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March 2011

NZ BeerFest

My expectations of the New Zealand Beer Festival weren’t high and they dropped a little more when I got off the bus in Ellerslie and found a guy dressed as ‘Beer Man’. The closer I got to the beer, the more they dropped; at the first door I was handed a card to get my sixth Cobra free. At the second door was another multi-buy card, this time for Carlsberg. Then I got inside and confirmed that many of the breweries listed on the website weren’t there, since the lucky buggers were at Marchfest.

I did cheer up considerable though when I ran into Luke from Epic brewery, who was staring up at his projector. It wasn’t pointing quite where it was meant too, possibly because they’d hung it from the roof in an Epic box with some bits of string. I’m not sure why this cheered me up so much. Probably because it reminded me that this wasn’t a completely soulless Auckland event and there were great breweries here. Luke also recommended I head over to Mike’s stand and try either their Imperial IPA or Imperial Porter. I had the porter; it was delicious and thoroughly cheered me up.

There was plenty to keep a beer geek happy for the afternoon. Along with Epic and Mike’s, there was  Croucher, Mata, Epic, Harrington’s, Tuatara, and Wigram breweries, serving up their finest wares. The Auckland Sobaites managed to bags a good central table and create a little pool of calm (well, as calm as you can be when you’re tasting Mike’s Imperial Porter or Mata’s Taniwha and you want to yell to the rooftops how awesome it is). We had a good group there and it was an interesting afternoon.

The problem was, was that the Beer Festival didn’t want to be a beer festival, it wanted to be a party. The VIP tent, the loud (and often terrible) music, and the chumps walking up to Mike’s stand and ordering ‘something with lots of alcohol’ all seemed much too in-line with New Zealand’s predominate drinking culture. I’m glad I went to support those craft breweries who did go, but with the bogans, Portaloos in the rain and the (frankly) false advertising, all I could think was ‘Bring on Beervana!’ Only four months to go!

A Guide to Auckland Craft Beer Bars

Once again my post complaining about the state of Auckland’s beer culture was put aside when I realised complaining about the beer scene wasn’t going to achieve a thing. I wish I could say I had reached this conclusion on my own, but I didn’t; I received a mass email from Martin, the SOBA’s Auckland Coordinator that finished with ‘If we want a thriving craft beer scene in Auckland we need to support the bars that are brave enough to take a punt.’

Support can mean many things and the best support I can offer is publicity. So I’m setting up a new page that’ll be a one stop shop for finding craft beer in Auckland’s CBD, showing that we do have craft beer. It won’t be through rose-tinted glasses; it’ll have the facts (who, where, when, what) plus a bit of opinion, that I’d love you to go and out and find out if you agree or disagree.

So if you see a girl wandering about taking photos beers and bars this weekend, say hello. It might be me. Or you might have just scared a young art student.

Also if you’re wondering about my other project, the beer and food matching cook book, it’s under way. I’m currently contacting breweries for recipes, so if you’re a brewer and would like to be involved, please send me an email at rosalindaymes@gmail.com


Adventures in Nelson

The adventures in the great beer land that is  Nelson didn’t end with the wedding reception. Although I was sharing accommodation and a car with non-beer-geeks, I still managed to fir in a couple of stops.

The post-wedding event took place at the Moutere Inn, a half hour’s drive away from Nelson Central. A more welcoming place could not have been found. Picnic tables outside, couches and tables inside, it was busy for a pub on Sunday afternoon and with good reason. There was a magnificent range on tap and I’m very sad that I only got to sample two before my carload decided to leave. My first was the Golden Bear wheat beer. I’m not sure if the missed the mark (wheat beers can be tricky) or if it’s due to the American style, but to me it lacked that ripe avocado tang  I like so much in the Tuatara Hefe. I could be comparing apples with oranges though. The Spring and Fern porter was next, a nice simple porter with malty tones. I could happily have stayed on the rest of the afternoon.

The following day my carload of friends departed for the Interislander at lunch and deposited me at the Free House bar to wait for my evening flight. Unfortunately it wasn’t open and by the time I’d realised, the car had disappeared down the street. I texted my Dad with my dilemma and he suggested the Sprig and Fern Tavern, saying it wasn’t far. Or it wouldn’t have been had I not 1) been carrying luggage and 2) gone to Milton instead of Hardy Street.

Again, it just seemed like a really welcoming place – not so much the bar staff (although they were nice), just the ambience. A cute little converted villa, nestled amongst suburbia and the old folks home. I spent a happy afternoon there, trying different beers, writing blog posts and letters and listening to the regulars who drifted in and out.* I tried the porter again – still good; the IPA with a nice zing; and the summer ale that was light with champagne like bubbles and even a slight champagne taste. I also had the best pinwheel scone in the world – bacon, olive, sun-dried tomatoes and cottage cheese – freaking amazing. I’d go back for that alone.

My adventures in Nelson were far too short and I know I’ll be back for a longer trip. I just need some fellow beer-lovers to keep me company, which should be too hard to find. And in the meantime I’ve got two litres of Sprig and Fern dopplebock to keep the memories alive.

*Big thanks to the guys who told me not to catch a taxi, but to shuttle instead, saving me a great deal of money.

Weddings and Beer: Part Two

I felt there were enough developments to  return to beer and weddings. First, I can happily report that the number of beer sentences in the wedding beverages article doubled. Second, there’s been several Tweets about craft beer and home brews appearing at weddings. Third, a friend of mine credited craft beer to his lack of hangover post wedding. Lastly, I was a bridesmaid at a kick-arse craft beer wedding on Saturday and got to see craft beer at a wedding first hand.

Originally the bride and groom weren’t going to have craft beer due to, I think, the price. The groom decided, however, that it meant a lot to him and organised several kegs from a local brewery in Nelson, the Sprig and Fern. Four kegs duly arrived on Saturday morning and were placed out the back to wait patiently for the reception.

The groom and groomsmen weren’t so patient though and in a lull in the official photos in the garden, popped down to the house to open one of the kegs. They’d been gone a while and I was starting to get a bit thirsty too, so I followed and found one groomsman literally dripping with beer and the groom slightly splattered. Some how – despite them both being reasonably experienced at bar work – they’d managed to burst the first keg of pilsner. The groomsman had immediately thrown himself on top of the keg, knowing that the groom still had photos left to be taken, taking the bullet (well, the beer) in the process. The reception room had beer on the floor, all over the walls, dripping from the ceiling and smelt decidedly yeastie. Luckily, the bride thought it was hilarious (she didn’t know at this point that the groom had also lost his ring).

Everything soon came right though. The groomsman was sent home for a shower and clean clothes, several of the bridal party and guest chipped in with towels and mops, the groom’s ring was found and the reception proper started.  The craft beer proved popular and big props to the groom for organising it. There were two kegs of pilsner, which, while I found it a little bland, I could see other guests thoroughly enjoying its refreshing nature on a hot afternoon. The pale ale was a lovely hoppy delight, but the icing on the cake was the dopplebock. Rich with a lasting after taste and malty notes, beer geeks and the uninitiated alike relished in its flavour. My only regret was discovering a little too late it was an eight percent kicker. Dancing in the rain, losing my shoes and waking up with a handbag full of cheese (not a euphemism) resulted.

Despite (or indeed because of) the unintentional beer fountain and cheesy handbag, I’d thoroughly recommend having craft beer at a wedding. It created a talking point amongst guests, exposed mainstream-drinking guests to great beer in a easy-going environment and supported a local brewery. Win, win, win. Oh, and of course, it tasted great. Wins all round.

Christchurch

Last Monday I wrote a post about how terrible it is to live in Auckland, where we lack a decent beer culture. When I went post it on Tuesday night, it hardly seemed appropriate, after Christchurch had again been ravaged by an earthquake, this time with terrible fatalities.

With the large amount of brewers and craft beer bars in Christchurch, the online beer community was packed with reports of who was okay and how their breweries (and thus livelihoods) had fared. Not because we love beer, but because we care about the people – in many cases, knowing these people personally. The craft beer community in New Zealand is very much an online community and there was soon news from most of those brewers affected. Greig McGill from SOBA sent out an email to keep everyone updated, and there was relief at finding that the brewing community and their families were largely unhurt, in the midst of sadness and horror of the disaster.

The next round of organisation then began: fund-raising. Hashigo Zake donated every cent they took over the bar on Saturday night to two causes: the Christchurch earthquake and Atareira, a mental health organisation, in honour of Matthew Hall. The Malthouse donated a dollar for every tap beer sold on Friday and Saturday nights. Galbraiths took and match dollar-for-dollar donations. The charity continues with 8Wired auctioning off a crate of iStout (it’s currently at $650) and Yeastie Boys also donating beer for sale. This Friday there’s a series of events around New Zealand to raise more money through auctions (check out the details here).

In addition to these amazing acts, we also need to remember the long-term. It’s easy (and good) to be shocked by pictures on television or affected by a story online and pull out your credit card or donate products or services to help. The hard part is remembering that these people will need our help for weeks and months to come. Many breweries were damaged and won’t be able to produce much for the next little while. We need to keep remembering them and be ready to buy their delicious delights when they’re back on their feet, so they can stay on the feet.  On Twitter today a vague plan was hatched that once the Christchurch brewers are ready to have us, we’ll have a roadtrip to Christchurch to celebrate and sample as much of their beer as we could. It was dubbed ‘Quakefest’.

So that’s the plan. Donate as much as I can now, support fundraising events and make sure that, when they’re ready, the Christchurch brewers will have a market to come back to.

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