December beer drinking kicked off with the Summerstock festival where 31 Wellington venues each showcased a summer beer brewed by a NZ craft brewer.

The festival lasted a week and I managed to get a taste of 13 before they sold out. The standouts for me were: Brew Moon’s piney and bitter Kalokairi Zythos pale ale at the Sothern Cross; the spicy Red Headed Stranger, a Red IPA from Shining Peak at the Malthouse; the grapefruity and big-time bitter Son of a Peach tropical IPA from Tuatara at D4 on Featherston Street; and Fork and Brewer’s DIPA, Knifey Spoony which was surprisingly fruity and mellow despite the 8 per cent ABV and all the hops in there. The best ‘summery’ one was however a refreshing watermelon and cucumber sour – Superfast Jellyfish – at Choice Bros. This was a line decision as Sprig + Fern’s Mango and Lime cider was mango-licious but maintained a fresh acidity and ended dry.

The end of year Beer Club was at the Malthouse for the Panhead 12 Beers of Christmas night. There were 12 Panhead limited release (25 litre kegs) Xmas beers to choose from and there was Burmese food available from a pop-up kitchen by Mabel’s. The Gingerbread House ale had a good fresh ginger taste, the mulled apple pilsner was crisp with nice spicing some fruit notes, and the cranberry and cinnamon amber lager had a good cinnamon aroma. The place was packed and the good beers ran out quickly, so we finished off the evening with a bourbon barrel aged eggnog nitro stout of 11 per cent from Shining Peak. Full-bodied and bourbon flavoured with a woody note, this wee puppy ushered in the festive season with a boom shakka-lak.

During December I went to a series of Christmas lunches and farewell dos with workmates. A couple were at Ombra, a Venetian-style bacaro on the corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets. I had the Italian craft brewer Baladin’s gluten free Nazionale blonde beer on one visit. It was made with rice, giving it a sweetish taste and a perfumy cereal aroma. On another visit I matched the burrata cheese with Whistling Sisters lager which was a pleasant and tasty pairing. My work Christmas lunch was at Mr Go’s Asian street food restaurant where I had a fish Bao bun and Korean popcorn chicken and a fruity Hazy IPA from Juicehead. This was followed by some Panhead Supercharger while playing pool, and pinot noir and Port from Portugal at Noble Rot —an old school wine bar in Swan Lane. By now it was 6pm so it was off home while I still could find my way there unaided.

Christmas equals summer and hot weather dinking for me always includes Hoegaarden original Belgian witbier — the 4-packs are a great price and they are real thirst quenchers. Others on the summer beer list included the Griffin at Fork and Brewer, a 4 per cent NZ lager that was light and crisp with some cereal flavours and a medium hop finish. I also enjoyed a Northend Pacific Blonde at Goldings one evening. A German helles lager, it had a subdued yeast note in the aroma and a spritzy, sherbety taste and a nice medium hop finish.

The Christmas week itself was another series of events including a carol singing evening accompanied by Deutz and the new Marlborough Mumm champagne. Christmas Eve dinner was washed down with cans of craft beer delivered by the beer pixies, the best of which was The Alpha Incident from Juicehead, a 7.2% West Coast IPA with a great bitterness and an ability to produce a sigh of contentment. Christmas day was the traditional all-day food and booze fest with the beer highlight being a Goulden Carolus Tripel: a gorgeous, well-balanced Belgian ale with spicy coriander flavours and a drying hop finish. Somewhere along the way I also had Kereru Underparty — an unfiltered smoked wheat beer made with Habernero and ancho poblano chillies. Smoky with a bit of chilli on the nose, noticeable chilli taste that didn’t fry my tastebuds, there was a drying, smoked finish with a bit of chilli fire. Overall, the flavour was a reminiscent of a Rauchbier which was no bad thing.

We had a post-Christmas family holiday in the Bay of Islands this year and I had a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve in with a box of Kaiser Bros cans from New World Kerikeri. The APA had spicy hop and caramel flavours and the American IPA had a firm malt character with some yeasty and sherbety notes. My favourite was the tasty pilsner which had a strong bitterness which bordered on sourness, and a solid malt body. A good way to drink in the new year.