Although this summer certainly hasn't delivered in sunshine hours (so far), you can certainly cheer yourself up while drying saturated camping gear by supping on a well-crafted beer, hoping the weather will clear.
What's not clearing up anytime soon is the trend of craft beers appearing on tap, in bars and even in take-home fridge packs up and down the country. Not to mention that if we thought cider was back last year, this year the cold, crisp "grown-ups' fizzy" has taken the country by storm.
No one knows that better than the team at Old Mout Cider in Nelson. As they say, they've been making fruit better since 1947 and it shows in the awards they've won. We tasted two of the newer flavours to join the range - Boysencider and Cranberry & Cider, alongside the classic apple and pear scrumpy and were won over. Often the berry flavours can leave a slight sweet tackiness on the palate but by using well-made fruit wines to enhance the flavours, the boysenberry and cranberry don't lose their zing. Looks like kids' soda but definitely isn't - the alcohol percentage is just slightly higher than your average beer. The colours are bright, eye-catching and the fizz can cheer up the gloom of grey skies in no time.
There's nothing average about Croucher Pale Ale. In fact, we stumbled across Paul Croucher before he was bottling and labelling commercially, thanks to a friend who would return from Rotorua gleefully carting his precious cargo of homebrew. The bottles were jealously guarded and shared reluctantly, with much under the breath muttering. Now, the Croucher Pale Ale is still brewed in Rotorua under Paul's watchful eye and is a craft beer you should treasure, thanks in part to the three-way Nelson hops blend that underpins big, fruity, tropical flavours and a smooth, easy-going feel on the mouth. It's bright and impressive but not so brash you wouldn't want to introduce it to your friends. Golden in colour with a lovely head, it was a New Zealand Champion Beer in 2010 and has a nice, dry finish at 5.0 per cent. It's a beer with character, not too dissimilar from the brewer, who once offered a year's supply of Croucher beer as a reward to anyone who could see to the return of his stolen laptop complete with recipe banks. No surprise, it was a reward far too hard to turn down and the laptop was soon returned.
If you're ever looking for a great daytrip, the Coatesville Riverhead Highway will take you to the Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant, family-owned brainchild of Steve and Hayley Plowman. Operating since 2005, the Hallertau brews are aptly named from 1-4, but this summer it's all about the number 3, Hallertau Copper Tart, a 4.2 per cent red ale.
Red ales are still a bit of a unknown quantity for some, but Hallertau do it right with rich, malty chocolate and an edge of bitterness. It's deeply satisfying with enough toffee sweetness to feel really substantial. You can savour it and food match it. Worth a day trip to be enjoyed in it's natural environment off the tap, especially late in the afternoon sun and early evening.
Where to buy:
* Hallertau Copper Tart RRP $4.50 per bottle from Glengarry
* Croucher Pale Ale from Liquorland & selected New World outlets or online, RRP $80.00 (24 bottles)
* Old Mout Cider RRP $11.99 from supermarkets and liquor stockistsBy Tash McGill