Where to drink in New Zealand

Enjoying Epicurean in Brew on Quay
I was lucky enough to spend a few evenings in pubs whilst away in New Zealand, they're all well worth visiting. In general New  Zealand is well served for beer outlets, the majority of restaurants have a halfway-decent selection of local brews and more importantly in a range of styles. The following were some places I particularly enjoyed. See my Top 10 for suggestions of what to drink.

Eoghan excited to meet me*
*NB may not be true

Brew on Quay, Auckland. I didn't get a chance to eat here, but with friendly ex-pat barstaff on hand (Eoghan from Ireland) and a decent selection of bottles its well worth a visit. Easy to find too as its just along the road from the ferry terminal. Get browsing that beer bible and pick something from the fridges!

Croucher delights
Brew, Rotorua is fantastic, dealing with two brewed products, mainly coffee and beer. Full range of Croucher beers plus decent guests on tap. I had a chance to talk to brewer Nige about their plans for world domination expansion which can only be a good thing. Skip the guests and drink the fantastic local beers.

Good George's FVs
In a refitted church!
Good George, Hamilton is a brand new brew pub outfit with a brew team of good pedigree including the redoubtable Kelly Ryan (formerly of Thornbridge and Epic). The first iterations of beers are designed to be mass appeal to wean the locals onto more interesting fare, though I thought that their IPA and dry-coffee'd amber ale show the direction they'll be heading. You can truly worship at the altar of craft beer here as the brewpub is in a former church!
Secret Imperial Stout
A peek in their storage area found that they've already delved into barrel aging and they also make dry-hopped cider. If the drinks aren't reason enough to head there they also have a decent food menu and its walkable from town or ten minutes by taxi.

The Malthouse, Wellington is a stalwart of the beer scene. I only had a chance for a quick half here but could have lingered all afternoon. Unparalleled range of beers on tap and in the fridge. Great Christmas decorations too!

Dodson Street Bistro Blenheim is the brewery tap for Renaissance and now sporting a German Menu. Schnitzel and Pale ale is the way forward plus the home-made bread and dips make excellent beer snacks. Pop into the brewery next door for off sales.
Great range of Renaissance beers

Pomeroys, Christchurch has recently got its own microbrewery which is being contracted out to all and sundry who require it. Their own beers are available in the bar, alongside other taps (both keg and cask) including dedicated 8-wired and yeastie boys lines. I did my best to try them all but there's a lot to get through. Caramelised onion gravy and pork sausages were also fantastic.

Casssels, CBD Bar Christchurch is a new venture from the guys who have a brewery out in the 'burbs. Its fantastic to see them recolonising the city centre after the devastation of the earthquakes a few years ago. Wood-fired pizzas, cocktails and the full Cassels range should be enough to keep people occupied for a few hours.

Cassels CBD selection
Regional Wines in Wellington is by far the best off-licence that I found. It was difficult to limit myself to what I could sensibly carry as there were plenty of other tasty beers available including loads of "fill-your-own" taps. And if beer isn't your thing then the selection of wines and spirits is even more vast.


What to drink in New Zealand

Merely an indicative, rather than exhaustive list, based on my "top ten" beers whilst in New Zealand. There are obviously plenty of beers I didn't get to try but these ones make an excellent starting point. So, in reverse order:
10.Wigram Spruce Beer may not be for everyone, but if you like the use of interesting spice additions then you should try it. Pale ale in style this has added manuka and spruce bringing herbal though not medicinal qualities to thebeer. Think Williams Bros Nollaig and you're not far off. Spicy nutmeg and honey notes combine with spicy dry malts like a bastardised Christmas cake. White pepper, creme caramel and increasing spruce (not spruceness) arrive as it warms up. Not something for everyday drinking sure, but worth a try.

9. 8-wired hop wired is all that you want from an NZ IPA Pithy lime and passion fruit nose, sweet malt to balance it without any 'orrible caramalt notes, light carbonation so you don't end up with a mouth full of gas then lots of Nelson Sauvin grape, motueka lime and a pithy finish.

8. Epic Mayhem is a sticky pithy  IPA in the American style - hazy with a resinous pithy nose,clean hop profile and bite with balancing malt and a long resinous finish. Epic to me seem to be the Kernel of the southern hemisphere with plenty of hop-forward ales, though unlike the KErnel they focus on a core range which is fairly widely available.

7.Croucher Galaxy IPA is the best use of that hop  I've come across. Strong peaches, mango and passion fruit like the old 1 penny fruit salad jacks Smooth bodied with fruity passion fruit and a touch of chalky mature cheddar rind just in the long finish with pineapple notes.

6. Yeastie boys Digital IPA brings yeast to the fore as an integral flavour component which adds some cheesecake notes to this IPA. The recipe is also open source which is pretty cool. Melon and custard creams in nose becoming pineapple cheesecake on warming. Think that’s the yeastie boys yeast coming through as I got similar flavours in their pot kettle black too.Plenty of Motueka flavour and perhaps a touch of NS grapeiness.

5. Yeastie Boys Golden Perch is a seasonal brewed for the premiere of The Hobbit Light in body with medium carbonation, passion fruit, orange pith and a slight bitterness in finish with balancing shortcake malt. One of the best session beers I tried in NZ. For those of you headed that way its due out in bottles soon; so keep an eye out!

4. Croucher Patriot is a proper BIPA strong orangey simcoe with chocolate (think jaffacakes), grapefruit and cocoa on the nose. Medium carbonation, with initial malt sweetness seugueing into pithy citrus and some lemon cheesecake notes. Touch of coffee and dark malt round it off nicely.

3. Epic Epicurean is perhaps a tad pricy for a casual drink down the pub, but for a special occasion its perfect.  Kelly had been taunting his twitter followers with pictures of the ingredients arriving and I was determined to try it whilst here.I got my wish when we shared a bottle on New Years Eve at Brew on Quay in Auckland. ich smoky coffee and sweet thick honey on the nose. Smooth, thick body with rich coffee, sweet chocolate and a long dry finish.
2.8 wired iStout I actually tried in the UK before travelling to New Zealand but its a fantastic imperial stout that deserves to be on this list. Sweet coffee and dark chosolate on the nose. Unctuous and thick mouthfeel, with a good roast barley finish.

1.Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta is a fantastic fusion of tea and hop. Its infused with bergamot which really comes into its own when blended with NZ tropical fruitbowl hops. Strong passion fruit and tannic tea flavours, its probably a beer that will divide opinion as does the eponymous tea, but it was by some margin the best beer I tried whilst in New Zealand.

Best cider was Good George's new effort, made even better in the "hop-drop" form; that's right dry-hopped cider! No idea if its an original idea but its new to me and tastes great. Using high quality concentrate (apples canbe hard to get hold of) then dry-hopped in the conditioning tank its like a flavoured cider without the artificial taste that coats your tongue in the usual suspects. The nose is strong grapefruit and kiwi notes. Rich hoppy fruit flavours with no bitterness in sight but a tang of apple tartness lingering in behind.

Honourable mentions were Mata's festive seasonal tried at the Croucher flagship bar in Rotorua with free piece of carrot and orange cake. The beer tasted exactly as the cake did! Lots of cinnamon on the nose  with cola, orange peel, carrot cake and a sweet nutmeg finish. Definitely a dessert beer but it does what it says on the tin fairly well.

Croucher's NZ Pilsener was one of the best pilseners I've had in a long time, brewed with all NZ ingredients but keeping true to the Czech recipe by sticking to Saaz hops, albeit those much transformed indigenous cultivars Motueka ("B Saaz") and Riawka. Crisp nelson sauvin grape aroma (there may be some dry-hopping), very fruity with lots of grapefruit, lemon and herbal hop with a bitter finish but still with that crisp malt and cleanessthat all the best pilsners have.


Looking back on 2012, looking forward to 2013

A bit late, I know but I've been out of the country. Last year I made some "resolutions" as to which direction my beery escapades would develop. Time to see how I got on and perhaps set some for this year.

  • Get to a CAMRGB event Completely failed on this one I'm afraid, though I did meet up with some CAMRGB members in Birmingham.
  • Potentially work GBBF during the craziness that will be the Olympics Another failure due to deciding to get married at the end of the year and having no other holidays left.
  • Spend more time drinking in pubs than at home Not really achieved, though the balance has shifted.
  • Meet more bloggers around the country and attend Beer bloggers conference This was achieved and a great weekend, am hoping to attend in Edinburgh this year.
  • Do some more home brew with a view to full mash later in year didn't happen though I've come up with a name and bought half the gear.
  •  Get back to the gym to shed the beer pounds* accrued in 2011 abject failure

So for this year? More of the same. Continue to try drinking new beers and see more of this island I find myself living on, finally get some brewing done, get my cheese and beer book finished and spend more time drinking good beers with good friends than sat at home.

And to prevent this post being entirely about me, here are some great blog posts that were published in my absence (its taken me the best part of a week to get caught up, some people are just too prolific...I'm looking at you Alan).

Rich brings us another humorous look at what he expects from 2013, along with a great list of the ones to watch for the next year.

Adrian gives a wonderful description of how memories of pubs visited can be triggered and transport you straight back there and Leigh looks at that special moment when you find a beer good enough to have another

The Beer Nut has been out supping in London (seems I missed him as I was there at the same time) and Des's updates show how far the London beer scene has improved in the few short years since his book was published.

You've probably seen it already, but if not take a look at Martyn's 20 most influential beers list. How many have you tried?

And alongside posting plenty of interesting snippets on the microbrewery scenes of the 70s and 80s Boak and Bailey also take a look at why "silly" beers may be a necessary part of a balanced beer scene.

Normal service will resume with some New Zealand based beer bits once I've had a chance to compose my thoughts.