Around the increasingly commonplace and normal Covid-19 disruptions to community life, I managed to find time for craft beer in the capital.

In late January, I visited the Malthouse for the Forest and Bird fundraiser hosted by Parrotdog. My first beer was Lucy – an apricot sour. The infusion of apricots gave it an apricot puree aroma and reasonably soft stone fruit flavour, before a sharp finish. Next, Yellowhammer – a light and breezy, sessionable hazy pale ale. Grapefruit and cat pee aroma, with a sour and hop-bitter taste with tropical fruit notes. Last up was Terry, a coco-cacao stout on nitro. Sweet, smooth and full-flavoured – this one pushed most of my buttons.

On the night, there was a fundraising $2 lucky dip and I won a $50 voucher to spend at the Parrotdog brewery in Lyall Bay. I took the family for the mid-week quiz night a few weeks later. We all had a burger and I tried a couple of beers: the bitter Falcon APA and the light-bodied LB Pacific Ale. As for the quiz, we came sixth – in the peloton behind the big winning group that took all the prizes on the night. Bastards.

First beer club night of the year was at the Malthouse in early February. Highlights included Garage Project’s Carillon – a Flanders old bruin of 7.4%. A complex, big-time sour beer with brett aromas and pruney flavours. Harvest Moon, a dark IPA from McLeod’s, was roasty and bitter with an ashy finish, whereas Hop Federation’s full-flavoured Red IPA had a great malt character and a nice, bitter finish. We finished with a taste of the new barley wine from 8 Wired – Byg Is Beautiful. Well-balanced, bitter-sweet and 11.3%, it was a great way to finish the night.

Later in February, I went to the newly-opened Cinderella Bistro that has been created out of the old Bresolin; a bar-restaurant that was craft beer icon Bar Bodega back in the day. I sat in the courtyard, reminisced, and had a Superunknown APA from Choice Bros. This had a good bitterness and a touch of caramel, as you would expect.

In early March on a quick business trip to Tauranga, I had an early evening pint of Behemoth Battle of the Wits – a light and quenching witbier with maybe a touch too much coriander in the finish. I then followed this with a few pints of Mount Brewing’s tropical Sea Beast IPA at the Mount Maunganui Surf Lifesaving Club.

March beer club was an Americana-themed dinner at The Hudson. The chicken flautas (fried tacos) entrée was well-matched with Double Vision’s impressive cream ale – Smooth Operator. Next, we had Juicehead’s big-time hoppy WCIPA, The Devil’s Rain, with a roast beef main before the inspired pairing of churros with Panhead’s tepache sour, Batch 135, for dessert. They raided the cellar for our digestif as we finished on a woody and drying oak-aged Stonecutter scotch ale from Renaissance in the old 500ml bottles.

I was so impressed by the tepache sour, having tried to make tepache (a Mexican pineapple probiotic drink like kombucha) on a couple of occasions, that I went back for a second taste. Fresh, fizzy and light-bodied, this is a medium sour (ie not as brutal as a kettle sour) with a clean, acid flavour and crisp fruit finish. Exciting stuff.

The Rogue and Vagabond have a lunch special – burger, chips and a pint for $20. On a couple of slow Fridays during March, I popped in and got amongst it. On my first visit I had the Medium Chilli Cheeseburger with a pint of Palooka – a collab tropical IPA from Southpaw and Juicehead that had a fruit-driven bitter flavour of apple and nectarine. I went back the next week for a Hot Hot Cheeseburger and a McLeod’s Cove unfiltered pale ale. The intensity of the dragon sauce was matched by the beer’s citrusy (lemon, bitter orange) hoppiness.

The launches of a couple of ‘social message’ beers were affected by cancellations resulting from the change in Covid-19 levels, but one fundraiser for Hearing NZ did make it to market. Called Can You Hear Me, it is a 4.8% hazy IPA from Petone’s Baylands Brewery. Aromas of grapefruit and orange, medium bitterness and light fruit flavours, this is a good food beer as has enough acid to cut through.

The nights are now drawing in and there’s an end-of-season feeling creeping into proceedings, with the last of the postponed summer events about to kick off over the next few weeks. Hopefully, the autumn beers will be ready.