The number of New Zealand breweries almost doubled over the past four years, led by an increase in the number of small craft brewers, according to a Brewers Guild survey.

New Zealand breweries increased by 42 per cent to 68 in the four years through 2011, led by a 50 per cent rise in the number of small craft breweries, producing less than 40,000 litres per annum, to 30. Production of craft beer increased an average 3 per cent per annum over the past 3 years.

"The increased number of small brewers and the volume of the beer that they are producing suggest that the public are changing their drinking habits," Ralph Bungard, guild president, said in a statement.

"There is an explosion of beer flavours and styles available to consumers, and that means more of the public are finding a beer that suits their taste and lifestyle."


New Zealand beer is also travelling abroad. Some 42 per cent of respondents already export, while 32 per cent expect to in the next two years.

Of the breweries surveyed 87 per cent expect production to increase in 2012.

"It is very encouraging to see the growth and diversification in the industry and it is a good sign that most brewers consider that they will grow in size and look to be exporting in the next year," Bundgard said.

Small to medium sized breweries, producing 40,000 to 100,000 litres per annum, recorded the most consistent increase in production, with an average output increase of 7 per cent every six months.

The New Zealand beer awards will be held in Wellington on August 16.