The First Rule of Hopstock

I’ve got to say it: there seems a weird sort of snobbery around the IPA.

There’s a whole faction of brewers and drinkers (this is definitely an issue that goes both ways) who seem weirdly proud of how the beers they brew/drink aren’t hop bombs, as if that somehow makes them a better, more distinguished class of brewer/drinker. Kind of like this guy:

This cartoon was inspired by an actual rant I was given by a New Zealand brewer.

This cartoon was inspired by an actual rant I once heard from a New Zealand brewer.

My theory is that this mindset comes from the misconception that throwing enough hops into any beer will cover any multitude of brewing sins. I can come up with many reasons and examples of why this isn’t true, but I digress (that’s for another post). I’m bringing this up because of Hopstock.

Hopstock, for those not in New Zealand/Wellington, is our annual wet-hop festival, where each of the beer bars gets to host a beer (or two) from a different local brewery. This year it was massive. I mean absolutely huge. Every bar was packing out, and a lot of beer was sold.

Hopstock2015LogoLarge

Now as I see it, Hopstock is a festival to celebrate the hop harvest, and as such, the first rule of Hopstock, and in fact possibly the only rule of Hopstock is:

Thou shalt make a hoppy beer. 

Like all of god’s commandments, this one often gets mis-interpreted. You see, what people (both drinkers and brewers) think this means is that every beer should be an IPA. Preferably a IIPA, perhaps even a IIIPA. This is not the case.

As I see it, there’s only one deadly sin at Hopstock, which is making a beer with absolutely no hop character. And I can name two beers that committed that very sin this year: Mike’s Hopstock and Two Smoking Barrels and Hallertau Bier das Schwarz Massive (BDSM for short… low-hanging fruit there Steve). Now the reason I can single out both those beers, is that although they broke the first rule of Hopstock they were both deliciously, fantastically awesome; so I guess they get a free-pass on that one.

N.B. there has been some debate about the hop character of BDSM. Some reckoned it was very hoppy; I found it comparatively not so. I must try it again with fresh eyes/taste buds. Anyway, let’s get back on track.

So if you don’t have to make an IPA, what sort of beer should you be making for Hopstock?

The simple answer is: anything.

You can make a Pale Ale. You can make a Golden Lager. You can make a Saison. You can make a Stout. You can make an Imperial Pilsner, an ESB, a Golden Ale, an India Pale Lager, Red Ale, a Hopfen-Weisse, even (if you’re bloody mad) a Black IPA. In short, you can brew anything as long as it has a perceptible hop character. Whether it be in-your-face-bitter-and-angry, or a soft, gentle floralness, cushioned by malt, then that justifies using fresh hops.

In fact, this year, Hopstock had some good diversity of styles. Besides the aforementioned Barrel Aged Sour and Imperial Schwarz, we also had a Berliner Weisse, a Märzen, an Imperial Red Lager, a Special Bitter, a Rye Black IPA, a good ol’ fashioned NZ Pilsner, and of course, more Pale Ales, IPA’s and IIPA’s than you could shake a mash paddle at. That’s pretty great diversity for a festival that people write off as just an IPA-fight.

This all links back to one of my larger bugbears, which is people complaining that every beer is too hoppy these days. Frankly, we have more diversity in beer styles available now than probably at any other point in New Zealand history. But whatever (again, that’s for another post). If you take away two things from this post, I’d like them to be:

1. It’s perfectly OK to not like massive hop monsters. No one should ever look down on you. You’re allowed to like what you like and not have to justify it to anyone else.

As long as….

2. You don’t look down on others for making or liking the big IPAs. There’s room for all tastes.

Being a good Beer Geek and citizen of the ‘craft’ beer community means making room for all types of drinker, whether they want a finely balanced ESB, the lightest Golden Lager, or the hoppiest, booziest, highest-IBU-perceptible-to-the-human-tongue IPA.

The Craft Beer Graveyard

Have you ever stopped to wonder how many ‘craft’ breweries we have in this country now? The ANZ report from 2014 lists some 97 breweries/brewing companies of one sort or another. That’s pretty damn high, well done New Zealand! At the same time I first read that list, two things occurred to me.

First: there are breweries missing. I could think of at least two breweries that should be on that list. Second: there are breweries on this list that shouldn’t be there. At least three were known to be out of business at the time of publication. And that really got me thinking: How many breweries have gone out of business in this country? I could think of about five off the top of my head. How many more were there? Ten? Fifteen?

I brought this question up with some Beer Geek friends at the pub, and we started making a list. Twenty breweries in, I realised this was a bigger job than I’d bargained for. So I started digging.

The most complete list of New Zealand Breweries I could find, both current and defunct, is on RateBeer. But even this is missing some that I know have gone under. So I did some more digging, and I made a list of my own.

I’ve compiled every single ‘craft’ brewery I could find, paying attention to the ‘who’, the ‘where’ and the ‘when’. This is possibly the most comprehensive list of defunct breweries in the country. In saying that, there may be errors. I’m not a journalist, I don’t do this sort of thing for a living. I’ve also put some limitations on what counts as ‘craft’ (a few exceptions are made for certain reasons):

  • 1) They are independently owned. Lion, DB and Independent are forever creating and dissolving new ‘brands’, most of which are of little interest to ‘craft’ drinkers. So for example I haven’t included The Temperance or Estadio, which were the predecessors to Black Dog here. Conversely, I probably would make an exception if Black Dog were to close, and put them on the list, because they are of interest to the ‘craft’ crowd at large.
  • 2) I’m only including breweries that have shut down since 2009. This may seem a bit arbitrary, but I have done so for good reasons. Firstly, if I went back much further this list would be impossibly long. If I went back to the 50’s and 60’s, when Lion and DB were shutting down their competitors left, right, and centre, this list would be massive!
    Secondly, I put 2009 as the year the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ started in New Zealand. Personally, I don’t like to think of it that way. Rather I think of 2009 as ‘The Year The Game Changed’. I have several reasons for thinking this, maybe I’ll write a post about it one day…
    Again, there are some exceptions to this rule, e.g. Historical significance. So Bean Rock Brewing will not be found here, but Limburg Brewing is (see below).

Finally: Caveat Lector. I’m suspect I’m digging into some unpleasant, even painful memories with this post. I’m not doing this to gloat; I’m interested for posterity. Don’t shoot the historian.

Alright, let’s do this.

The ‘Craft’ Beer Graveyard

666 Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Graeme Mahy. 666 was always the brewery without a brewery. Mahy was the original brewer at Moa, before working at Murray’s Brewing in Australia. After that, he knocked around New Zealand trying to find a location to set up shop. A couple of years was spent contracting and collaborating and generally making good beers. 666 was shut down last year when Mahy decided to return to his old post at Murray’s.

Last seen in the wild: kegs are still out there but will be in in rapid decline over the next few months.

Ad Lib Brewing Co.

Type: Contractor
Ad Lib Brewing was Fraser Kennedy and Hayden Smythe. To my knowledge they produced three beers under the label.

Last seen in the wild: Went out of business 2012, Isolated bottles appearing as late as 2014.

Ale Brewing Chaps

Type: Contractor
The Ale Brewing Chaps was an initiative of five people: Ben Middlemiss, Vrnda Duncan, Alan Knight, Jerry Wayne and Rob Hillebrand. The idea was to brew beers for festivals. The brewery they used still exists on Waiheke Island, operated by Wayne under the name Relativity Brewing.

Last seen in the wild: December 2014.

Anchor Brewing

Type: Brewery
I’ve only included this brewery because it exists as a weird listing on Beer Tourist. No reliable online information could be found. Asking a few of my friends that have been in the industry longer than I have, I discovered that they were based in Porirua in the 80’s-90’s, not in Hunterville, as Beer Tourist suggests.

Arrow Brewing

Type: Brewpub
Based in Arrowtown, started in 2008. Seems to have gone out of business some time in 2013.

Last seen in the wild: Bottles still surfacing as late as January this year. Tap seems to have dried up in 2013.

Nope.

Nope.

Beltane Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Vicki-Marie Yarker. They produced a wheat beer that I remember pouring at Hashigo. A rampant infection turned the beer into foamy acid in the kegs. They also produced a ‘snakebite’ cider.

Last seen in the wild: September 2012

CORRECTION: despite a hiatus of somewhere between 3-5 years, it seems that Beltane has not ceased to exist. I’ve been informed that they currently have a new beer aging in port cask. 

I greatly look forward to it’s release. 

FURTHER CORRECTION: I have since learned that there were in fact two batches of Wheat Beer produced by Beltaine. Only the second one showed signs of infection.

Bear Empire

Type: Contractor
Details are elusive, but seems to have started in 2012 and been the enterprise of one Wade Kirk. They made a ‘Black IPA’ and a ‘Red Pilsner’ (?!). Their logo looked a hell of a lot like the Bear Pride Flag.

Last seen in the wild: Check-ins of the Saboteur Red Pilsner from 2015 cannot be trusted, as at least one has a picture of the wrong beer. Last reliable check-in is from November 2013.

Brewery Britomart

Type: Brewpub
Started circa 2011 by Lawrence Van Dam and John Morawski (who now has a contract brewery called ‘Laughing Bones’). They made a Dubbel and a Belgian IPA that were mysteriously similar in ABV and colour, which I always suspected of being the same beer with different hops. Britomart went out of business in early 2013.

Last seen in the wild: Strangely it seems that a few kegs have surfaced recently and have gone on tap at Vultures Lane.

CROOKED CIDER/CROOKED ALES/50 KNOTS BREWERY

Type: Cidery/Brewery
I’ve written a little on the history of Crooked here. Technically they’re still producing cider, but they make the list because it really only still exists in name. The original orchards and brewery equipment is gone and the current product bears little resemblance to the original.

Last seen in the wild: Still in production.

An old piece of %0 Knot's equipment recently spotted at another brewery.

An old piece of 50 Knots’ equipment recently spotted at another brewery.

Geek Brewing

Type: Contractor
Started in 2012, Geek was the product of Andrew Cherry. They made one very nice Coconut Porter before disappearing.

Last seen in the wild: Isolated bottle appeared December 14.

Green Man

Type: Brewery
Based in Dunedin, Green Man was the brewery that kicked off the whole ‘Radler’ debacle – a textbook case of the mega brewers trying to muscle the small guys. I fondly remember voting in favour of the SOBA initiative to go to bat for Green Man in the IP court at the AGM, circa 2009; a memory I look back on with irony, as I always disliked the brewery.

There's a lot of history in this one image.

There’s a lot of history in this one image.

Frankly, their beers were at best pedestrian; at worst a parade of infections and brew faults. We all knew that Green Man wasn’t going to last in a market with consumers increasingly demanding quality. Having said that, they did circle the drain for about two years longer than I thought they would.

Last seen in the wild: Still available in many places.

Golden Ticket

Type: Contractor
Launched by Nathan Crabbe and Ally McGilvary in 2009, and went out of business some time around 2012. Nathan left to take up a job at Harrington’s, then set up Resolute Brewing (see below). Their beers were pretty good, except ‘Summer Babe,’ which I remember smelling like vomit Parmesan.

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A very dormant Phoenix…

Last seen in the wild: Some seems to have cropped up in California last year (?). Otherwise, last seen in this country November 2013.

Hophugger

Type: Contractor
Hophugger was a subsidiary of Timaru based company Treehugger Organics, and appeared around the summer of 2012/13. They were one of the first beers I ever reviewed (back when I still did that).

Last seen in the wild: October 2014.

Hopmonger

Type: Contractor
Formed by Edward Valenta in 2013, at that time working behind the bar at Pomeroy’s and as Assistant Brewer at Twisted Hop in Christchurch . Ed formed the company to get a bit of brewing and business experience before moving back home to the States.

Last seen in the wild: September 2014.

Hops Valley

Type: Microbrewery
Started by Tony McDonald and Cory Watts in 2012. I will always remember Hops Valley as the brewery that had an IP dispute with Yeastie Boys over the original Gunnamatta label.

Frankly I think Yeastie Boys made a good call not using this logo.

Frankly I think Yeastie Boys made a good call not using this logo.

Last I heard of them, they were attempting to sell their company on Trademe for way too much money (considering it consisted of a Farrah homebrew kit and a logo). They did eventually find a buyer, who has yet to surface.

Last seen in the wild: August 2014.

Island Bay Brewing Company (AKA Bennett’s)

Type: Contractor
Bennett’s Beer is the stuff of legend amongst the old guard of the Wellington beer scene. Maurice Bennett set up the company in 2006. Instead of the popular method of contracting we see today – sending a recipe to a brewery and having them make your beer for you, Bennett just bought beers off other breweries and stuck his label on them [EDIT: with the breweries knowledge and consent. He may also have had some original recipes, it’s not entirely clear]. They were Harrington’s and Tuatara’s beers specifically, but I’ve heard stories of Bennett running out of beer mid-festival and attempting to buy kegs off other stands to wheel over to his stand and sell.

Bennett’s shut up shop some time around 2010, but the legacy lives on, in other contract breweries that are more about having a beer with your name on it than quality and passion for the product.

Last seen in the wild: Two isolated Untappds from the last two years. Ratebeer puts it at 2010.

Kakariki Beer Co.

Type: Contractor
Started in 2013 by Simon Crook, an ex-LBQ bartender. This was a single-beer entity: Goldilocks Blonde Ale.

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Last seen in the wild: October 2013.

Kiwi Brewery

Type: Brewery
The only reference I can find online to Kiwi Breweries is that it was in Morrinsville, and that its equipment was sold to Croucher Brewery. However, the Companies Office reveals that the directors were Gary and Valerie Hallett, that the company was registered in 2003, and last filed in 2010.

Last seen in the wild: No idea.

Limburg

Type: Brewery
Limburg is an often forgotten piece of brewing history. People with long memories rave to me about Limburg Hopsmacker, possibly the first modern APA brewed in New Zealand (although that may be Emerson’s APA). The company was the efforts of Craig Cooper and Chris O’Leary. It operated from 1998-2006.

Admittedly, this is outside my range here, but they are included here because of their historical significance: After the close, O’Leary went to become Brewery Manager at Emerson’s and Cooper went to work in Australia and Canada before founding Bach Brewing.

Last seen in the wild: Funnily enough, I have the last reliable check in of a Limburg beer – September 2013, a bottle of Oude Reserve 2004 from Dom Kelly’s cellar. More recent check ins are harder to verify and may be Bach Brewing beers with the same name.

Matson’s

Type: Brewery
Matson’s was a Christchurch-based brewery that never really made (or attempted to make) inroads into the ‘craft’ beer scene. In many ways, they were more like a macro brewery: all but one of their beers were 5% or lower, most (if not all) of their beers were lagers and several of them were actually made by blending two beers together.

The only beer of theirs I ever poured at Hashigo was the surprisingly good Pine tree Black, a beer by then-brewer Colin Garland.

Matson’s went into liquidation and was bought by Harrington’s, their brand dissolved, and their considerable capacity absorbed into Harrington’s.

Last seen in the wild: still plentiful in bottles, but will become rarer over time.

Monkey Wizard

Type: Brewery
Built by Matt Elmhirst in Motueka. Monkey Wizard was sold and taken over by Simon Nicholls to become Hop Federation.

Last seen in the wild: November 2013.

MUBS (Massey University Brewing Society) AKA Half Tanked Brewing

Type: Contractor
This is an odd one. This is the ‘Commercial Brewing Arm’ of the Massey University Brewing Society (ostensibly a homebrew club). It was lead by Simon Crook, who later went on to start Kakariki Beer Co. (see above) and like Kakariki, was a single batch entity: ‘1’ Pale Ale. Presumably it was meant to be followed by a beer called ‘2’, or maybe the name was meant to be prophetic.

Last seen in the wild: December 2012.

Yes, beer is made in tanks, that's a very clever pun. But could you have chosen slightly less punchable face to market it with?

Yes, beer is made in tanks, that’s a very clever pun. But could you have chosen slightly less punchable face to market it with?

Naturale

Type: Contractor.
Brewed out of Roosters in Napier. I feel like I’ve wailed on Naturale a bit too much this year, so I’ll keep it brief. Started circa 2011 by Tony Dapson. Went out of business the same year. Currently trying to rebuild on Indiogogo for the sixth time.

Last seen in the wild: November 2011.

Pink Elephant

Type: Brewery, now a contractor
Pink Elephant was founded by Roger Pink in Nelson, circa 1990. Pink Elephant is an odd one, insofar as it’s a brewery that’s done the reverse of what most breweries do these days. It’s gone from being a actual brewery, built of steel and concrete, which has been shut down in favour of becoming a contract brewer.

And I guess that’s why they make this list, because the ‘brewery’ that was Pink Elephant no longer exists, even if the ‘brewing company’ does.

Last seen in the wild: Still out there.

Rascal’s Brewing

Type: Contractor
Started 2013 by Vance and Wendy Kerslake. This was another single beer entity. Unusually their first and only beer was an Oktoberfest (amber lager).

Last seen in the wild: July 2014.

Resolute Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Nathan Crabbe (see Golden ticket). After Resolute he went off to brew for Four Avenues. 

Last seen in the wild: Whilst bottles of cider kept appearing as late as 2014, the records indicate it was last on tap in October 2013.

Revolution Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Brendon Mckenzie, circa 2010. A single batch of beer produced – ‘ANTIFA Amber Ale’.

Last seen in the wild: There are literally no records of this beer online.

Rogue Brewery

Type: ?
This is another strange listing on Beer Tourist. I have no idea where or when Rogue Brewery actually existed. There’s no record of them in Ratebeer or Untappd. There is a registered company under the name at the Companies Office, but nothing else can be found easily.

Secret Seven

Type: Contractor
I’d consider the Secret Seven a failed experiment. This was a single-batch contract brewery which came with a manifesto stating that beer should be about quality and not personality. I agree with many of the points they raised. I dislike the culture of star-struck fanboys that crops up from time to time in this industry (worst example: Garage Project’s 24/24). And I actively despise brewers who want to wrap themselves in the cult of personality, because the brewing industry in New Zealand is no place for wannabe rockstars.

I think though, that Secret Seven missed an important point: yes, ‘craft’ beer has been built on quality, but it’s also been built on stories. People love to connect to the Who, the Where and the Why of the beer they drink. Frankly the story of ‘some Schmos made some beer’ I find neither compelling nor particularly original.

And for that matter, who do they think in the ‘craft’ beer sector is using bikini models, I wonder? Actually Island Bay Brewing (see above) pretty much did this…

Last seen in the wild: Their Amber Ale ‘S1’ (Like MUBS I assume the plan was to make S2, S3, etc.) was last Untappd December 2013.

Shitwhistle Brewing

Type: Microbrewery
I’m not even going to bother looking into this one. Apparently it’s a legit surname, but whatever. Here’s their FB ‘About’ section:

Please do not to slap the next Dave you meet after reading this.

Please do not to slap the next Dave you meet after reading this. Also: 1895? Pull the other one.

Last seen in the wild: The brewery doesn’t exist according to Untappd. There is only one lonely Ratebeer entry from from our friend Jono, dated June 2013.

Southstar Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed in 2012, this was Kiearan Haslett-Moore’s contract label, mostly for collaboration purposes. He’s since gone on to set up North End Brewing, and so Southstar has faded away.

Last seen in the wild: July 2014.

Stewart Brewing

Type: Contractor
Not from Stewart Island but named after the brewer, Tim Stewart. Founded in 2013. Made some really nice beers. Info on this one supplied by Jules Van Cruysen of XY Eats and Kiwi Craft.

Last seen in the wild: April 2015.

The Little Empire

Type: Brewpub
Strictly speaking this was Lion Nathan, so shouldn’t be on my list, but I included them from interest sake – because The Little Empire was the label of The Crown Brewpub; which was the name of the bar that took over The Brewery Britomart. I’m presuming they’re extinct because of this post on Facebook:

Crown

It’s unclear what’s moved into the premises, but with no check ins or updates on Untappd, we can assume the label is no longer current.

Last seen in the wild: October 2014.

Cider House Orchard (Three Rivers)

Type: Cidery
Another one I wouldn’t believe existed, if I hadn’t had their cider. I maintain they were well ahead of their time. After it’s sale, Cider House became Crooked Cider (see above).

Last seen in the wild: Ratebeer puts their end at December 2008, but I know I was drinking them regularly at Hashigo in early 2010.

Two Fingers Beers

Type: Contractor
Started in 2012 by Lawrence Oldershaw, Two Fingers is the most recent brewery to make this list, closing in February 2015.

Also spotted at another brewery.

Also spotted at another brewery.

Last seen in the wild: Still plentiful, but will gradually die out.

Velvet Worm

Type: Microbrewery
Velvet Worm is an odd one. They appeared in 2012 in Dunedin, started by a chap called Bart Acres and fell off the radar in 2014. I had them on the first draft of this list (their Facebook page was gone and their beers began to drop off on untappd), but took them off when I discovered that a company still existed under the name Stacpoole’s Brewing Co. and listing John Barton Stacpoole Acres as a Director. So I assumed that there is a direct continuity between the two, and possibly even a continuation of the Velvet Worm brand.

I was tipped off again by Jules Van Cruysen that Velvet Worm is no longer an active band. A complete rebrand of a brewery is fairly drastic an action, and probably justifies the old label making this list.

Last seen in the wild: April 2015.

Waituna Brewing

Type: Contractor
Waituna made the ‘Taakawa Indigenous Ale,’ a Golden Ale spiced with Kawakawa. Waituna never really appeared on the ‘Craft’ beer map (I don’t think I ever tried it). Started circa 2002, went out of business 2011.

Last seen in the wild: One check in from December 2014, the previous ones from 2011.

West Coast Brewery

Type: Brewery
I umm-ed and ahh-ed over whether to include West Coast Brewery on this list, as there is still an entity that has been operating more or less continuously under the same name and in the same location. I included it though because West Coast was put into liquidation in 2012. Here’s the story:

West Coast was started in 2007 by Paddy Sweeney, a self-styled West Coast Larrikin, a claim I’ve always found puzzling, since he lives on the East Coast. Of Australia.

Anywho, the story of West Coast Brewing is the story of a bluffo-Kiwi-Bloke vs. bureaucracy and red-tape. At least that’s the book version, anyway. No really, he wrote a book about it.

Apparently the red tape Sweeney was rebelling against was paying those pointless taxes the government keeps banging on about, because West Coast ended up massively in the hole to the IRD.

The future of the company is unclear at this stage, but several moves to buy it back have been made by the original owners. Ultimately I include West Coast here because it’s been run pretty hard into the ground, and only really exists because of the strange vagarities of New Zealand Companies Law.

Last seen in the wild: Still brewing, may very well pull through.

Wests

Type: Contractor
Wests is a ‘beverage company’ (soft-drinks manufacturer) claiming to have been around since 1876. They’re still operational, but make this list because in 2004 they released a ‘Wests Ale’. I know this is a little before my remit, but I’ve included Wests because it’s fascinating example of a company outside the industry dabbling in beer.

Last seen in the wild: January 2004.

Yellow Cross

Type: Brewpub
Yellow Cross, a brewery I admit I’ve never heard of, and stumbled across by accident. It seems like rather a tragic story: The only record of them is a Facebook page (no Ratebeer or Untappd). The page reveals their location used to be in Christchurch on Lichfield Street, between Poplar and Madras Streets. The page was updated regularly until February 2011. Many readers will be able to connect the dots here. Two weeks after the last posting, a massive earthquake totalled that entire section of the city.

Yellow Cross

Many breweries were damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes, but no other breweries to my knowledge were completely put out of business.

Last seen in the wild: February 2011, I guess.

UPDATE: An ex-Cantabrian has informed me that Yellow Cross was a meat-market club. Others have have informed me that it was a DB-subsidiary.

Post Mortem

So how many breweries is that? For those who haven’t been counting or just skimmed the list (I don’t blame you), it’s thirty nine. That’s thirty nine ‘craft’ breweries (broadly speaking) that have gone out of business during the course of the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ (broadly speaking).

That’s a hell of a lot. It’s more than anyone I spoke to predicted; most people guessing about half that number. And I know that I’ve missed breweries off this list. There will be breweries out there that appeared and disappeared without leaving a trace, and even brewing companies that never even made any beer before they shut down. Likewise, although no one wants to admit it, there are small breweries out there that are currently circling the drain, and will go down in the next year or two. Conversely, there may be breweries that will rise, phoenix-like again. But I’m sure this list is at best, a low-ball estimate.

But what can we take away from this list?

When I started researching, I thought I would find one or two common reasons why breweries close. In reality there are many reasons, many of which could apply to both stainless and contract breweries: buyouts, poor business management, unsustainable business models, changes in life situations, falling-outs between partners, moving on to other project and so on. I didn’t find any single cause of brewery closure.

What I did find though, is that there’s noticeably more contractors (22) than steel-and-concrete breweries (17). This is not entirely surprising, considering the sizeable commitment of setting up a brewing-plant, compared to the relatively minor paper-shuffling it takes to start a contract company. With more skin in the game, physical breweries tend to stick around longer.

What’s more interesting, is the relative ages of the different types of breweries: the majority of stainless breweries that have closed in the last six years opened before 2009; before the start of the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’. Conversely, most of the of the contract breweries opened after 2009.

If I can wildly speculate and generalise for a moment, I’d like to posit two ideas.

First: the older stainless-steel breweries are more likely to close down because they have not been able to keep up with changes in the market place. Examples of this I think are Matson’s and Green Man. Both had been around for quite some time and been fairly successful in their day, but neither of them made particularly good beer or much of a splash in any other regard. When the market changed and consumers of ‘micro-brewed’ beer (to borrow an Americanism) began demanding more quality and innovation, their markets began to dry up.

To put it bluntly, those breweries that fell behind, were left behind.

Now my second point: the majority of contractors that have shut down, were started after 2009 and seem to have been short-lived. We see multiple companies that produced one or two beers, or even just one or two batches of beer before closing. That’s indicative I think, of the type of light-weight business model that contract brewing employs; and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

But…

I think the time is also coming where we in the New Zealand brewing industry need to have a discussion about contract brewing. That discussion is too big to fit into this post. Maybe I’ll write about it soon. But I’ll offer up one suggestion here: starting a contract brewery is a hell of a lot easier than actually running a successful brewing business. A lot of people that get into the brewing game are not adequately prepared for the realities of the industry; and with relatively little at stake, they don’t last very long.

But whatever. This is all speculation. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll down brewing memory lane. Or at least found it interesting.

Eating My Words

Some of you may remember that I wrote a parody post mocking ‘Beers You Must Try’ articles? Do you remember how the final beer was one that I made up? A beer with a ridiculous name and a concept so silly that no brewery in their right mind would ever make it?

Remember me saying that you’d never get to try said beer, because ‘fuck you’? Well, now I’m rather thilled to to be tucking into a hearty meal of my own words, because said beer will be going on tap tomorrow.

That’s right, Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout is now officially a beer you can drink.

There does not exist, nor has there ever been, a brewery called Silver Cat (although there might be one day, who knows?). The brewery that made this beer is Wellington-based Wild & Woolly. Never heard of them? That’s not surprising. Thursday is the official launch of not just this beer, but also the whole brewery. Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout W&W is the project of LLew Bardecki, a long time friend of mine and someone I respect immensely for not only being one of the most daring and talented brewers I know, burt also pretty much one of the best dudes ever in the history of the world.

Here’s Llew’s own description of the Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout:

“SCAGWS is a wheat stout fermented with a Belgian witbier yeast with the bonus of Haribo gummi bears added to the boil (wouldn’t you be angry if someone dumped you and your friends in a kettle full of boiling wort?)
It’s got a fabulous creamy head and mouthfeel, low roastiness for a stout, moderate Belgian yeast character and a clearly detectable flavour of gummi bears.”

Sounds good to me.

Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout, along with three other beers from W&W will be hitting taps at Hashigo Zake from 5:30pm tomorrow (that’s Thursday 12/03/2015). You should be there. After all, it’s your one and only chance to complete The Bottleneck’s Top 20 Beers You Must Try to Put on Your Bucket List Before You Die.

The Worst Decision I Ever Made

"Investors seem willing to pay above market rates to buy into the
story of New Zealand craft beer." 
-Rob Simic, ANZ Commercial and Agricultural Regional Manager, 
Beervana Media Briefing Session, 2014.
"No-one will ever get a dollar back, so i [sic] really hope we 
don't hear them moaning about it down the track. It's a worse 
investment than a finance company debenture!" 
- C N, Comment on an NBR Article

Investing in Yeastie Boys is without a doubt one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

OK now to qualify that statement. No doubt if you’re even remotely connected to the New Zealand beer scene you’ve heard the news: Yeastie Boys raised half a million dollars in 26 minutes via crowd funding. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate that feat.

1423168872126

Done? Right, now lets talk about how disastrously, ruinously mad it is.

The occasion has special significance for me for two reasons: first of all, the launch party was held at Golding’s, and I was working it. I’ve bartended many monumental occasions, including the launch of ParrotDog and Garage Project, but this one may just take the cake.

The other reason it’s significant to me is that I’m one of the the 219 people that chipped in money. Yes, I foolishly ponied up my hard earned cash for a tiny slice of the Yeastie Boys pie.

It was not my intention after reading the share proposal, to invest in the company. Because lets face it, the below the line nay-sayers commenters on the National Business Review articles are correct. Economically, Yeastie Boys is a terrible investment. It’s not that the company is going to go down in flames. To the contrary I have very good reason to believe that it will soar, if not like an eagle, then at least like a fairly ambitious pigeon. No.

But the cold hard facts remain: Half a million only buys 12.5% of the company, which places a value on Yeastie Boys at ~4M, or in other words, somewhere between high and ludicrous. Considering this, and the relatively low-profit nature of brewing at any scale, no one will ever see a good (if any) return on their investment. It’s truly a terrible decision to invest in the Yeastie dream.

"How dumb are some New Zealanders?" 
- Reece of the Duchy, Comment on the same NBR Article

But here’s the thing – we, as in everyone who invested in Yeastie Boys, already knew that. So why the hell did I willingly, gleefully even, chuck my cash into a flaming black hole? Well, first of all, because I could.

I invested a cheeky $500. I could frankly take that much cash out to the BBQ right now and set it on fire (or burn it in one hundred other more creative and figurative ways). Whilst this would be a very foolish decision, at the end of the day, I could do it and still make rent.

And I suspect this goes for everyone else who also threw money in. The average investment was ~$2500. There will be many low level investors like myself, but also a few that invested much, much more money than that. But I also know for a fact that no one invested at a level which means they’ll have to foreclose on the family home if Yeastie Boys doesn’t immediately (or ever) start paying out big dividends.

Frankly, the only one who’s going to get seriously burned if this whole thing doesn’t work is Stu. And he knows that.

The other reason I invested in this thing comes back to something I wrote a few months back:

"I’d invest in a brewery because I believe in drinking good beer, 
and I want to ensure I can get a good pint for years to come. 
Expecting a return on buying into a ‘Craft’ brewery is to me like 
expecting a return on buying a pint at the pub. Passion and 
enjoyment are why we get into this industry, not striking it rich."
- Dylan Jauslin, Beervana is Decadent and Depraved Part #2

So here was the chance. Money where mouth is. And it’s been two weeks since then and in the cold light of day, I stand by that sentiment. I want more Gunnamatta. I want more Pot Kettle Black, and yes, I even want more Rex Attitude. I do not for a moment regret making the worst financial decision of my life. In fact I’d do it again, in an instant.

Fuck'n. Classy. Bastards. Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

Stu and I at the BrewNZ Awards, 2013.
Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

***

Having said that, there is one thing I’m nervous of: other breweries.

I can feel them, right now, waiting in the wings. Those who have seen what Stu and Sam have done and are thinking of going and getting their own share of that sweet, sweet crowd-sourced money.

I know that people are thinking about it and I can tell them now – it won’t work out the same. It might seem like Yeastie Boys pulled this off in 30 minutes, but they have been building up to this for 6 years, and Stu has personally been working towards it in one sense or another for more like 10 years (ask him one day about the history of Liberty Brewing).

So think long and hard before you go out there and try to recreate what Yeastie Boys (or even Renaissance) have done. There’s no guarantee it’ll turn out how you want it to.

OK, lets end this on a positive note.

I have officially sliced myself a “piece of the Yeastie Boys pie,” as Anna Guenther of PledgeMe puts it. But frankly, I don’t feel like I have. I feel more like I’ve contributed a little dough (pun intended) to the amorphous mass, which will eventually be rolled out to make the crust of a really special pie.

And in this regard, I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys from day 366. For that was the second ever launch of Pot Kettle Black, and the first time I ever had one of their beers. In a very simple way I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys for many years the same way those who didn’t invest (or just weren’t quick enough) can support them. By going out and enjoying a Yeastie Boys beer!

Cheers, or as Stu says:
Sláinte Mhaith!

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

The Craft Queer Project

This all came about because of a can of Garage Project ‘Beer’ and a permanent marker. But lets start at the beginning.

2014 saw some really great discussions start up about minorities and representation in the New Zealand beer scene. Most notably the Craft Beer Calandar, and a bit more talk about women in the beer scene, both as consumers and professionals. ‘Craft’ beer has been pretty much the exclusive property of middle class white men for a long time, but I hope we’re seeing the first signs of change (types the middle class white male). But it is wonderful to see some conversations and change happening, so lets keep it going.

Today I want to talk about queers in the beer scene. And you know what? I’m going to start by being fairly positive. Because right now, our particular little pool (that is the breweries, beer bars and beer events of Wellington) is a fairly open, welcoming and overall liberal place to be.

How do I know this? Well, because there are queer people representing every letter of the LGBT at every level of the industry. Queers make beer, distribute it, sell it, and of course, drink it. And it is as customers that queers are highly represented. I think it’s a credit to the industry that this is the case. However things are definitely not all rosy.

There’s still plenty of queerphobia, both in the beer scene and and New Zealand society in general. I’ve heard far too much of it over the bar in my time. We stamp on it at Golding’s and Hashigo when we hear it. But we know it’s out there and that means there’s room for improvement in our industry.

Which brings me to the can of ‘Beer’ and the permanent marker. You see I had to procure a Secret Santa gift for my co-worker Gen.

We had a limit of $10, so I thought crafting something might be the way to go. I’m fairly handy with a stencil and needle and thread, so I thought I’d make her an awesome patch or shirt or something. I had all the fabric paints, label paper and even an old black shirt to print it on. The only difficult thing was coming up with an idea for what to paint.

Gen’s a fairly Tough Bitch, so something about fucking up the patriarchy would be apt. Then I remembered this photo:

Tough. Biatch.

Tough. Bitch.

Combine it with the famous GFD ‘Beer is Love’ mural:

Draw.

Draw.

Cut.

Cut.

Paint.

Paint.

And, result:

One very stylish Tough Bitch.

One very stylish, Tough Bitch.

Gen was pretty thrilled, but it didn’t stop there. I’ve had dozens of requests for custom shirts from those who want to destroy the patriarchy whilst enjoying a good beer. The simple fact of the matter was it was too many for me to ever hope to make them all by hand. And that’s when inspiration struck: why not print them digitally?

So I drew:

B7bnCMvCAAEnVtj

But this time I didn’t cut; I scanned and Photoshopped:

B8QXPWtCcAAU20b

And result:

Why yes, I cam using the 'Handsome Man Hefting  Keg' shot.

Why yes, I am using the ‘Handsome Man Hefting Keg‘ shot…

So I designed a shirt to be made available online for all my friends. Now I had the option to profit greatly from this enterprise, but it didn’t feel right. Besides, I’ve been really inspired by the good work done by the New Zealand Beer Calendar. So proceeds from shirt sales will be going to Rainbow Youth.

Rainbow Youth is an organisation that offers support, information and advocacy for LGBT youth in New Zealand. Because we all know that being young is difficult, and being queer and young is extra tough. We’ve all heard the statistics: higher suicide rates and drug and alcohol use amongst queer youth in New Zealand. And it’s organisations like Rainbow Youth that can help change that.

It’s time to get our Queer-Beer-Pride on and stick it to queerphobia in style. Not queer, but want to destroy the patriarchy in style anyway? Not a problem. I designed a special ‘Beer’ version, so you can rock it no matter how you identify. The Craft ‘Queer’ Project shirts are available in both Men’s and Women’s cuts (and in a rainbow of colours) from this link on Print Mighty:

thebottleneck.printmighty.co.nz

If there is a product offered on Print Mighty that you would like with the Craft Queer Project design on it (a hoodie, tote bag, etc.), feel free to tweet requests to me.

So let’s crack a good beer and toast to the end of misogyny and queerphobia!

Beer Review: Epic Lupulingus

I think it can confidently be stated that this beer is like a cock, and I will elaborate: epic-bottle_lupulingus-011As well as serving an official function, it also gives pleasure from its appearance. It is something I want near my mouth. It is fulsome, enticing, warming and compelling. You see it and you just want more. Have I overstretched the analogy? It looks almost coppery amber in colour with a bright white head and had excellent clarity and carbonation. It smells heavenly: pink grapefruit, lemon zest, pine, of green grassy herbs and redwood bark. The flavours are similar in the context of a silky, almost oily body that carried a blast of bitterness. It also has lush ripe stonefruit flavours of peaches and stewed apricots. It is sumptuous and carries a lengthy finish. In the same sitting I tried the winner of the West Coast IPA challenge and while it had its merits, it wasn’t nearly as remarkable as this beer. I want more. I will have more, but like cock, too much is never enough.


Those who are greatly confused at this point, might like to try reading this beer review and play spot the difference.

Sexism is something that really gets on my tits (my own tits, no one else’s). Everywhere in life, but particularly in the beer scene. I myself (and others even more so) have watched the New Zealand beer scene grow from next to nothing to a world-acclaimed industry. And I’ve played a very, very small part in helping it grow. So it makes me grumpy when I see people being excluded or demeaned. That’s not our schtick. That’s the big marketing people’s schtick. That’s Tui’s shtick. I’ve flagged other instances of sexism for various reasons. This one I’ve flagged because we can learn a very simple, concrete lesson from it:

If you’re not comfortable saying it about a man’s body, don’t say it about a woman’s, because it’s probably demeaning. 

The Bottleneck Awards 2014

Is it really 2015? It seems like only yesterday I was writing these awards for 2013. Feels like all I did in between was get drunk, go to Iceland, draw some weird pictures and have all of Wellington tweet their recycling bins at me. Oh well, guess it’s lime to look back on our last trip around the Sun and arbitrarily hand out trophies.

This year I’ve brought back many of the awards of last year, and created some new ones as the vagarities of the strange beast that was 2014 demanded. As always, Caveat Lector: My opinions are my own and are meant for novelty purposes only. Alright, lets do this thing.

The Green Bottle Piss Award for Best Lager

This year has seen me step away from Pilsners that have been hopped like IPAs in search of something hop-forward, but a little different. The winner is Townshend Black Arrow. In a scene where everyone’s tried everything, I don’t know anyone else who hops their Pilsner with UK Target hops (I’m sure there are others, but what evs).

Townshend-BlackArrow_1024x1024

Feel Good Hit of the Summer Award for Best Light, Wheat or ‘Sessionable’ Thing

The summer of 2015 is, I’ve decided, The Summer of IPA. The reason being that at Golding’s, Hoppy Pale Ales including +7% hop bombs like Sculpin, have been pouring two-to-one with almost any lager we put on tap. Clearly, the people want more hops.

With this in mind, it would make sense for this award to go to a Session IPA, the style that became vogue in 2014.

But it isn’t, because I hate Session IPAs. Seriously, it’s an incredibly hard style to get right and many taste like bitter-hop-water. Even the good examples on the other hand, taste like ordinary Pale Ales and given that the ABVs of these so-called ‘session’ beers seem to frequently creep above 4.5%, we may as well just give up and call them what they are: over hopped slightly lower ABV Pale Ales.

Ok, rant over. This years Feel Good Hit of the Summer is 8 Wired Wireless Farmhouse. It walks a fine line between funky as hell, yet very drinkable. Good stuff.

The Irish Suntan Award for Paleness

Last year I gave this award to the whole Pale Ale category, because making a good beer that’s ~5%, hop driven with a decent malt backbone is the fastest way to win at beer. This year on the other hand, I’m going to almost arbitrarily give the award to Liberty Brewing Oh Brother, a Pale Ale I had the other day (for the millionth time), and massively enjoyed (for the millionth time). Keep up the good work Jo.

Jo Wood.

Jo Wood.

The Special Award for Services to My Alcoholism (A.K.A. Best Beer Bar Award)

Valhalla. Seriously.

Valhalla, is a Viking themed Punk/Metal venue in Wellington and the future of ‘craft’ beer. You see, the people behind Valhalla understand something that all the Residents, Curry Clubs and Brew on Cubas do not: don’t try and open a good beer bar. You will never compete with the likes of Hashigo and Malthouse. Instead, focus on opening a great bar with good beer.

Is Valhalla a great Viking Metal Bar? I’m not sure. Not really my area of expertise (although I do have a punk-streak). What I do know is that their beer list is legit. Not Hashigo/LBQ/Golding’s legit, but here’s what I was drinking at 1am one Sunday morning after work:

That's right, Day of the Fucking Dead, at a metal gig.

That’s right, Day of the F***ing Dead, at a metal gig.

One final word on Valhalla: only go there if drinking beer in rungus company while listening to dubious music is your idea of a good time. If it’s not, and I know it isn’t for a large swathe of my readership, then stay well away.

The Stout, Porter or Other Dark Award for Beers The Same Colour As My Soul

I’m continuing trend of giving this award to flavoured dark beers. Last year it was Kereru For Great Justice Coconut Porter. This year it’s Aotearoa Breweries Mataccino. Mata is a brewery with a strange history, but one close to my heart. I’d also rate it as an emerging dark horse in the New Zealand brew scene. Mataccino is completely unlike anything they’ve done before. It’s sexy-smooth-coffee-chocolate-funtimes.

I firmly believe this beer should have won the 'Flavoured Styles' trophy in the BrewNZ Awards this year.

I firmly believe this beer should have won the ‘Flavoured Styles’ trophy in the BrewNZ Awards this year.

Best Beer Festival Award (Of the Festivals I Personally Attended)

This would have been the ‘The Lederhosen Free Zone Award,’ but my friend Bardecki of Wild and Woolly has ruined this for me.

Never mind. So who wins? Well I’d love to give it to The Pacific Beer Expo, which along with the Release the Kraken Wrap Party, were about as mint as beer fests get. But I have a mania for not doing the same thing two years in a row.

With that in mind, there are two other totally mint candidates: The SOBA Matariki Winter Ale Festival and Christchurch’s Great Kiwi Beer Festival. Both are incredibly deserving, but I’m going to give the award this year to Great Kiwi, mostly because it formed part of a really outrageous bender I had in Christchurch that weekend.

The Green Bean Saison Award for Fruit/Spiced/Flavoured/Otherwise Meddled With Beer

Adding pretty much the entire contents of your spice rack to beer is now firmly a ‘thing’, much to the consternation of many traditionalists. Seems like every brewer and their dog are cramming weird things into beer. Personally, I absolutely love it.

Amongst all the crazy meddled with beers, my favourite is the rather tame Garage Project Sauvin Nouveau. It’s strong as hell, but ever so lovely.

Sauvin_Webstore_Poster_1024x1024

The ‘Bad Cornish Accent’ Award for Best Cider

You know how I just said I didn’t want to give awards to the same people as last year. Well bugger that noise, cos I’m giving it to Peckham’s again.

The cider industry has shown good signs of movement in 2014. Rogues and Scoundrels put out a good contract cider (even if they completely over cooked their bottle blurb), and the highly promising Paynter’s Cider was discretely launched.

Yet still in my mind, Peckham’s still reigns supreme. My particular favourite this year is the Homeblock Blend #2 (2013), but 2014 also saw Peckham’s push the boat out (a little) with Cardamom Cider, Mulled Cider, and released late in December, Pommeau. Is it good? I have no idea. I like it, but I have no Pommeau experience whatsoever. But no one else in this country is pushing boundaries in the cider world like Peckham’s is.

What is this stuff? I don't even know.

What is this stuff? I don’t even know.

The Tey-Tappers Special Award for Best Beer Writer

Hmm. Tough decision. I could quite happily give it to Jono, who was pipped at the post by the comedy option last year, but I think I have to give it to Jason Gurney of Brew Hui. And I have a suspicion that the reason Brew Hui gets it over Drinker to Brewer is that Gurney has pulled at Heath Ledger (formally known as James Dean) and bowed out before his time.

Having said that, Jason does write with passion and humor. And although his posts do frequently need a blue pencil, he gets a lot of points for taking criticism better than most professional brewers do.

The ‘Invading Russia in Winter Award’ For Best Tactical Retreat

Readers may remember I chastised Tuatara for being a dick and trying to steal Rogue’s New Zealand distribution. This year, I’m happy to award them this prize for completely changing tack. Not long long after I published, that piece, Tuatara announced they would no longer be distributing Rogue; a decision which I’m sure can from realising they were being dicks, and had absolutely nothing to do with large quantities of very cheap, out of date Rogue beer that is still appearing in supermarkets to this day…

Yes, I can be bitchy when I want to.

Yes, I can be bitchy when I want to.

Anywho, the real reason Tuatara gets this award is that this year they announced they would be picking up distribution for local cider maker Zeffer.

Yes. This. This is how you do business: collaborate with other companies for mutual gain. This is what we should be doing more of in this country.

The IPA Award for Services to the Hop Shortage

Always a tough one to give out. So many good options: Golden Eagle Solo Lupulus Metamorphic, Baylands Rock Solid IPA, Garage Project Angry Peaches to name just a few. But which to choose?

I can’t decide if I want to give it to Panhead The Vandal or 8 Wired Fresh Hopwired. If I give it to Vandal, I’d seem like another raving fanboy, if I choose Fresh Hopwired, I’d be guilty of the same sort of wankery I rebelled against in my Beers You Must Try column (single batch, limited release).

Bugger it, it goes to Fresh Hopwired. I’ll just have to live with myself.

The Pucker-Up Award for Best Sour Beer

I’m going with Hallertau NZ Wild Ale. Because it was lovely. And yes, I do seem to keep choosing one-off brews as my winners. Deal with it.

The Poorly Organised Orgy Award for Best Beer-Related Clusterfuck

The internet is a wonderful thing for many reasons, and a terrible thing for just as many. And one of the worst things the internet has brought to our lives is the ability to pointlessly argue with complete strangers. Then again, watching these arguments from the sidelines (or occasionally dipping in for the sake of shit-stirring) can be one of the most enjoyable pastimes afforded to us. One such incident happened this year, which I still look back on with bewildered amusement.

I am of course referring to the Dominic Kelly vs. Giovanni Tiso debacle. In brief: a local commentator made disparaging comments about Hashigo Zake, and Dom, in his classic style, took a sledgehammer issue and the whole thing blew up in grand style. It should have been a discussion on the right to criticise publicly vs. and the right to respond. Lets face it though, this was an internet debate, that was never going to happen.

For the most part, the debate was on Twitter, and not very entertaining, but the comment feed on the original blog-post of Dom’s is where the good action is at. It rolls along fairly dully with basically everyone get accused of being hipsters, until a character called Skyler, in one of the most bizarre reduction-to-Godwin’s I’ve ever seen, accuses Hashigo Zake (and presumably everyone who’s ever been there) of endorsing the Rape of Nanking. No, I’m not even remotely exaggerating. Have a read for yourself. 

When the dust had settled on the bizarre affair, I was left pondering two things

1. Is there any force more annoying than white people being offended on behalf of others (to my knowledge there has only even been one comment on the matter, whereas hundreds of East and Southeast Asians have patronised the bar over the years) and,
2. Does Edmond’s get these types of complaints as well?

Your bread isn't the only thing on the rise...

Two things are sure to rise: Your bread, and the Japanese war machine.

As a final note: look but don’t touch. If anyone even dares, just for a moment, to even think about commenting on that blog post; I will come around to your house, and beat you to death with a bottle of Baird Pale Ale.

The Bastard Upstart Award for Best New Brewery.

Again, a tough award to choose. There weren’t many great candidates this year, considering that Wild and Woolly and Tiamana haven’t officially launched, and I refuse on principle to give it to a contractor (of which Choice Bros stands out).

On reflection, I actually surprised myself by giving this award to Craftwork Brewery. I’ve kind of gone off Belgian styles in recent months, so I’m not a huge fan of their beers. But what I do love is that Craftwork know what they want to do, and do it exceedingly well. They’re modest but proud, traditional but experimental, serious but fun. They make great beer, and they’re good people. Excellent, well done.

The “Am I Drunk Yet?” Award for Best Strong/Imperial/Strong Belgian/Whatever Beer

I’ve heard it said many time that making a good strong/imperial beer is easy. ‘You just add more hops/malt/whatever’. This statement is usually espoused by a brewer who doesn’t have anything over 6% in their portfolio followed by some sort of statement to the effect that making whatever sort of beer *they* takes a lot more skill. Their lager/bitter/whatever is the beer equivalent of Paul McCartney to the IIPA’s Kanye West.

This of course is complete bullshit, as witnessed by the winner of this award: Panhead Black Sabbath. 

panheadblacksabbeth

This beer is a god-damn symphony of flavours: rich black-malts, bitter hops, chewy-funky rye, smooth oak, and over all of this, punchy alcohol. Sure, it was 11% but as Tchaikovsky new, sometimes ordinary drums won’t do. Sometimes you need a cannon to blow them away.

The ‘Equity for Skunks’ Award for Crowd-Sourcing

2014 produced a sensation late in the year, with Yeastie Boys announcing that they would seek funding through crowd-sourcing. This came on the tail of Renaissance’s immensely successful bid for peoples cash. With the public offering only days away, all indications are that Yeastie Boys will meet their target in a matter of hours. In light of this, I’ve decided to create this special award for best crowd-funder.

You may be surprised to hear that this award doesn’t go to either Renaissance or Yeastie Boys. Instead it goes to Naturale. Never heard of them? Not surprising. They went out of business in 2011. Although some of you may have heard of Tony Dapson as the guy who holds the patent No. 519778 (search here) – for adding Manuka to beer. A patent, that if ever enforced against Mussel Inn’s Captain Cooker, would result in Napier being burnt to the ground by a legion of Golden Bay residents (supported by detachments from Beer-Geek Regiments nation-wide).

Dapson also surfaced in 2013, trying to get his beer made under licence in Australia. To my knowledge, no Aussie breweries were obliging.

But lets get on track here. Naturale wins this award simply for their sheer number of crowd-funding campaigns. Kicking of with a failed Kickstarter in 2013, Naturale has run not one, but two Indiegogos that didn’t go anywhere, a failed Pledge Me, and finally a RocketHub campaign that didn’t take off.

Now you may say I’m being cruel, mocking this chap’s dreams. I disagree: I honestly do admire his tenacity. There are even signs that he might launch another campaign in February of this year. The thing is, collectively these campaigns have raised $780.36 (adjusting for exchange rates). At some point a rational voice kinda needs to say “Maybe this isn’t a goer? Time for a different approach?”

The Old-Hand Award for Best Established Brewery

I feel like this brewery came of age in 2014. They’re incredibly experimental, pushing boundaries wherever they can, but at the same time, they’re developed a rotating core range of consistently really great beers. Top it of with great branding and engagement with customers (both drinkers and bars) and you have a licence to win my heart.

I am of course, talking about Garage Project, who have been going from strength to strength this year. Please don’t ever stop.

I love this picture.    Source.

I love this picture.                                                                                                 Source.

The “Jesus-Rollerblading-Christ!” Award for Single Pint of Beer I Enjoyed The Most

*AND*

The Bottleneck’s Beer of the Year 2014

Sadly, last year’s favourite, 8 Wired Rewired has gone out of permanent production. The Brown Ale seems to be an endangered species these days. Such is life.

This year the single pint of beer that I enjoyed them most also happens to be the beer I enjoyed the most consistently. And that beer is… Drumroll…

Brew Moon Hophead IPA

This is without a doubt one of the best, yet possibly one of the least celebrated beers of New Zealand. The name is somewhat of a hangover from when ‘IPA’ meant anything that was vaguely hoppy. Sure, this is just a 5% Pale Ale, but what a Pale Ale!

I remember the pint that clinched this award: it was late summer: we’d just closed the bar on a Friday night. I sat down with a Brew Moon Hophead. It was so good it made me want to cry. My prevailing memory was that it tasted like a miniature Sculpin IPA: full, peachy, sweet and bitter at the same time. What a beer.

Belinda Gould, Brewer and Head of Awesome at Brew Moon.

Belinda Gould, Brewer and Head of Awesome at Brew Moon.

Ok. Time to sign off on 2014. Happy new year, and here’s to a great 2015.

The Bottleneck’s Top 20 Beers You Must Try to Put on Your Bucket List Before You Die

Are you vaguely interested in beer, but not really an independent thinker? Do you need the approval of an expert or authority figure to tell you what to drink? Or perhaps you just need to quickly brush up on ‘craft’ beers, so you can sound knowledgeable down at the pub and make other people think you’re an expert in a field you only just heard of last week?

Well, your luck is in, because here is:

The Bottleneck’s Top 20 Beers You Must Try to Put on Your Bucket List Before You Die

Yes, next time you’re at a beer bar, don’t listen to staff, just rattle off this list and if they don’t have any of the beers on it, leave. Beacause if it’s not on the list, it’s not worth your time.

1. Emerson’s Pilsner

Yes, I’m starting uncontroversial here: this crisp Pilsner is a New Zealand classic. In fact it’s so classic, I’m including it here over a bunch of other Pilsners I like more because Emerson’s has more pedigree and if I didn’t include it here, I’d lose credibility.

2. Panhead Supercharger APA

Up until last year this would have said Tuatara APA, but since Supercharger came along, that’s all changed. Now if I recommended Tuatara over Supercharger, I’d look old fashioned. Wellingtonians now cry if they go into a bar and  this crisp, hoppy Pale Ale isn’t on tap.

3. 8 Wired Hopwired

I’m sure you saw this one coming too. This crisp India Pale Ale is another New Zealand classic. No one’s going to argue about this being on the list.

4. Mussel Inn Captain Cooker

Now we’re getting a little more unusual, but still playing it safe. Everyone likes Mussel Inn’s crisp manuka beer, and you can’t deny it’s distinctly New Zealand.

5. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Ha! I lulled you into a false sense of security! You thought this was going to be an entirely New Zealand beer list. Well, it’s not. This crisp American IPA is a must try for any wannabe Beer Geek.

6. Garage Project Day of the Dead

Finally, we’re getting into the more exciting stuff. This crisp dark lager is infused with chillies and chocolate to make it smooth and spicy. It’s only available in November, so you’ll have to search hard to find it, but what fun are these things without a bit of a challenge thrown in?

7. Every Single Trappist Beer

I could list them all individually, but what’s the point? You’ll never be able to remember the difference between Chimay Red as opposed to Blue, and the numbering system other Trappists use is barely more helpful. But you can’t be a Beer Geek without trying at least one beer from each brewery, and when you’ve achieved this you will be presented with a special card that certifies your geek status. You will have to pass a test where you name all the breweries, otherwise your card gets revoked.

8. Westvleteren 12

Yeah I know I this beer is already listed in number 7, but it deserves to be mentioned twice. Telling someone else that you’ve tried this crisp Quadrupel is the beer equivalent of sex on a cloud, an experience totally justifies the $60+ price of a bottle in New Zealand. Because it’s not like other breweries in the world have succeeded in making beers equally as good. Just remember to really rub it in other people’s faces that you’ve had it and they haven’t.

10. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude

This crisp Smoked Golden Ale is incredibly divisive. So divisive that a lot of people openly say it’s the worst beer they’ve ever tried. Secretly, I don’t actually like it: it tastes like you threw bandaids on a tire-fire. But you’re not allowed to be a Beer Geek without claiming to like Rex, so on it goes.

11. Heineken

I swear I wasn’t paid to put this beer on the list… Honestly. This crisp lager is not very exciting, but it belongs here because it will a) guarantee that even the most uninitiated reader can feel good they’ve tried at least one beer I name; and b) it acts a snob-insurance. When people in the comments section start calling me a total beer-wanker, I’ll be able to point to this and say “No, see: I like normal beers too!”

12. Schneider Aventinus

This crisp Weizenbock is included so any Germans reading this don’t get offended. Essentially the token black guy of beers.

13. The Alchemist Heady Topper

A while back this would have been Russian Pliny the Elder, but that’s sooo 2012. This crisp IPA is incredibly hard to come by, but I’ve had it so why haven’t you?

14. Croucher Pale Ale

Ah! What breath of crisp, fresh air! A crisp beer you’ve (probably) tried or at least can get your hands on fairly easily. Basically I’m throwing the less dedicated readers a bone here so they don’t stop reading before the end.

15. Russian River Pliny the Younger

This is the even hoppier version of the aforementioned crisp IPA from Russian River. They only release it at the brewpub for two weeks of the year, so it’s incredibly hard, but not impossible to get hold of some. I haven’t actually had any, but no ‘Beers You Must Try’ list would be complete without it, so on it goes.

16. 3 Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout

Another incredibly hard to get hold of beer (you pretty much have to enter a lottery to buy some). But it’s theoretically possible you might get your hands on it. Again, I haven’t actually had any, so I’m just going to copy-paste the description from the website. After all, that’s what most of these ‘Must Try’ lists do anyway:

A demonic Russian-Style Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar, this CRISP beer defies description. Available one day a year, in April at the brewery: Dark Lord Day.

17. Three Boys Golden Ale

Another easy, crisp beer, just to lull you into a false sense of security before the big finish.

18. Emerson’s Old 95

This crisp Old Ale went out of production years ago. However, there might be the slightest chance you find a forgotten bottle in a friend’s beer cellar. Steal it and drink it yourself. It’s worth it, and the guilt will eventually fade.

19. Garage Project Hazel Maple Mild

Oh you’re a Garage Project fanboy? Well have you tried this beer? I doubt it. This crisp Mild Ale (infused with hazelnuts and maple syrup) was released in 2011 during the 24/24. They only made 40L and the garage boys have never hinted at a re-brew. You will never drink it. I have though.

20. Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout

Both this crisp beer and brewery have never existed and never will. I made it up so that you can never complete this list. You will spend your whole life with a tiny worm of niggling dissatisfaction that you never truly achieved full Beer Geek status. Remember me on your deathbed and know that I am laughing at you.

Because fuck you.


So now you have all the tools you need to become a fully-fledged Beer Geek. Take this list wherever you go. And remember, don’t listen to Beertenders (they’re petty, vicious, snobby liars), don’t explore the beer world in all it’s variety, don’t drink local, don’t take the time to form your own opinions on what you like/dislike (your feeble brain will lie to you) and don’t ever, ever, think for yourself. I’m better at thinking than you are.
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This is a satirical post. Whilst 99.9% of you will have figure that out, Poe’s Law dictates that at least one person hasn’t.
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Crisp.
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The Problem With Beer Photography

Not very long ago, a couple of my friends pitched an idea to me: an NZ-Beer-themed charity calendar. At the time I said it was a great idea. I even said I’d be in it. At the back of my head though, that mean little voice, that little worm of doubtful realism was wriggling around. And with good reason: Beer photography is a pretty dire field really.

When I say this, I’m not talking about the works of skilled photography enthusiasts like Jed Soane. No, I’m talking about  general everyday beer photos (particularly with people involved) found all over sites like Stuff.

You see there really isn’t you can do with beer as a photographic theme. It kind of always boils down to a few repeated poses, such as:

Pour me a beer.

Maybe it’s on tap.

Pour 1

Maybe it’s from a bottle.

Pour 2

Maybe it’s at the brewery.

Pour 3

The wonderful Misty from Three Boys.

The awesome Pete from Garage Project.

The awesome Pete from Garage Project.

The trouble with this shot is that after you’ve poured six pints, you’re getting fairly annoyed with the photographer and wasting a fair amount of beer. That’s when you move on to…

Hold a Beer Up to the Camera. 

It’ll seem like you’re cheersing the viewer. Sort of.

Hold 2

Erm...

Erm…

Ok, try and look less annoyed at the photographer.

Ok, try and look less stiff, if you can.

Or, try both, like this double header!

Ah, Sam, do you remember the acting advice Downey Jr. gave Stiller in Tropic Thunder? Yeah, that.

Ah, Sam, do you remember the acting advice Downey Jr. gave Stiller in Tropic Thunder? Yeah, that.

Alright, this isn’t working. Um, lets try…

Holding a beer up to the light.

Like you’re checking the clarity!

On point again there, Mike. Looking good.

On point there, Mike. Looking good.

Ok, not sure why you're in a shipping container, but that's great, Josh.

Ok, not sure why you’re in a shipping container, but that’s good, Josh.

Ok, great, we've got the shot. You can holding things up now Josh.

Ok great, we’ve got the shot. You can holding things up now.

Ok Stu, I like what you're doing, but can you maybe dial it down a smidge?

Ok Stu, I like what you’re doing, but can you maybe dial it down a smidge? You’re scaring me a bit.

Ok, this just isn’t working. Can you just…

Hold the packaging and try and look vaguely sensible?

Good work there, John.

Good work there, John. You got the beer and the bottle in shot. Double points.

Kelly nails it.

Kelly nails it.

I swear this is the last photo I'll take. Please don't kill me.

I swear this is the last photo I’ll take. Please don’t kill me.

Oh, you again, Josh.

Oh, you again, Josh.

Yeah, that's lovely, thanks...

Yeah, that’s lovely, thanks…

Really Josh, that's enough.

Ok Josh, that’s enough now.

Damnit Gareth, don't Encourage him!

Damnit Gareth, don’t Encourage him!

Just stop already!

Just stop already!

Of course sometimes, a  photographer aims a little higher. That’s when you get things like…

People sitting on brewery equipment. 

Martin Getting comfy on some grain.

Martin Getting comfy on some grain.

Trifecta from the Garage boys: A Package, a cheers and some barrells.

Trifecta from the Garage boys: A Package, a cheers and some barrels.

If you’re very lucky, you might get a.

Handsome brewery worker, hefting an (empty) keg.

Soren, showing us how it's done.

Soren, showing us how it’s done.

Work it Matts! Oh, and some Brewery Equipment! Bonus!

Work it Matts! Oh, and some Brewery Equipment! Bonus!

Finally, the most creative sub-genre: shots of…

People fingering the ingredients of beer. 

Yum-yum Crystal Malt.

Yum-yum Crystal Malt.

Cryer, not bothered.

Cryer, not bothered.

"Ah, guys, I've lost my watch in here. Can you help me find it?"

“Ah, guys, I’ve lost my watch in here. Can you help me find it?”

I'm just going to leave this here...

I’m just going to leave this here…

So to go back to where I started; when I heard that someone was going to do a calendar of beer people, what flashed through my brain was an endless procession of gormless derps my colleagues and contemporaries gathered around their bars and breweries awkwardly holding pint glasses and not quite knowing in which direction to look.

I’ve never been happier to be proved so wrong in my life.

From the photos that have been leaked from the calendar, it seems as if more creativity, enginuity and passion has been injected into this project than I’d ever thought possible. It seems that each contributor has picked up the spirit of the calendar is making it into their own. Here’s a selection of leaked photographs.

Malthouse

Oh yes.

The Lumbersexuals. Oh yes.

Yeastie Boys

Not sure what to call this one, but I like it.

Not sure what to call this one, but I like it.

Viva la Revolucion!

Viva la Revolucion!

Panhead

Makes sense.

Makes sense.

Beer Media

Note The Bottleneck in the robe...

Note The Bottleneck in the robe…

And of course…

Golding’s Free Dive

GFD Canteena

Yes, there does exist a photo of Han and Young Obi Wan making out. No, you can’t see it.

Wonderful stuff. I can honestly say, I’m massively looking forward to the calendar’s imminent release.

The Craft Beer Calendar is the project of Jess Ducey and Megan Whelan. Proceeds go to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. It’s a very good cause, and I encourage you to get onboard. Pledges can be made here.


 N.B. – All images used here are publicly available, through Google, Stuff, Facebook and Twitter. This post is not intended to be a dig at Moa or Josh Scott. Numerous Moa publicity shots (along with samples of their sexist, racist and homophobic marketing material) featured in almost every Google search I made. Hi Josh.

Beervana is Decadent and Depraved Part #4

[Go to Part #3]

Part 4: Beer Geek Kingdom

Friday

I awoke at 10 am. My plan for the day was to attend the morning session of Beervana, enjoy in moderation, and then work the evening shift at the bar. This plan however, went straight out of the window when I tried to get out of bed. My body protested in the same way a gearbox protests when you try to change down from 5th into 3rd at 100 kilometres an hour. God dammit body! You carried me into this thing, you have to see me through! 

Eventually I levered myself out of the sheets. Looking at myself in the mirror, my face showed signs of furious dissipation that I recognised instantly: That grey countenance that speaks of too much booze and nowhere near enough sleep. I’d seen it before on other people and despised it. And now I saw it again and on my own face, I despised it more. One thing was certain: there would be no Beervana today. 

Dissipation

Instead I formed a new plan: I would go to Garage Project for brunch, and then head to work. I got dressed and hit the streets to Aro Valley. Rockwell And Sons, some amazingly popular restaurant from Melbourne was doing a pop up menu at the Garage. It sounded like a hot ticket. 

Unfortunately, due to poor communication I turned up several hours before food was being served. Instead, I made do with an ice cream sandwich, and a can of Garagista IPA. Breakfast of champions. Leaning back in a dusty corner of the cold garage, I took stock of my rotten position. 

At this rate and by my reckoning, total mental and physical collapse was due sometime in the next forty eight hours. This was in theory, enough time to make it through Saturday, after which I was clear to fall apart at my leisure, but making it that far was by no means guaranteed. As I saw it, I had two options.

Either I could stop right now, go back to bed for a little extra sleep, go on a vegan juice-detox diet, and give up all alcohol for the foreseeable future. Or, option number two was to ride this god damn debauched beer train all the way clear to Sunday. I gave option one serious consideration, before dismissing it utterly. I was much too far into this thing to back out now. 

Anyway, as the good doctor said: buy the ticket, take the ride. 

***

I walked into Golding’s two hours early. I had no reason to, I hadn’t been called in or anything, but I had a suspicion I’d be needed. Friday afternoon is always the tamest session of Beervana, and the after-session rush on the beer bars in town is usually fairly manageable. It’s a different matter for the rush after the evening session, but we would be closing by that time. 

Inside Golding’s was chaos.

Not the chaos of a hundred drunks throwing beer around and shouting. Rather it was the chaos of a hundred people all trying to order beer and pizza at once, with only one bartender. It seemed the people leaving the morning session early were overlapping with the people warming for the evening session. I started at 3pm, and didn’t stop for the next ten hours.

***

Saturday

Get to Beervana, you half-baked internet hack.
- The Voice on the Phone

I plodded the barren concourse to the Westpac Stadium, diligently trying to pretend the vicious southerly that was flogging Wellington didn’t exist. Every god-damn year at Beervana, a southerly blows up, turning the Cake-Tin into a refrigerator. 

I was not the only one being whipped along the concourse, even though I was an hour late. Other groups and singles crawled their way towards the distant entrance. On other occasions the concourse would’ve been crammed with sports fans, dressed in black, or yellow or white. But not these folk. No sir, not today. I and the rest of these miserable, huddled clumps all had but one thing on on our minds: beer. And we were prepared to go to extreme lengths to get it. Even braving this god-damn wind. 

Concourse

I got off to a bad start, when I went to collect my press credentials and found that I had none under my name. 
‘What Media Outlet are you with?’ I was asked.
Shit. That question. I had been asked that a few times this week, and had been getting by calling myself a ‘freelancer, specialising in online material’. It sounds better than owning up to being a ‘Beer Blogger’ a breed dubiously regarded at the best of times. Still, there were few options now.
‘I’m the Official Beervana Blogger,’ I said. That was what my place-setting had said at the Longest Lunch, and was in some, vague, technical sense at least partly true. Mentally I prepared a list of names to drop, and if that didn’t work, make a dash past security and hope they couldn’t find me in the crowded tunnel.
‘Oh, Ok. Go on in then.’
Hmm. Alright, I’ll remember that one. I went in. 

***

Beervana 2014. What can I say? Lets start with what was new this year:

There was a new payment method. These were electronic wrist tags which you pre-loaded money onto and then scanned every time you bought a beer. Apparently these caused mass-chaos at the start of the first session. That’s partly why I turned up late, as I was told horror stories of people waiting an hour before they could buy a beer. This seemed to have been sorted by Saturday. Instinctively I didn’t like them, but I have no good reason for saying this and they seemed to be fairly functional on the day. So lets move on.

There were more single-brewery-operated stands than in previous years. This I think was a very, very good thing. I’ll elaborate further on this soon, but I will say the variety and ingenuity that people put into their stands was very refreshing.

The Festive Brew Stand sucked and the Australian Stand was altogether missing. Both of these are usually my most frequented stands in previous years. This year the Aussie stand was hamstrung by the shipment of beer not leaving port in time for the festival. Que sera. The festive brews on the other hand, were stymied by a theme so uninspiring that most breweries didn’t bother to enter. It was ANZAC biscuits – an idea that several brewers had already tried and at least one (Garage Project) already had in their seasonal range.

The Portland stand almost made up for this. The posse of Portland Brewers all had their beers on a dedicated stand, and this was where some of the most interesting beers were to be found. Behind this they hosted the ‘Taste of Portland’ seminar, which was a guided beer and food matching session. Like the Longest Lunch, the food was exquisite and the matches excellent. On the downside, this took a full hour out of my drinking time, but I didn’t need to queue or pay for beer and food (it was ticketed, but my non-existent media pass got me in) and I needed to stay sober anyway.

OK, lets take an intermission.

***

I was standing by one of the big heaters trying desperately to restart my circulation when I heard the words that set any god-fearing liberal on edge:
‘The Conservatives are polling almost 6%. Looks like they’re getting a seat this time,’ a woman with a purple silk bag said.
‘I don’t believe it, surely New Zealand won’t elect that dingbat into parliament?’ said her friend. He was a tall geek, with a waxed moustache. ‘It can’t last. I’m waiting for the scandal that will sink the Conservative Party. Those sorts are always up to something underhanded. That’s how they got to be rich crazies in the first place.’ I couldn’t resist. I piped up from the other side of the heater.

‘I know what it is,’ I said. ‘I pour beer for all sorts of government types. You wouldn’t believe the stuff you hear across the bar when no one thinks you’re listening.’
‘Oh yeah? What is it?’ he asked sceptically. ‘Backhanders?’
‘As if. No one’s stupid enough to get caught doing that in New Zealand,’ I said.
‘Closet Queer?’ asked the woman.
I laughed. ‘Craig’s no Ted Haggard. No.’ I looked conspiratorial, whilst I invented quickly. ‘It’s drugs. Opium.’
‘What?’ they asked, disbelievingly.
‘Oh yeah. He flies it in three times a year on his private plane. All those ‘Business Trips’ to South-East Asia? Bringing back kilos of the raw stuff.’

‘Bullshit!’ said the man. I could tell he wanted to believe it very badly.
‘Oh yeah, it’s true.’ I said. ‘One of our regulars is a Staffer for Bill English.’ Once I was started, the bullshit flowed freely. ‘She accompanied the Minister to Craig’s Mansion in Epsom. They were there to discuss a theoretical coalition deal. She said they found him shirtless in his office. He was in front of a shrine to Pat Robertson, chanting ‘In Referendums confidimus’ and taking great big hits from a pipe of the stuff. Apparently he sort of came out of it after they threw some water on him, and carried on with the meeting, but she was pretty shaken by the whole thing. 

‘Christ, that’s insane!’ said purple silk; ‘I know he’s a nutjob, but he’s not that crazy, surely?’
‘That’s what opium does to you. Coleridge used it to write Kubla Khan. Craig smokes it and comes up with his bat-shit policies. You can see it in his face. I mean look at his publicity shots. Him leering in front of a thunderstorm with that million-mile, dead-eyed stare? You’d have to be high as a kite to think those were a good idea.’
The man gave an ironic bark of a laugh. ‘True that.’ 

‘Spare us all if he gets into power,’ I said. ‘Thank god for decent people like us,’ and with that I walked away. 

Jesus Christ. Vicious lies, all of it. But at the time it felt good. From our liberal bubble in Wellington, the election looked like a much closer race than it turned out to be. With the Conservatives polling over 5%, the prospect of that degenerate swine playing king-maker made me physically sick. I knew I couldn’t really stop the Conservative party, but anything I could do, however small, to chip away at their power-base felt cathartic.

As it all turned out, the Conservatives got less than 4%, but the left such as it is, received a vicious pounding. We really should have seen it coming. 

Colin Craig 2

***

OK, time for some break-down.

I liked Beervana a lot this year. Maybe not quite as much as I liked it in the Town hall days, but that was so long ago I’m not sure I can separate fact from nostalgia anymore. The simple fact of the matter is that this Beervana felt like it had regained a lot of its soul. That sounds pretty airy-fairy, which is something I want to avoid, so lets ask the question: why did I like it more?

Well, it felt more in touch with the beer. Damn it, that’s airy-fairy. What I’m trying to say is, that it felt more like a celebration of good beer and less of the industrial booze-up of previous years. And I think there are many reasons for this, but there are two I’d like to focus on: exclusive beers and brewery stands.

Exclusive beers is the mechanism that drives the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular. Every brewery exhibiting must contribute a never-before-seen beer which are all poured on large, central stands not controlled by the breweries. This makes it a really fun and interesting festival for those au-fait with ‘Craft’ beer and those who are not Beer Geeks will enjoy it (or not) just the same. Whilst there were issues with exclusives this year, owing to a weak festive-brew and Australian stands, as I’ve said, the Portland and Individual Brewery stands made up for this.

This brings me to my second point: Brewery stands. I think individual brewery stands are the heart and soul of big beer festivals. This year in particular, the quality was outstanding. Last year Garage Project turned things up to 11 with their crazy stand. This year it seemed more like a 10, which honestly is still pretty outrageous, but also Panhead and Yeastie Boys (and others) came to the party with awesome stands and great new beers.

I’m a big fan of individual stands because they give the option of a) showcasing a brewery’s portfolio to new drinkers, b) exhibiting new and exciting beers for the Geeks, and c) it lets the drinking public feel in touch with the brewery team. And I think that is a really important aspect of beer festivals.

To sum up: I liked Beervana more this year because it felt like there was more engagement between beer, drinker and brewer. And that is where the future of the festival lies, if I may air-and-fair again. Put simply: Beervana seems to be growing in directions I like, and I’m looking forward to next year.

Ok, let’s wrap this beast up and send it home.

***

I’d had a great festival, but I hadn’t seen nearly as much of Beervana as I’d planned to. I seem to have gotten stuck at Garage Project’s stand. The problem was that every time I tried to leave, I’d be collared by a friend or associate and get stuck in conversation. On the plus side though, most of my beers were being bought for me.

Suddenly I heard the last drinks call go out across the PA. Shit.

I ran over to the Garage stand, elbowing several punters keen on getting there before the cut-off. Ian, the lanky yet handsome Brewery Manager saw me coming.
‘Hey Dylan, you need a beer?’
‘Ian! Ian, give me a blade!’ I shouted.
‘What?’ he asked.
‘A knife! Scissors! Anything sharp. Now, goddammit!’ 

Ian shuffled about for about for a moment, then produced a Stanley knife from under the counter, looking confused. His confusion turned to shock when I snatched it off him and started desperately sawing at my wrist. I was trying to remove my wrist tag. When I had got it off, I threw it at him.
‘Take this. There’s ten bucks or so on there. Have a beer on me. Or some dumplings. Whatever.’
‘Hey thanks, man,’ he said. ‘You sure you don’t want another…’
‘THERE’S NO TIME DAMN IT!’ I shouted. ‘I’ve got to get to Golding’s.’ With that I charged into the crowd. 

The bar was already packed when I got there. Tom and Steve were on top of things, but I knew that a thousands tipsy beer fiends were only minutes behind me; and the dirty glass was already piling up. And so began the rhythm that would fill the next eight hours: Pour beer. Order pizza. Collect glass. Wash glass. Collect pizza. Repeat.

They came in waves. Again and again, the waves of people washed over us. The passing of time was marked only by the incessant changing of kegs. My world shrunk to four walls, seven taps, a mountain of glassware and an ever-growing pile of empty kegs. 

And then suddenly, it was over. It was 11:30pm, and we called last drinks. We pushed the people out, we wiped, mopped and we settled the tills. And before I knew it, we were sitting in an empty bar: Owen, Gen, Tom and myself; wallowing in exhaustion and bucket-sized staffies. An idea had occurred to me, in the maelstrom of the shift, which I hadn’t had time to really think about but I teased out a little more now.

We’d been busier than Satan on a Sunday, but somehow the shift had been… easy. Sure we’d moved two weeks worth of beer in four days, but there had been none of the usual bullshit of a super busy bar: no arguments, no abusive customers, no vomit. And yeah, we’d refused service to a lot of drunk people, but none of them had cut up rough or even sworn at us. For an event which ostensibly involves drinking for hours (or in my case days) at a time, everyone had been remarkably well behaved. What a testament to the culture of ‘Craft Beer’ in this country. 

I guess it’s true what Dr. Thompson says: Good people drink good beer. 

***

I was standing outside the bar, having just locked up.  I felt my phone vibrate. 

We're at Malty. Coming?
-Steph

My friends, still riding the train to the bitter end. Am I coming? Not today. I desperately needed rest, sanctuary. I had to be back at the bar in ten hours, but that was long enough to recover. Breathing in the cold Wellington air, I turned my back on the bar, my friends, the whole damn-rotten affair. Anonymous darkness settling on my shoulders, I strode off into the Wellington night.  For the first time in days, I felt at peace. This is my city. Here I am at home, safe.

Another Beer Geek, in the Beer Geek Kingdom. 

Kingdom

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A big thank you to my Editor, Hannah. And all those who encouraged me to keep writing when I was thoroughly sick of this project.

This post is fiction and intended for parody and satire purposes only. Some of the things mentioned above happened, some of them did not. Others did happen but happened slightly differently that depicted here. Don’t take it too seriously.

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Hi Colin.