Craft beer businesses feeling the squeeze with high-brewing costs, beer fans unable to afford their favourites

Pints of beer
Beer fans say they are finding it harder to afford their favourite crafties as the cost of living bites. Photo credit: RNZ

By Felix Walton of RNZ

Aotearoa's craft beer industry is hoping for a profitable summer as it continues to wrestle with high-brewing costs.

Another craft beer business, Beertique, has hit major financial trouble and gone into liquidation this week.

It follows Deep Creek, which is also in liquidation, and Brothers Beer, which is in voluntary administration.

Meanwhile, beer fans say they are finding it harder to afford their favourite crafties as the cost of living bites. 

Aucklander Peter Scharder said he loved beer, but the good stuff was too expensive.

"I like craft beer, if I could afford it, I would drink it," he said. "When you pay $28 for a six-pack, it's just too expensive."

So, he found a cheaper alternative.

"I'm making my own brew," Scharder said. "I've got it down to a fine art, and I've found it's so much cheaper." 

He said the equipment was expensive, but that was a one-off cost.

"You need a lot of equipment to do it properly, which I do," he said. "Everybody loves my beer."

New Zealand's beer scene boomed throughout the 2010s, growing to more than 200 breweries. But as the cost of living continued to increase, Aucklanders were looking elsewhere.

"I've never been a fan of the ol' crafties," one shopper said. "Bit more of a price increase with those." 

"Once you're paying more than $8 on a can, it gets a bit pricey," said another. "Definitely getting a bit tighter in the home budget to be spending it on a luxury like beer."

Beer enthusiast magazine Pursuit of Hoppiness editor Michael Donaldson said good beer was getting harder to make.

"Everything went up in price, that's the bottom line," he said. "The cost of malt went up, breweries use a lot of carbon dioxide which got really expensive, freight went up, packaging went up."

Breweries were wearing most of that cost, Donaldson said. 

"The price of beer hasn't actually moved," he said.

"Consumers are very fussy with beer prices, the fear of putting prices up and having someone switch to a different brand has meant that a lot of these breweries have kept prices relatively static."

Brewers Guild chairperson Brian Watson said the margins at his Hamilton brewery were getting slimmer.

"We can only keep putting our prices up so much [until] customers say 'Nope, we don't want to pay that,' and so we're squashed between rising costs and the limit to what we can charge in retailers," he said. 

Donaldson said luxury goods like craft beer were a hard as many New Zealanders tightened their purse strings.

"A lot of good beer is what you would call a luxury," he said.

"It's like the difference between buying Cadbury chocolate and some fancy brand, some people might say it's too expensive, but it costs money to make really good stuff."

Brewers Guild executive director Melanie Kees said she was confident the industry would continue to thrive. 

"Kiwis still absolutely love their beer, there's a lot of support for the industry," she said. "So, let's just hope we can see some relief for our industry going forward."

She said there would always be room for good beer.