This blog reflects on the beer journey, [1] the country’s premiere beer festival, and food. At some point it will also mention some special beers still available at Malthouse. Well, that is the intention at this early stage anyhow.

The Road to Beervana featured over fifty events scattered around Wellington. Malthouse ran an 8 Wired Hopinator Take Over (featuring a fresh combination of ingredients each day), Garage Project Fridge Take Over (featuring over 20 of their approximately 278 current brews), an Australian Beer Showcase with Nanny’s Food Truck (more on our Trans-Tasman chums later), Firkin Friday (for the cloth capped whippet fanciers who boldly walk amongst us), and the launch of Epic Snow White (White IPA is a style invented by marketers for Aucklanders, but it is still a nice beer).

I ran an event over at Malthouse’s sister bar the Fork & Brewer. It was Baconation – a five course degustation where every dish featured bacon and was paired with a Fork beer brewed on-premise. According to the official website, it was the first Road to Beervana event to sell out. Disclaimer – the real work was done by Kevin (the chef who designed and cooked the food) and Kelly (the brewer who designed and made the beer). I just helped with the matches and then talked to a crowd of eager punters for a couple of hours.

Inspired as always by Geoff Griggs, the Doyen of New Zealand Beer Writing (Trademark Pending), at the end we held a vote for peoples’ favourite matches of the evening. This was not necessarily the best dish or the greatest beer – it was only the combination that mattered. That, after all, is the point of beer and food matching. Here are the results:

3rd – Prosciutto wrapped sushi with smoked monkfish, bacon, nori, cucumber and carrots, soy sauce, wasabi and a dusting of spent hops – Match: Fork Long Wheat Cloud (wheat beer).

2nd – Bacon and banana brioche slider with a peanut butter and maple glaze [2] – Match: Fork Tainted Love (passionfruit and yoghurt sour beer).

1st – Build Your Own bacon and Angus ground beer tacos, with a range of traditional and non- traditional taco toppings, including Fork Bohemian Hipster vinegar and Demon Slime Fruit [3] – Match: Fork Godzone Beat (Champion Pale Ale).

Then it was onto Beervana, held in four sessions over two days at the Wellington Stadium. [4] For the first time in a long time I was not working, so I attended twice as a semi-regular punter. Here are some

  • Almost 2,000 more people attended than last year but it felt less crowded. By opening up the full concourse and providing plenty of seating the organisers managed to avoid some of the claustrophobia and bottle necks of recent years.
  • The only real bottle neck was around the queues of cult followers wanting more Garage Project, the rock stars of any beer festival they attend. Ironically, their Pink Panther was bullshit, while their Party and Bullshit East Coast IPA was as awesome as the original cartoon Pink Panther.
  • My favourite beer was Deep Creek Hoppy McHopface – a hop oil infused Double IPA. This surprised absolutely no one.
  • Normally I dislike chilli beers but Horse Box Brewing’s chilli infused pilsner was beautiful and woke me up on a cold, rainy Wellington morning.
  • The food was incredible as we have come to expect. As a result, I hugged Martin Bosley, Beervana’s culinary director. I later referred to him on Radio New Zealand as a “sexy beast”. [5] Unfortunately, he was listening. Fortunately, truth is a legitimate legal defence in this country.
  • Rocky the duck got to hang out with his “parents” at Rocky Knob Brewing. They had a bicycle with a beer tap on it.
  • Emerson’s had a Mini full of beer taps. In breaking news, Richard Emerson still looks like Chuck Norris.
  • The crowds were colourful, often loud but well-behaved. There was only one eviction for the entire event. For the record, it was not me.
  • Bars in Wellington – including Malthouse – benefitted from the surge of visitors in town for the event. There were large contingents from Auckland and Australia.

Speaking of Australia, [6] Pirate Life was a stand-out at Beervana but it actually started pouring beers at Malthouse days earlier, a first in New Zealand. Pirate Life is a relatively new (2014) craft brewery in Adelaide. They also rock.

Pirate Life Pale Ale (5.4%) – The brewers (who are very nice chaps) say “bucket loads of big US hops, full malty backbone and a characterful yeast. That is what this Pale Ale is all about.” I’ve had it – very drinkable and smooth.

Pirate Life Throwback IPA (3.5%) – This is a rare instance of a brewery’s IPA being lower in alcohol than their Pale Ale. While not entirely sure that I approve of such sorcery, this responsible brew has notes of peach, pine and malt biscuits.

From New Zealand, Malthouse is also serving:

Moa New Zealand Gold Ale (5.4%) – Brewed by Moa to celebrate the New Zealand Olympics team. There is a strong malt base accompanied by lashings of Motueka hops which provide appropriately South American notes of pineapple, passionfruit and the Paso Doble. [7]

ParrotDog Wood Rose IPA (7%) – This beer is named after a parasitic flower of the underworld (the brewers’ terms – not mine). However, it is delicious with (in the brewers words again) “floral and grapefruit notes of the Cascade hop together with the pine-resin character of other classic US hop varieties.”

Bach Brewing Smugglers Cut (8.8%) Triple IPA – Suave brewer Craig Cooper describes this monster as “six months in the making. This Triple IPA is tank conditioned followed by time in medium toasted oak barrel. It’s heavily hopped on a complexity of rich malt flavours.” I can find no rational explanation for why I have not drunk this beer yet.

The title of this week’s blog is a quotation from J. G. Ballard – a prolific English writer who wrote Empire of the Sun which later became a surprisingly dull movie starring a very young Christian Bale.

Next time, we drink to whoever helps catch the thieving mongrels who stole $30,000 worth of (future) award-winning beer from the Fork & Brewer.

[1] “Journey”: Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell just about ruined this word by constantly using it while explaining why our beloved rugby team kept losing under his watch. Fortunately, the legendary band Journey has restored the phrase to iconic status – because “Don’t Stop Believing” is just that darn awesome.

[2] This is clearly a dish inspired by Elvis. The host may have even sung a little “Hound Dog”. Despite that musical mutilation, the combination was quirky but inspired.

[3] My seemingly controversial nickname for avocado.

[4] A venue which should never, ever be called the Cake Tin. At this point it should be noted that Garage Project beers will be available at Wellington Phoenix home soccer/football matches this year. Hopefully this represents a fatal cracking of the “let’s serve crap beer at all sports events” paradigm.

[5] I also used the same phrase at Baconation. When the crowd laughed, I confessed that I may have a small man crush on Mr Bosley. At which point a man/squirrel in the cheap seats interjected “what do you mean small man crush?” I am yet to think of a witty retort.

[6] Nice segue Neil – Thank you Neil.

[7] The Malthouse Blog would like to congratulate Lisa Carrington on her rowing Gold Medal and for totally rocking the “sun’s out, guns out” look.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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