To celebrate Beervana’s 19th year, here’s 19 highlights.

  1. Huge congratulations to brewer Brayden Rawlinson and the team at Choice Bros for taking out the trifecta of top beers in the People’s Choice – it is unheard of in Beervana history. Three of their four Chocolate Milkshake Stouts (Strawberry, Banana and Caramel) filled the top three places on the “leaderboard” of people’s favourites.

    They cleverly made just one available per session which would have helped the rankings but my god they were beautiful beers and a good reason to go to every session. The caramel chocolate one was my first beer of the festival and it was the benchmark for all that followed. Kudos. To top that, they gave out little punnets of a sorbet made with their Strung Out On Lasers raspberry and lime sour.

  2. Garage Project won the theatre sports with their Event Horizon – a two tap pour of raspberry stout under a raspberry sour topped with a bubble thing. There was also a blue oat cream IPA, a green wild sour smoothie and of course a vibrant orange triple hazy IPA. How they keep coming up with this stuff is part of their magic.
  3. Hop Federation joining forces with Martin Bosley to serve a delicious crayfish Gose with Southland-style crayfish cheese rolls. Amongst all the great food on offer this was the simplest and the best. Loved their neon hop logo too.
  4. So far, to riff off the name of Hop Fed’s Crayfish Gose, it all sounds “cray cray” … I did hear a couple of comments that there were hardly any pilsners or pale ales, that it was all weird and wonderful. Personally I applaud all the wackiness – it’s a festival after all, not a trade show or a beer club. As Rawlinson said: “There’s no point going to a beer festival with your core range of beers or something people can access every day.” And anyway, the modern beer industry is quite happily going down the pastry-fruit-haze-lactose path so maybe what was on show was representative of where we’re at. Also, see the next entry…
  5. On that note: Urbanaut lived up to their “party forever” vibe with a colourful dance floor and DJ. Late on Friday, it seemed everyone was congregated around this space, reminding you that while this is a beer festival, entertainment is the main attraction. Also, their cucumber sour.
  6. Speaking of entertainment, there was excellent fun to be had at Shining Peak’s wheel of fortune, with spectators praying for an “undie run”. The wheel spin was more than fun – it raised money for women’s refuge. There was nothing left to chance with Shining Peak’s beer: the pilsner (oh look, a pilsner!) was stunningly good, the Wire & Batten saison super-refreshing. All in all, a triumph for the ‘Naki.
  7. Altitude Brewing get a gold star for just being there. The lads from Queenstown come further than anyone else and turn up every year. Plus, they have some of the best beers in show. Their Jam Session fruity sour came highly recommended by experienced palates and didn’t disappoint. The Chai Latte Imperial Coffee Porter was another stand-out.
  8. Emerson’s Weissbier was an absolute hit for me. It’s a shame this beer disappeared from the brewery’s regular line-up. Richard Emerson paid tribute to young brewer Mason Pratt’s reinterpretation of his classic and many agreed this beer deserves to have a wider audience.
  9. Abandoned Brewery. That stand was classic. And the Imperial XPA was banging like a nuclear explosion.
  10. North End’s pie selection was perfect. Mini bundles of happiness that went perfectly with the Merchant of Death Imperial Stout. Also, jalapeno poppers with Pit Boss Smoked Doppelbock.
  11. Parrotdog had the party vibe going on Saturday night at their beach-themed stand. Heaps of good beers from the Lyall Bay hood too, including their Flanders Red. It was amazing to see the hop and kettle-sour heroes deliver a classic beer.
  12. Duncan’s ice cream sours (again). After Raspberry Ripple started a craze for these lactose sours, Duncan’s were back with tangelo and blueberry versions. They are such kings of this niche, it’s easy to forget they make a stunning pilsner and pale ale too.
  13. Once Were Vikings from 8 Wired was probably the best Kviek IPA I’ve had. And given it was one of the last beers of my last circuit, I remember it well.
  14. Tuatara went out on a limb with a few of their beers – usually they play it a bit safe. But the Szechuan Saison had a great level of lip-tingling spice from the pepper. The Durian bubble tea IPA was daringly divisive as was the Jamaican Strongback Punch.
  15. The Wellington vibe was strong. This has always seemed like a national event but with Covid-19 pushing back the date from August to November, and uncertainty over whether it would go ahead, there were lots of bigger breweries who didn’t show. In their place were a raft of smaller Wellington breweries and for out of towners, it was a great way to experience what the city has to offer.
  16. That November date. Yeah, it was good to not be freezing cold inside the Caketin!
  17. The food in general. We’ve mentioned a couple already but the food offering gets better every year. The choice seems endless and the options were often nicely married to the beer stands – such as the taco van next to Heyday who were doing a taco beer.
  18. The Behemoth crew dressed as The Simpsons, notable Hannah Miller Childs as Marge. Suited the brand to a T.
  19. Speaking of Ts, the huge array of great T-shirts available at the merchandise stand.