Like beer swilling
birds migrating east for the winter, ‘The Beard’ and I returned to Wellington,
New Zealand for a second consecutive year to attend Beervana 2013. Matt, having
threatened a breakdown if he couldn’t also attend rounded out The Scratch’s
team. On during ‘Choice Beer Week’, Beervana is New Zealand’s premier beer
festival. It showcases the best its craft beer scene has to offer split between
some bigger players, the classics, contract brewers and a little love from
Wellington is a beautiful place. Dreary and constantly raining, but self aware enough to make up for that with endless streams of good beer, coffee, food and overblown Middle Earth themed tourism. We attended the daytime session both Friday and Saturday, hitting the first one with an enthusiasm only a group of people who hadn’t attended a beer festival the previous day would have.
Many new breweries this year, with the highlight for me probably being ‘Good George Brewing ’, a new mob from Hamilton with a very English inspired lineup of beers. Hope we see them in Australia in the future. We luckily also had a chance to try a selection of ParrotDog, Liberty Brewing and Funk Estate beers we hadn’t previously gotten our hands on. The big surprise for me this year was the prevalence of truly big flavoured and great tasting mid strength beers that were floating around Wellington. Between the ParrotDog Dogg (Brown Ale, 3.9%), 8 Wired’s Semi Conductor (IPA, 4.4%) and Croucher’s Lowrider (IPA, 2.7%) my mid strength horizons were being forcibly stretched. I was also particularly excited to re-visit Cassels & Son’s range of hand pump beauties both at the festival and then in almost every pub we visited afterwards. If I had to pick one drop as a winner for the day, I would probably go with 8 Wired’s Saeson (Not saison). A chardonnay barrel aged beer using both French saison yeast and Brettanomyces with notable New Zealand hops, it was complex, refreshing and mildly sour. A funky tear just fell down my face reading that they would be bottling this majesty of alcohol later this year.
Garage Project definitely took the award for ‘most fun had by a brewery’ during the sessions, offering up a large selection of their much loved beers along with an experimental ‘workshop’ where you could get Pernicious Weed jelly shots topped with cream, a porter flash caramelized with a red hot poker or a barrel aged blonde rye, heated and blended with egg and butter. Not a word of a lie, that last drop had me salivating. It was surprisingly delicious. The incredible lineup to get to their booth tells me a few others had similar thoughts.
Afterwards, along with members of the ‘Canberra Brewers ’ we managed to hitch a ride with the crew from St Kilda’s ‘Alestars ’ beer appreciation society (thanks, by the way!) and took a little tour of the Garage Project brewery, located in an old servo. It was as mad cap and busy as their beers are adventurous. My fascination with canned beer was placated by a little canning machinery porn and it was clear the talented group would soon be expanding beyond their current operation. The team seemed very down to earth and open about their operation.
Beyond visiting places we already know are great such as The Little Beer Quarter and Hashigo Zake, a new small bar opened up centrally called ‘Goldings Free Dive ’. Small, friendly and chock full of great rotating beer, the joint felt like a home away from home. We even found a snapshot taken at our bar on the wall! Can’t recall who took the shot, but it was part of an amateur photography competition. On our final night, we settled in and relaxed. The beer we’re drinking below is Funk Estate’s Super Afrodisiac, an imperial stout brewed with oysters, maca root, chocolate, vanilla pods, honey and figs. It was as tasty as it sounds. A gentleman our side of the bar informed us that the makers hand waxed all the bottles in their living room. There’s something mildly comforting about that.
Speaking of photography, of course Kieran got roped into posing for The Dominion Post during the first session of Beervana! I can only assume that newspaper photographers have an inherent draw towards bearded men drinking beer, like a moth to a drunk, bearded flame.
Oh and word to the wise? If you’re in Wellington, don’t leave unless you’ve visited ‘Sweet Mothers ’. Trust us.
Until Beervana 2014.