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This is our review of our Queenstown craft beer tour including our favorite breweries to check out and information about the craft breweries in Queenstown.
Queenstown is the tourist hub of New Zealand’s South Island and therefore it seems to have everything to offer tourists, but surprisingly up until recently, its brewery game hasn’t been so strong.
Queenstown is a town full of adventure activities, amazing sightseeing opportunities, and wineries everywhere, but for whatever reason, it was missing the ever-popular craft beer scene – that is until now!
In the last few years, more and more breweries have opened in Queenstown, making visiting Queenstown breweries on a craft beer tour possible!
The other afternoon we went on a Brewbus craft beer tour in Queenstown and had a fantastic time! So in this blog, we’ll let you know all about our Queenstown brewery tour experience as well as our favorite Queenstown Breweries and other Brewery Tours (that you can check out for yourself)!
What to Expect on a Craft Beer Tour in Queenstown
Some of the tours will pick you up from your hotel like the Queenstown Beer Tour does but many of the other ones will require you to meet in central Queenstown and drop you off at the end of the day. No need to worry about drinking and driving today, you can sample all of the beer you want without the worry of getting home!
Visit the Breweries
The Brewbus goes to four different breweries around Queenstown where you get to try lots of different kinds of beer and learn about the beer-making process.
The full-day tours average around 5 hours and start at noon, but there is also a half-day option for those who are short on time. The 4 most popular stops on most tours include a visit to Arrowtown and the Shotover River so it’s a great way to see the area all while enjoying a brewery tour!
Lunch is included on some tours like the Brewbus Tour or Queenstown Beer Tour but the Twilight Tour includes an antipasti platter. On tours where lunch is not included, you can always fill before the tour or grab a burger or sandwich of your choice and chips anytime if there is food served as you stop throughout the day.
The scenic views
On the tour, your bus will take you to four breweries but via very scenic routes to enjoy amazing views. And the best part? The breweries are located in a few different areas of Queenstown and Arrowtown so you get to see a lot!
So take in the views and learn some fun facts from the driver along the way. Our local guide shared lots of stories of Maori culture which was a great touch!
Related Read: The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of New Zealand’s most scenic road trips.
4 BEST Beer Tours in Queenstown
1. Queenstown Beer Tour
- Price: $169 NZD
- Duration: 4-5 hours
On the Queenstown Beer Tour you will visit 4 different breweries and get to go behind the scenes of some of the city’s most popular along with some microbreweries and learn how they make the beers.
You will have some allotted free time between the 2 and 3 stops to explore the small town of Arrowtown. One of the brewpubs gives you a beer flight paired with lunch bites and at the last brewery, you can even hang out longer than the allotted time of the tour because there is a bus stop within walking distance.
Note: This tour offers hotel pick-up.
2. Hop-on Hop-off Evening Beer Tour
- Price: $69.50 NZD
- Duration: 5 hours
The Hop-on Hop-off Beer Tour is super convenient and runs in central Queenstown every Thursday – Saturday night from 5 pm – 10 pm. This is by far the best choice to customize your itinerary as you can pick which 4 of the 14 stops you want to get out at. At the end, you’ll have the option for 2 more stops back toward central Queenstown.
Samples are not included in the ticket price, however, each spot will give you exclusive discounts from your Hop-on Hop-off wristband. This brewery tour is the perfect pregame if you want to experience some cool Queenstown bars for the rest of the night.
3. Twilight Wine and Craft Beer Tour
- Price: $189 NZD
- Duration: 4 hours
The Twilight Craft Beer and Wine Tour mixes both great wines with amazing beer. I really enjoyed this tour because I love sampling craft beers as well as wine so if you have a group with mixed tastes this is perfect! Included in your ticket are 12+ samples at 3 different cellars. You will visit Cargo Brewery, Kinross, and Mt Rosa Wines.
This tour is 4 hours and runs in the afternoon until sunset so it’s perfect for a summer day!
Note: This tour does not pick up from hotels, they will have you meet in Central Queenstown.
4. Brewbus Tour
- Price: $170 NZD
- Duration: 4.5 hours
The Queenstown Brewbus Tour is the tour we went on! It is a small group experience that can only book up to 6 people so you are sure to have a super personalized experience! It will last 4.5 hours, hits 4 different breweries, and includes lunch on the first stop. This tour will allow you to checkout the backend of a working brewery and learn from the Brew Masters. You can read all about our experience below!
Our Experience and the Queenstown Breweries we Visited
Our day started at noon when the iconic gold “Brew Bus” picked us up in central Queenstown for the start of the tour. We were joined by a group of fun people all equally as excited as we were to try some awesome beer!
As we started the drive to Arrowtown, the sun was reflecting off the snow-capped mountains and we knew that it was going to be a fantastic day all around.
Related Read: One of the best trails in New Zealand is the Queenstown Hill Walk, it’s easy and beyond scenic!
1. Lake & Wood Brew Co. at Slow Cuts in Arrowtown
Our first stop was a restaurant in Arrowtown called Slow Cuts that serves the local Lake & Wood Brew Co. beer. At this stop, we also had lunch which meant we go to enjoy local craft beer and amazing burgers – life doesn’t get much better than that!
We tried several different beers and left Slow Cuts with a full belly and already feeling a little tipsy.
My Top Pick Beer: Lake and Wood Barrelled – This beer is actually stored in barrels which gave it an oak flavor.
Dan’s Top Pick: Pils and Thrills – American Hopped Pilsner
Food Recommendations: Slow Cuts is amazing, but there is one item that isn’t on the menu that might be worth asking for if you are up for a spicy chicken burger. Ask for the “Jack or Yak Chicken Burger” if you are feeling adventurous!
2. Altitude Brewing in Frankton
The next stop was the newest of the Queenstown breweries. Having just moved from Christchurch, I can see Altitude Brewing becoming the new hot-spot to hang out in Queenstown.
Conveniently located along Frankton road, this little brewery has a ton of flavor to offer and their beers are already quite famous internationally.
Here, we were treated to a tour of the brewery and let in on how the beer is made before sampling a few for ourselves.
My Top Pick: “The Mischievous Kea.” It is an easy-drinking IPA and also Altitude Brewing’s biggest seller.
Dan’s Top Pick: “The Posturing Professional.” This Pale Ale definitely hits the mark with strong hop flavors.
Related Read: If you don’t want to spend all of your money in one New Zealand city here are some free and cheap things you can do in Queenstown!
3. Searchlight Brewery Queenstown
Our third stop was a small, locally-owned brewery just on the outskirts of Queenstown. Searchlight Brewery has an awesome slogan ”search, seek, evolve” that not only relates to how they make their beer but also how they run their company (and I think it is a great motto for life in general!)
Searchlight Brewery is a place that I will definitely make a stop at on the way back from a day of skiing on Coronet Peak! Plus, they sell take-away growlers (1.9 liters) of beer for only $20!
My Top Pick: The Saison. It has a really unique flavor that I describe as almost spicy.
Dan’s Top Pick: The IPA. Dan always likes an IPA. This one is especially strong and will definitely give you a buzz at 7.2%!
4. Canyon Food & Brew Co. at the Shotover River
By our final stop, we were all feeling the beer and having some great laughs. Everyone on the tour became best friends and we were so chatty that it was hard to stay quiet during the brewery tour.
Canyon Food & Brew Co. has the best location right on the Shotover River. From the patio, you can sip beer with some spectacular views.
But besides the location, the beer is tasty and the food is awesome. A place like this would be a perfect hang out spot for a sunny afternoon.
My Top Pick: The Porter. I normally don’t like Porters, but this one wasn’t too strong and was easy to drink.
Dan’s Top Pick: All of them. At this stage of the tour, Dan was pretty tipsy and liked ALL of the beer!
Why go on a Craft Beer Tour?
Besides the obvious of not having to worry about driving after you sample as many beers as you like, one of the best things about a craft beer tour is the knowledge. The Queenstown Beer Tour and the Brewbus tours are the two on the list where you will learn about the beer-making process on-site
Every place we went we learned about the process as well as the beers themselves. It added to the overall experience of tasting the beers, knowing the story and the work behind them made the experience that much more special.
In contrast, the Twilight Tour and Hop-on Hop-off tours will provide you with information about the region and beers during transport and you’ll also get some great local knowledge from the driver!
You could visit these breweries on your own, but you won’t get the behind-the-scenes tour as we got, have the chance to meet the brewers themselves, or try such a variety!
Another great reason to book a tour is if you don’t have a rental car or van. This will make visiting breweries further outside of town possible. Keep in mind that the Brew Bus, Twilight Tour, and Hop-on Hop-off do not provide hotel pick-ups as the Queenstown Beer Tour does. Those other three will meet in Central Queenstown so make sure to read the details of each one before booking.
You can book your Brew Bus craft beer tour directly on their website or you can also view a range of new tours that have started in Queenstown here including a hop on hop off tour!
Why Choose Brewbus?
Brewbus is a professional company that are experts in all things craft beer! But besides the knowledge, you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time! Lots of laughs along the way of visiting some really special breweries in the Queenstown area.
Our day with Brewbus was spectacular, and we will be definitely joining them on some of their other brewery tours in other states.
You can book your Queenstown craft beer tour here
Tips for having a great day/what to bring
- It is a day full of drinking, so be prepared! I recommend hydrating that morning well before leaving! Don’t worry about bringing water as they provide it on the tour and at the breweries as well.
- Don’t forget your camera, some of the views from the bus are great and some of the breweries are located in beautiful locations.
- Start off slowly, if you drink too much at the beginning you will have had more than enough beer by the end. Pace yourself, it is a long day!
- Don’t be shy and ask questions during the brewery tours. Also, if you have a particular beer you want to try, ask for it. The brewers are all very nice and happy to answer any questions and sample more beers.
Thanks for reading!
We have been on so many wine tasting tours all over the world but had never been on a brewery tour before now, but we know now that it won’t be our last!
The beer was tasty, the company was fun, and the tour company was perfect. We had such an enjoyable afternoon and made some great memories, and some new favorite beers to stock our fridge with!
If you have any questions please leave them below in the comments and we will get back to you! If not be sure to check out other New Zealand travel guides here or go to our Queenstown page, we also have some of our favorite articles below!
Best restaurants in Queenstown
2 week South Island road trip itinerary