Did you know that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a Canadian crown corporation, is one of the largest single buyers of alcohol in the world? Thanks to the LCBO, Canada is currently the biggest export market for Renaissance Brewing, but the Marlborough brewery is fast making inroads elsewhere around the world, with its sights set on the UK and Europe this year.
Renaissance will showcase its beers in the UK for the first time at London's Craft Beer Rising trade and consumer show next month.
"The market across there is going stratospheric," Renaissance Brewing's development director Roger Kerrison says. "In the last 18 months, 2-3 years, there's been a significant growth in interest in craft beers in the UK, more American-style brewed beers in the and imports from the US.
"Although most people haven’t tried craft beer from New Zealand, they are very familiar with New Zealand hops that are being used by American and British brewers. We only use New Zealand hops in our beers, so I am sure there is going to be plenty of interest from people in regards to how a New Zealand beer tastes.”
Renaissance, which was recently named Champion International Small Brewery at the Australian International Beer Awards and Champion New Zealand Brewery at the NZ Beer Awards, hopes to champion Kiwi breweries over there.
"It's exciting times for New Zealand craft brewers," says Kerrison, who's just returned from a trip to the UK. "Our beers stack up in terms of quality against what's being sold in the UK market ... hopefully we can build a category for New Zealand craft beer."
As well as exporting to Canada and the US, Renaissance has just sent its first shipments to Hong Kong and Malaysia. Head brewer Andy Deuchars will also be doing a brewing collaboration with a Hong Kong craft brewery in March.
Californian brothers in-law Andy Deuchars and Brian Thiel started Renaissance Brewing in 2005; Deuchars trained as a brewer in Mendocino before moving to New Zealand to become a winemaker, while Thiel was a Master Guild Mercedes Benz mechanic, which helped in the early years when things kept breaking.
“When people say that we are part of this new wave of New Zealand craft breweries I have to chuckle a little. There was no wave when we started, it was like a mill pond really,” says Deuchars. “Our beers were nothing like the mass produced lagers that had become ubiquitous in New Zealand. Flavour and balance of flavour is paramount for me and we do this by brewing British style ales, using my American know-how, combined with New Zealand ingredients."
The Renaissance craft beer range includes pale ales (American, English and Indian), a Scotch ale, British and Baltic porters, a chocolate oatmeal stout, a barley wine and more recently a pilsner and wit beer.