Back in 2007, I visited Mike’s Brewery while showing a couple of mates around my home province of Taranaki. I hadn’t yet converted to beer, but my English friend was keen to try the local fare.
It was very Kiwi-casual. The brewery itself is located in a converted cowshed and back then they hadn’t bothered to convert it much. The drive was still a tanker track, there wasn’t a lot signage and the brewer simply took you into the old milking shed and poured to a beer straight out of the vat. The larger was very good, or so my British friend informed me.
Three years later, I called in to Mike’s to pick up some of their pale ale on the way to my mum’s. I barely recognised the place! The drive was smoother and wider and signage showing you where to go and what to do, all in the same font and everything. Off the gravel car park, the house had had a large deck added with a nice lawn and garden established around it. Inside there were more surprises! There was a shop with not just beer, but fancy wooden boxes and tool boxes to carry it in. And the lovely lady who served me insisted on putting my big bottle of pale ale into a brown paper bag.
I neither approve or disprove if the changes – both nostalgic memories and degradation of the past annoy me intensely. But the changes at Mike’s show just how quickly the New Zealand craft beer scene is changing, with craft beers becoming more popular and accessible – to see the speed illustrated quite so quickly was amazing.
I wish there were more places like it, Auckland certainly needs more beer gardens. But then again if the beer’s good, I’d also be happy drinking it out of a vat in a barely-converted milking shed.