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By Heather• 13 Aug 2015
Are you going to Beervana? I am. And as an inexperienced beer drinker not organised for any of the official Road to Beervana events, I thought I’d follow my own road to check out what's unique about some of our local craft brewers and pick up some festival tips (if you’re just after the tips, whizz straight to the bottom).
First up was Tuatara’s Third Eye, a tasting flight, and getting to grips with the brewing basics.
We tasted vertically from the ‘lawnmower’ beers (a phrase I heard more than once to describe entry level thirst quenchers), to the bigger, richer varieties. My favourites at Third Eye were the Apries Ski mulled-wine styled beer with clove and star anise flavours, and the Belgium-styled Dubbel with chewier Christmas cake textures. Already I’m starting to see my sweet tooth likes the less-hoppy creations.
I could have stayed for hours listening to Manager Scott’s stories about the history of beer (like how India Pale Ale was created in the UK for distribution to the Indian colonies, but never stood the transportation rigours of those days), however Garage Project and ParrotDog were calling. But do check out Third Eye’s flight and food matching on a Saturday afternoon, a great idea at $35 and apparently filled with many wonderful stories. I also like that they showcase recycled beer by-products in Mashtun beer crackers. Nice.
Garage Project interested me because of their beer names: Angry Peaches, Cherry Bomb, the Cats Pyjamas, fantastic labels, and the resurgence of cans.
It turns out Angry Peaches has no peaches in it whatsoever, but is a showcase of American Amarillo hops; the Cherry Bomb is a chocolate porter with Whitakkers cacao nibs, cherries and 9% alcohol (described as dessert in a glass), and the Cats Pyjamas is brewed with milk and vanilla to be the ‘creaming soda’ of beer. They tell me they’ve created over 150 beers to date. Damn they must drink some beer.
The cans of today provide better storage, are fully light and air tight, and are made from safer aluminium compared to the older tin ones. They’re also easier to pace your pleasure by not having to drink a whole flagon in one sitting (they do point out you should still pour your can into a glass to get the full nose and taste experience). Introducing the jazzy art was deliberate to create a funky new genesis of cans.
Look out for their White Mischief release for Visa Wellington On a Plate, matched to a number of burgers around town, and their Garage Project Milk Bar event with sweet beers and sweet pie. And again, an edible product from beer by-products is available at the brewery; this time Mashbone brewery bites for man’s best friend. Double nice.
And I may have taken home a bottle of their Day of the Dead tequila-barrel aged black lager inspired by the Aztec beverage xocolatl. With smoked chipotle chili, Whittakers cacao nibs and two years of production time, it has only been brewed once to date (and it might have been deliciously aromatic, chocolatey, subtly spicy, and rather moorish...).
ParrotDog just won the 2015 Malthouse West Coast National IPA challenge with their High Time IPA. Those American Amarillo hops again. They also won the Champion Small International Brewery at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards. Clever lads.
The lovely Imogen, on her first day at ParrotDog, did a great job of talking me through the beers on tap and I was taken with the Rarebird I sampled. These are a limited series collaboration by the brewery, conservationists and artists in honour of some of our unique native birds, with $1 from each bottle going to their protection. The Tieke (saddleback) Dunekelweizen was an amber-coloured easy drinking wheat beer with banoffee characteristics (aaah, less hoppy wheat beer - I'm getting my eye in!). It’d go a treat with smoked havarti cheese I reckon.
ParrotDog still brew some of their originals and favourites like BitterBitch, Bloodhound and DeadCanary, and a little birdie also tells me they might be going to extend a deck out the front and add a wee bar.
All three of these breweries have put down a brew matching a music genre for unveiling at San Fran's VWOAP Music2Brew2 alongside food by Ian Gordon, chef and musician of Fat Freddys Drop (tickets still available). And all three are creating Beervana festival brews as well.
And the tips garnered to make the most of Beervana:
There are still tickets left to all sessions, so dig out your quaffing clothes (no beards required) and head on down to drink in some of Wellington and NZ’s finest.