When last we left our friends they had conquered the mighty Belgian Beer Café beast and escaped the horde of Dunedin. Now, our trusty subjects started afresh in Christchurch, fully aware of the challenges that would await…
Given our big bottle buy-up, we had plenty of fine beer waiting for us when we got back to CHCH. Wanting to start right away, we opted for something nice, light, and possibly suited to breakfast. Invercargill Brewery’s Boysenbeery fitted the bill perfectly, despite being a fruit beer (I kid!). With a wheat base, this one brought the usual banana character you’d expect, with a touch of zesty, citrusy hops (that NZ rules at) to compliment a massive addition of boysenberry concentrate (added during fermentation). I have said again and again that fruit beers aren’t my thing, but after this brilliant drop, and Jamieson’s latest batch of Raspberry Ale, I may have to start adjusting my prejudices. The Boysenbeery is not only a great pun but a very nice way to start a beery day, or possibly finish one, if dessert is on the cards. We gave a sample to a PMD fan and got the thumbs-up, so it seems this might be a great entry beer for all you beer-lovers trying to get your non-beery friends on to the yeastie stuff.
With all the NZ beers around, I was surprised to find this specimen in a local supermarket of all places. It seems the local supermarkets DO have their finger on the beer-lover’s pulse in CHCH, namely the New World chain. This little beauty was NZ$7, which works out to about AU$2.50 or something similarly cheap in real dollars. I was shocked! Dogfish Head Brewing Co is such a highly lauded brewery that I had to grab a bottle, and I was happy that I did.
The beer itself is an Imperial IPA, clocking in at 9% abv, 9o IBU and continually hopped for 90 minutes of the boil, hence the name, 90 Minute IPA. More than enough hops to satisfy my hop-loving palette, but backed up with enough caramel malt and warming alcohol, this really went down well. The hopping process left a far greater array of hop flavours and aromas than just the usual bittering agent it is so-often mistaken for – citrus, pine, grass, and hints of tropical fruits. Worth the hype.
From our own beer tasting to a guided, illustrated and very informative tasting at Pomeroy’s with Craig, the man behind BeerNZ distribution. He is tasked with getting the beer from over 20 of NZ’s craft breweries to the assorted bars, pubs, bottle shops and folks such as myself. We discussed and quaffed a couple of the big names like Epic and 8Wired, and a few from the smaller breweries I’d seen or heard about but didn’t have access to on my travels. In short they were all very nice, as was to be expected, but the 8 Wired Big Smoke did stand out for me. Worth checking out.
Kaimai Brewing Co. is another of the contract brewing companies that are quite popular in NZ (I’ll leave the contract brewing controversy for another time) but what makes these guys different is that a) Brewer Andrew Larson actually brews the beer himself at either Harrington’s or Croucher Breweries and b) All their beers are made with 30-40% rye, a very unique twist. I can’t say I was a fan of the Porter’s Rye Ale, but it was definitely interesting. As far as porters go I found it kind of weak, with only vague hints of vanilla and cocoa above the basic roasted malt flavour.
I could not resist buying the 8Wired iStout as soon as I saw it, for SO many reasons. Firstly, the name is just so clichéd and wonderful, and deserved a silly photo. But having fallen in love with the 8Wired range, and having heard so many good things about it, I couldn’t not give it a burl! As touted, this did become one of the stand-out beers of the trip. At a modest 10.5% abv and boasting one of my favourite varieties of hops – Willamette – I can safely say this was always going to please me, but it was the depth and quality that backed it all up and made it one of my favourite stouts. The perfect combination of coffee, raisins, and molasses flavours, a noticeable level of alcohol with a mouthfeel both syrupy and milky rendered this a dream to drink.
Another shopping trip yielded more beers for the tasting and the Spruce Beer was a nice find. Similar to the Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, this includes the noticeable addition of tea tree and a warming ginger/spicy character. The folks down at RateBeer don’t seem to like this one, but I thought it was great.
We couldn’t visit any city with a restaurant named ‘Meat Unlimited’ without trying it out, so stopped in to see what they had to offer. The slim beer list was made-up-for by the best 450 gram steak I’ve ever had, so I can see myself making a point of coming here when next I get the chance.
Having been told about The Twisted Hops’ Nokabollokov being ready just in time to try before our departure, Tully and I bookmarked it in our minds and made damn sure we went back for a tasting. Such a brilliant name was matched with quite a good Imperial Russian Stout, but I was told it had not lived up to their expectations. The cold Christchurch weather had halted the yeast and meant that the stout was neither as strong or mature as it was meant to be. That said, it was still lovely. I get a little teary when I think that I’ll never see the Nokabollokov or The Twisted Hop’s IPA in Australia, for they were both probably in my top 10 NZ beers list.
The Dux de Lux was one of the bars that everybody had raved about when I mentioned I was going to tour the south island. I had been told all my troubles would be solved and all my dreams would come true, right in the very bar. We arrived on a Friday night, at about 10:30, tried a beer, ordered some dessert, and were then told they were closing. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. The beer wasn’t bad, the bar looked pretty swish (technical term), but the place was empty, save for us. We left, having only tried a couple of Dux beers during the trip, and having found nothing to back up the raving claims about the place.
Having been evicted from our last port of call, we headed home. Having to get up at 5 the next morning to catch our flight home, one might think it was straight to bed. Apparently not. Beers and cocktails were consumed, justified by the idea that having to wake up hungover in the next few hours would make us feel worse than navigating customs while heavily intoxicated. I still debate that.
Now back in AUS with my friends, family, local pubs and beer, I do really miss NZ and hope to do a north island trip over summer. I suppose this is the travel bug you hear about.
Standout Breweries: 8Wired, Wigram, Epic, The Twisted Hop, Harrington’s
Standout Bars: The Twisted Hop, Albar, Bar Beleza (the music was rad)