An under-fire Prime Minister John Key started the day with a beer yesterday - but not in a yard glass, he assured locals on a quick tour of Kapiti.

Mr Key marked the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in New Zealand by opening the new Tuatara Brewery in Paraparaumu, which can produce two million litres a year and bottle 8000 beers an hour.

The company has grown from two staff in the back paddock of a Reikorangi farm to 25 employees.

Mr Key: "It's testimony to the fact that you've got a lot of companies in New Zealand that start from humble beginnings and the back of the cowshed turns into what we've got this morning - 25 employees will turn into 250 employees in the future."


He celebrated the opening with a 10.30am drink: "The media have been asking me whether I'll be having a beer. I think the answer is yes, but not a yard-glass ... I'm somehow not going to be chundering into the bottle or something to make the lead story on the 6 o'clock news tonight."

Tuatara general manager Sean Murrie said the boutique beer industry was defying the difficult economic climate - his company had tripled production year-on-year.

Mr Key also had a more serious message on alcohol, referring to the need to create a paradigm shift in New Zealand's drinking culture. The National-led Government's alcohol reforms were due to pass into the law before the end of the year.

"Parliament can change all the rules it wants, but unless we as parents and adult promote a culture of drinking sensibly we're not going to get there."

The alcohol reforms have been slammed by the Opposition, who felt they were too weak.