Beer Hi – April in Review

Take it all in for now folks! I’m officially ‘aff the beer for a few weeks in an effort to shed a few more kg and rest the old liver.

I head over to Sydney at the end of May for a bit of Bagpipe banter so will hoist myself back up onto the Craft wagon then, that is as long as there are Crafts to be had or it will be back to the delights within a schooner of Tooheys New! Something we all look forward too.

So, what has gone on since my last little round up? Well, we had the fantastic HAPI festival, and of course for all the pipe band readers of which I am sure there are literally tens, the National Championships in Dunedin (a link to the magnificent stream by Brassbanned.com of the days action from the Saturday!)

The bawnd!

As a bit of a team builder the band headed to the Speights Brewery, for a bit of craic during some down time. I wouldn’t choose to go here on my own, but it was excellent for a bit of banter with a good crowd. The tour itself…well, it had it’s moments, the fellow taking us was very insistent on telling us how amazing the Company was, how many beer and food companies they had control of and just basically how much ‘stuff’ they owned. The very reasons why so many people are turned off by the big dominant breweries. However, we got to sample numerous beers at the end, most were pretty lacklustre but I will give them some credit for the “Summer Haze Pale Ale”. It was pretty refreshing and actually had some flavour. To be fair, Speights tend to produce the most palatable of the ‘large brews’ in my most humble of opinions.

A wee explore of Dunedin was required and a tip off led us to a small and cozy Scottish pub called Albar. It was certainly reminiscent of being back home with the tightly packed bar, leather seated booths and extensive Gin and Whisky selection. The beer on tap at this time though was not particularly mind blowing and I settled for a Sawmill Pale Ale on hand pull…( I think it was the Pale Ale… it was definitely Sawmill but we got stuck into some Hendricks after this and memories have faded) Anyway, the experience was not amazing, but the Gin made it worthwhile and I would be keen to check out those Single Malts on a return visit.

And let us not forget the glory of Lime Scooters! Probably the highlight of the sojourn down south. Note – not great for transporting beverages:

Another Pipe band related trip took me up to Tauranga a few weeks later and with a little time to spare I managed to take in a quality establishment called Rising Tide. A wondrous place with a ridiculous number of taps and the most meaty and flavoursome dumplings I have sampled to date!

The majority of beers on tap are by the Mount Brewing Company, although there is a wide and varying selection from around New Zealand. I was impressed by the value for money here. $7 pints, $15 Growlers and $10 for 8 massive dumplings. However I paid through the nose ($35 from memory) for a growler of Slab Brewing Naked City IPA , another small local brewery which I had not come across before. It was excellent! But I wonder why it was so much? Also, the liquor store next door seems to have some sort of control over a couple of taps, meaning you cant get a take away depending on what is pouring in there. A little weird quirk, especially annoying when the liquor store is closed.

However I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are up in the Bay of Plenty. Great atmosphere, lots of good beer (the Mr Jones IPA was the best of a few I tried) and the aforementioned dumplings are worth the trip alone.

Ok, on to my Top 5 for April in no particular order:

Actually screw that, number 1 by a long way and my first 5 start review in a looooong time, Behemoth – The Dude Abides, Imperial Milk Stout.
This is up there as one of the best beers I’ve had. A toasty, slightly bitter caramel white Russian in a beer. Insanity yet stunning!

Spectacular

There is now order from here on in , number two: Deep Creek Brewing Wisdom IPA (Totem Project). An interesting ‘little’ West Coast IPA number which at first had me very underwhelmed but in a few minutes the can was empty and I was quite sad. Would have again!

3 – Another Deep Creek Number, this time the Drop Top Chardonnay Brut IPA! As I have previously admitted am an IPA fiend and have difficulty straying away into ‘unuusal’ styles. Brut is one of these, but in the interests of furthering my experiences and actually having content to write about, I have no choice but to experiment.

This one was pretty good! This is an IPA fermented with Chardonnay grape juice you certainly get that forward fruit!

4 – Tuatara Double Trouble. A massive, bitter 9% hop explosion. Just my cup of tea but rendered me a blubbering mess immediately after.

5 – As noted above, the Mount Brewing Mr Jones IPA. Slaking my thirst alongside those plump meaty pork dumplings absolutely made my month complete.

That is it for another little while, stay tuned for a little reminisce about Denver, Colorado and hopefully some new exciting content during this brief dry period!

very dry

I’m so HAPI

Huh, because I’m Hapi
All these new beers waiting for me, get them into ma bell-ly
Because I’m not so hapi
Freeze my ass off in the rain and, inside chaos gener-allly
Because I’m happy
Clap along.. if the big old whales heart got you right in the mood 
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you also.. got more pissed than you should

The HAPI Festival has been and gone. If my poorly executed verse above has not described it sufficiently then here is my reasonably succinct summary in a more traditional prose.

The Queues and the Chaos !

Well, to begin with anyway. A huge queue awaited us on a traditional, blissful Wellington night ie, a freezing, howling southerly with intermittent biting rain. Despite arriving fifteen minutes early it was already winding its way back towards the markets car park. The doors did not open until 7.30 pm and only impending
beer glory kept the motivation levels high as we embraced a half hour of bitter cold and wet, slowly meandering our way into the foyer.

The various bars were set up on the ground floor, next too the little spinny globe thing that we all know and love (disappointingly, but sensibly not switched on tonight) and also up the first flight of stairs outside the Gallipoli exhibit, with food also readily available on both floors.

It was all a little bit crammed and chaotic. The space could not initially handle the 500 or so eager drinkers, who were also unsure of what exactly the ‘system’ was. There were 2 breweries per stand, and volunteers were scrambling about trying to get us to form one line per brewery, but the queues were so long you couldn’t get close enough to see what was pouring, so it was basically a gamble of standing at the back of a massive pack, edge forward and see where you ended up.
“What the hell is going on here?” and “I just want a fuckin’ beer” were the two most popular phrases at this point, but herd mentality soon took over, scoffing at the official approach as we evolved into a much more sensible ‘one line per stand and verge left or right at the last minute’ approach.

So, the first beer was not sipped until roughly 8pm, a good half hour after the doors opened and kegs were tapped. Not a great start for sure, but as everyone settled in and discovered that there was actually a lot of free space away from the bars to take stock and chill out, it turned out just fine.

Absolute top quality beverages

The selection was magnificent. All breweries had a selection of 4 for the night with a wide range from Goses to Triple IPA’s to massive Imperial Stouts. Perhaps a little heavy on IPA generally but I guess that was the point being a ‘hop forward’ occasion. Of the 80 or so beverages available I mustered a paltry 16 samples, but with barely a beer below 6% and the taster pour being decent I have to say that was a reasonable effort. I was certainly a touch wobbly by the end and the general merriment of the crowd by 11 pm was notable! But, the overall standard of beer was exceptional, such that I could still determine that Beer 16 was different to 15 and so forth…well, at least I think I did.

The beer highlights:

The queue for the Omnipollo Lorelei Imperial Double Porter never wavered for the whole night and it wasn’t hard to understand why. Served with some flavoured, crushed ice from a slushy machine, it was…well, unbelievable. Toasted Coconut and Maple abound, and a miraculous balance of flavour and just so more-ish. This was unique in every way and I would not hesitate to go back for more. Beer of the night for me.

Unreel beer. Celebrities not pictured – Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi having a chat off to the side..I’m not a wierdo paparazzi type

My IPA of the night belonged to Monkish Brewing. Their 7th Anniversary DDH DIPA was 8.7% of sheer glory but from out of left field two of my standouts were a Gose and a Saison of all things. I try to avoid Saisons like the plague, but my head told me to get out of my IPA comfort zone wherever possible and this led me to the Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison and the Mikkeller San Diego Passion Pool Gose. Both were welcome relief from the hop heavy DIPA’s and TIPA’s, with both providing excellent palette cleansing, refreshing qualities. The Gose in particular was fantastic, without that wretched aftertaste so prevalent in sour beers. Both would be perfect for copious quaffing of a summers day!

The Alvarado Street Brewery Sunny Hours DIPA is also worth a mention. Hazy , juicy and bold. This was sipped slowly during a little downtime halfway through whilst munching on some quite shockingly flavourless and rock solid mushroom dumplings. I hope that wasn’t a reflection on the rest of the food offferings.

Piss poor shrooms…

There were not any particularly bad beers, a couple were unmemorable and a couple I just didnt enjoy, mainly the super alcoholic, bordering on Port “beers”. Just not for me, never have been.

Overall, it was a great night. A shaky start certainly but once things got settled it was perfectly fine. I heard some mutterings of it being quite expensive and I suppose it probably was in retrospect. On average $3 /$3.50 for a taste, then $7 or $8 for a full pour that wasn’t much bigger than the taste. But when you factor in what it must have cost to freight the kegs of awesomeness from around the world I think it was very reasonably priced. Not only that but the room was FULL of craft brewers from around the globe! It was a delight all round.

Hopefully this grows into an annual event as we don’t get that much opportunity to try so many different worldwide brews in one place at one time. It certainly requires a few tweaks – more space around the bars is a must. Perhaps think about opening the doors earlier so people can get inside and suss it all out a bit before the taps open and help avoid that initial chaos? All a punter wants is to get that first beer in when they are through the door, so just make it easy to do. Also, look to improve the food, and absolutely get on top of refilling the water coolers! Running out is a bit of a no no as happened here later in the night, although the bars did have plenty but it all looked a bit shabby.


I think visibility of what is pouring is also a must – you had to barge your way through a mass of bodies to see what was on offer before barging back again and joining the queue. Chuck a couple of TV screens up with the current list and locations perhaps?

The jury is out on the EFTPOS pay as you go system, is it better than the token system? I don’t know, it seemed to work ok with minimal delays to be fair. You are going to have to queue either way. If this event does continue maybe they will go the Beervana loaded wristband route, or look at a self loading app?

Last but not least – we need more life size Whale Hearts at these things. This was very popular with the big kids and kept security on their toes for most of the night!

Playtime!

HAPI Days are here again

I am excited! Genuinely acting like I was 20 years younger excited right now!

Take a little look at this beautiful event happening in my glorious big village, tomorrow April 6th. The HAPI festival has been co-ordinated by Garage Project after developing a very exciting hop supply business, to better provide for overseas brewers utilising the magnificent NZ range. They also wanted to showcase some of the exceptional beers being brewed by like minded forward thinkers, so why not link the two together? Why not indeed.

And the lineup that has been put together for this event, to be held at Te Papa Museum, looks simply incredible. 19 Breweries from all over the US, UK and Scandinavia are having kegs of fresh, hop forward beers air freighted in especially to tickle the taste buds of the likes of you and me.

As you will have noted from my previous posts (go read them if you haven’t already….off you pop..) you will know I love to try new stuff. As we know Garage Project love to experiment and a gander at the line up is no exception to this. I have tried very few beers from the list, so I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store tomorrow night. I am also super excited to see what the guys who’s beer I have tried are bringing to the table.
So, who is coming? Here we go:

Hill Farmstead – Vermont, USA

The Bruery – Orange County, California, USA

Cloudwater Brewing– London, UK

Firestone Brewing – California, USA. I was stuck in LA for a night last year after a delay coming home from Denver. I made it to a magnificent burger place called
Stout Burgers N Beers in Santa Monica, and the Luponic Distortion Series 10 was on tap. It was fantastically hoppy, I wonder if it will be the series 12? Certainly will be keen to try out their offering tomorrow

Modern Times – San Diego / Portland, USA. These guys produced one of my favourite Hazies the Orderville IPA, …I’m never going to make it to midnight.

Other Half Brewing – Brooklyn/Rochester, Noo Yoik, USA

The Veil Brewing Co. – Richmond, Virginia, USA

Mikkeller – Copenhagen, Denmark. I am positive I have tried beers from these guys but I don’t see any on my list 😦 . Ah, well, tomorrow will change that! Always. Log. My Beer.

Sierra Nevada – California / North Carolina. Arguably the most recognisable name on the list.

Crooked Stave Brewing – Denver, USA. Despite giving Denver a decent nudge in 2018, I didn’t come across these guys. Their beers look exceptional and wild and they have a specific ‘Brett’ Yeast project which definitely adds these guys firmly to the top of my list.

Trillium Brewing – Boston, USA

Alvarado Brewing – Monterey, California, USA

Omnipollo Brewing – Stockholm, Sweden

Stone Brewing USA and Worldwide! Along with Sierra Nevada another of the bigger brewers here…I have zero against them, but my preference is to see what the little guy has to offer first.

Tired Hands Brewing – Ardmore, Philadelphia, USA

Monkish Brewing – Los Angeles, USA

CANarchy Craft Brew Collective – Unbelievable. This collective, ranked well inside the top 50 of US Craft Brewers comprises a number from around the US; Oskar Blues Brewery, Perrin Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, Squatters Craft Beers and Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Three Weavers Brewing Company. I have sampled at least four by Oskar Blues and all were excellent. Gimme Gimme Gimme!

An Oskar Blues Classic

Cellarmaker Brewing – San Francisco, USA

The Bruery – California/Washington DC, USA. These guys again look very experimental, specialising in Barrel Aged beers. Tick! Hit me up.

Look at all that choice. Incredible!

So, the festival for the proletariat is preceded by an industry only Symposium earlier in the day, which has been offered to all independent breweries in NZ. So no doubt brewers and representatives from all over the place will be mingling among us later, a who’s who of the brewing world. Hopefully armed to answer lots of my silly questions.
This for me takes the Winter Ale Fest and the ‘all the right intentions but slightly underdone’ Pacific Beer Expo to the next level.

There is clearly an exceptional choice and I am keen, and must, try something from all of them. This will take will power, pateience, hydration, small tasters and a slow pace (booooooo…nope, I can do this…) so as to decrease the somewhat elevated chances of being a blubbering mess a few hours in.

There is just no other way to describe it, for all crafty beer lovers out there – this will be cool.