July began with me chasing down a couple of local winners from Capital magazine’s annual beer tasting that I hadn’t had before. The Whistling Sisters lager had a bready aroma, an attenuated malt body and a medium hop taste and finish. Think Helles rather than craft pilsner. Waitoa porter was light bodied with a coffee and choc aroma, sweet chocolate flavours and a fizzy hop finish with a bit of roasted malt. Strung Out on Lasers, a raspberry and lime gose by Choice Bros, and Double Vision’s Naughty Hopper IIPA also made the final 6.
Queenstown’s Smiths Craft Beer House runs a NZIPA challenge each year and in early July it came to Welly for a one-night stand at LBQ. The winner from Good George was a full-bodied hazy with an aroma of cat’s pee and orange, a fruity flavour and an orangey quenching sour finish. There may be questions about fidelity to style but a tasty beer nonetheless. I also had Hallertau’s fruity, but mellow NZIPA and Panhead’s earthy tasting Roots Blower that was made with kumara.
My July beer club was a night of gourmet beer tasting at Hashigo Zake that began with the exotic Oude Reisling Gueuze from Tilquin a l’Anchienne. Winey and sour, you could smell and taste the wood. I followed this up with a tasty Eddyline Boardrider unfiltered IPA that had a good hop bite and a drying finish. Another quality beer, 8 Wired’s Yes Sensei APA, was next and this had a good malt character and a lemony, medium hop note. We then picked up the pace a bit with the classy Kereru Rhinomite, a punchy IPA (7.5% abv) that had a creamy alcohol aroma, before finishing on Eddyline barrel-aged Java Stout which was 11% and coffee-licious. Afterwards there was a trip to Puffin as that what it says on my bank statement.
Later in July it was LBQ’s 10th birthday so there were yet more gourmet beers to savour! My first of the night, Craftworks’ Jenever d’Amber is not for novices – it had a powerful vinegary sourness with woody, vanilla flavours with some apple notes. Parrot Dog’s IIPA was next with that familiar pisse du chat aroma, a slight berry note and a drying taste, and a finish of hops and alcohol. The piece de resistance was however, North End’s Crow and Crown, a barrel-aged Yorkshire pale ale of 7.5%. Fruity, hoppy and woody it was the business. I think it is up there with Fork and Brewer’s Burton Ernie as one of my favourite ‘big and malty’ wee beasties.
By some wicked twist of fate I found myself frequenting Goldings Free Dive in Leeds Street on a couple of occasions in July. On one visit I had the solid but understated Mata Tumeke NZIPA and the light-bodied but gnarly Desert Coast Stout from the trendy Shining Peak brewery. One lunchtime I pulled in to try their entry into the Toastie Takeover – the hearty Reuben Schluman Goldburgenstein. Big chunky corned beef slices with the sauerkraut and cheese as more of a backup, this was a substantial and satisfying munch. With this I had a Red Bus – Sunshine Brewery’s hazy red IPA – which tased more like an American amber, but the malty notes picked up on the meat and the bitterness with the kraut. Same again Mr Bartender.
The Duke of Wellington is a newish gastropub in the old Hotel Waterloo building on Waterloo Quay near the railway station. I visited there for an alumni meeting in late July and had a couple of local craft beers – Heyday Guava Saison and Juicehead Psyclone IIPA – neither of which floated my boat.
On the last Friday in July it was time for the 14th annual West Coast IPA challenge. I went to the Fork and Brewer and met up with some of my beer club. There were 29 entries, so I started with a safe bet – Epic – as they have won this competition plenty of times before. Their entry, High Score, had a nice green fruit (gooseberry?) aroma, was bitter and not too malty, with a fruity hop finish. It came as no big surprise when they won the People’s Choice award for the umpteenth time. I had another five beers on the night with the entries from Sprig and Fern and Behemoth standing out. Baylands won the Golden Gumboot followed by Parrotdog and Emerson’s. I didn’t get to taste any of these and when I came back to try them a couple of days later they were long gone. The barman said to try the Shining Peak so I did and enjoyed the good acidity and quenching fruity bitterness in the finish.
This July craft beer made the winter in Wellington bearable, so much so I’m set up for August’s beer and food extravaganzas, including Beervana.