Brewing in New Zealand is primarily undertaken by small independent breweries & brewpubs, the Shakespeare Brewery in Auckland city being the first opened in 1986 for the 'craft' or 'premium' sector of the beer market. In 2010, this 'craft/premium' sector grew by 11%, to around 8% of the total beer market.
Craft beer and microbreweries were "blamed" for a 15 million litre drop in alcohol sales overall in 2012, with Kiwis opting for higher-priced premium beers over cheaper brands.
The craft beer market in New Zealand is varied and progressive, with a full range of ale & lager styles of beer being brewed. New Zealand is fortunate in that it lies in the ideal latitude for barley and hops cultivation. A breeding programme had developed new hop varieties unique to New Zealand, many of these new hops have become mainstays in New Zealand craft beer.
Given the small market and relative high number of breweries, many breweries have spare capacity. A recent trend has seen the rise of contract brewing, where a brewing company contracts to use space in existing breweries to bring the beer to the market. Examples of contract brewers include Green Man Brewery, Epic Brewing Company, Croucher Brewing, and Yeastie Boys