While the brewery was too busy for me to get a few words with any of the owners all indications are that they are dog lovers. In addition to this annual fundraiser and the brewery’s name, a number of Black Dog’s brews are named to have a dog connection. Clifford, a Red IPA, is named (presumably) after the children’s book character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Then there’s Hair of the Dog, an appropriately-named breakfast IPA that comes in at an ABV of 2.2%. Other dog-inspired beers are Golden Lab (a golden ale), Chomp (a New Zealand pale ale), and Bite (a hopped Pilsner). I spent an enjoyable hour or so at the Black Dog, sampling their beer while watching dog lovers and their pooches.
The fact that Black Dog were hosting an event to support a local charitable cause does not surprise me. Craft breweries tend to be high connected to and engaged with their local communities. In 2014, for example, American craft breweries raised over seventy-one million dollars for charity, That’s an average of $20,664 per craft brewery or $3.25 per barrel.
In addition to craft breweries Wellington also has a number of craft beer bars. After Black Dog I visited one of those – The Malthouse. Since its opening in 1993 this Wellington institution has been described as the high alter of the local craft beer scene. It was the first bar in the city to serve Heineken. Today if offers 150+ beers, including 25+ on draft, from all over New Zealand and around the world. Non-draft beer is stored in one of six refrigerated coolers, each one set at a different temperature to suit the. beer inside.
It is really great to see the craft brewing movement prosper outside of the United States. And the more I travel, the more I talk to people, and the more I read about craft brewing in other countries the more I notice commonalities that transcend international borders. Whether you are in Sweden, New Zealand, or in the United States there are a growing number of people who desire beer that is of higher quality and more flavorful and more diverse than that which is being offered to them by the large multinational conglomerates. And thankfully there are brewers who are willing to step-up and take the risk of commercializing their hobby to provide the beer drinker with the wonderful array of craft beers that we have available to us today.