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March 2012

The Auckland Hop – and how it came about.

I’d like to say there’s an inspirational, uplifting story to how I came to organise The Auckland Bar Hop. That I was out on the town and an overwhelming pride in my current home town rose up within me, giving me the desire to organise the most amazing bar crawl ever.

But, in reality the Hop was born from a moment of intense irritation. At the end of last year, on the Yeastie Boys’ blog, Stu introduced Sam’s Golden Pints with the comment: ‘Living in the craft beer desert that is our largest city, Sam’s picks for the Golden Pints were never going to be quite as easy.’ Now, I know it was tongue-in-cheek.* But it really irked me. Auckland is not a beer desert. Sure, we’re not the tropical jungle that Wellington is, or the productive farmland of Nelson, but there’s certainly beer here. We’ve got freehouses, brewpubs and breweries. We’ve got an active homebrew scene, with formal and informal competitions. Hell, we’ve even got beer geeks. Lots of ’em.

But these are all just words, words I’ve been saying for a while. So, in the spirit of ‘show, don’t tell’, I decided to organise a self-guided bar crawl, The Auckland Bar Hop, on April 21.  It’ll kick off at Galbraith’s Ale House at 2pm, where Hoppers can pick up their guidebook and indulge in some of the best cask ale in the country. Then there’ll be a shuttle bus running to town and back to take Hoppers down into the CBD, where they can explore Auckland craft beer scene, through bars as different from each other as Corner Bar and SkySport Grill. And after we’re all done exploring, there’s an after party at the Brewery Britomart, with more great craft beer, a bit of a feed, and a chance to compare notes.

The cost is $12 per person – this gets you the Hop booklet with small discounts at selected bars, a ride into town, entry into the event at the Brewery Britomart (with food) and a great afternoon out with like-minded people.

So, if you’d like to come along and support Auckland’s craft beer scene, purchase your ticket here – and get ready for an adventure!

* And it then went on to say 2012 is looking better. But that gets in the way of my story. 

Beer QI

The new episode of NZ Craft Beer TV is up. The break between episode’s has been so long that I had nearly forgotten how enjoyable they were, but it didn’t take long to refresh my memory. Through the camera, we get to meet the country’s brewers and publicans and see inside their breweries and pubs. We can also gaze at their raw ingredients – in the latest episode manuka tips! – and get an insight into why brewers do what they do (it’s their passion).

While NZ Craft Beer TV is immensely satisfying, I found myself greedily wanting a little something more, a tiny bit extra. I know the program is aimed at a general audience and I craved something a little bit more…geeky. Almost like a 200 level uni course, rather than the intro 100 level. Then it hit me – we should make Beer QI.

For those of you who have never watched QI (and jee whiz have you been missing out), QI stands for Quite Interesting and it’s a BBC comedy quiz show. The legendary Stephen Fry is the host, dispensing wisdom and laughs in equal measure, and there are four panellists, usually British stand-up comedians or actors and always including Alan Davies. Topics include everything under the sun and then some. It is simply the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb interesting (but mostly useless) information.

In beer and brewing there is a lot of interesting (but mostly useless) information and I want to know more about it. The show could discuss the little known Lambics, odd monastery brews, and all the quirks of beer history. Sure, it’d be a bitch to research and we’d probably get complaints every week about stuff that was slightly incorrect, but it’d be massively interesting. And think how good the General Ignorance section would be.

A big part of the show is the guests and I can’t imagine we’d be short on talent there. For Phill Jupitus, think Neil Miller; Dara O Briain, Grieg McGill; Bill Bailey, Stu McKinlay – the list can go on. But who would take the lead role of Stephen Fry? Can you have QI without Fry? (Or maybe he’d host it for us while he’s down here?) Fry’s replacement would need to be incredibly knowledgeable, well-spoken, and able to keep the guests under control. I asked the great wisdom that is Twitter and received several good suggestions. Phil Cook’s a possibility and hopefully we’d get George Langlands as Alan Davies into the bargain. Keiran  Haslett-Moore is a wealth of information on styles and history. Kelly Ryan would also be good, an absolute goldmine of facts on flavours and brewing. Lastly, there’s Geoff Griggs, who’s very knowledge, funny and (as I’ve seen from SOBA committee members) could  keep the panellists more or less on topic. However, I don’t think I have the skills to be picking a new Fry.

It would be great entertainment, Beer QI. But it would also be a nightmare to organise, research, and choose a new Fry. Best we all just go back to watching NZ Craft Beer TV. Once Episode 9 hits 500 views, Luke says he’ll release the next one – a fair more achievable goal.

Review: RB Rooms

On Saturday I made the rather bad decision to go to the Black Caps versus South Africa game at Eden Park. It was cold, we lost and the most interesting thing that happened was a fat man in a Waikato shirt and a Queen Liz mask ran up and down every aisle of the stadium. And, of course, there was no decent beer.

Luckily the day was not a complete loss. Martin Bridges, Auckland SOBA organiser and general haver of great ideas, suggested meeting at Sandringham’s The RB (Rugby Buildings) for some pre-match bevies. It was a great idea and I would freely and enthusiastically recommend a trip to The RB. The building itself is delightful – it has the air of someone trying to convert their house to a bar and getting most of the way there, then decided they’d rather just chill out – which gives it a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Downstairs there are small tables and a comfortable couch next to the small bar. Upstairs it’s sort of been knocked through, so the rooms are almost open plan and there’s another small bar. (One of the upstairs tables has a particularly good feature – you can see the Eden Park noticeboard, and check if the cricket is going ahead).

The staff were relaxed and friendly. They joked, they were informative and they didn’t take offence when I said I didn’t drink Moa. Their knowledge of the beer was more customer-based than knowledge-based (as in, they know so-and-so normally drinks that particular beer), but this was quite nice – it just added to the neighbourhood local feeling they have going on.

The food was amazing. The roasted vege salad was fresh and full of flavour, and as much as I enjoyed it, I was still jealous of my friends’ choices – a massive sausage roll and golden fish pies – particularly when they told me how delicious it was. To go with the tasty food, they also have tasty beers. There’s the full range of Moa beers, if you’re that way inclined, but even better they have five Yeastie Boys beers in bottle and a couple of Epics. I chose the Hud-a-wa as my pre-match beer and was blown away. I’m not sure whether it was a new batch or perhaps fresh is not best, but this Hud-a-wa tasted amazing – slightly sweet, but balanced and moreish. Then, for my it’s-still-raining beer I had a PKB, which was chocolately goodness in a glass. (I think I’ll put ‘drink more Yeastie Boys’ on my to-do list).

If you’re after a pre-, post- or during match beer, I heartily recommend The RB. It’ll buoy you up if you’re (quite rightly) worried about the Black Caps losing, or soothe away the pain when they (inevitably) lose. I also assume it’d be wonderful for other (more cheerful) sporting events, or even just as an event in itself.

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