August was going to be big with the Visa Wellington on a Plate food and drink festival running the whole month. I picked out some beer-related events and while I hadn’t got up to speed when the Covid-19 boom came down, I did get a few in.

Friday, August 6 was international beer day in NZ so I sloped off for a late lunch at the Ale and Gravy tavern – aka Garage Project’s Aro 91. I had the beef, bacon and oyster stout pie with mash and mushy peas matched with an easy-drinking, hand-pulled Dr Pete’s Brown Ale in a dimple imperial pint. The salty bacon accentuated the sweet malt note in the beer which also had a little bit of roasted malt flavours before a good drying hop finish. Magic. I followed it up with a Epuni Street bitter from the handpull which was firmer in body but also had a nice malt note.

Classical on Cuba started last year as a way of getting punters back in bars after the lockdown. This year 20 venues put on a series of short, classical music events in rotating time slots at $10 a show. Fortune Favours had a fine classical Spanish guitar set from Rameka Tamaki on the afternoon I visited but my beer choice tasted off and I didn’t finish it. I had better luck at Whistling Sisters where I had a taster of their Russian Imperial Stout. Choc-coffee and roasted barley flavours but not overly gnarly for 8.9%. The featured Anima string quartet played accessible cover versions and we had some great eats. Hopefully we can do the same festival next year as I suspect the business need will still be there.

The August Beer Club night was a Malthouse beer session where I started with the English style Dark and Stormy rum oaked porter from North End Brewery. Off the handpull it was smooth and balanced, light and sweet, with a chocolate malty note. We then had a selection of the leftovers from the West Coast IPA challenge – notable ones included Brave Brewing  Space Junk with its sweet malt note and satisfying bitter finish, Panhead Grapefruit Moon with its (obvious) grapefruit flavours, and Shining Peak’s quenching The Challenger that had a fruity, bitter flavour and finish. We ended with Double Vision’s crisp and citric Juicy 2 Shoes hazy IPA that ended bitter and drying.

I managed to get to one other VWOAP food and beer event before lockdown – the Cornish Pasty session at Le Samourai café on Tory Street just off the strip. I had a pukka traditional lamb pasty with a Kereru Wee Heavy which was a great match as the beer’s sweet, caramel malt note and the sweet lamb-onion-sage flavours went down a treat.

Beervana was good fun this year and I managed to get once around the circuit before closing. Beer highlights for me were 8 Wired’s glorious Oude Imperial, a woody and fruity gueuze style lambic blend and Emerson’s Mexicoco, a chunky chocolate chilli porter. I also remember the indulgent full glass of Cassels Nectaron early on (like a moth to a flame) and the uber indulgent 15% Double Imperial Stout from 8 Wired that I also shouldn’t have had so early. As for the food: I had the chicken and chips from the Soul Shack again which I paired with Misty Frequencies – an NZIPA from Derelict Brewing. I also had fresh Mahurangi oysters in the half shell with a tasty big stout from Rhyme and Reason. The retro-sci fi theming from The Beer Engine got my vote for the best bar. Go Titahi Bay!

I had some of these at the obligatory virtual work drinks at the end of the next week – which was essentially drinking by yourself while you feign social interaction.

The Tuesday after Beervana lockdown was in place so I started on depleting my limited beer store. First up were some more of the monthly Garage Project Fresh Hop hazies I have been drinking my way through. The July one was a medium-dry and quaffable with a slightly savoury and orangey finish. Whereas the August release was light and quenching with some good fruity notes.

On the first Sunday in lockdown I decided an early morning trip to the local New World would be the best way to avoid queuing. Ooops – big mistake. I got there at 7am and got in the door at 8am. I did however pick up some beer including a couple of Cassels Milk Stouts, an Emersons’ Mexicoco and a Sawmill 3×2 six pack. The Sawmill Extra Pale Ale had a fruity hop aroma, a good hop character, and a sweet malt note in the taste.

I had by now started ordering beer online from the beer pixies. Six packs of Hallertau and Baylands eventually arrived from Glen and Garry, and a Garage Project Father’s Day pack of hazy IPAs with a free glass was also gratefully received. I had some of these at the obligatory virtual work drinks at the end of the next week – which was essentially drinking by yourself while you feign social interaction.

Lockdown beer drinking is now a thing, so the hunt is on for some interesting beers. I’ll let you know how I get on.