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One of the best things about Wellington's craft brewers is that they are creative artists, living in and inspired by life here in the 'coolest little capital in the world'.
For the uninitiated, there's a point in the beermaking process where the "wort' (the malt component) is boiled with hops. It's an important step where many colour, flavour and aroma decisions are made. It's usually done with a heating element.
Jos Ruffell at Garage Project suggested to head brewer Pete Gillespie they try a more ancient method using hot rocks. It's slightly dangerous, (superheated rocks can explode) but Jos' enthusiasm (and advice from geologists) eventually brought Pete around.
Using volcanic rocks from Wellington's South Coast heated to around 500 degrees celsius they created a roaring superboil in the wort, leading to a distinctive toffee sweetness from extra caramelised sugars beneath the hops.
ParrotDog essentially began as a student-flat homebrew operation but quickly outgrew those humble origins, becoming the embodiment of Wellington's famed can-do attitude. BitterBitch was the very first commercially available release for the Three Matts (Warner, Kristofski and Stevens) and right out of the gate these guys demonstrated the power and potential of the craft beer scene.
Launched at Beervana in 2011, BitterBitch won the People's Choice at that event. It then won critical acclaim by appearing at #1 in beer writer Neil Miller's Top Ten NZ Beer's of the Year, and then winning the respect of their peers with a Best in Class at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards 2012. Not a bad debut!
BitterBitch is a hoppy IPA, with a thirst-quenching citrus front end softened by a deep malty base and a lip-smacking bitter aftertaste. Keep an eye out at the capital's craft beer bars or pick up a flagon direct from ParrotDog on Vivian Street.
Tuatara's APA is a testament to both Kiwi ingenuity and the Wellington virtue of seeing opportunity in adversity. The brewery was happily finding a ready market for its American Pale Ale, a hefty style flavoured with big, fruity California-origin hops.
Unfortunately the hop supply chain from the US began to look shaky and there was a danger they'd have to discontinue. Fortunately the Tuatara team created a local solution: a brew that's true to the American style but using a collection of the best New Zealand hops in the place of the imported originals.
The resulting beer retains the 'fruit salad' complex hop aroma and foretaste, but arguably more approachable to the Kiwi palate, less in-your-face than its Yankee ancestor, with flavours that run longer and deeper into the drink.
While the old American APA is back on the production line at Tuatara, the new Aotearoa version has become a parochial crowd favourite. Tuatara APA is available in many of the capital's best craft beer bars.
Arguably the ultimate 'taste of Wellington', this unique brew combines three quintessentially Wellington components: craft beer, coffee and politics.
First created by home brewer Andrew Childs, it was one of four winners of the Wellington In a Pint competition that aimed to capture the spirit of the capital in a beer. As a winner, Andrew's beer was commercially brewed and released by Yeastie Boys in 2012.
Andrew has since gone on to create his own brewing label, Behemoth, which he launched in July 2013 with a re-release of his signature creation. The name of the beer is a play on the name of Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and is a malty brown ale with a hint of organic coffee beans.
One of the best and most awarded craft beers ever to come out of New Zealand, Pot Kettle Black (or PKB) is as revered in certain Wellington circles as highly as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are in others.
It's an unusual juxtaposition; a black beer that has the fruity hop characteristics you'd usually associate with a much lighter style. The combination has become known as a 'hoppy Porter' or 'Black IPA'. Whatever you call it, this seeming-contradiction makes for a taste that has wowed drinkers and judges wherever it's appeared.
It is still the only beer to have ever won two trophies in a single year at BrewNZ, and in 2012 was awarded the Champion Beer of Asia (potentially the biggest award a New Zealand beer has picked up in 30 years).
PKB can be found all over Wellington and has proved so popular that it has become Yeastie Boys' flagship brew, which they promise to continue brewing in volume for the foreseeable future.
Its unique flavours have also made it a hit with Wellington's chefs, so you'll often find it available at our best restaurants, where it goes beautifully with a braised meat dish.