The Ultimate Beer Guide to Australia and New Zealand

With a planned trip Oz coming up in 2012, my Father’s Day gift of a copy of The Ultimate Beer Guide to Australia & New Zealand, was both very timely and thoughtful. Coming out of David Lipman’s Beer and Brewer Magazine stable, the 250 page softback is a very welcome addition to the craft beer publication scene, which up until its release, was severely lacking in an up-to-date and comprehensive guide.

The book features a collection of weekend away travel articles written by 26 leading beer and travel writers, covering 33 destinations around Australasia. While the main focus is on breweries (and cider producers, distilleries, bars, restaurants, and beer festivals) each of the articles also covers things to see and do along the way for the family and non-beer drinkers. It claims to feature all known breweries that are open to the public and lists over 1800 beers and ciders currently available in its comprehensive directory section.

The publication reflects the magaziney-style of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand section, whilst being understandably dwarfed by its Australian counterpart, features fascinating in-depth regional profiles penned by renowned beer-writer Neil Miller, SOBA’s own Greig McGill, Nelson based-ex pat Californian Monica Mead and travel blogger, Liz Lewis. A minor criticism here is the slightly quirky sequence of destination chapters, which jump from Central North, to Lower North, to Top of North, to Bottom of South and finally to Top of South. Wow, dizzy already.

I particularly like the topical photographic content, which provides the reader with an instant look and feel for the multitude of venues and their patrons and turns the guide into so much more than just a plain listing of outlets. For the Australian regions, each section concludes with a useful summary of craft beer bars, breweries and an events calendar, with the latter being especially useful when planning a trip. Unfortunately the Kiwi equivalent is rather more condensed. The ‘Promotion’ pages, profiling selected breweries and bars, were clearly designed to assist in generating revenue to help fund the publication, but overall they subtly add further insight into some of the flagship businesses currently operating within the craft beer market.

My only major gripe comes from someone who is admittedly a trained and qualified Cartographer, but the maps, whilst looking visually attractive, are severely lacking in contextural information and sometimes the actual location of the breweries themselves. In this digital age of wi-fi and GPS this may not be so crucial, but hey, I’m an old-school-bearded-real-ale-drinker, so that gets a glass half-empty from me.

This book is far more than just a brewery and pub directory and is an invaluable travel companion, which I am looking forward to becoming intimate with, when crossing over the Ditch next year. It’s available by ordering online at http://www.beerandbrewer.com/books/ultimate-beer-travel-and-buyers-guide-australia-new-zealand and retails at AUS$24.99. The initial stash of discounted hardcopies delivered to New Zealand was a limited release, restricted to those outlets featured in the ‘Beer & Brewer Promotion’ pages, but some of those businesses, notably Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, have now re-stocked due to customer demand. Ask Santa (or Kieran) for a copy.

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