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The vibe on Welling­ton’s iconic Cuba Street is buzzing. Although the wind threat­ens to blow the wa­ter pour­ing from the bucket foun­tain all the way to Par­lia­ment, the at­mos­phere on the street is warm and calm. Welling­to­ni­ans are well known for be­ing con­fi­dent, quirky and ex­per­i­men­tal. Com­bined with be­ing the most ed­u­cated bunch in the coun­try, this has been a huge con­tri­bu­tion to why a hand­ful of brave souls are now brew­ing some out­stand­ing beer. The lo­cal craft beer cul­ture has been thriv­ing suc­cess­fully for sev­eral years, since Grant from Re­gional Wines and Spir­its took the leap al­most 20 years ago to sup­port and stock craft beer in his store. In­ner-city craft brew­eries are pop­ping up in rapid suc­ces­sion amongst the count­less num­ber of bars and restau­rants in the city that are pri­mar­ily de­voted to craft beer. It is not sur­pris­ing then, that these eclec­tic Welling­to­ni­ans and their vis­it­ing friends are drink­ing one third of the en­tire coun­try’s na­tional craft beer out­put. I was ready to con­trib­ute to that statis­tic.

While the af­ter­noon sun was still show­ing it’s face, we vis­ited our first craft beer bar, The Hop Gar­den. From the out­side the build­ing looks rel­a­tively un­ap­peal­ing, but on walk­ing through the front door

to 40 taps sit­u­ated on a gi­gan­tic bar­rel in­clud­ing sev­eral of their own brews to try. $15 tast­ing trays are of­fered, and a quick chat with the bar­man about your taste will have you sit­ting down with four per­fect pours to try. We started with the Green Hopped Amer­i­can Pale Ale The Hop Step­per, brewed on site as part of the in­au­gu­ral Hop­stock fes­ti­val which was run­ning dur­ing our stay. The fresh hops make for a punchy beer, full of grape­fruit and good­ness. Fork & Brewer also con­cen­trates on us­ing prod­ucts and by-prod­ucts of their beer in their “tra­di­tional pub food with a twist” menu. The Bo­hemian Hip­ster (a F&B brewed pil­sner) BBQ sauce is a house favourite used in sev­eral dishes on the menu. All dishes on the menu in­clude a beer style match sug­ges­tion, show­ing

these guys are all about com­bin­ing in any way pos­si­ble.

Just around the corner lies Hashigo Zake, a hid­den base­ment gem de­signed for the true beer con­nois­seur. The at­mos­phere here is in com­plete con­trast to the other two bars we’d just vis­ited; the dim light­ing and dark brick cre­ate a rich moody and mys­te­ri­ous feel­ing. The fo­cus down here is truly on of­fer­ing fan­tas­tic craft beer. With no res­i­dent tap beers and over 160 bot­tled beers, you could come here ev­ery day for a year and never run out of beer to try. The im­port their in­ter­na­tional beers di­rect from the brew­eries as well, so the beer is al­ways cold and fresh, and many of them can’t be found any­where else in town. Although their pas­sion is quite clearly beer, they’re also slowly rein­vent­ing the im­age of cider in New Zealand. I was ap­pre­hen­sive but branched away from my usual or­der of an IPA beer and tried a Peck­ham’s cider. I was in­tensely sur­prised at the off-dry style and tan­nins that made up the drink. Noth­ing like it’s sweet stereo­type. While sip­ping on my classy ‘cider’, the bar­man told me about The Pa­cific Beer Expo which is held yearly over labour week­end at

the Boat­shed on Welling­ton’s water­front. If you’re in town over the 25th-26th Oc­to­ber, their tick­ets will be on their web­site very soon.

For a more up­mar­ket, away from the stu­dents type craft beer bar, I’d ab­so­lutely rec­om­mend Bin 44. It’s the only craft beer bar sit­u­ated on Welling­ton’s beau­ti­ful Queen’s Wharf; and the wind had calmed so we very much en­joyed the walk there from Hashigo Zake. Bin 44 has an air of re­laxed class, a pro­fes­sional clien­tal but not in any way pre­ten­tious. By this point we were get­ting a lit­tle peck­ish, and a bite be­fore the next beer was def­i­nitely a good idea. We or­dered a Pollo pizza; chicken, ba­con and the most de­li­ciously rich Yeastie Boys “Pot Ket­tle Black” BBQ sauce. As with Fork & Brewer, Bin 44 cre­atively adds beer to their dishes, team­ing up with lo­cal brew­eries to pro­duce a won­der­ful menu. Be­fore mov­ing on we tried an Epic Epi­curean Cof­fee and Fig Oat­meal Stout, which in­stead of just hav­ing cof­fee notes as many stouts do, ac­tu­ally was made with beans from Welling­ton’s lo­cal cof­fee roaster L’af­fare.

One of the newer craft beer bars to en­ter the scene in Welling­ton is Rouge and Vagabond, an al­ter­na­tive, ec­cen­tric live mu­sic bar. I had heard that this was one not to miss, if not for the lo­cal jazz and blues bands play­ing six days a week, then ab­so­lutely for their icon, Bruce Robert Vagabond. This man is the most chilled, down to earth British Bull­dog you’ll ever meet. Over a de­li­ciously hoppy lo­cal Pan­head Van­dal, the

bar­tender told us about their art and mu­sic in­flu­ence. The bar is host to a com­mis­sion free, monthly chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tion space which when we vis­ited was filled with beau­ti­ful car­toon-esk paint­ings of women. The bar is sit­u­ated in Glover Park, just off Cuba, and if you visit in the sum­mer they ap­par­ently have li­censed a large area of the park and fill it with bean­bags for an af­ter­noon tip­ple. This is def­i­nitely one to visit if you want a snapshot of what Welling­ton is all about.

Af­ter a full af­ter­noon sam­pling a gen­er­ous amount of the re­gion’s finest beer, we de­cided to end the evening at a new restau­rant called Grill Meats Beer; a clearly suit­able way to end our hop-filled ad­ven­ture. Over grilled ribs, freshly ground beef burg­ers and one last beer we dis­cussed the huge and ever grow­ing suc­cess of craft beer in Welling­ton. De­spite hav­ing started al­most two decades ago, there is no sign that craft beer pop­u­lar­ity will de­cline in the near fu­ture. New craft brew­ers and bars con­tinue to ap­pear al­most monthly in the cap­i­tal and with count­less more still left to visit, a re­turn trip is al­ready in the cal­en­dar.

Bin 44

Bin 44

The Hop Gar­den

The Hop Gar­den

The Hop Gar­den

Bin 44

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