New Zealand craft brewer Moa has revealed its latest innovation, believed to be the world’s first ‘deer beer’.

Developed exclusively for export to China, a growing market for premium Kiwi-brewed craft beer, ‘Moa Red Stag Wheat’ is an extra-special drop that contains deer velvet sourced from the South Island of New Zealand.

The idea for Red Stag Wheat came about over a few beers in China when Moa’s very own Gareth Hughes and Parley Reynolds dreamed up a unique Kiwi beer for the Chinese market.

Just a few months later, the concept of a craft ale brewed with deer velvet was born following a visit to large Chinese craft beer retailer M99.

It’s an idea that’s already proved to be incredibly popular in China. It took all of 48 hours for a container-full of the beer to completely sell out, following a post on social platform WeeChat by M99.

“The epicentre of the deer velvet industry is in China, with many people there regularly taking small amounts of the stuff for a variety of purposes. Chinese consumers have since developed a taste for this New Zealand craft beer, with several container loads of our finest landing there every month.”

Long recognised for its healing and tonic properties, deer velvet is consumed in China to boost strength and endurance, improve the immune system, counter stress, and promote recovery from illness. It is also used at the onset of winter to ward off infections and acts as an aphrodisiac.

Ross describes the Red Stag Wheat as having a unique red-tinged hue and robust hop flavours, its fundamentals are a red malt wheat beer with generous throws of New Zealand hops from around Nelson.

Deer velvet is the annual new growth of deer antler produced by various types of male deer, better known as stags. Unlike the hard, mature antlers used by stags to fight for a mate, deer velvet is soft and, giving the substance its name, covered with a hairy velvet-like skin. At the end of each season, deer lose their antlers, to grow a new set the following year.

With large populations of wild and farmed red deer, New Zealand is the world’s biggest and arguably most humane producer of deer velvet (commercial harvesting is done under anaesthetic and supervised by veterinarians). With 500 tonnes or so produced locally every year, Kiwi deer velvet accounts for almost half of the global supply.

Global Sales Director Gareth Hughes explains the very organic process of developing Moa’s latest tipple.

“It started with a great few days in the back country, followed by a few sessions back at the Brewery harvesting the velvet and venison. Included in the development process was valuable time talking beer in general and the developing trends of the Chinese market.”

Soon, a brew was underway, establishing the foundations for Red Stag Wheat.

Recently, Ross accompanied samples of the now-kegged and bottled beer to Chengdu in China for sampling by the experts. “The collaborators are thrilled with the result and, close on the heels of the initial samples, a container is en route to M99’s six stores in the Chengdu area,” he says.

He notes that in addition to driving the deer velvet export market, worth around NZ$40-million per year, China is a crucial growth prospect for Moa’s products. Right now, he puts the annual value of Kiwi beer and cider exports at around NZ$2 to $3 million, with substantial headroom for growth.

“Export markets are highly attractive for the continued prosperity of craft brewers. We’ve already made great headway with our classic flavours; now, we’re particularly excited to take to market the first beer developed specifically for Chinese tastes, while driving our vision of being ‘New Zealand’s craft beer’ on the international stage,” Ross concludes

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