The summer holiday break offers plenty of opportunities for craft beer fun and I had my share.

One Sunday afternoon at the end of November I stopped in at the Malthouse as I was walking by for an emergency pint. The definitive West Coast IPA from American Green Flash Brewing Co was on tap and I am the sort of person that could say no to trying it. Big piney aroma, sherbety mouthfeel with an uber bitter taste and finish, this was “extravangantly hopped” with Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. Marvellous.

I went hunting local beer in central Auckland on a work trip in early December and went to the Brewers Cooperative on Nelson Street. I had the Citizen Hazy IPA – a social enterprise beer made at the Sawmill brewery from rescued bread. Hoppy and hazy with a big grapefruit juice flavour and a bitter-sour finish that may be too big for some. I then settled into a full-bodied and tasty Epic Thunder APA. This multi-award winner had an aroma of sweet malt and hops, a great malt character and true to style US hop finish, proving that there’s no school like old school.

This year’s beer club Christmas dinner at Hudson on Chews began with a selection of antipasto matched with the classy Craftwork Flemish Floozie. An 8 per cent, bottle-conditioned Belgian specialty ale made with fruits and spices this complex and satisfying beer kept on giving the more you drank. We stayed with Craftwork for the ham and had their Grisette, a perfumed farmhouse saison made with spelt. Abel Methode cider is bottle fermented and bone dry and it paired perfectly with the organic roast chicken. Kereru For Great Justice Coconut Porter was deliciously matched with pavlova before the big finish of Peckham’s Moutere Pommeau. This is a blend of apple brandy and cider apple juice aged in oak for six months that results in a rich and sweet (but not cloying) sipper of 20 per cent. After all this there were a lot of happy elves at the table.

The two nitro Garage Project x Whittaker’s Chocolate Beers were too trendy to say that you hadn’t tried them. I preferred the white chocolate one with its melange of lemon, raspberry and white chocolate aroma and flavours. To me it also finished like one of those Kapiti fruit ice creams on a stick. The dark chocolate one had all the elements – espresso, orange, hazelnut and chocolate – going on, but was perhaps not as integrated as the white one.

In December I tried as many beers as possible made with new wonder hop Nectaron. I had previously been impressed by the powerful Behemoth Me Time: Nectaron hazy IPA and Parrotdog’s fruity single hop pilsner. I found a Nectaron Pale Ale at the Sprig & Fern Thorndon. It had a solid malt flavour and finish full of stonefruit along with a decent bitterness. Juicehead Fusion pilsner was a bit lighter in body, flavour and finish, but had discernible nectarine flavour notes. It was however the bottle of Cassels Nectaron IPA I picked up from the supermarket that made the biggest impact – big, tropical fruity aroma and powerful hop flavours balanced out by a good malt character. I suspect this one will fly off the shelves.

I was baching it for a few days before I left town for my break, so I had myself a night on the tiles. This included a pint of the original Kiwi hazy IPA – Garage Project Party & Bullshit – at the fundraiser for Kaibosh (a local food rescue organisation) held at the Little Beer Quarter; a crisp Running on Empty Pacific Pale Ale at Panhead’s flagship ‘glasshouse’ bar on Tory Street; and a couple of big black beers at the Malthouse, including Epic Imperium, a  9 per cent imperial stout % that made my soul sing.

My summer holidays were in Nelson again this year and there were many visits to the Free House, Nelson’s temple of taste on Collingwood Street. Memorable beers there included Townshend Alchemist ESB, so soft and tasty from the handpull, the quenching Rhyme X Reason Big Banana hefeweizen from Wanaka, and the tropical Sawmill Azacca Hazy IPA. I also had more of the Nectaron Pale Ale at the Sprig & Fern pubs I visited. I bought a bottle of Townshend Cathcarts Xtra Pale Ale when I made the trip to the legendary League of Brewers brewing supply shop out by the airport. Described as a “Kiwi/US/Brit pop beer”, I enjoyed its sweet tropical fruit flavours and zesty hop finish.

Back in the capital I had a week or so of downtime before starting back so I tried a few new local brews. Te Aro Brewing Ultravox is a malt-forward quaffable Vienna lager that comes in a green quart bottles. Mean Doses Mean Sour is a 2 per cent mango sour that is light and quenching with good fruit acid. Fresh Jan 2021 from Garage Project is a hazy IPA with an upfront sweet passionfruit note that dries out to a red grapefruit flavour and finish.

My overwhelming memory of the 2021 summer was however of hazy IPAs. They were everywhere and look like becoming a permanent feature of the craft beer scene. New World Thorndon is now arranging its beer by style and a Hazy IPA sign was being put up when I walked by with my trolley in late January.  I am developing a preference for the less overtly fruity ones as hazies can sometimes be a bit too fruity for me. Juicehead Wasteland is double dry hopped and has a tropical aroma and a dry taste with citrus notes. Te Aro Concord has a flavour of hops and bitter orange without the full noise citrus. Eddyline Sipping on Sunshine is also in the same zone and while murky and fruity, Garage Project Sunrise Valley is quenching and mellow.

No doubt there will be another new craft beer style coming in 2021 to keep us on our toes.

Capital Diary: July 2021

Neil McInnes gets out and about amongst Wellington’s best beer offerings and records it all in his monthly Capital Diary.

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