Originally this post was about a single weekend that included a couple of delicious and delightful beer events. Then there were a few more great beer events, so I decided to make it about a good beer week. Then there were MORE beer events. Basically now is an excellent time to be a beer geek in New Zealand and in particular in Auckland. Here’s why (with examples):

Choice (both in the Queen’s English and the local vernacular)
Awesome Beer Month started with the arrival in Auckland of Greig McGill, secretary of SOBA and the most well-known Hamiltonian in the world.  As per usual, Greig insisted on inspected the local craft beer scene with a pub crawl. We visited four bars – SkySport Grill, Suite, The Brewery Britomart and O’Carrolls – each with their own personality and a good selection of beers. Such selection in fact, I was able to stick to dark beers pretty much the whole night. This is more impressive when you add into the equation that we only repeated one of the six bars that we visited last time there was a Grieg-induced bar crawl.
Beer of the Event: Croucher Raspberrybock. While not a crowd favourite, I loved the raspberry-tart versus the malt-sweet. Reminded me of my favourite dark chocolate and raspberry cupcakes.

A Community of Experimentation
The day after the bar crawl, a hiccup of home brewers gathered at Hallertau for the Western Brewers Conference.  This quarter the style was NZ Pale Ale, not only a very popular style (there were 17 entries), but also one that’s quite young, so there was a fair amount of experimentation with hop varieties.  The winner had dry hopped with Wai-iti, second place used a lot of Kohatu and third NZ employed Cascade. This variety provided a lot of healthy debate, with one competitor describing the Kohatu flavour as similar to a pineapple that has been down your trousers, but that’s the fun of it. It was also great to see so many relatively new brewers walking away with honours – Brent, who took out third, has only been brewing for a few months and this was his first WBC. Not only is there a friendly, competitive homebrew community, but we’ve also got some world-class judges to help guide us along. With such a big field, it was reassuring to have the knowledge of Luke Nicholas, Kelly Ryan, Joseph Wood, and Steve Ploughman to sort through the entries and give everyone feedback.
Beer of the Event: Hamish’s first-place NZ Pale Ale. Absolutely stunning, flawless and drinkable, it was marked 49 out of 50.

Recognising Awesome People 
After only a day off from some seriously good beer, the Auckland beer crowd were back into it with the release of the latest Galbraiths Cask Ale series. Not only did we get the chance to taste another marvellous collaboration beer – this time Croucher’s Pale Ale – but there was also the largest gathering of brewers Auckland’s ever seen: Croucher’s Nigel and Paul, 8Wired’s Soren (in town to brew his own cask beer), Liberty’s Jo, and Emerson’s Richard. I have to admit, some Aucklanders were a little star-struck.  In addition to out-of-town guests, we had the chance to thank our Auckland SOBA leader, Martin Bridges, for his time representing Auckland on the SOBA committee and for, well, carolling the us into some semblance of an organisation. Personally, I really like it when people who do the hard yards (like Martin does) get recognised, so it was great.
Beer of the Event: Croucher-Galbraiths Pale Ale. So. Freaking. Drinkable. Perfect amount of hoppiness, so smooth and (as much as I hate this expression) thirst-quenching. I wish it would last until summer, but I know it won’t. It’ll be gone before you know it, so get down to Galbraiths now.

Well, that’s enough goodness for one post, stay tuned for Part Two.

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