Hoperation Southland: Touring in the Invercargill Brewery

Next stop: the most southern city in the world, the home of the tuatara, the hub of Southland, the land settled by the Scottish… That’s right, we’re heading to Invercargill!

So let the Southland road trip continue! We hit the road during a rainy morning, leaving Tuatapere Backpackers and saying goodbye to our new friends, Murray and Natalie. We have a series of those typical Southland straight roads ahead surrounded by vibrant green fields covered in sheep. A lot of our trip down State Highway 99 takes us along the southern coast of New Zealand with huge beaches getting hit by big waves, including Colac Bay where we have a surf lesson booked for a couple of days.

We are also delighted to find two BIG things from our 22 BIG Things in New Zealand article! First it’s the sculpture of a surfer outside of Colac Bay, then it’s the giant Paua shell in Riverton! Amazing! (However, we were devastated to find that Tuatapere no longer has the giant sausage sculpture).

Arriving in Invercargill

Just over an hour later, we arrive among the long flat roads in a gridlock fashion. We must be in Invercargill! Although we have some riveting stuff on our agenda today, like shopping at Pakn’Save and checking into our hostel. But first things first, we head straight to our activity of the day: touring the Invercargill Brewery.

We almost miss the brewery tucked between warehouse-style buildings, all historically used for building trucks, machinery and whatever else. Now, somewhere in the middle of Lee Street hides a brewery. But what makes a craft brewery more authentic than being off the beaten track?

 

Getting amongst it all in the working brewery tour Getting amongst it all in the working brewery tour
A brewery is quite the artsy place! A brewery is quite the artsy place!
Fermentation for the nation! Fermentation for the nation!
A brewman's chemistry set A brewman's chemistry set

Invercargill Brewery

Inside the Invercargill Brewery cellar door, we are greeted by Kelley who is going to be our tour guide today. As we wait to see if any other guests are going to arrive for the 1pm tour, we have a look around the cellar door decorated with vintage beer-making kits, the original tanks used when Invercargill Brewery was established, and about 20 different fill-your-own bottle taps! You can bring your empty beer bottle (you know, the 2-3 litre screw-top bottles – a glass bottle with a metal cap might be hard to deal with) and fill it up with craft beer straight from the brewery. It’s brewery-fresh AND good for the planet. We like it!

The Invercargill Brewery Tour

Our fellow brewery tour-goer arrives, Joceline from France, and we get straight to it. Kelley takes us into the entrance of the working brewery. We stand beside some vintage sofas and a makeshift bar in preparation for an event night – a party with live music right here in their brewery. (The next one is November 4th, people)!

Kelley goes through the history of beer-making in New Zealand in general, before going onto the humble beginnings of Invercargill Brewery itself. In fact, the brewery is not all that old, starting in 1999, but it has grown bigger and bigger to the point where not only does it have a range of its own popular beers but Invercargill Brewery is now highly sought after to brew craft beers commercially, with their biggest contract coming from the famous Yeastie Boys.

Tasting powder and weaving between BARRELS

To emphasise the fact that we are touring a working brewery, there’s water on the floor and one brewer hard at work trying to get us to try some sort of citric acid powder… Dude, we’ve only been in Invercargill for 30 minutes! But it’s all fun and games, and so far we are loving the dry humour of the people down here in Southland.

After that incident, we sneak around the brewer throughout the tour (or just trying to not get in his way), stepping over pipes and weaving between rows of barrels as Kelley gives us great detail on how the brewing process works. It’s a lengthy process of about four weeks, taken out in several different tanks before it gets anywhere near the bottles or the kegs! Kelley explains that this, along with the extraction of sugars, is what makes craft beer stand out from the mass-produced beers that are sweetened and made far too quickly for a lot of New Zealander’s tastes. And believe us, with more than 160 breweries in New Zealand, beer is a big thing here!

Beer on tap during a simpler time Beer on tap during a simpler time
Trying some of that deep dark stout Trying some of that deep dark stout
Can you tell who the village idiot is? Can you tell who the village idiot is?

Onto the tasting!

From fermentation tanks to the bottle-labelling machines, we have seen the ins and outs of the Invercargill Brewery with our super knowledgeable guide having the answer to all our questions. But now, it’s onto the all-essential finale of the brewery tour: the tasting!

Kelley pours us a tray of six different tasters from the fill-your-own taps, letting us choose the last taster from three seasonal beers, then takes us into the tasting room with a view of the working brewery. He goes through the beers one-by-one showing us the bottle it is sold in, the idea behind the beer, as well as the flavours we will expect from it. There’s quite the variety from dark stout to light pilsner. Both Robin and Laura get a beer crafted in the style of their home countries: Robin gets the citrus-infused “saison” [please insert French accent here], while Laura gets the non-fizzy room-temperate pale ale (yep, the English are weird).

A shout out to all the people we meet on tours

All there is to do now is drink and talk with Joceline – a lovely post-lady from France who takes a tonne of photos of her travels to show to her community back home. It’s really awesome the people we get to meet on every tour that we have done throughout New Zealand! People come from all over the world, doing all sorts of jobs, living all sorts of lifestyles to travel New Zealand. It really gives us the chance to talk to people we would never usually have the chance to meet.

Shopping southern style

When all the beer is gone, except for the stout – that beer is just too hardcore for us – we finally get around to going to Pakn’Save. But not just any Pakn’Save… The most southern Pakn’Save in the world! We select a song from The Police (yes, you can add a song to the playlist in some New Zealand supermarkets!) as we enter the supermarket and start grocery shopping. Laura is cooking burritos tonight!

We are all checked into the Tuatara Backpackers, which is currently getting a cafe-revamp at the bottom of the backpackers and get to work on those burritos.

Tomorrow, we are discovering more of what this city has to offer! We’re going to check out the Southland Museum and visit the famous tuatara. Join us then!

Laura and Robin

The beer-tasting experts
The beer-tasting experts Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Until tomorrow’s blog post, go for a walk, paint a picture, or check out these articles:

We also like to hang out on HerePin, post pretty pictures on Instagram (#BackpackerGuideNZ to be featured), and post daily travel tips dedicated to New Zealand on Facebook!

See you tomorrow!

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