It's a wonderful time to be a beer lover in Aotearoa. While in previous years it might have been considered the (ironically) 'uncultured' brother of wine, these days you'll be hard pressed to shut a craft beer lover up once they start chatting about their favourite drops.
In 2019, Stats NZ revealed the volume of craft beer produced over the previous five years had almost trebled - and the numbers are only continuing to rise as breweries increasingly offer beer paddles and tasting guides.
But if you're just entering the world of beer, it can be a confusing one - do you want something hoppy, malty, or 'hazy'? And when is the correct time to drink a stout?
If you're just desperately sipping Coronas and Heinekens trying to hold your own, you're probably missing out.
The best way to get a real crash course of education into the world of hops would be this week at the Auckland Craft Beer and Food Festival.
But if you can't make it along or you simply want to hold your own tasting at home, a few of the country's best local breweries have put together their top picks for their favourite autumnal drops to sip on now the leaves are turning - whether you're just dipping your feet into the (hop infused) water or already a connoisseur.
Use this guide to hold your own at the next barbeque - and maybe even find your new fave.
Autumn is the time of year things start to get a bit foggy down here in Hamilton. We've thus named our flagship hazy IPA Fog City as a tribute to how foggy things get here in the Waikato. It's one of our most popular beers to date, but certainly a bit further down the crafty scale and not for someone who's just getting into beer.
What it does showcase is how much flavour comes through in a brew that's only been lightly filtered and gives drinkers more of a sense of the raw ingredients that goes into each brew.
For those dipping their toe in the craft beer water and looking for something to replace their basic big brand beer, we've got our Worthy Hazy Pilsner. Named for any occasion worthy of a good beer, and for when you've earned your beer. It's the closest in beer style to a Corona but takes things a step further with a bigger hop profile and, similar to our Fog City, it's been lightly filtered so that it retains a bit of haze.
Sprig & Fern
Being hop harvest time, it would be criminal not to get out and sample some of the best craft beers made with fresh hops, particularly when at Sprig & Fern in Nelson Tasman we pick the hops and drive them 15 minutes to get them straight into the brew! Our pick for those wanting to try really good craft beer? Our multi-award winner Harvest Pilsner. In all seriousness though, you also can't go wrong with anything hazy if you want to impress your mates with your craft beer intel.
Our pick for the autumnal Behemoth beer that will go down best at the festival is the All Day Breakfast - Blackberry and Maple Sour Ale. It's like drinking a slightly tart blackberry and maple pancakes. Sweet maple, tart blackberries but is balanced and dangerously drinkable for a pancake beer. Definitely a must try! Autumnal because who doesn't feel like pancakes as the weather cools down a little?
The Auckland Craft Beer and Food Festival runs this Saturday March 27 at Spark Arena.