The ‘Craft Beer Rising’ festival held last month in East London was aptly named, as the United Kingdom’s fledgling craft beer scene is beginning to surge. Brits are well prepared to pay £4 for a ham sandwich if the packaging claims the bread was baked in the home oven of a small artisan baker, and the British beer drinking community is also following this trend towards supporting small ‘artisan’ producers. According to a dubious source there are now 7.8 million craft beer drinkers in the UK, who are shunning the villainous Big Beer producers whose beers have a long history of being chugged at the pub on a Friday night.
The more sophisticated breed of beer consumers emerging in the UK are likely very familiar with New Zealand hops, as our hops are used in brews by the multitude of new wave British craft breweries as well as the United States breweries which are beginning to make a name for themselves there. New Zealand craft beer however is scarce on the scene so we decided we would take our wares across the Indian Ocean to the Motherland to show them what New Zealand craft breweries are doing with our local hops.
We chose to send Roger, a British born member of the Renaissance team, over to London to represent us at Craft Beer Rising, as we are well aware of how notoriously badly behaved Kiwis can be when let loose in London. The three day festival of beer, music and street food held at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane was the first time we had shown our beers in the UK. Despite being British Roger still managed to cause a scene, creating a traffic jam as he pushed shopping trolleys of Renaissance beer down Brick Lane on Thursday evening, shouting “craft beer has right of way in East London!” while fist pumping the air.
Despite the great voyage by ship to the other side of the globe and over cobblestones by trolley our beers showed pleasingly well at Craft Beer Rising, stacking up impressively against the British icons such as Brew Dog and Thornbridge Brewery. The punters loved our beers and we sold six kegs and forty cases worth during the festival, mostly to posh hipsters called Rupert wearing red trousers, according to Roger. As expected in an emerging craft beer scene the pale ales proved the most popular, with our Voyager IPA, Discovery APA and MPA Double Indian Pale Ale getting a good workout. Our UK ambassadors (a.k.a. Roger’s mates) pouring behind the bar loved our MPA and constantly recommended it, with only two cases left by the end of the weekend. Those who dared were impressed with Black the RIPA from our Enlightenment range, which was looking really smooth as the hops had mellowed out with age.
At 2pm each day Roger and the lads also poured what were likely the last ten bottles in existence of ‘Ø for Awesome’, a collaboration brew between Renaissance, 8 Wired and Nønge Ø, a Norwegian craft brewery. It was great to see plenty of familiar Kiwi faces at the festival to get the reference, as well as a few old faces from the Marlborough wine industry. It was the new faces however that we were there for, introducing ourselves to the British consumers (“No, Marlborough New Zealand, not Marlborough Wiltshire”, whilst pointing at the New Zealand flag) and meeting people who will help make Renaissance available to the UK’s niche market of consumers wanting to drink interesting and quality beers.
Roger made some promising contacts for distribution of Renaissance into the UK, so British craft beer drinkers will hopefully be able to quench their new found desire for Kiwi craft brews in the very near future. In the meantime we left a limited supply of bottled beers and key kegs with Brew Dog Shoreditch and Cave Direct. We will certainly be back at Craft Beer Rising next year for its third festival and look forward to seeing how the British craft beer scene has evolved. We hope that Renaissance will be less obscure to the hip young craft beer lovers by then and we can introduce them to some of our more experimental brews.
 Some creative licence taken in depiction of this event.
 Thanks to Soren and Jason at 8 Wired for these.
 New Zealand sporting legend David Tua selecting “O for awesome” when choosing a letter on the Wheel of Fortune game show.