New Zealanders taste for craft beers continues to grow, with the volume of high strength beer consumed up 34 per cent last year.

Data from Statistics New Zealand showed the total volume of beer available for consumption had dropped by 1.2 per cent in the 2017 calendar year, but beer with an alcohol content above five per cent, incorporating most craft brews, had increased by 33.6 per cent.

"The volume of beer above 5 per cent alcohol rose for the fourth year in a row in 2017," international statistics manager Tehseen Islam said.

"The volume of high-strength beer available is now over twice the 2013 volume, and three times the 2011 volume, in part reflecting the rising popularity of craft beers."


Jos Ruffell, co-founder of craft beer brewery Garage Project, said the rise in craft was a shift away from quantity, and a result of consumers changing taste palates.

"We're seeing people wanting to try new beers but maybe not chasing quantity as they previously might have, so instead of buying a dozen or a big box of beer, they're going for smaller amounts of variety and interesting beers they can share with friends," Ruffell said.

"Many of those might be much higher or much lower in alcohol but are more about the flavour. So beer can be sweet or sour or tart or dry - there's a huge variety and people are appreciating that a lot more now."

Ruffell said although total consumption was down slightly, the craft category was still growing significantly.

The craft market was also more accessible he said, with a premium bottle of beer costing about $12 to $15 compared with a premium bottle of wine that would cost a lot more.

Consumers were also looking to try a range of new flavours Ruffell said, creating a push for new products.

"We're a bit extreme about that, so we put out over 60 new beers last year, so more than one a week," Ruffell said.

"Craft is definitely continuing to grow."


Meanwhile, the total volume of alcohol in alcoholic beverages available for consumption - the number of standard drinks available per person a day - fell in 2017 to the third-lowest level in the last 17 years.

"In 2010, the average adult would have had about 800 standard drinks available to consume. By 2017, that was down to about 730 a year," Islam said.

Beer with an alcohol content from 4.35 per cent to 5 per cent also increased, up 4 per cent on the previous year.

In contrast, traditional mid-strength and lower-strength beer volumes both fell.

Total volume of wine and spirits, including RTDs, available to the market rose 1.5 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively.

The volume of wine from grapes rose just 0.5 per cent. Wine from other fruit and vegetables, mostly cider, rose 8.2 per cent.

The total volume of all alcoholic drinks available in 2017 rose slightly, increasing by 0.5 per cent, after a 4.2 per cent rise in 2016.