Monday, 2 November 2009

Dunedin - buildings and beer

Dunedin really does have some spectacular buildings. Apparently the court house and prison were built in ‘the first wave of public buildings that changed Dunedin from struggling settlement to established town.’ Is this a sad indictment of society or a simple fact of life?

The Octagon is the meeting place for people new to the place and not so new. Lined with the art gallery, the Regent theatre, St Paul’s Cathedral, the town hall and several bars and restaurants, it really is the hub of the town.

In that attempt to maintain connections with the Scottish capital, the central statue is of Robbie Burns, known as the ploughboy poet for his earthy, womanising poetry, incompatible with contemporary Victorian morality, and largely undecipherable to any but the most pedantic of literature undergraduates. More often than not these days he has a traffic cone on his head after some jolly student jape.

Among the churches, cathedrals, universities and civic buildings you can find coats of arms or gargoyles – little gems in grand settings. These always imply to me that the architect or perhaps the builder had a sense of humour and a personality after all.

And among the most iconic buildings in town are the twin Cadbury towers. You can tour the factory like Charlie although I doubt you’ll encounter Willie Wonka.

I didn’t go for chocolate this time as I was sidetracked by beer instead. Dunedin is slowly moving away from the beer swilling student ‘culture’ to more discerning drinking. We like the Duke of Wellington for the atmosphere and the selection of fine ales, and on this visit we happened across the Inch Bar which felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. We were actually heading for a restaurant, but we forgot to go.

I blame the Emerson’s hoppy porter – hops and porter; it’s a match made in heaven, or a Dunedin brewery. It is described as ‘an awesome wall of floral tropical fruit hop aroma clambering out of the beer glass, hitting the nose with sensory pleasure…mmm. Followed by a subtle smokey malt mouthfeel that really complements the hop profile.’ Admittedly it is described thus on Emerson’s own website, but I feel it is a pretty accurate summation.

So, cheers to Dunedin for a fine couple of days. I couldn’t live there – it’s too isolated and dour for me – but it has some high points; beer and buildings being two of the highest.

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