Another week another Beer festival! Lucky old NZ and lucky old me. Once again I get to don a hipster cap and doff it toward the multitude of beer and food purveyors adorning the bleak grey concourse of the Wellington Cake Tin, or Sky Stadium as it is less affectionately known.
This was my first Beervana since at least 2013, at which point I had lost some faith in this stalwart festival as it had become a little bit, and I hate to say it, dull. As noted in my opening gambit, the stadium concourse is barren at the best of times so the atmosphere was essentially nil. The beers, well, yeah there were of course crackers but not enough choice, and I felt the ‘big boys’ were starting to get a little bit too much of an influence on what was going on. The food was ok but it never seemed like there was enough, and I also seem to recall that the session time was a mere 4 hours. (I could be wrong on that and would love to be corrected) But regardless I always felt like it was all over in a flash with not any time to just sit back and chill out before heading in again for more tasters.
I was pleasantly surprised to see time of the Saturday afternoon session set at 11am to 4pm, and being positive that the previous years had been only four hours total, I was much more enthused to purchase the ticket. Additionally the sheer number of Breweries was incredible (62!! Yes 62!!) with a decent representation of overseas breweries, which was fantastic in the current times. Plus there were at least 18 food outlets and all for just $45, plus a fee free $30 preload on the AWOP bracelet. Itself a majestic system of payment which really improves the queuing and efficiency! It should have been phenomenal…more on that later.
The first thing that struck me was that the vendors were right around the concourse, whereas in previous years it was limited to perhaps half. This made for a far more spacious event where you didnt have to knock multitudes of elbows and risk spilling the precious beer of strangers. Second, the atmosphere was, well, there was actually an atmosphere. The barren concourse echo was definitely dampened and there was a multitude of live music dotted around at various spots. Coupled with plenty of areas to sit down helped maintain a lovely background chatter and hum! It was very pleasant.
On to the beers. I went in there with no particular plan, other than ignoring the running tally of the ‘Peoples Choice’ in an effort to find my own favourite, ignoring the gimmicks and ‘bigger’ brewers, and just try as many different brews as I could from as many different breweries.
Without much further ado, here are my beers of the day:
This beer proved why I love the American IPAs. Everything is bigger in the US and they always seem to produce bigger IPAs! Bigger taste, bigger hops, bigger punch. It was also super clean on the palate. Winner!
In fact, all the American beers camp up Trumps! …see what i did there. The Virginia Brewing Co Analysis Paralysis IPA was spectacular, the Modern Times Black House Coffee Stout was majestic and the Heretic Brewing Juicier than Thou NEIPA was also another punch in the face of juicy goodness. So bizarre, polarising politics aside, they certainly produce magnificent beer.
But us Kiwis are not at all shabby either. My top 3 were as follows:
Following hot on the heels of the unbelievable Tangelo Sour I sampled at Brewday a few weeks prior, the Blueberry Sour was just as magnificent. Not quite as mind blowing but sensational none the less. Sours are very hit and miss for me, but I love the fact they are saying “you want a sour, here is a feckin sour!”. 8.2% of sheer fruity deliciousness. And no spew aftertaste. If you are one of the, perhaps just one avid blog readers then you will know my hatred of the spewy aftertaste.
2 – Behemoth Dumped the Trump Triple IPA – as the tagline says, this beer is the “Triple IPA version of Dump the Trump to celebrate the Dumping of the Cheeto Faced Moron!” Maybe it was the joy at seeing the clown losing the election, but this was another sensational big beer from, in my view the NZ masters of the Hazy. At 9.9% there is clearly no pissing about here. Love it.
Excellent! Just solid “regular” IPA goodness.
Whilst I am at it an honourable mention goes to their Kveik Fermented “Once were Vikings” Farmhouse Ale. I’m not a massive Farmhouse Ale fan, I find they can get a little sickly and chewy , but this one begged me to go back for more. I didn’t because I was on a taster run! But it was noted to grab a pint next time I see it.
Lastly , although I said I was going to avoid the gimmicks, I had to try one, so it was off to Garage Project for the “Blue Milk”, an Oat Cream IPA brewed with rolled oats, lactose, hand selected Mosaic and blue spirulina. And it was as the tasting notes suggest – “Close your eyes and it’s a rich, hazy IPA”. It was, it was very lovely indeed. But why the blue?? It certainly stood out visually, which I guess is the point, but I say just let the beer speak for itself.
Lastly, Abandoned Brewery – once again, exceptional work on the stand!
So, myself and my accompanying Aussie pal had a grand old time. Chatting, eating, drinking fine ales, sorting the world out. What a fine day out indeed.
A couple of niggles though. We did only eat one thing, opting for a pulled pork burger from “Salt and Wood”
It was absolutely delicious. An impossible amount of pork pouring out from the bun all over the accompaniments. But unfortunately – no forks! Which was utterly bizarre given the nature of the burger. It was essentially impossible to eat without half of it ending up all over your face, and being a gentleman of the hirsute variety, made this a particularly challenging experience. Call me old fashioned but I don’t want to do a Krypton Factor challenge when I’m eating. Us Beer enthusiasts are often juggling a beer map, a full glass and updating Untappd. The food thing should be easy, let us eat like normal people so we can crack on with our day and not have to go for a quick shower after we are done.
My last niggle, and it is a reasonable niggle; the session time is still not nearly long enough. I get that pumping through four sessions in two days will maximise numbers and profit, but I would argue that stretching it out another couple of hours will get the people in there spending more. I would have loved to have sampled many more beers, and would have needed more food to keep up the sustenance levels. Also, they started getting taps shut off after just four and half hours!! Come on people! It felt like it was over before it had really gotten started – again.
So in terms of value for money it doesn’t compare to Brewday , but the beer choice is superior. However if I had to choose one over the other and I could only go to one, Brewday would be the winner. There is still enough beers there to get the bang for your buck, and I am sure that that event will only get bigger. Four or five extra breweries would make this unmissable. So, unless they start spilling out onto the pitch, or change venues Beervana is unfortunately of at capacity, so I think they will have to have a rethink on those session times given the competition. Hell, Beers at the Basin just one week later had a massive amount of Breweries and was eight hours long!! Sounds like a dream world, for which, unfortunately I could not get tickets. 😦 However a guest post is forthcoming offering up their thoughts on the day.
Maybe, Beervana could offer up some differences like some extra seminars or demonstrations like they do at the Food show. Maybe they have an additional cost? Fill out the time, bring in some more coin. Just a thought.
All in all, it was a great afternoon, but as I said, it was over too quickly. I did also have 2 x Juicehead right at the end but I forgot to check them in…<sigh>, as always you get caught up in the mad dash at the end..because it is over too soon and you havent had a chance to try as much as you can!! Anyway, maybe one was the Devils Rain, the other…Damn it! Both were good and I hereby promise to make it up to everybody and try lots of Juicehead until I find the other.
So, Beervana 2021?? Tbh, unless they change it, or give us forking forks, I doubt it.