The thorny question of what is a craft beer has been exercising me this week.
It all started when I got hold of the new Founders Brewery range of beers from Nelson. I'd been a fan of their beers for a while, so to get six different varieties was, naturally, cause for celebration.
The brewery itself is a great spot, located in Founder's Heritage Park in Nelson and it produces some cracking drops, particularly the Generation ale, possibly one of the best session beers in the country.
The Long Black schwarzbier is a wee beauty too, as is the Fair Maiden, a hop-driven pale ale that farily jumps out of the glass to meet you.
With a brewing history stretching back to 1854, Founders has a genuine brewing pedigree.
So far so good, but the whole craft/non-craft question arose because last December Founders sold its brand to Boundary Road Brewery, an arm of Independent Liquor, one of the big three in the New Zealand drinks industry.
The details of the agreement between the two breweries is like this: Founder's still makes all the tap beer and runs the brewery in Nelson, while Boundary Road looks after the bottled beers and the new variants.
So, the argument goes, are these new variants craft beers or not? One the one hand, they can't be because they are made by Boundary Road; on the other hand, they certainly taste enough like craft beers, so maybe they are.
I'm happy to consider them craft beers. The recipes have been developed by Callum and Matt Duncan from Founders Brewery and they certainly taste like craft beers.
The Pils is bright and fruity, with a nice piney hop finish; the Red Ale is a malty, mild session beer; the Pale Ale is biscuit with a tart hop finish; the IPA is has citric hops and a lovely belt of malt sweetness; the Porter is generous and malty; and the Stout is packed with roasted malt and a touch of chocolate. The best thing about the association with Boundary Road, however, is the distribution. These beers are all available throughout the country, so you don't have to go to Nelson to try them.
With bright new labelling and a reasonable RRP, you should really check these out, regardless of whether you believe them to be truly "craft" or not.
I'm getting a bit tired of the exclusivity and snobbishness around beer; good beer deserves to be drunk by as wide an audience as possible. That said, if you ever do find yourself in Nelson, make a point of getting along to the brewery and trying them in situ. It's well worth a visit.