In the words of the immortal Jim Morrison, poet and lead singer of The Doors, “I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.” This lyric has brought many a thumbs up and high fives from beer aficionados through the years. But today it is the follow up lyric that resonates with the small independent breweries around New Zealand, “Because the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.” Less dramatically stated, what will the new norm mean to a relatively fledgling industry that is primarily comprised of small, family owned businesses? Like many small businesses small breweries have been compromised and face uncertain times.
To put it in perspective the “old norm” was not without its challenges for the industry. Limited available taps, short cash reserves and high packaging costs relative to small run production are just a few examples that existed in the past. They will undoubtedly be with us in the new norm as well. The question is will these and other challenges be mitigated by new behaviours? Currently we can only speculate since the new norm is still being defined, however one such behaviour that is worthy of discussion has been thrust upon us to some degree by closed borders, the choice to think and act with a more local attitude. This can provide a solid foundation for small independent brewery businesses going forward.
There is local and then there is local. In one instance we can take the word quite literally and view local as a certain kilometre radius from our home. New Zealand has a rich and strong sense of community and this interpretation of local is one that supports the immediate community. Do business with people you know and keep business circulating within the community. Fortunately for small breweries this attitude works because most communities in NZ have at least one small brewery if not more. Most of these establishments have product on your supermarket and liquor store shelves but many also have their own tap rooms and online sales portals. Local places to visit, get to know the owners and pick up some of the freshest beer you will ever encounter at a fair-trade price and with no shipping footprint. These taproom visits offer the strongest means of supporting local. This description of local also includes the concept of “your local” as in the pub you most frequently visit. It is not difficult these days to find one that is serving products from local breweries. If they are not, ask for them and/or seek them out. You will find them and can then support local.
What about the other local? The view that takes the entire country into consideration, the sense of country pride that leads to supporting Kiwi businesses and keeping profit dollars and jobs in New Zealand (as a side note if you purchase products from multinational conglomerates such as DB, Lion or Independent Liquors the profits leave our shores and find their way to either Holland or Japan. Become aware of what products these are so you can choose local). New Zealand small independent breweries are producing some of the world’s finest beers from local ingredients. With over 150 small, independent breweries in New Zealand we are spoiled for choice. Some of them have nationwide distribution and many have online sales portals and will ship nationwide making it easy to experience many different great brews and support the industry. Kiwis getting behind this sense of buying local are not only supporting survival and growth of Kiwi owned businesses but also supporting a home-grown product with a smaller environmental impact.
The global pandemic and the new norm aftermath have challenged and will continue to challenge many small and independent businesses across New Zealand. The brewing industry is no different and for all these businesses we need to consider getting our support behind them. In these difficult times of recovery when you are selecting your beers for the week, think local, act local and buy local. Your palate and the small breweries of New Zealand will be all the better for it.