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.

Seeedneeee

That bridge you can go up

Accent stereotypes aside, I can confirm I do actually have Aussie friends, and they all talk exactly like that. Says he with the most bastardized twang of Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi and Canadian.

Anyhow, enough jibber jabber, and on with a much delayed post that I was promising to write months ago. A small foray into some beers and bites over a short weekend trip to Sydney back in May.

I can remember some moons ago, 2008 potentially, 2009 possibly…I was piping at an excellent event in Adelaide, and ventured down O’Connell street of an eve in search of some refreshment, and enjoying very much a Little Creatures Pale Ale on tap. Where? No idea. But to this day the beer holds a special place as I always remember that moment I tried it for the first time. Out with mates at decent pub early in my Craft Beer adventure and just loving it. Biscuity, full bodied and just damn tasty!

It was a total contrast to the standard Aussie fare that I was used too, Tooheys New, Carlton Draught or VB. Vast quantities of said flavourless fizzy stuff was certainly washed down the gullet during my year in Sydney in 2006. Minimal amounts since. And dare I say it, minimal amounts of Little Creatures sadly. Now owned by Lion of course since 2012. My preference is always to support, as best I can, independent breweries.

Fast Forward to Sydney, May 2019 – I was excited. I had some spare time on the day of my arrival to head downtown for a bit. Was there a Craft Scene here? I was certainly impressed by Melbourne from a few years prior and was eager to see if the fast paced Auckland-esque city would rival its laid back, boutique Wellington-esque counterpart.

Now, a bit of a disclaimer:

1. I had a plan all set in my mind of seeing the Opera House, the Bridge and my old busking spot on Circular Quay for sheer nostalgia as it had been about 10 years since my last visit. 2. I had been up since 4 am and didnt really fancy straying too far off the beaten track, and 3. I had to be in some sort of form later on. So I entrusted Google, took this list as gospel, and homed in on what looked to be a decent spot downtown to aim for after my blatant touristing. This being the Redoak Boutique Bar and Brewery on Clarence Street.

The blurb was promising, many styles, family owned, supports the small craft brewers etc….but, I left pretty disappointed. Everything just felt underdone. The lunch special was a burger and a beer (a piddly Aussie sized ‘half’) for twenty something buck I think….and I went for the classic Aussie Burger. The menu was hardly inspiring but the deal seemed good on paper, but for what you got it was a touch over priced. It was just a burger, perfectly ok, but in no way was I dancing on the rooftops about how juicy the patty was or how delectably moreish the caremelised onions were. It was just a burger ‘n fries.

Along with it I had the “Mother Brucker” Pale Ale, an ale promising fruity, spicy and floral characteristics, and was brewed using Hersbrucker hops. One that was certainly new to me. Of the 5 I sampled it was certainly the stand out, light and refreshing and hop was certainly distinctive. Quite dank I thought.

I tried four more on a tasting flight; the Stouty McStoutface, The Trap Belgian Blonde, A West Coast Pale Ale and the Organic Pale Ale. All were, again, ok. Just needed a bit of an increase in volume. The West Coast Ale had a decent hop finish but everything else was slightly timid. It must be tough I would imagine – expensive real estate downtown, and I would assume a more stiff business clientele who might not be keen on a mad Double IPA with their lunch. Pity. Those board meetings would be way more productive.

Perhaps the most deflating aspect though was the atmosphere and service. It felt like any other standard downtown bar. I have always loved the willingness and enthusiasm of staff in a Crafty place, open to discuss their beers or just have a sociable chat. Nothing of that nature here unfortunately.

Would I go back?? Arrrrggh, I dunno. Maybe after a decent kip and a fresh mind I would think a bit differently. So perhaps I’m being overly harsh here..

If / when I go back to Sydney I think this list shall see some exploration. It looks genuinely exciting but requires a bit of decent Ubering and Metro’ing. And I see that Marrickville, near the Airport is housing many a good stop. Two of these were given a good nudge on my second night, being Batch Brewing and Grifter Brewing.

Much much much much much better! Actual atmosphere, flavoursome beers, and very importantly Proper NZ chips at Grifter. Sorry crisps! Seriously the Onion and Green Chive flavour – basically crack in a bag.

Highlights :

Batch Hazy Sour – Loved it

Batch Elsie Milk Stout

Grifter Big Sur – West Coast IPA

After imbibing a good few (many?) ales and sharing many a tale with good folks we made the short walk into the eclectic and chaotic Newtown. A hotpot of worldwide culinary delights that I would love to spend a few weeks or months exploring. Only one place was on our list tonight though and that was Faheems in the heart of Enmore Road, a Halal Pakistani Tandoori joint which I first (and last) visited 13 years prior. I also happened to be with my old mate who introduced me to Faheems all those years ago, and he used to vist this place as a ritual , most weeks I believe when he lived around the corner. I will never, ever forget the creamy spicy Lambs Brains and I was overjoyed to still see them on the menu.

Old mate was entrusted with the order and i think we got in most of the menu. It was absolutely unbelievable and goes down as one of the best meals I have had. No doubt having a fantastic night, surrounded by great people played a part, but seriously the Tandoori Chicken!! Outrageous.

My apologies for the lack of photos, I was too wrapped up in the moment and devouring the glory in front of me. But there was fish curry, lambs brains, tandoori chicken, dips, pickles and absolutely huge naans. Delightful.

Then a random pub for G & Ts to finish and that was that. An epic night.

And that was really that. I did hit up the Strand Cellars the next night, very quiet times indeed but it was a great store with a decent choice for this quiet part of town.

Two particular highlights I picked up were the Murrays Brewing Gardenia Double IPA. A beautiful big 8.5% hop hit! Awesome.

Followed by Prancing Pony – The Piper West Coast American IPA, another big hoppy hit, but smooth and easy to drink.

And, finally Wayward Brewing Red IPA – excellent, hoppy, malty goodness.

The Bowmore was pretty sweet too

Just a final note – we had a few drinks at the Summer Hill Hotel, a totally classic Aussie Pub, close to our location and with the standard very poor beer options. But, hold the phone caller…the Young Henrys Newtowner caught my eye and this little blighter certainly wasn’t Tooheys New. It was instead pretty decent Aussie pale ale, medium bodied, light but flavourful..yes you read correctly, flavourful! A welcome addition to the taps.

A little digging seems to show this Young Henrys brewery as becoming pretty big in Sydney and their beers are quite widely available in the city….I suspected some sort of Lion or Carlton involvement but it seems not. Rather Dan Murphy’s, the massive liquor outlet, appeared to get involved early on in stocking their beer and they grew from there. So cheers to that!

And so my wee Aussie adventure came to an end. I was very fortunate to get some exploration time and I am very keen to get do some more digging one day as I think there are many hidden delights here. I will leave you with this totally unrelated picture of my Margarita from the Koru Lounge! Why not?

Yes ..I know…

It all started with a hiss and a roar didn’t it. I got into this blog writing in a decent way, but quickly fell into the age old trap of getting round to the next post tomorrow. Then numerous tomorrows came and went and now here we are some 7 months later. Shocking stuff I know.

So without much further ado I will give you a very accelerated run down of beer, bites and bagpipe happenings in those last 7 months. When I last wrote I had gone somewhat rogue, carrying out ‘Davey’s Dry End of March into April’, 32 days of zero alcohol! And of course penning the hilarious Water Review post. It was surprisingly easy and I felt pretty great. However, one cannot live without the delights of beer for too long and neither can my tens of readers who long to be delighted by my blogging acumen.

So here we go, strap in:

May – I went to Sydney for some bagpipe related antics. Checked some craft beer spots and was generally disappointed with the ‘scene’ until we ventured to Batch Brewing and Grifter Brewing one eve. Both were excellent with some great beers. It was a welcome relief….more on Sydney next time.

Also- Faheems! Oh my god, Faheems. 13 years ago I went here and was blown away. Back we went and it was just as outstanding, if not better. Visit Sydney – go here!

June – not much happened, prepared for the impending Canada / Scotland trip, drank some beers , these were the best ones:

“Epic Sparks Imperial Stout “ which looks like a one off collab beer, and “Garage Project Fresh IPA – JUN” (seems they have a fresh one each month which is cool)

Oh, and my bagpipes basically snapped, which, if you know anything about the instrument – is not a great thing to happen and especially a few weeks out from the World Championships.

But, I did make this fucking delicious beef cheek ragu.

Fucking delicious

July: I flew to Vancouver ..yay! Somehow scored a business class upgrade thanks very much Air New Zealand

feet!

It was however via LAX which is a total shambles.

Vancouver though – amazing as always. Beers, bagpipes , unreal Sushi, chicken wings, Ribfest, beers, Pitch and Putt drama! Bagpipes, beers, whisky, ridiculous Dodge Challenger rental cars, beers etc etc etc…..Man in Van part 2 will delve into some of these delights!

Went to Scotland, played well at the Worlds. It rained.

Finally, I turned a significant age …let’s not dwell on this.

End of August / Sep / Oct and now early Nov: I came home having put on a few kg!

Got hammered at a party celebrating said significant age. Showed that I was definitely the significant age by heading home before 9.30pm.

Made a decision to eat less meat in general…it’s kind of going ok. Those big old grainy salad bowls are something to behold.

Went back to the gym. It is also kind of going ok!

Brewed a damn good beer with the other half , a Baylands Brewing 350 Session IPA Clone.

My Pipe Band put on a concert, it went quite well!

Made Pickled Daikon and Kimchi for the first time. Both were stand out successes and my second batch of Kimchi is bubbling away as we speak.

Ate the most exceptional food at Highwater Eatery. The Lamb Ribs were simply unbelievable.

Had a cracking pub crawl, drank more beers , won at ten pin bowling.

And there we are, very brisk and brief and ready to go again.

I have realised that I actually do quite enjoy penning these wee articles together, whether or not anyone else is reading and enjoying them is another matter entirely. But, many a new beer has been drunk in that time and I feel that you, my mystical and potentially non existent audience needs to be informed of this…so be prepared!

Water Hi -A Monthly Review*

Welcome back to another exciting entry from your favourite beer blogger!**

This week I shall be raving about the backbone of beer! The very essence of what makes the brews we love so delicious. Without this special ingredient we would not have any of the delightful concoctions we know and love as beer.

We are indeed surrounded by this mystery ingredient! Our rivers, lakes and streams are full of the stuff. It pisses down on us from above on an alarmingly regular occasion. Hell, our very bodies are nothing but about 70% of it and is the giver of life itself! What is this mystery adjunct??

Well, the most astute among us will have read the title. If you still were not sure after the above then please leave immediately.

I am most certain we will all by now have cleverly deduced that what I am banging on about is in fact WATER! GLORIOUS GLORIOUS WATER!

water

That’s right! An insight to the glorious H20 I have sipped and savoured over the last month, tearing apart the flavour profiles and providing you with a definitive list of must try waters from around the region. What could be better!

Straight into it today folks with my Number 1 – Good old Wellington Tap

Oh the irony!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear, crisp and depending on your plumbing setup, cold. Beautifully odourless , you get absolutely nothing but the mild aftertaste of water pipe on the palette. With it just being the right viscosity this tap water is second to none.

Additionally, you can be rest assured that your dental health is in great hands, safe in the knowledge that you have between 0.7 and 1.0 ppm flouride coursing through your veins and straight to your gnashers with every gulp.

Believe me this is the ultimate thirst quencher

Number 2 – Kiwi Blue Spring Water

All gone. It must be good.

The only commercially bottled product to make my list. Yes, it is a Coca Cola backed product…, yes they are a large corporate. I have heard it all.

However, let us be thankful that at least these small craft, high quality waters that get bought up by the big players helps make them more accessible the general public and hopefully away from the tasteless “swill” we get from bigger brands.

Number 3 – Water cooler water, Opera House, Wellington.

I have no idea where this particular water is from other than “out of the “cooler” “. It was wet, mildly luke warm and took on the taste of the eco unfriendly plastic cup it was delivered in within seconds. Mild irritations aside, it quickly did the job required of any good water, and rehydrated the flagging body of a soul melting in the heat of the cheap seats during the Wellington Comedy Gala.

*I am sure you don’t need the explanation. I am 30 days off the beer as of today!….this is what it has done to me. Please enjoy this comical piece

** at least top 5 right…..