Last night, with our plan in place, we marched off to Mashing In, the Brewers Guild’s networking happy hour. It’s sort of a kick-off event, and most of the brewers and industry people who are in Wellington for the BrewNZ Beer Awards dinner tonight show up to mingle and taste each other’s beers.
The venue made it easy for us to stay On Plan- The Tap Haus had dozens (!) of NZ beers on tap, including several hand pumped, which were all being served compliments of the Guild. We quickly scanned the long bar bristling with stanchions and identified a half dozen on the Priority list. The 8 Wired Semiconductor seemed a dangerous place to start, so we shifted ourselves “down” to the West Coast IPA, and the Yeastie Boys/Liberty collaboration Yakima Warrior. The Warrior is one of pair of beers- Yakima refers to its American hops, and it’s paired with Motueka Warrior, which uses NZ hops instead in the same base beer. (Last year they did a similarly themed pair, the Yakima Monster and Motueka Monster.)
So, with beers in hand we were ready for the intended purpose of the event- mingling. There were lots of familiar faces and some new ones as well. Chris Mills is one of the newest. His 50L Upper Hutt brewery has been approved, but hasn’t yet started production.
Very few Nelsonians made it, but we checked in with Doug Donelan of NZ Hops, and had a good catch up with the ever entertaining Andrew Dixon of the Mussel Inn.
Heaps of Aussies had come over for the BrewNZ judging, so we got to meet the likes of Brendan from Feral and Doug’s old mate Lachie before the swelling crowd made it hard to catch names. We also briefly met Jayne, half of the Women and Beer seminar duo, and extracted a promise to catch up more later.
It was, in fact, a great night for meeting beer women.There weren’t many ladies present, but the quality was excellent. The trio from LBQ (Little Beer Quarter) across the road brazenly insisted we had to come by their place, which we fully intended to do somehow this week, anyway. Their ties to the Malthouse and Beach Babylon give promise to a stylish and likely very successful venture. We also met the lovely women of Mata and Beltane.
By now we had gotten onto the other Warrior, and had a responsible round of water.
It was also in this first hour or two that our plan got it’s first serious dent. That whole idea about skipping the Awards dinner to save cash and our livers? Sorry, livers, but when Tim from deflux insisted that we were exactly the sort of people that needed to be there, we felt a bit rude declining his invitation.
It was especially good, if heart wrenching, to touch base with the Christchurch brewers. They were almost all there, so clearly Beer Week is giving them a much needed excuse to escape the shaking for awhile. But who can even begin to imagine their level of sheer adrenal fatigue?
One describes with nonchallance evaluating the exits as the crowd starts building. Another describes warped floors and liquefaction being minor impediments to brewing- with the clearly unstated “compared to some”. And then hearing Martin talk about finally being allowed back into Twisted Hop for a brief clean up next week – anticipation and dread in equal measure in his voice. So what can we really do, except make sure they know we love their beer and want them to find a way through this? Maria wasn’t lying when she told Ralph she’d already decided to finish with Oyster Stout, and it was nice to make him smile. And we could also share a laugh – they are all, most amazingly, still laughing.
And it was nice to meet folks from the newer Chch breweries, Cassels and Sons, and Golden Eagle. Fraser wasn’t around, though, to tell us how his recently launched contract brewery, Ad Lib, is going.
A round of hot young guns showed up fashionably late. Many had apparently been part of a rather trying judging session for Consumer Magazine. (It seems NZ beers are not standing up so well to bottle distribution. Beers that tasted great at the BrewNZ judging were not in their best form straight from a retail purchase.) So eventually we got to see Stu and Soren and Kelly and Dave K. By this time, we had moved onto Superconductor, which was very mellow and sophisticated compared to the brash warriors. Soren expressed some frustration at finding the beer was not as flavourful as he had intended. We think that ultimately it is a point of difference.
One highlight of the night was the discovery by Kieran Haslett-Moore that a 3 month old Yeastie Boys Hud-a-wa batch 1 was on hand pump -the hops had mellowed leaving a wonderful fruity malt character that was intensified by the warm flat serve.
The ParrotDog guys were in a corner, 3 Matts whose contract brewed BitterBitch is another assertive West Coast style IPA with an oily hoppiness that suggests Riwaka.
By now, it was time for that Oyster Stout. It wasn’t strictly on Plan, but it’s the kind of beer you make exceptions for.