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.
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.
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!