Nelson Tasman is known by many as the home of hops, and it’s easy to see why.
Nelson Tasman is the only place in New Zealand where hops are commercially grown and, with over 10 craft breweries in the region, it has earnt the title as the country's craft brewing capital.
Many of these are locally owned, family-run businesses and outlets who are more than happy to welcome visitors in to sample the product, learn about their history and experience the wide range of craft brews on offer. Whether you prefer an icy pilsner or cask-pulled ale, you’ll find it in Nelson Tasman.
The Sprig & Fern brewery, located in Richmond, Nelson is renowned for creating great craft beer and ciders. The first of their 10 taverns was opened in 2006, winning over the hearts and tastebuds of Nelsonians and visitors from all around the world. Owner and head brewer Tracy Banner is known as the ‘Mother of New Zealand brewing’, and it’s easy to see why. With more than 35 years experience in the industry, she played an integral role in the countries craft beer revolution. With taverns dotted around the region, you’re spoilt for choice.
The historic Rochdale Cider Factory at Stoke is the home of McCashin's Brewery. The Brewery is a ‘must visit’ with tours, free tastings, a cafe, bottle store and bar. Smell the enticing aroma of Nelson Tasman’s finest hops and watch the brewers in action as they share tales of New Zealand’s craft brewing revolution!
Nelson has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country and is therefore adequately qualified to host one of the nations best beer events. Unlike ordinary beer festivals, all the beers available at MarchFest have been specially brewed for the event and have never previously been tasted by the public before.
Biking brewery trails are one of the best ways to explore Nelson's beer destinations, while also taking in the beauty of the countryside. The Gentle Cycling Company’s Moutere Wine & Beer Country Ride offers self-guided cycle tours on quiet country roads and cycleways, finishing with beer tasting at New Zealand’s oldest pub, the Moutere Inn.
With just 7 kilometres of cycling (all flat and mostly on a cycle trail) you will hardly work up a sweat. Pics Peanut Butter factory is on the cycle trail here too, so you can swing by the factory for a tasting (no appointment necessary) and pick up a jar of famous Peanut Butter between beers.
No matter what your budget or timeframe is in Nelson, a self-guided beer trail is the way to go. Download the Nelson Craft Beer Trail Map and explore all corners of this sunny region.
Craft breweries of all sizes now stretch from the Founders Heritage Park to Onekaka in Golden Bay and are the perfect excuse for a half-day or full-day of exploring and sampling the local product. Climb from the waterfront to the foothills and keep your eyes peeled for historic hop kilns along the way.
The Mussel Inn - at Onekaka in the heart of Nelson’s Golden Bay - has a popular beer based on New Zealand’s first recorded brew which British explorer Captain James Cook made from a blend of tea and leaves from native forest trees. The aptly named ‘Captain Cooker’ is an all malt beer made from locally grown organic hops and flavoured with freshly picked tips of the native manuka tree. Furthermore, the brewer’s restaurant has become famous for its steamed mussels and fresh local fare.
Located in a tiny rural settlement 35km west of Nelson city you’ll find the Moutere Inn – one of New Zealand’s oldest pubs. Built in 1850, this charmer dishes up home-cooked, pub-grub favourites such as burgers and ribs, and 16 taps of local goodness, including ales brewed by Moutere Valley traditionalist, Martin Townsend. Try his sessionable, biscuity Sutton Hoo American amber ale, or the chocolatey oatmeal stout.
J J’s Tours runs the Natural Brewery Trail of Nelson taking in four local award winning breweries including Harrington’s which made the ale for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The tour also takes visitors to the Lighthouse Brewery, the smallest legal brewery in New Zealand.
Founders Brewery is also worth a visit. Stroll through the neighbouring park then settle in for a tasting tray. The brewery produces boutique beers including award-winning organic brews such as Long Black, Tall Blonde and Redhead.