Follow the Nelson Craft Beer Trail

Beer has been central to the local culture of the Nelson-Tasman region, dating back to the first New Zealand settlements in the 1840s. Early German settlers in Sarau found the Moutere to be an ideal location and climate to cultivate hops, and an extensive brewing tradition followed.


Craft breweries of all sizes now stretch from Nelson City to Onekaka in Golden Bay. They make a perfect excuse for a half-day or full-day tour exploring all the gorgeous corners of the region.

Climbing from the waterfront up into the foothills, watch for historic hop kilns along the way.


Many of these locally owned, family-run breweries and outlets welcome visitors for tours, sampling at the bar, having a meal or takeaway sales. Share a pint with locals, learn about our history and experience the wide range of unique beers. Whether you prefer an icy pilsner or a cask-pulled ale, you’ll find it in Nelson.


Some can be reached by foot from your lodging, others along a nice cycle loop, and the rest are worth the drive or take a tour.


New Zealand Hops


The early settlers from England and Germany found the Nelson region well suited to the hop plants they brought with them. In time a fledgling industry grew, and hops were grown throughout the area. New varieties were developed and over the next 150 years New Zealand became known for its disease-free, high-quality products. Variety names like Motueka, Riwaka, and Nelson Sauvin reveal ties to the local history and geography. 


The current growing region, roughly a triangle formed by Riwaka, Tapawera, and Brightwater, produces all of New Zealand’s commercial hops, a premium product making up less than 1% of the world market. For six weeks in early autumn, the farms are busy, frantically harvesting the year’s crop. The bines are cut, and then the fragrant, bitter flowers removed and dried. 


There are 27 grower shareholders of New Zealand Hops Limited, which is a cooperative established to manage the off-farm interests of its members. This includes converting the dried whole hop flowers into a range of high quality, unique New Zealand hop products which are sold to brewers throughout the world.