Back to the Beer!

Earth friendly beer cup on hairy face!

It has been some time since I posted last! And as we all know a lot has happened in that time. The world has been thrown into unbelievable chaos due to Covid-19 and it doesn’t look like going away any time soon. Little ol’ NZ entered a 4 week lockdown back in March but came out of that quite well. Then we suffered a little bit of an outbreak but avoided a full on 2nd wave by once again managing it properly and now seem to be in a pretty good position with currently (and knocking on a Tãne Mahuta sized piece of wood here) no community spread, with every day life sitting at a good degree of normal.

Seeing the UK seemingly hurtling toward another lockdown is just so surreal and also saddening. I really do feel for my family and friends back home and have never felt luckier to live so remotely from the rest of the world.

But, without this turning into another Covid-19 post about lockdowns and beer, let me succinctly wrap that side up. I drank plenty of great beers during the lockdown and thereafter but didn’t feel particularly inspired to write about it.

However, I feel like I have found a bit of my mojo again thanks to a quite magnificent couple of days spent with great friends here in Wellington. Firstly, myself and the aforementioned friends played in our very first gig with our Ceilidh Band “Craic N Ceilidh” at a Whisky Tasting night, followed by a few celebratory ales. The next day they very kindly invited me to brew some beer with them at The Occasional Brewer, which was awesome fun. Was good to use a fully set up Mash Tun / Kettle system and under expert guidance of the OB’s staff. I certainly learned a lot for if I ever delve back into my own home brew. And we kind of celebrated that by heading up to Garage Project to spend a voucher then “have dinner” at Hey Day! Incidentally the Hey Day Echo and Maiden Mercury NEIPAs are both magnificently quaffable alongside their ever delicious fried chicken. And yes..that photo of a Coffee you see below is actually an unbelievable Garage Project Coffee Stout beer served with a Chocolate Brownie. Delicious!

But the main event of the weekend was the much anticipated Brewday, held at Brewtown, Upper Hutt. A bit of a trek for us Central Wellington’ites especially when there were no trains due to maintenance, but the taxi trek was more than worth it. It was a bit grim to begin as Wellington served up another of its classic days of howling wind and rain, and having to queue outdoors to get in was not the perfect start to proceedings.

Once we were under cover though, and began to revel in the simply excellent amount of beer, cider, food and entertainment on offer, all thoughts of the misery outside was long forgotten…until we had to trek to the toilets…but a little on that later.

The Highs

Firstly, the space was great fitting in over 30 Beverage and 10 or so food vendors, plus a Barbers! I bought some beard oil, which I didnt really need but it smelled great. The drinks on offer were mainly Breweries, but there also a few Wine, Cider and Spirit offerings. There was certainly enough to please even the most ardent non beer drinker.

There was a mutlitude of musical acts playing through the day, which ensured a happy vibe through the day. However the main stage acts were particularly bass heavy so you couldnt really hear them clearly, and unfortunately they were also a shade on the loud side meaning conversation was a little hard in the main room.

Now, the place was heaving! I cant even really estimate how many there were but it didnt seem to let up from the minute it opened to the very end. It seemed from the initial queue that it was going to be chaos, however the space inside was pretty much spot on. In certain spots elbows were certainly being bumped but you never found yourselves stuck in a bottleneck. Plus there were plenty of seats scattered about , more so nearer the entrance should you have felt the need for a sit down.

I must also applaud the time allowed for the event. 11am until 6pm is exceptionally generous for events of this nature making the $45 price of a standard ticket exceptional value for money. (take note Beervana!) I opted for a $75 ticket which included a $30 credit on the Cashless Wristband used for purchasing at any vendor, which again worked seamlessly. You just topped up at the booth when you got low and away you went. Even better you didnt have to drink your way through the entire value as they offered up refunds either in cash or online! Genius.

The tasters were generally $2 or $3 and servings were generous. The full pours ranged from about $6 to $8 , maybe more depending on the beer. I think I paced myself well by sticking to tasters for much of the day in order to sample as many new beers as possible.

I cant speak for most of the food vendors as I only ate from one, but Scottys Meats Martinborough, take a bow! Served perfectly rare with bacon, egg, and a tangy beetroot chutney, your Venison Burger might just be one of the best burgers I have ever eaten. The “Great White”Pork Sausage on a stick wasnt half bad either.

And so, the Main Event! The Beers! Oh the beers. How I have missed the amazing festival selections which leave me flummoxed as to what to try next. So what tickled my fancy and did any leave a sour taste?

The Bestest Beers

According to my Untappd check ins, I quaffed 23 ales during the course of the day. Most were tasters so at leaving time I certainly felt merry, but certainly not in a munted state. In fact I must applaud the festival goers for the overall atmosphere on the day. I certainly didnt witness any sort of bad behaviour or see anyone getting chucked out or even cut off. It was friendly and fun all day, which was probably aided by about half the punters opting in to the Halloween / Oktoberfest fancy dress option and it certainly made for a very mixed and eclectic crowd.

Anyway, here are my top 5 of the day, two of which were stand outs.

5 – Waitoa Mosaniac Single Hopped IPA

I was quite surprised by this little fella! It was near the end of the day and I had run out of beers I studiously ticked off as ‘must tries’ before the day began. Despite not being overly excited by their ‘Pineapple Lump’ Porter earlier I gave this a go and found it very pleasing. Usually the last beers on a day like this all begin to taste the same but this full flavoured IPA stood out on its own.

4 – The Macleods 802 #28 Unfiltered NEIPA

This was my first beer of the day and I clearly started on a high. I love Macleods Hazies and this one was excellent. Full bodies, fresh, fruity and awesome.

3 – Garage Project Fresh NEIPA October 2020

I’m such an IPA fiend..but, it is so hard to not love these! Garage Project are turning out some exeptional monthly specials and this one was phenomenal. I’m only disappointed it is now November and there is more of this one 😦

2 – Choice Brothers Puppet Dancer Nectarine Infused Hazy XPA

I thought this was spectacular. It promised to be a juice bomb and it delivered 100%. I have tried the original Puppet Dancer but the nectarine infusion took this up a level. I note there is a Pineapple version too which I am eager to get a hold of!

1 – Duncans Brewing Tangelo Ripple Ice Cream Sour

I like a sour! I’m not mad for them as I’m not in to that slightly sickly, spewy aftertaste that is prevalent in so many. But I will always give them a go as now and again one will come along, stick its head up and say “LOOK AT ME I’M AWESOME”. This was hands down the beer of the day. The Tangelo Ripple includes Tangelo, blood orange, and ruby red grapefruit and the addition of lactose gave this a real ice creamy finish. It was phenomenal and an easy 5 out 5.

I don’t think there were any beers that stood out as particularly bad..I certainly didn’t spit any out. But there were many that were very close to hitting that top 5.

Before I forget though, well done Abandoned Brewery. Coolest display stand of the day! You also complemented my hat so there is that.

The Lows:

To be fair, I thought the entire day was excellent. The only slight downside was the fact the toilets were located outside, and coupled with the poor weather turned the surrounding grass into a mud pit. My shoes are still sitting on a mat looking very sorry themselves waiting to have the caked mud all over them cleaned off..meh, maybe leave them until next year.

So, that wraps up my take on Brewday 2020, and I am willing to hang my room polarising, coffee sack cheesecutter on this next statement; this was the best Beer Festival I have yet been too. It will be very interesting to compare and contrast with Beervana in a few weeks time.


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