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!

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