I have an announcement to make that may shock and astound you: I’m leaving Hashigo Zake. Actually this might not come as a surprise to many of you. Despite my trying to keep a lid on the news, it seems that half of Wellington already knows, and lately I’ve been in the surreal situation of having people I barely know coming up to the bar and congratulating me about my new job. Anywho, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been offered the Manager’s position at a new bar, Golding’s Free Dive, which will be opening next month.
Now I will unashamedly say that to my mind, Hashigo is by far and away the best beer bar in New Zealand, if not Australasia and/or the Southern Hemisphere.1 Certainly it’s the geekiest and probably the bar that’s done the most to further the cause of good beer in New Zealand. To a lot of Beer Geeks then, leaving Hashigo could seem a bit like leaving Narnia. But as Milton’s Satan once said: “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven,” and it seems about my time to step out of the
closet wardrobe and seek my fortune in the real world.2
Of course I’m not suggesting that working at Golding’s is going to be a bad day in Tartarus, far from it. On the contrary, I’m rather excited about the whole prospect. You see, the core Hashigo team has been together now for three years, give or take and while they’re fantastic to work with, there’s also a great many chefs in that kitchen. In this regard, Golding’s offers me the opportunity and challenge to help build a bar from the ground up: to help make it into a awesome little bar.
And Golding’s Free Dive is going to be an awesome bar: at once a free-house, serving good beer with no pesky ties to any brewery, big or small. It’s also intended to be a dive bar (hence the name): a comfortable little out of the way spot where you can while away the hours, unmolested by the rowdy mobs it town. There will be more details to come.
Now I’m heading into uncharted waters here: I’ll be the longest running staff member ever to leave Hashigo. I’ll also be the first staff member to transfer over to another Wellington bar and the first staff alumni to stay in Wellington (most in fact, leave New Zealand). In this regard, the record is not great. Two other staff have gone on to work at different bars, but neither of them lasted very long there. And the reason is simple: Hashigo ruins people. I’ve joked before that it’s somewhat of an ivory tower: working there is so good, you sometimes forget what working in the real world is like. But as I said, the prospect of a new challenge is immensely exciting.
Of course, my decision to leave Hashigo wasn’t easy. I’ve been there for over three years, more or less since the beginning, and it’s been a fairly major part of my life over that time. I’ll miss it dearly, so to ease my transition and cheer myself up, I thought I’d reflect on a few of the things I’m not going to miss about Hashigo:
- My workmates. They’re bastards to a man.
- The regulars. Wellington’s description was accurate: they’re “scum of the earth.”
- Explaining what ‘Hashigo Zake’ means. That got old fast.
- Sake. New Zealanders are cretins when it comes to this subtle and noble drink.3
- The historic plumbing. It’s shit with shit.
Right, well that’s cheered me up. Now I guess I should go on to talk about what I will actually miss about Hashigo:
- My workmates. Bastards to a man and like family to me.
- The regulars. Wellington’s description was accurate: “scum of the earth… what fine fellows they are.”
- The staff discount.
- The pies. Hashigo’s pies are a thing of beauty.
- The credibility. I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but Hashigo has a good name in both local and international beer circles, and occasionally it’s worked as a handy introduction at breweries and other bars. I’ve always been proud to say “I work at Hashigo Zake.”
One of the things I’m probably going to miss the most though, is the feeling of being on the cutting edge of beer in New Zealand. As I said before, Dominic and the Hashigo Crew have done so much to further New Zealand ‘craft’ beer in the last three and a half years. Whether it be campaigning in the Radler case (or a myriad of other IP abuses), arranging international collaborations, donating obscenely generous amounts of labour to beer festivals, setting up local beer festivals, broadening local tastes by exposing New Zealanders to the international beer scene, supporting (frequently unknown) up-and-comers like Garage Project, ParrotDog and Funk Estate, or arranging distribution for local breweries. Hashigo was a game-changing in the New Zealand beer scene and they continue to push the boundaries wherever they can. I’m proud to have been a part of it.
But I am also stepping back from all that. Golding’s will be serving good beer, but it wont have the same geeky edge. We’ll always be a few steps behind.4 That’s fine though. In fact that’s as should be. Golding’s will be less about geeking-out and more about chilling-out, in a cool place, with good people and good beer, which is something we all need from time to time.
I’ll close now by saying that I hope that all those out there who I’ve served enjoyed having me as their bartender as much as I enjoyed serving them.5 And I know that I leave a lasting legacy at Hashigo; something that has made Hashigo a better place: The Boston Pork Pie.
Think of me next time you eat one.
- You don’t have to agree with me on that, but I’m not the only one that thinks this. And before you ask, no I haven’t sampled them all. Neither have you, so shut up.
- I’m quite proud of that literary juxtaposition. Just saying.
- At best they ask for good sake (pronounced sar-key for some reason) hot when it should be chilled or at room temperature. This is like asking for your pinot gris to be warmed up. At worst they shoot it and then rowdily proclaim “Phwar! That’s rough!” Well, maybe if you didn’t shoot hot alcohol, it wouldn’t burn so much. No, actually at worst they ask for sake bombs, which is an insult to both our beer and sake.
- But on the other hand, there is also a another benefit to leaving Hashigo: I can now go there and enjoy it as a customer. Fuck yeah!
- I’m well aware, there will be a lot of variance on that one…