The Locals’ Guide: Bay of Plenty brews

Summer’s good isn’t it? And this summer – Omicron and all that notwithstanding – has been a cracker! This is a great time time to get out and explore the food and bev on your doorstep. Last week we visited Raglan. This week Vicki Ravlich Horan of Nourish magazine is off for a brewery tour around the mighty Bay of Plenty. Good health!

The Cider Factorie

Husband and wife team Rowena and Simon Pearce are both qualified and experienced winemakers.   “We saw an opportunity to diversify our skills by fermenting apples instead of grapes,” says Rowena.  “The process of making cider is almost identical to making wine (not beer), so we had the equipment and experience to get going.”

Their first commercial cider, Classic Apple, was released in 2012, with a pear cider released the following year. In 2017 they rebranded to The Cider Factorie and opened their restaurant and cellar door of the same name. Offering incredible views as you sit back, relax, eat and of course enjoy a few drinks, The Cider Factorie is a summer must do.

In addition to their original flavours, there are another eight to ten other varieties of cider to tempt you. Last year their Mojito Cider was the standout, closely followed in popularity by the very Kiwi Feijoa and Apple Cider. Though Rowena says, “Honestly, you can’t beat our Classic Apple Cider. It’s so crisp and refreshing. Not sweet, not bone dry and a great food match to those bursting flavours we love to eat in the summer!”


Mount Brewery

This locally owned and operated second generation brewery started back in 1996 when Glenn and Virginia Miekle sold their house and invested everything they had in brewery equipment imported from Germany. That was 25 years ago and Glenn and Virginia’s daughter, Briar, who now runs the brewery with her partner Niall, was just six months old. Our slogan, Briar says, is “living the dream … We’re living, brewing and drinking beers in the best place in the world and count ourselves lucky every day”.


Visit Mount Brewery tap house, The Rising Tide and you will find 40 taps pouring beers, cider, gin and wine. Taps 1–20 are dedicated to their own brews, from the popular Mermaids Mirth APA which Briar says has been a local favourite for over 15 years, to her personal favourite, the Golden Hour Hazy XPA.


Slab Brewery

What started out as a hobby for both Nathan and Zach from Slab Brewing turned into a business in 2017.

Nathan says his first brewery experiments were in the early 2000s at Auckland Uni and consisted of a bucket and a $10 brew kit from the supermarket. His skills and brewing kit have grown substantially since!

In fact, the name Slab Brewing comes from partner in crime Zach’s first official brewery created in his backyard. The centre of this initial brewery was a 10m2 shed. Before the shed was moved into place, Zach says, “We did all the prep work ourselves and poured the concrete. With that, the name Slab Brewing was born.”

Slab Brewery quickly outgrew the shed. “As with most things in my life, I lost a little control and bought waaaay too much equipment for our tiny little shed under the deck” admits Zach. “I had to scramble to find a space that would work. I found the little 40m2 lockup we are in now and had to do some major renovations. Lucky our landlord is relaxed, as we have cut some pretty big holes in his property.”

Easy to drink, simple beers with big flavours are how the pair describe their beers.  Zach says, “We put the style of the beer first and foremost on our cans, so you know what you are getting when you are in the liquor store or at the pub.” Only available locally means “you know it’s fresh, you’re supporting the local community, and you know where I am if there are any issues” says Zach.


Mata Brewery

This award-winning BOP brewery is a family affair. Like many craft breweries, it started with a passion for home brew. Tammy Viitakangas discovered her love of beer on her OE. “I fell in love with beer while travelling around Europe. I didn’t realise at the time just how many amazing beer styles were out there.”

After giving home brew a go, Tammy says, “I put together a business plan, found some second-hand equipment for sale and managed to convince my parents to join me.”

Their first bottle of beer was sold in December 2005, and they earned their first medal two months later, not a bad way to start!
Three years ago, the brewery expanded and moved from Kawarau to Whakatāne. Along with a bigger brewery, the new space also includes a tasting room and a great spot to enjoy a pizza and a beer.

They are known for their Manuka Golden Ale, which Tammy says has been one of their biggest sellers for the past 15 years, although New Zealand trends are changing with demand for more flavoursome beer increasing which is evident in brews like their Fairy Hopmother Hazy IPA series which Tammy says is “giving the Manuka some competition”.


Lumberjack Brewing


Before opening Lumberjack Brewing, Ian O’Malley owned a homebrew shop. It was here that he and Brett Vincent met and became friends, quite possibly over a few homebrews and definitely over many chats about them.

In 2016 they decided to take the home out of homebrew and set up their own brewery, and in October 2017 sold their very first keg. They are best known for their Costal Haze series, or their Log Splitter Double IPA, which was their first brew and has continued to be a crowd favourite.


This summer’s pick though is their newly launched New Zealand hopped pilsner. “It’s clean and crisp with a floral scent” says Brett, who explains that it has been “properly matured with six weeks in the tank”.

You can pick up one of Lumberjack’s brews from their taproom or find them at a number of stockists throughout the bay, including

The Barrel Room in Tauranga, Anann Pineapple Pub Bar in Te Puke and The Cider Factorie in Te Puna, all of which Brett says have their “quirks and something to enjoy”.

The Island

Michael Julian from The Island says their very first brew five years ago took place with cranes overhead, as the brewery was literally built. With a career in hospo, Michael had quite a bit of experience tasting and serving great beers. “I was part of the team behind the Astrolabe Brew Bar and the idea was floated over a few cold ones to have a crack ourselves,” says Michael. “Fast forward a bit and we did.”

They are now brewing a number of beers which are available straight from the tanks to enjoy at The Island in Papamoa along with a range of tasty fare or in cans to take home and enjoy after an evening dip at the beach.

Michael’s brew of choice and their most popular beer is their Easy Lager. “It goes hand and hand with our beach lifestyle, chucking a line out or cranking up the barbie. You can’t go wrong.”


Fitzpatricks Brewing Co

As a young bloke, Craig Fitzgerald loved nothing more than tinkering with old cars and putting down a good brew. Nothing’s changed but time and experience. To celebrate his love of old classics and craft beer, Fitzy has created a unique range of tasty beers that pay homage to his favourite cars. With nine brews, you’re spoilt for choice. Stop in for a tasting on a Friday or Saturday and a flagon of beer to take home.


Rocky Knob

Homebrew seems to be the way many of our local craft beers began, and Rocky Knob is no exception.  But Stu Marshall, who developed a keen interest in brewing beer and distilling spirits in his youth, and went on to craft great beer for himself, friends and family to enjoy, has taken a slightly different route. With no actual bricks and mortar brewery, Rocky Knob uses three different contract brewers, freeing up Stu to concentrate on research and development.

When Rocky Knob started in 2015, Stu says the options of craft beer were limited. “They have definitely increased and there is a real craft beer scene now,” he happily admits. “I thoroughly and utterly appreciate the locals who support the BOP craft beer scene, whether that is buying our beer or others.”

You can pick up a Rocky Knob eight brews, be it their low alcoholic, Undies IPA or their popular Snapper head IPA or another at various outlets around the BOP and New Zealand.



Winners of the inaugural Beer Tourism Industry Award at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand 2019 awards, Brewbus was dreamed up by a lawyer and a journalist with a shared vision and love of craft beer.

“We wanted to create an experience that would introduce the world to New Zealand’s unique beer scene, where you’re taken on a road of discovery into the heart and soul of the industry,” says co-owner Katy Martley. “Every brewery has their own unique ‘Kiwi’ story to share about their passion which people love to hear about.”

Brewbus also showcases the region’s unique sights, culture and local food, proving a great day out for even the less beer inclined who are likely to find surprising satisfaction somewhere amongst the brews, whether in the refreshing pilsner or the rich chocolate and coffee in the sip of a dark stout.


Published with permission from Nourish magazine

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