However, it is fair to say that it is indeed ‘best known’ for being the home of Mike’s Organic Brewery, which was called White Cliffs Brewery for a long time. 

While peddling craft beer at Wellington’s City Market, a surprising number of people told me they had visited this tiny rural brewery.  To be honest, I was surprised even one customer had been there.  Urenui is, after all, on State Highway 3, thirteen kilometres east of Waitara and six kilometres south-west of Mimi– hardly a tourist trap.  That said, Urenui has a Wikipedia page, I do not.

While this page takes the time to discuss the decile ranking of the local school (5 for those who are interested), it scandalously does not mention Mike’s Organic Brewery at all.  Further proof, if more was ever needed, that no-one should ever rely on Wikipedia for the whole story.

Mike’s Organic Brewery was founded in 1989 and some believe it made the first organic beer in the country.  However, while it was the first North Island brewery to be certified organic, it was second overall after Founder’s in Nelson.  The whole process of certification is very important at Mike’s. 

Director Ron Trigg is quite scathing about beers which casually throw the ‘organic’ label around.  He recently told Beer and Brewer magazine that “from a consumer perspective it is misleading.  It is just a label claim.  If you are going to call it organic, get it certified.”

As well as being certified organic, there is a strong emphasis on sustainability at the slowly expanding brewery.  In the same article, Ron described the entire staff as “serial recyclers – we reuse cardboard.  We use recycled macrocarpa to make boxes for our beers.  There are roof tanks to gather water and the grain bags are re-used to package eco-friendly fertilizer.  Spent grist is composted on the property or fed to local organic goats and we are currently working with a major bread manufacturer to incorporate spent grain into a men’s health loaf.  We minimise waste as much as we can.”

Malthouse is currently stocking the entire range of Mike’s beers:

Mike’s Organic Ale (4%) – This is the 21st century incarnation of the iconic Mike’s Mild.  Pouring an appetising dark brown, this nutty mild ale has touches of coffee, chocolate and raisin before a cleansing dry finish.

Mike’s Organic Lager (4.8%) – The new, much-improved version of Mountain Lager is a full-bodied, relatively sweet beer with a rustic graininess and a touch of citrus at the beginning and end.

Mike’s Organic Pilsner (5%) – One of their new beers, the Pilsner is brewed in the Czech style with New Zealand organic hops.  The result is a crisp golden beer which is far drier and grassier than the Lager.

Mike’s Organic Strawberry Blonde (4%) – Created for summer, this pink-tinged brew uses fresh, local, organic strawberries.  It is a proper fruit beer but is not overly sweet because the strawberry notes come in late and are quite subtle.

At the top of one of the fridges are even a couple of bottles of the rare Mike’s Whisky Porter (10.5%).  This sumptuous beer was aged in oak barrels from the old Wilson’s distillery in Dunedin which had been rehydrated with a little cask-strength whisky over several days.  It is a complex brew with notes of toffee, smoke, treacle, port, peat, spice, raisins and oak.  Takeaway sales are available at the bar and this beer certainly would age nicely for several years in a cool cellar.

In addition to producing another vintage of Whisky Porter, Ron and the brewery team are beginning work on their next special beer.  It will be a “super-hoppy” double IPA weighing in at over 10% and available in late May.  Though he might not know it yet, Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scotsman will be getting a few bottles in for enjoyment of the faithful Malthouse hop heads.

Mike’s Organic Brewery is working hard at constantly improving their beers and their distribution networks. However, the team remains modest with their website noting that they are joined by “Mother Nature, who supplies all of the ingredients, and Father Time, who creates the beer for us.”  Neither of them appears on the payroll however.

Perhaps the ultimate measure of the success of Mike’s is the rapid growth of Urenui as a settlement.  In the 2006 Census, the population was 429, up a staggering 3% (12 people) from 2001.  Better watch out Waitoetoe!


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


City Market – 
Urenui on Wikipedia –
Mike’s Organic Brewery –
Malthouse Facebook Group –
Real Beer –
Beer and Brewer Magazine –