The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, beer bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session and the upcoming topics, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s archive page.
“This month I’m going to give you plenty of scope for originality by setting a wide-open theme. I want to hear your beery tall tales, yarns, recollections (in a Grandpa Simpson stylee) or otherwise, delivered in the manner that you befits sitting around a log fire, favourite beer in hand. Only proviso is that it has to involve beer in some way, whether that be a particular beer jogging your memory of a previous event or beer taking a bigger role in the recollected tale.”
I really shouldn’t start Session posts on the day it’s due and when that day is almost done…but here I go again…
As soon as Jenn and I stepped onto New Zealand soil for the first time, we were ready for a beer, or six. The three hour flight from Melbourne to Wellington had departed at 9am, erased three hours from our day, and landed us in the neighbouring country at 3pm. Where did lunch time go?
We headed into the first bar we found…
…ok, so we checked-in to our hotel first, after the taxi ride from the airport. Every thing seemed to be moving too slowly, as we began a ten day beer-focused holiday. It was my first international trip as an adult (i.e. of drinking age) and Jenn’s first ever visit to a foreign country. The high anticipation and excitement meant that any wasted minutes while waiting and commuting seemed like hours.
Jenn and I are sticklers for organisation when we’re travelling. We schedule everything in order to make sure we achieve as much as possible from every day. A spreadsheet dictates our itinerary, so we rarely find ourselves without a plan for the next hour. Except on his occasion. Our holiday formally began with a blank block of time, from 3pm to 6pm when we’d head to the first event of our New Zealand beer holiday (we were there during Wellington’s Choice Beer Week festival), the Parrot Dog Brewery birthday party…
…back to the top, where I said we headed to the first bar we found…
Around the corner from our hotel was Bruhaus. We wanted beer, we needed food, there was no chance of indecision here (something we’re awfully good at), the bar’s name was enough to draw us in.
The sight was a delight of relief. There was good local beer on tap. There was also mass produced big brand beer on tap as well, but I’ll get to that later.
The bar was empty, so we had free range. The choice of our first beer was easy. The Yeastie Boys’ Golden Age of Bloodshed, a golden-red, heavily-beeted Saison of 6.5% abv. We were excited to see it available on tap.
“We have pints or half-pints”, he gently replied.
“Oh, two half-pints thanks. Can I start a tab?”
You see, a pint in New Zealand is the standard glass size for the drinking population. If you order a beer and don’t specify a size, a pint is generally what you will receive. Said pints tend to be around 425ml to 450ml in volume, a size that is familiar to me as a “schooner” (to me, a pint is a 570ml imperial pint). An NZ half-pint is 285-300ml, or a “pot” in my language.
Yes, regional variations between glass sizes and names are terribly common. However, when a pint is the standard drinking vessel, that is surprising to me, and no doubt the instigator of endless yarns.
At bars, especially specialty beer bars with a diverse range of beers on taps, we tend to drink pots so we can drink more types of beers in a session. As a craft beer lover/fan/geek, I’d rather drink 6 pots of different beers instead of just 3 pints. Mostly.
Golden Age of Bloodshed was lovely. It was an excellent beer to begin with, considering our love for Yeastie Boys. I knocked it back like it was a 4% abv beer. Yeastie Boys originally brewed it for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) earlier this year, where we had sampled a mere 90mls of it. We loved that little taster, even though such a small amount made it difficult to truly appreciate the beer. Bloodshed had not been available in Australia since GABS, so to find it on tap at the first New Zealand bar we walked into was a happy moment.
Next we dived into the Liberty Brewing’s Sauvignon Bomb, a 7% abv NZ Pale Ale that showcases the country’s Nelson Sauvin hop. It instantly reminded us of why we had been so keen to visit New Zealand …the beers are wonderful!
With that round, we had drunk the bar dry of their half-pint glasses. And that’s how I knew that pints are the standard glass size for the drinking population. The bar had only 4 half-pint glasses! Really? There was no shortage of pint glasses. So from then on…pints it was.
We were joined at Bruhaus by fellow Australians who had also flown across the Tasman that morning for Choice Beer Week and the Beervana festival. Holgate Brewhouse brewer Nick Rhodes, Matilda Bay brewer Chloe Lovatt, Mornington Peninsula Brewery Sales Manager Michael Chaffe soon had the pints flowing. Soon after, we were joined by the Yeastie Boy man himself, Stu McKinlay. We talked beer beer beer, and Melbourne vs Wellington life…which is much the same, but beer can help expand any topic into a thesis.
We downed pints of beers from Two Fingers and Treehugger Organic. These beers of small local brewers sat comfortably alongside dedicated tap fonts belonging to the macro business of Independent Liquor (the NZ face of Asahi). Independent’s ‘Boundary Road’ faux craft brand and their imported BrewDog portfolio dominated those fonts, alongside other taps for UK brands Fuller’s and Guinness. Macro beer and craft beer, side by side with no fuss. Back home in Australia, craft beer is still in a niche state where it’s generally found only in “craft beer bars”. If a bar has macro/mainstream beer, you’ll rarely find several taps of craft beer in the same bar. The two segments of the market are at war. Beer segregation remains strong in Oz. Here in New Zealand, all beers seemed to have a much more level playing field, at least in terms of accessibility. (It may be a different story behind the scene).
There are still specialist craft beer bars in New Zealand. That slice of NZ glory was found a little further down the road at Hashigo Zake and Goldings Free Dive.
At every other bar we popped into while in the country, however, we found beer diversity and appreciation between big and small, local and international brewers. Why can’t that be the case as every bar every where? And then there will be something for every one.
I loved the integration we found in NZ bars. Stubborn old macro lager drinkers were drinking next to the hip young craft beer drinkers. And no one looked down, enjoy one just enjoyed their beer.
Furthermore, integration was a theme that we experienced across New Zealand, not just in beer but also in the people and their culture. The friendly NZ society seems to be years ahead in maturity compared to Australia. But I’m not bitter; I enjoy the hoppy bitter beers of New Zealand too much.
Once the beers began to flow, the hours flew by on our NZ holiday. We had to leave the Bruhaus love-in of beery folk and their afternoon pints too soon, but we had a date with Parrot Dog. Although, after several pints already, I wasn’t sure how much I had left in me on day one. That’s why we need pots!
Pints, pints, pints (schooners). We were dusty the next morning. Those Kiwi folk are good drinkers, drinking in a land of great beer. Well done New Zealand, you are delicious.
Ok, so this has been far more than a yarn, and not much of a yarn, but it’s the beginning of a tale I’ve been meaning to tell for months now…