Finally, politics that matters – Mayoral candidates talk about beer (world exclusive)
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 11:44

Finally, politics that matters – Mayoral candidates talk about beer (world exclusive)

The Malthouse Blog – now in its 372nd issue – has long prided itself on being socially aware, ethically pure and a trusted voice in the national meta-discourse. From time to time, this blog has reluctantly mentioned political matters, but always in a respectful and political neutral manner. [1]

With the Wellington City Council local body council elections fast approaching, I contacted the top Mayoral candidates [2] and asked them four questions about beers and bars in the Capital city. It should be noted that the retiring Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown of the Green Party, has been a stalwart supporter of craft beer in the city. It was time to find out what the people looking to take her job thought on the frothy issues – and to my delight they all replied. [3]

In the interests of fairness, and this blog has always prided itself on being firm but fair, the answers are reproduced in the order they were received. In politics, there is always a first mover advantage.

Justin Lester (Labour)

What are your favourite beers and why?

“Radeberger Pilsner: I lived in (East) Germany as an 18 year old exchange student and Radeberger was the local beer of choice. It's brewed in Radeberg near Dresden. It's the only beer they brew and they've done it since 1872. Crisp, fresh and delightful over summer.

Emerson's Bookbinder: I was a Scarfie in Dunedin for five years and lived around the corner from the Emerson’s Brewery. The Bookbinder is a great autumn/winter beer to warm the soul on cool Dunedin nights.

Garage Project Garagista: This is one of my favourite Wellington brews, best poured fresh into a flagon from their Aro Valley cellar door.”

What are your favourite Wellington beers and why?

“To be honest, I like to support all of our local craft brewers. They're doing a great job for Wellington's reputation and cementing us as a food and beverage destination. I like Garage Project, ParrotDog, Tuatara, Panhead, Fork & Brewer and any others that might be on tap. If I've got friends visiting I try to mix them up so that they can tell others about the breadth of the brewers here and hopefully it helps everyone to do well.”

What are your favourite Wellington bars and why?

“Havana and Goldings Free Dive: both have interesting designs, are different, relaxed, down to earth and great places to take someone visiting Wellington from out of town.”

What do you think about Wellington being the official Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand?

“I have full respect for the pioneers that are making this happen and I know it hasn't come without hard work. Being the Craft Beer Capital is a relatively recent, but now essential, part of Wellington's reputation. It makes us different, more interesting, quirky and is something for Wellingtonians to be proud of and to showcase to visitors.”

Helene Ritchie (Independent)

“I drink the very occasional lager, don’t care about the “brand” and go to the occasional bar.

I do not think we should be the Beer Capital as we are too many Capitals already!”

Ms Ritchie got an “expert young person” to answer the questions on her behalf. The answers of her son, Jonty Ritchie, are included at the end of the article as he is not technically standing for Mayor (yet).

Jo Coughlan (Independent)

What are your favourite beers and why?

“There is nothing like a cold beer on a hot day. I enjoy a lager or IPA but I’m also partial to Guinness when in an Irish bar.”

What are your favourite Wellington beers and why?

“Wellington has an amazing craft beer movement. Most recently I’ve enjoyed brews by Garage Project and Panhead.”

What are your favourite Wellington bars and why?

“I’m probably a bit beyond Courtney Place, that is more my older children’s scene now but I enjoy occasions at Foxglove and post rugby drinks at the Shepherd's Arms. More often than not I have a drink as part of a dinner out.”

What do you think about Wellington being the official Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand?

“Look it’s great. Anything that promotes Wellington in a positive light and puts us on the map is a good thing. And the whole craft beer scene adds to our personality and what makes us tick. Of course we love the additional jobs and variety it brings to the city as well!”

Nicola Young (Independent)

What are your favourite beers and why?

“I first encountered wheat beers (Weißbier) five years ago when I was studying in Dresden [4] on a Goethe-Institut scholarship; I liked their cloudiness, and malty sweetness. I tried many more while cycling along the Danube River with my son, although also enjoyed drinking radlers (shandies) at lunch-time.

Pilsner beers and India Pale Ales (IPAs) are perfect for a hot summer’s day, but – this may be treasonous – I really enjoy the new craft ciders.

I’m not a fan of stouts; they’re a bit heavy for me!”

What are your favourite Wellington beers and why?

”I don’t have a regular favourite. I like buying different ones, with a preference for ones from Garage Project and ParrotDog because I like the idea of having breweries in the centre of Wellington. It harks back to my childhood; swimming at Thorndon Pool with the smell of the old NZ Breweries’ brewery in my nostrils (the building is now New World Thorndon). [5]

I like trying beers with unexpected ingredients, so I really appreciate Garage Project’s tasting opportunities – that’s how I discovered one of my favourites: ‘Death from Above’ with its hints of Vietnamese mint and chilli.

ParrotDog’s first release ‘BitterBitch’ is not for me (despite my enjoyment of IPAs) as I am cheerful and ceaselessly optimistic!”

What are your favourite Wellington bars and why?

“I prefer bars tucked away in unusual places; that’s reflected in my choice of bars.

- Fork & Brewer, because it’s so close to the Council; and I like its ever-changing list of guest beers.

- Dirty Little Secret, because of its rooftop location and great views. I know people find its location intriguing – it’s so easy to miss its low-key doorway. Most people don’t know it’s there, but I can see its lights from my balcony.

- Havana, because of its design mishmash, terrific tapas-style food (the Kashmir Chilli Prawns!), consistently good service and its lychee and chilli martini (I know! It’s not a craft beer…) It’s also just across the road from my favourite cinema, so that makes for a very good evening.”

What do you think about Wellington being the official Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand?

“When I was a young reporter on The Evening Post, we’d adjourn to The Brit(annia) after work – swilling jugs of indeterminate beer. Now Wellington has a Craft Beer Trail (16 bars specialising in craft beers, eight breweries, and some bottle stores) and Beervana every August.

Wellington has made the most of beer’s transition from ‘jugs of brown foaming stuff’ to a really sophisticated drink, helped by all those working in the digital and creative sectors. Craft beer drinkers really care about what they’re drinking, and that fits with Wellingtonians’ reputation for being smarter than average.” [6]

Nick Leggett (Independent) [7]

What are your favourite beers and why?

“I'm not a huge drinker, but the craft beer revolution has introduced me to sampling one-off brews. Discovering new styles of beer is all part of the craft beer experience. I'm a fan of a Pilsner style - although I should find time to do more testing of Pale Ales. Just to complete my research...”

What are your favourite Wellington beers and why?

“My favourite beer is the one someone buys me!

I enjoy discovering new beers more than being loyal to one so I tend to try new labels and flavours I've never tried before - that is the quintessential craft beer for me, therefore the best one is the next one.

I have liked the surprises of Garage Project. Panhead and ParrotDog have been hugely successful with products that are authentic, uncompromising and still broadly appealing. Tuatara Pilsner is probably my go to for the fridge.”

What are your favourite Wellington bars and why?

“For a craft beer, venues like Little Beer Quarter and Goldings are places I would take someone if I were introducing them to the craft beer circuit in Wellington. For bigger venues, I enjoy the Malthouse and Southern Cross. I'm a fan of efforts to create a craft beer walking circuit that helps residents find new places and try out new experiences.”

What do you think about Wellington being the official Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand?

“We did it for coffee. We can do it for craft beer.

By definition craft beer is always going to be a boutique industry, so its potential contribution to tourism and lifestyle is as important as the substantive beer sales.

I ask where our advantage comes from, and I think we have three complementary strengths: one is a passionate army of craft beer enthusiasts. The second is that you can go into virtually any of our cafes and discover interesting new beers - that's not true of other New Zealand cities. [8] Third, we have a critical mass of interesting breweries concentrated in a small space.

You can imagine people flying in to try our beers the way we visit Marlborough or Martinborough for wine. So it's a tourist attraction. If craft breweries create a distinctive Wellington export brand for our craft beer, as US cities like Portland have, then our Council should get behind that as part of our existing tourist marketing and economic development plans.”

Andy Foster (Independent)

Mr Foster does not drink beer – there is something in it that does not agree with him – but he was willing to talk about the broader hospitality picture.

“Wellington is unthinkable without the hospitality industry that has developed here over the last 25 years. We are said to have more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York. There is something for everyone, and somewhere different to eat, drink and socialise every day of the year - if you want to! [9]

Wellington City's hospitality scene is a drawcard for the whole region, and supports and is supported by the huge range of events and activities always going on here - the night out at a concert, the footy game - and a drink and a meal - that's part of the Wellington experience. Hospitality also supports and is in turn supported by Wellington's general retail offer. It is the integration between all of these that makes Wellington's Central City easily the best in the country. [10]

According to a Hospitality New Zealand 2013 survey 90% plus of respondents to various questions asked love what Wellington City has to offer, and it keeps getting better. The rapid emergence of Wellington Craft Beer companies is obviously adding to that offer.

Wellington City has more liquor licenced premises (again 2013 numbers) that the rest of New Zealand at 25.7 per 10,000 people compared to 18.5. Our spending per head on hospitality was $1,724, 16% above the national average.

Visa Wellington on a Plate is great for Wellingtonians and increasingly drawing people to the City at a traditional quiet time. It keeps growing in size and diversity. Last year over 20,000 tickets were sold and over 18% came from outside the Wellington Region. That's brilliant.

What can Council do to be supportive? We provide the stage on which the hospitality industry can act - so it's keeping building on our compact central city. Between 2001 and 2013 census, Te Aro's population grew a staggering 143% (from 3000 to over 7000). More people living downtown brings activity. This will keep going. I am particularly keen to bring more life - ground floor retail and hospitality and upstairs residential - into northern Lambton Quay/ Molesworth. I want to create beautiful boulevards along Kent and Cambridge Terraces, Adelaide Road and ultimately Taranaki Street.

We have created an attractive street environment and will keep improving laneways, footpath areas, places like Bond St, and also work with suburban communities to develop their own long term plans. I will review our consenting practices to look at where we can improve/streamline them especially for small businesses. For example I am talking with bar owners about what seems to be inconsistency in the way outdoor smoking areas are dealt with.

Clearly we have a substantial issue with liquor licencing, and I want the Hospitality Industry, Off licences, Police, Public Health, Inner City Association and Council to meet together regularly to build a constructive relationship and find a positive way forward. It seems wrong that when operating hours are set in national legislation, we see individual licence applicants facing expensive licencing proceedings just to keep those nationally set hours.

Our hospitality industry is a vital part of what makes Wellington a great city. I want to make our Great City Even Better.”

Jonty Ritchie (on behalf of Helene Ritchie)

What are your favourite beers and why?

"Ok here goes, I am in no way a beer nerd or expert but... I will concentrate on New Zealand Breweries. Favourite beer styles are IPA, Imperial IPA, Amber ale, APA, and some darker beers.

For non-Wellington breweries this would include 8Wired HopWired and Tall Poppy, Liberty Sauvignon Bomb and Yakima Monster, Yeastie Boys Digital IPA, Rocky Knob Snapperhead IPA, Epic Hop Zombie and Armageddon IPA, Bach Brewing Kingtide Pacific IPA.”

What are your favourite Wellington beers and why?

“Some of my favourite Wellington beers are Garage Project Pernicious Weed, Angry Peaches, VPA, and Red Rocks Reserve, ParrotDog BitterBitch, Pitbull, Bloodhound, BloodyDingo and Flora IPA series, Panhead Vandal. Baylands Brewery has heaps of good beer.

What are your favourite Wellington bars and why?

“I don't go to many bars but... Malthouse has the best selection of good beer in Wellington. Goldings may not have many taps but has a good selection. The Little Beer Quarter is also good.

Bodega - terrible selection for what was once a proud tradition of good beer. San Fran Bath House not much better. Jitesh's Dairy in Northland has best beer selection of any dairy in Wellington.”

What do you think about Wellington being the official Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand?

“Totally ambivalent, enjoy the odd tasty beer but don't see the need to promote Wellington as a beer capital. There are plenty of good breweries and bars which speaks for itself.”

Next time, we drink to democracy. New Zealand politicians are the most accessible in the world – even for beer surveys!

[1] Actual experience may vary.

[2] Excluding the obvious loonies who, in my defence, I had never heard of until well after sending out the survey.

[3] Answers have been edited for clarity and space only

[4] In the previous 371 Malthouse blogs, Dresden has never appeared. Today, it appears twice. Is Dresden directing our Mayoral elections?

[5] Not a lot of people know that but it is totally true.

[6] Take that Knowledge City and City of the Future!

[7] Declaration: Nick and I went to the same school – mighty Tawa College – though not at the same time. I think I am becoming attached to declaring things...

[8] Boom. Oh yes, he went there.

[9] Yes.

[10] Take that Taihape and Blackball!


Neil Miller

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Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

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