Craft Beer In The Cook Islands
We’ve had a few celebrations of late here at Beer Cartel, with myself (Richard) recently tying the knot. Following the big event, my wife and I flew to the peaceful pastures of the Cook Islands for our honeymoon. This is a group of 15 islands which sit close to Fiji in the Pacific and is home to a population of just 20,000. It is tropical to a "T", with the winters a balmy 23 or so degrees (real trouser weather stuff), while the amazing beauty, particularly the marine life will leave you with many happy snaps to take home.
To my surprise even amongst a country so small we found that craft beer was alive and well. We paid a visit to the Matuku Brewery, situated in the main island of Rarotonga which has been busy churning out quality craft beer for the last 8 or so years. The brewery was started using a second hand brewery courtesy of New Zealand brewing company Tuatara (the brewers are cousins), which was shipped over and has been keeping both the Islanders and tourists that visit refreshed ever since.
Two beers are produced; a Pale Ale and a Lager, the Pale Ale is quite malt driven, while the Lager is a very easy drinking drop, perfect for a hot day at the beach.
The Cook Islands has strong links with both NZ and Australia - and is a dumping ground for short dated stock from Dominion Breweries (Steinlarger and Tui) and Fosters (VB and Pure Blonde) which can be purchased at the various pubs and hotels at very cheap prices. It makes it hard for craft beer, but where there is a will there is a way! The Matuku Brewery focuses mainly on producing bottled beer as it is too difficult to get a tap in venues, although if you stop by the brewery you can pick up keg fresh flagons, to take back to your room (or to the beach) to really enjoy. And while the sales from the brewery accounts for less than 5% of all beers sold - when you consider this is just by one brewery and that overall craft beer sales in Australia are less than 5%, I think that isn't too bad at all.
So if you are planning a holiday in the next while, keen for a bit of sun, some incredible snorkelling or just looking to relax - plus you’re looking for a nice drop to enjoy then I would definitely give Cook Islands some consideration.