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For beer, Kiwis think less is more

Tamara McLean

Kiwis have swapped quality for quantity in the beer fridge, passing up 20 million litres of mainstream brew last year in favour of a craft-style cold one.

New statistics show 15 million litres less alcohol was available last year compared with 2011.

Statistics New Zealand attributes the three per cent drop to a massive 20 million litre decrease in beer production, a decline that reflects a fast changing beer drinking culture.

"New Zealanders still love beer, there's no doubt, but they don't want to drink those classic big brands by the crate-load anymore," says Ralph Bungard, president of the Brewers Guild.

"Instead they want to drink less, something with a bit more flavour and interest, and they're happy to pay more for that pleasure."

Dr Bungard, of Three Boys Brewery in Christchurch, said while craft beer makes up less than five per cent of beer sales it is the fastest growing segment of the brewing industry.

Lion external relations director Liz Read says it wasn't just craft beers, but premium brands in general that consumers were turning to.

"There's been a massive shift internationally towards these green bootle international premium brands ... over the traditional brands New Zealanders once preferred," she says.

Dr Bungard said the new "less is more" culture was one to celebrate and cultivate.

"The days of guzzling back your beers before 6 o'clock pub closing and turning up to a party with a crate are virtually over, and that's a great thing," he told NZ Newswire.

"Now we can actually enjoy it for its taste. That's got to be a good thing."

The figures show higher alcohol beers are increasingly popular.

Wine production was also up by 4.3 million litres last year, reflecting a growing trend towards drinking wine with meals.