Beervana is the biggest event on the Kiwi beer calendar and this year the festival is moving to a new venue under new ownership.  Over the course of four sessions, more than two hundred beers will be on offer to thousands of punters at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium. [1] It all happens in less than two weeks.

The newly event owner is well-known in the industry, David Cryer Esquire is the magnificently coiffured owner of CryerMalt but is relinquishing his responsibilities as head of the Brewer’s Guild in order to focus on Beervana.  He has confirmed the organisers intend to keep all the aspects which made previous festivals so popular but also introduce new features to turbo-charge people’s beer experiences.

Beervana is all over the internet with a comprehensive website and active presence on both Facebook and Twitter.  The Facebook page is even giving away prizes every day and even creating a little controversy with several disputes over the definition of a ‘certified organic brewery’.  Physical advertisements, including billboards and posters, are appreciably more visible around town this year.

Those improvements alluded to by the aforementioned Mister Cryer include brewers being free to chat and mingle with customers, a food selection improved by a factor of about a thousand from last year [2], the return of beer tokens to speed up purchases and an expanded Beer Enlightenment seminar programme including beer and food matching with a selection of chefs, ingredient master classes, beer and women seminar, and local brewers explaining their “Let’s Go Black” festive brews. 

This year, in addition to running beer and food matching sessions with Martin Bosley (from Martin Bosley’s), Shaun Clouston (from Logan Brown) and Paul Mercurio (from the West Island), I will be helping judge the Media Brew Challenge.  In this new event, members of the proper mainstream media have teamed up with craft breweries to develop their own beers for the event.  It is a great way to get journalists involved, increase their knowledge of brewing and ensure plenty of coverage because now they are part of the story.  The Mussel Inn, mike’s, Croucher and Renaissance will also be doing live brewing demonstrations at the west end of the concourse during the festival.

It will be a busy week at Malthouse with judges, brewers, writers and fans heading to town for a series of events culminating in the New Zealand Beer Awards (announced on Thursday) and Beervana (Friday and Saturday).  While there, they will have the opportunity to sample some rare BrewDog beers on taps after their rather funky kegs made it safely all the way from Glasgow to Courtenay Place.  This involved considerable dialogue between BrewDog “Head of Stuff” James Watt and Malthouse “Beermonger” Colin Mallon. [3] Luckily, they both speak fluent Glaswegian.

BrewDog is a very high-profile and at times highly controversial Scottish brewery purporting to be in the vanguard of the craft beer revolution.  Founded by two 24-year olds, they quickly gained publicity for their antics and love of making very strong beers, and accolades for the quality of their products.  They have been denounced on the floor of the Scottish Parliament and recently had the bar they had booked at the Great British Beer Festival cancelled by the far more traditional Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). 

On tap now is BrewDog Punk IPA, a “Post Modern Classic Pale Ale.”  The brewers say “this 5.6% transatlantic fusion IPA is light golden in colour with tropical fruits and light caramel on the nose.  The palate soon becomes assertive and resinous with the New Zealand hops balanced by the biscuit malt. The finish is aggressive and dry with the hops emerging over the warming alcohol.”  The hefty 45 IBU bitterness rating is helped by the generous use of New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.  I have had this beer on several occasions and it is a cracking good IPA.  From my experiences in Australia, it tastes even better off the tap than bottled.

Once that is gone, it is the turn for BrewDog Alice Porter.  Again, the brewer’s description reads “Alice Porter is a 6.2% Porter with loads of dark malts, a twist of vanilla and an unusual blend of English (Bramling X) and Japanese (Sorachi Ace) hops.  A delicate mirage of chocolate, red fruit and burnt sugar, let Alice Porter whisk you away to a forgotten time juxtaposed against the backdrop of modernity.  And then, before you know it, she’s gone… tumbling down a rabbit hole into the same obscurity that first caught your attention.”  That is some seriously eccentric beer writing there.

Next week, patrons can expect to see BrewDog Avery Brown Dredge (ABD) pouring.  The rather ponderous name can be explained by the fact the beer is a collaboration between three highly influential beer bloggers Zak Avery, Pete Brown and Mark Dredge.  The deeply amusing BrewDog website has this to say: “The eponymous Avery Brown Dredge beer is a 7.5% ABV imperial pilsner and was brewed in January this year when the three writers untied [4] to craft ‘the perfect beer’ at BrewDog’s microbrewery in Fraserburgh, Aberdeen.”

Incidentally, Pete Brown has being writing a lot of stuff lately – even by his own prolific standards – but he has not yet blogged about the feud between BrewDog and CAMRA over the now cancelled stand at the biggest beer show in Britain.  Pete has had his issues with both protagonists over the years and may be unable to figure out who to support. [5]

BrewDog Tokyo* is also likely to appear next week.  This “intergalactic fantastic oak-aged stout” certainly grabbed attention of drinkers, reporters and even politicians when it launched a few years ago.  The brewers say “This imperial stout is brewed with copious amounts of speciality malts, jasmine and cranberries.  After fermentation, we then dry-hop this killer stout with a bucketload of our favourite hops before carefully ageing the beer on French toasted oak chips.”  Those speciality malts are Marris Otter, Dark Crystal, Caramalt, Chocolate Malt and Roast Barley.  The result is a beer which is a staggering 90 IBU and an equally staggering 18.2%.

The reaction was predictable and immediate.  Alcohol Focus made an official compliant claiming it was wrong to promote Tokyo* as Britain’s strongest beer because it was not promoting a positive message of safe and responsible drinking.  They also complained that the phrase ‘intergalactic fantastic imperial stout’ points to hallucinogenic qualities. 

The Scottish Parliament also debated the issue with an official motion claiming “promoting drinks of this kind with both a very high alcohol content and unit volume is reprehensible in a society where the medical evidence shows that, across all age groups and socio-economic categories, individuals are drinking too much alcohol.”

The BrewDog boys responded with the not-unimportant point that Tokyo* was ten quid a bottle (over NZ$20) and for the same price people could buy 700ml of cheap vodka or two bottles of strong wine.  A twenty dollar stubby was unlikely to be the first choice of binge drinkers anywhere, far less youth drinkers.  Next, they made a 1.1% beer and called it Nanny State.  Finally, they kept on making Tokyo*. 

Come down and play with the BrewDogs before heading off to Beervana.

 [1] As noted elsewhere and often, nobody in Wellington calls it The Cake Tin and no one who is not employed by the Rugby World Cup will call it Wellington Regional Stadium during the tournament.
[2] Town Hall bratwurst in a bun or something tasty from Logan Brown or the Hop Garden or Martin Bosley’s…  Did someone say “suckling pig”?
[3] These are indeed their official job titles.
[4] I am presuming that should have been “united” but mistakes are much funnier when other people make them…
[5] I feel exactly the same way about the impending Michael Laws/Ken Mair boxing match.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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