Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Beervana 2011: Part One

Gathering on the Westpac Stadium concourse
As we entered the Westpac Stadium, Weevil was asked to show ID and then given a red bracelet to wear. She thought it might be so she could go down the hydroslide, but was told it was so she wouldn't get asked again. Being as she's over twice the legal drinking age, she thought it unlikely she would be, so refused to wear the bracelet. Him Outdoors thought it was very amusing - I was not so amused, as no one asked me!

We exchanged our hard-earned cash for beer tokens - I like this concept. The tokens looked like play money we had as kids and indeed, we had fun with them as adults. Our wrist-bands confirmed that we were 'licensed to drink responsibly' and so we did. The glasses held 200ml and the tastings were approx half a glass so there was enough to gauge the flavour without getting smashed. Although you could have full glasses if you wished, I stuck to the tasting size all night so I could sample as many as possible.

The atmosphere in the concourse of the stadium isn't exactly convivial and doesn't lend itself to a relaxed evening of drinking and talking. Many people were wandering about looking for somewhere to sit and the lack of cloakroom facilities was annoying - it's very hard to take notes (let alone photographs) while standing up and clutching a bag and coat.

Stu Yeastie proudly displaying his wares
I wasn't particularly impressed with the layout either. Although you could occasionally spot a brewer if you knew whom to look for, brewers weren't necessarily serving the beer so you couldn't ask them about their products as you have been able to in previous years. The pump handles didn't display the breweries' emblems but just had hand-written signs so it was difficult to tell what was available - some beers were 'saved' for later in the session due to a limited number of pumps.

The beers were divided by region, so one bar sold 'The North' while others were 'Central', 'Top of the South', 'Canterbury', or 'Southern'. The Australians were out in force and Wellington had its own bar selling Bennett's, Garage Project (although none was on at the session I attended), Tuatara, and Yeastie Boys, amongst others. There were 'style bars' such as a real ale bar, a cider bar, and one for festive brews - the theme of this year was 'let's go... Black', which apparently "pays homage to a certain sporting event taking over New Zealand this year."

The Southern boys and girls look thrilled to be here
Mash-Up (NZ Craft Beer TV, 6%) - I have heard a lot about this beer through a pretty astute advertising campaign. It's an interesting experiment, blending elements from 44 craft breweries around the country to create a 'sample' NZ beer of the moment. They say you can't please all of the people all of the time, and I don't know who is pleased with this, but it isn't me. I found it to be a bit dry, a bit hoppy, slightly citrusy and a touch too fizzy; neither one thing nor the other. Although this was only my first beer of the night, I knew it wouldn't be my favourite. Keep it in the lab.

Him Outdoors appears to be enjoying something
Cock and Bull Common Beer (Steam Brewing Company, 4.5%) - I liked the name. Honestly, with a list of over 200 beers to choose from, it's a bit like picking a horse. I liked the beer too, which is clearly a bonus. It was a golden coppery session-style brew. The tasting notes suggested you'd be able to smell mint. 'What a load of bollocks' I thought, but I stand corrected. I definitely got a whiff of minty goodness - perhaps the first breath-freshening beer? It was like a Goldilocks beer - not too bitter; not too sweet; just right.

Minimus (Hallertau, 3.7%) - a breakfast pale ale, apparently, and why not? I've heard of people putting champagne on their cornflakes; why not a dry, bitter, hoppy drop to kickstart you with your porridge? Okay, time to move on from the Goldilocks theme...

Manuka Magic (Naturale, 4.6%) - I thought I would try something different (the tasting notes proclaimed this was 'unique, adventurous, delicious'). I noted that it was floral and inoffensive. Unfortunately, while trying to juggle my coat, notebook and wallet, I spilt half of it all over the floor (hence the earlier gripe), but didn't like it enough at first sip to need to return for more.

Some of the random commentators. And I mean random.
Random comments from fellow drinkers - "It's a bit rough at the end but it went straight down my spine" (Porter Noir, Hallertau, 6.6%); "It's a bit heavy, but it's not wee heavy" (Tuatara XI, 10.5%); "Have you tried the Boris? It's bonkers!" (Boris, Feral Brewing, 11.5%) "Isn't that Fabio Capello?" (No)

Some bloke who isn't Fabio Capello

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