Winter finally kicked off this June, so skulking around in big jackets and having hot meals were back on the agenda.

June beer club was a fun night at the Hop Garden in Pirie Street. First up was Electric Dry Hop Acid Test from Garage Project: a gnarly sour with a gooseberry note and a fruity urine aroma. Sawmill pilsner also had gooseberry on the nose from Nelson Sauvin and it handled the tasty jalapenos loaded fries well. Baylands Typhoon Detector is an American Red Ale that was malty and light-bodied, but with some toffee/burnt malt evident. With this I had the entry in the national Toastie Takeover promotion – a Reuben with salt beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Jawohl. I finished with the sweet chocolatey More Cowbell milk stout from Double Vision.

After beer club I went to El Culo Del Mondo a Latin-American bar restaurant on Majoribanks Street in Mt Victoria for the first night of the Wellington jazz festival. Grooved out the evening with a tropical milkshake IPA and an organ quartet playing calypso.

I was back at El Culo on the Friday as part of my annual beer and jazz matching evening. It was the exotic sound of gypsy jazz with the same exotic milkshake IPA – Virtual Insanity from Choice Bros. Tropical fruit flavours in a dry, grapefruity hop taste, and a satisfying drying bitter finish. It went well with the tacos I had – they refreshed the palate.

Next stop was the Welsh Dragon bar on Cambridge Tce which was rammed. I couldn’t even see the band – a New Orleans style 2-line brass band called Crash Bandihoot. But the punters that could were going for it. I slunk off to the bar where quart bottles of Lion Red were firing out and most of the taps were imported UK corporate beers. I needed to get something with a bit of Chutzpah so I had a Juicehead Detonator pale ale in an imperial pint glass (560 ml). That it had an aroma of cat’s pee and grapefruit only added to the swagger.

I then dropped into Hashigo Zake for the classic organ boogaloo of the Yeabsley twins, so I had to get jiggy with it. I chose a hand pulled Urbanaut APA which had more of that feline urine smell, a soft malt body and a sweet vinous vibe. Quaffable but where was the hipness? It was in 8 Wired Nexus Double IPA. Dry and lightly fruity with a penetrating bitterness, it said “how about me?” just like tan pants.

‘Twas the witching hour so it was off to Rogue and Vagabond for the Late Lounge with JY Lee and guest musicians. It was a cool jazz hip-hop fusion show, so I doubled down on Te Aro Double Dragon IIPA. There was then a quick trip to the adjoining Bedlam and Squalor bar-venue where I had a hazy IPA and then hurried home before I turned into a pumpkin.

Hop Dogs is a beer and hot dog matching event that first started last year. This year it ran from 10-24 June and I had 3. The G.O.A.T at the Rogue and Vagabond was a goat merguez with onions and feta in a salted bun, and it was matched with Double Vision Red Rascal Red IPA. The dog was spicy and the red beer was malty and mellow with a slight spicy hop finish. A great match.

My second hop dog was the You Lazy Git at the Hudson on Chews – a breakfast dog with bacon, egg, baked beans, diced black pudding and HP sauce. Wow! This was matched with Garage Project’s Smoke and Mirrors Bock and the sweet dark malts picked up on the HP sauce flavours well.

Nolita is a plant based Italian restaurant in upper Cuba Street and one lunchtime I popped in for their dog – Herbie Fully Loaded. It came with fried onions, vegan bolognaise sauce and mozzarella and was the best tasting hop dog I had. The beer match was the crisp and lemony North End Super Alpha Pacific pale ale which had good cut through.

As a black beer fan I was looking forward to the annual Darkest Days held around the winter solstice at The Malthouse. A diary clash meant I could only get there the day before to see if there were any early starters. There was just one and it was worth the trip – McLeod’s Smugglers Bay Imperial Oat Stout. This bourbon barrel-aged beast of 12.5% had a big spirituous alcohol aroma and taste, with a sweet raisin note amongst the roasted malt flavours. The finish was however a bit ashy which gave it an extra challenge.

Brew Jesus has left the Fork and Brewer and the new brewer, Brayden Rawlinson, has now brewed batches of all their standards as well as launching a couple of new ones. Lupo Solitario (lone wolf) is a Mosaic IPA with a piney aroma and a big green fruit (gooseberry?) hop flavour. Light bodied – almost a brut IPA – this had a sauvignon blanc/green crudité thing going on. 7empest is a traditional 7% abv NEIPA not an overdone hazy. Quenching and dry, a fresh fruity aroma with passionfruit, and bitter orange flavours notes. Good food beer methinks. I also had the some of the last keg of their Big Tahuna IPA at The Malthouse one night. There was dried fruit in the malt and a fruity hop finish that was reminiscent of nectarine (though there was no Nectaron used).

The month ended with a polar blast and a period of self-isolation courtesy of a trip to Te Papa that made me a casual-plus contact of the infected Aussie tourist. I did however squeeze in a business trip to Auckland after testing negative. I had a couple of pints down the Wynyard quarter at the Pavilion bar and restaurant. Little Creatures pale ale was tasting better than it has in recent years but I think it still lacks the malt character that made it famous. I had the Panhead hazy too but did not see any point of difference to many of the other hazies I have been drinking. I crossed the road to the 16 Tun for a swifty before the haul out to airport. I had a McLeod’s Cove which had a nice sweet and bitter thing going on that was a nice end to a busy month.

Underdogs, outsiders and plenty of surprises at NZ beer awards

It was a watershed edition of the Brewers Guild Awards in 2021, with small players like Alibi and Burkes Brewing coming up golden, while Garage Project, McLeod’s, Altitude and Three Sisters also triumphed.

Rhyme X Reason’s Can-do attitude

When Rhyme x Reason rolled up its big doors for the first time on an industrial street in Wānaka in June 2017, it was the first brew pub in town. Now, it might be one of a few — but it remains one of a kind. The brainchild of head brewer Jess Wolfgang and her partner...

A Mixed Six with Craftwork

For our second edition of the Mixed Six, we chat to Lee-Ann Scotti and Michael O’Brien of Craftwork, Oamaru’s masters of esoteric Belgian styles.  Six questions on their favourite beers:  three about their brews, three about other people’s. Favourite beer in your core...

Share that beer before it’s too late

What feeling does drinking craft beer incite in you? Is it friendship, as you share a beer with a group of friends? Is it unwinding after a long day? Or maybe excitement at an important milestone? Most of these experiences seem to have an element of ‘sharing’. Of...

Sunshine’s Arna Wilson: a rising brew star

The future of New Zealand’s brewing scene looks as bright as the sunrise on a summer morning in Gisborne judging by the results achieved by Arna Wilson recently.