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Best Craft Breweries to Try in the Waikato

Innovative, interesting and individual about sums up the Waikato’s craft brewers and their brews. Whether your craft brew of choice is pilsner, pale ale, India pale ale, or even hazy pale ale, or a stout, porter or dark beer, tart or fruity, there’s plenty to sip and savour in the region.

The Waikato’s rich soils, wide open spaces and temperate climate make it a natural for growing a range of fruit and vegetables - think spring-time asparagus and blueberries (any kind of berry, actually) - and farm-raised meats and poultry, as well as locally sourced seafood, craft beers, wine and a range of other beverages.

The hometown hero of craft beer is Good George Brewing. Starting out in the Hamilton suburb of Frankton with a single brewery and dining hall style of eatery, Good George now has four bars and eateries in Hamilton (Good George Dining Hall, Good Neighbour, The Cook, The Local Taphouse) as well as one in Cambridge (Good Union), another in Raglan (George’s Beach Club). Many other bars and eateries in the region also stock Good George beers, including The Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton Movie Set and Merchant of Matamata in Matamata.

Good George is also crafts small batch cocktails and gin, some with catchy names like the Day Off range and Mum’s Secret Sauce made with fresh raspberries.

Another Waikato local is Brewaucracy which has its brewery and taproom in Te Rapa on the northern side of Hamilton City, near Te Rapa Racecourse. The taproom is not a pub, gastro or otherwise, and not really a bar, but designed to be the kind of place craft beer fans will fall in love with. It’s where you can see where and how Brewaucracy’s range of beers are made - there are 16 different styles with the flagships being a vanilla flavoured English porter and a smoked lager. A sample 30ml taster is free and you can chat with the brewer too. From time to time the Brewaucracy taproom also showcases beers from other craft brewers around the Waikato region.

Other passionate microbrewers located on the outskirts of Hamilton include Hopnotic and Bootleg Brewery. Both have taprooms where you can sample their range of beers and ciders, and enjoy tasty bites.

Amongst Hopnotic’s beers is one the brewer claims is the closest fresh beer you will find in New Zealand to a true pilsner from Pilsen. Hopnotic is located just north of Hamilton Airport in an old woolshed where shearers’ names are stencilled on the rough sawn wood walls.

Bootleg’s brewery and taproom is in the nearby village of Matangi. Housed in part of the historic Matangi dairy factory building, which was the largest dairy factory in the world when it was constructed in 1919, the taproom is child and dog friendly.

Over in surf town Raglan on the western coastline of the Waikato region, the local microbrewery, Workshop Brewing, takes its name from the engineering workshop it shares premises with in the landmark Hartstone Building constructed in the 1940s.

Workshop Brewing’s Alchemists Archive beer range has a loyal following. The seasonal limited release beers are unfiltered and bottle conditioned, featuring a range of different yeasts, water drawn from a spring in the volcanic depths of nearby Mount Karioi and locally sourced ingredients, from honey and figs to herbs and locally roasted coffee.

Lovers of craft beer can also sample local Waikato brews at places like Hamilton’s Craft Bar and the Local Taphouse at SkyCity Hamilton.