New Zealand Panhead Beer returns to Australia

PANHEAD Custom Ales, New Zealand’s very own craft brewing monster truck rally, is relaunching back into Australia after a year of absence, putting the frighteners on anyone who thinks beer should mind its own business and cower behind the wine rack.

While Panhead will always call Upper Hutt, Wellington, home, it knows that well-made beer is in hot demand and it’s colonising the globe as fast as it can.

Panhead has exported small quantities of beer to Australia over the last few years but now with the support of Lion, Panhead will be brewed onsite at the Malt Shovel Brewery in Camperdown, Australia, and will be more widely available across the country.

Craft heads will be stoked the primary beer of focus in Australia is Quickchange Xtra Pale Ale, which recently earned gold at the New Zealand Brewers Guild awards, supported by the extra hoppy Supercharger APA and soon a range of specialty beers will be imported from New Zealand.

Mike Neilson, Chief Beer Engineer at Panhead, said the chance to have Panhead’s future supercharged by a merger with the big boys back in 2016 was too good to pass up.

“Lion’s backing will really help Panhead get in the hands of anyone, anywhere in Australia and New Zealand. That’s really important to us because we want as many people as possible to experience our beer.

“We’re particularly stoked to be working with the boys at Malt Shovel Brewery to brew Quickchange XPA locally. They’re techy brewers, just like us, and by brewing this beer locally, our kegs are fresher than ever.”

And Haydon Morgan, Head Brewer at Malt Shovel Brewery, said how excited his team are to work with such a phenomenally successful brewery with some big growth aspirations.

“This is a unique opportunity to harness the strengths of both breweries and share our brewing knowledge and passion for quality brews. It took us a couple of cracks but the boys at Panhead are satisfied we’ve maintained the integrity of their winning recipe and it is business as usual for us and Panhead Custom Ales,” said Haydon.

Panhead Custom Ales will now be distributed via Lion’s new business ‘Malt Shovel’, a dedicated team separate to Lion Beer Australia that looks after creating and growing a collection of craft brands with good beer loving on and off premise customers. The Malt Shovel team are out there now making Panhead available in good pubs and bottle shops across Australia.

A little more info on Panhead’s core range of beers:


XPA means Extra Pale, a product of Quickchange’s lighter malt base. That delicate colour though is undercut by a glorious hit of alpha oils from Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra hops. Sometimes you don’t want your mouth flayed raw and your liver worked to a standstill. Sometimes a few luscious notes of mango, guava, lychee and pineapple can be just the thing.


Hops are where it starts for the born-again craft head and Supercharger APA is where Panhead delivers. This is an all-American show with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe overwhelming your nose, kicking you in the taste buds and departing with more bitterness than a Palm Springs divorce. It’s a seriously addictive combination.


Pilsner is famously Czech in origin, but here we’ve gone for a South Pacific hop profile in keeping with the people who brew it and drink it. Passionfruit, grapefruit and sauvignon blanc characters abound, stacked up on a robust malt base that’s partly German, partly Kiwi.


As self-confessed bogans we have a natural attraction to black, preferably matte, so Blacktop Oatmeal is close to our hearts. The key to creating a silky death metal monster like this is the caramelised Golden Naked Oats we’ve built it around. Sophisticates will detect the chocolate and coffee notes of creamy tiramisu. The rest of us will note that it matches our jeans.

About Panhead:

LIKE many in the industry, Panhead founder and head brewer Mike Neilson started off by home brewing. His skill and passion were so evident that at the first homebrew competition he ever entered, the 2009 Society of Beer Advocates National Homebrew Championships, he won five medals, including two golds. When a brewer’s position became available at one the country’s leading craft breweries in 2010, Mike leapt at the chance.

After three years perfecting his craft, the time had come for Mike to follow his own path. In 2013, a business case was drawn up, and the family house put on the line to fund the new venture. A site for a brewery and bottling line was leased at the old Dunlop Tyre Factory in Upper Hutt, where Mike’s dad Danny had started his working life as a mechanic in the 1970’s. And as Upper Hutt stalwarts, born and bred, it made sense for Panhead to make the Hutt its home as well. Panhead Custom Ales was born.

Panhead launched its very first brew, Supercharger American Pale Ale, in July 2013. Three further beers were added to the core range: Port Road Pilsner, Quickchange Xtra Pale Ale, and Blacktop Oat stout. The core range was joined in 2014 by Whitewall, a lighter ale making use of newly developed Australian hops like Galaxy and Ella.

Running alongside the favourites, limited releases have kept the hardcore beer geeks surprised, delighted and occasionally mystified. The inaugural special, The Vandal, was an aggressive hop monster, acclaimed by SOBA as the 2014 Beer of the Year. Supercharger APA took the 2015 AND 2016 gongs. From the very beginning Panhead experienced stratospheric growth. Its output has increased from 280,000 litres per annum at launch, to just under 1.4 million litres in the year to March 2016. Over Christmas 2015, it sold out of two months’ worth of beer in just three weeks.

Panhead has never been able to brew beer fast enough to keep up with demand. Regardless of volume, quality, consistency and freshness are vital, and while there is always a steady stream of specials, the business rests on the well-loved core range.

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