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ew Zealanders are unquestionably ‘Beer People’. While
Kiwis don’t exactly consume more beer than other nations
(ranking just 27th in global beer consumption per capita),
most of the alcohol we do consume is beer (accounting for
approximately 63% of total alcohol sales). And of that beer sold in New
Zealand, the overwhelming major ity of it is good old-fashioned lager.
Now, to be clear, technically ‘lager’ is just a blanket ter m that simply
means ‘to store, or cellar’. Many centur ies ago, European brewers
(particularly in what is now Souther n Ger many, Austria, and the Czech
Republic) began stor ing (or ‘lager ing’) their ales in cool, temperature-
stable caves. Somewhere around the 15th
centur y, the top-fer menting,
war mer-temperature-loving brewer’s yeast that was traditionally used
in the area mutated to adapt to the cool Bavar ian caves. Thus, a new
bottom-fer menting strain of yeast was bor n that could fer ment in
dramatically cooler temperatures. This colder fer mentation restrains
the production of many of the bolder flavours associated with ales and,
when done r ight, produces a much cleaner beer.
Fast forward a few hundred years and we see the industrial revolution
(and its cor responding advancements in refrigeration) catapult lager
into the homes of sports-loving individuals around the globe, where it
slowly shed most of its colour and flavour and became the pale, easy-
drinking beverage with which we are all so familiar. In fact, moder n
pale lager has become so popular that of the world’s top 10-selling
beer brands, all 10 are pale lagers - including the likes of Budweiser,
Heineken, Tsingtao, and many other familiar brands.
Not unlike the rest of the world, Kiwis have embraced lagers for
many decades; though sur prisingly they are not always aware of it.
In fact, one of New Zealand’s most significant contributions to the
pantheon of beer styles is NZ draught. Despite its ale-infused branding,
NZ draught is a nearly always a malty, lightly-hopped, amber lager
that was bor n (in part) of the uniquely Kiwi process of ‘continuous
fer mentation’. Even New Zealand’s highly popular Tui brand is
an amber lager, despite being branded as an East India Pale Ale; an
inaccuracy that has gar nished cr iticism from both the Consumers’
Institute of New Zealand and beer aficionados alike.
But certainly one couldn’t discuss New Zealand lager without
mentioning Steinlager - arguably New Zealand’s most iconic beer.
Steinlager (or iginally called Steinecker), was introduced to the New
Zealand market in 1958 in response to the then Minister of Finance
Arnold Nordmeyer’s threat to cut beer imports as part of his infamous
‘Black Budget’. He challenged New Zealand brewers to compete by
producing a lager of inter national quality. Less than a decade later,
Steinlager was introduced to the US market where it would eventually
go on to win the ‘Best Beer in the World’ title, forever linking the
brand to New Zealand’s national identity.
But the definition of New Zealand lager is slowly changing.With
the explosion of craft beer in New Zealand, and with a shift away from
economical products in favour of fuller-flavoured artisan beers, many
New Zealand brewers are offer ing new and interesting twists on this
classic style. One such brewer is Gisbor ne’s Sunshine Brewery. Sunshine
not only produces several popular pilsners; they also happen to produce
New Zealand’s oldest craft lager with their much-loved Gisbor ne Gold.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Sunshine’s Head Brewer Chris
Scott and General Manager Ryan Raggett, to gain a bit of insight into
how they approach brewing a New Zealand lager, and the significant
impact Gisbor ne Gold has had - not only on the success of their
brewer y - but on New Zealand’s craft beer scene in general.
“Certainly the bread and butter of the brewery has always been
Gisbor ne Gold, our classic New Zealand lager,” says Raggett. “That was
essentially the first beer that Sunshine started brewing and it car r ied the
brewery right through until today. It’s still our number one selling beer.We
now have a huge range, 18 different beers at the moment, but we still love
our lager, the Gisborne Gold. Or ‘Gizzy Gold’ as we refer to it,” he says.
I asked pair how Gisbor ne Gold compared to other, more traditional,
lagers on the market. “For a start we use all New Zealand ingredients
in both our Gisbor ne Gold and our Pilsners,” says Scott. “Compared
Beer writer John Oszajca takes a
look at what has become of this
good old-fashioned brew.
56 | Februar y 2017 | Hospitality BUSINESS
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