We’ve become craft beer nation
One of my major concerns when we were planning to return to New Zealand from London a few years ago, was the lack of genuine craft beer makers. When we left the country originally, the only readily available craft makers were Monteiths, Macs, Emersons from Dunedin, and the sadly defunct Mikes from Taranaki. Imagine my sheer delight when I discovered that in my absence, the entire country had been overtaken by a movement away from the usual mass produced offerings. I was lucky enough to be given a few interesting New Zealand craft beers for my birthday recently. Garage Project is, surprisingly enough, based in an old petrol station in Wellington. Their beers tend towards the weird, but also the wonderful. Cookies and Cream is sweetish, spicy, chocolaty and malty – quite unlike anything you will ever have tried. It’s a big filling beasty of a drop, not exactly suitable as a session beer, but certainly good fun to try. Garage Project also make the decidedly oddball Lola Cherry Cola beer, which tastes quite like Royal Crown cola. It comes in a cool 80s/90s retro can. I suspect Garage Project’s only truly conventional beer is the one they call ‘‘beer’’, which comes in an ordinary looking white can, at a decently ordinary price, and is a good, honest, tasty ordinary session beer. I urge you to choose one of their beers at random, if you don’t like it, try another of their mind-bogglingly large range. They are true innovators, and make terrifically interesting things! Behemoth Brewing Company from Warkworth make the absolutely delicious Triple Chocolate Milk Stout, it was described by the beer merchant (yes they’re a thing) as tasting like Primo (chocolate milk). It does, and I loved it. A big, powerful, muscular beast of a beer, I have tasted the future and the future is good. These beers can be found at the Hamilton Beer and Wine Company on Victoria Street, Hamilton – charming, friendly, knowledgeable staff and a fantastic range of wine, beer, spirits and other cool stuff. Many people tend to turn towards Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris as the weather heats up, I usually head towards Riesling. It is a sadly underestimated variety in New Zealand. Riesling can go from bone dry to lusciously sweet, and can be fresh and zingy, grunty and mouth filling, or succulent and subdued. Giesen from Marlborough have always made delicious Rieslings that pick up many accolades, and their 2015 vintage is no exception. Made by three brothers, it is a charmingly light, fruity and slightly sweet blend of Marlborough and Waipara fruit, and at under $15 it is a stunning bargain. Another Riesling I have recently tried is Kairos Waipara Dry Riesling 2011, which I tried at the gorgeous Falls Retreat in the Karangahake Gorge. Intense, concentrated, powerful yet delicate, it is possibly one of the finest NZ Rieslings I have ever tried, and at $20 from Finer Wines in Katikati it is a truly phenomenal deal.
Wine and beer writer, Simon Wood.