Ah Beer, such a wonderful thing in moderation and the array of flavours is endless, especially when you find yourself a great microbrewery.
Microbreweries are popping up all over the place; there are plenty to be found in all four corners of Auckland from Hallertau out west to Sale Street right in the heart of the City. It’s not just an Auckland thing though, there are countless establishments throughout the country like Emerson brewing company and The Cassels & Sons brewery in Christchurch to name a few.
The recent Beerfest at the cloud in Auckland showcased the best beers from 24 breweries, mainly NZ and some special international guests. More information about what was showcased can be found at http://www.beerfestival.co.nz/drink.
I visited three of the microbreweries recently, one in Christchurch and two in Auckland.
The first was Hallertau in Riverhead, West Auckland. As described on their own website “The Hallertau Brew bar and Restaurant is the brainchild of beer maker Steve Plowman. A New Zealand first, the brew bar & restaurant concept offers fresh beer brewed on site and flowing exclusively through the taps.”
The great thing about Hallertau is firstly the paddle of beers you can buy (they also do wine). This is a sample of all of their beers that they brew on site; they also have a guest beer which changes all the time. The Statesman is my favourite of their beers due to its hoppiness. The kitchen also does a decent job there as well, although lately I have had the odd blip. Hallertau is a fairly good brewery but the beers are their interpretation of different styles of traditional beers as opposed to being something different, however they do a great job at what they do.
During my time in Christchurch recently (I have reviews on here from the trip and more to come) I visited a microbrewery called Cassels and sons in Woolston. The first thing you notice about Cassels is the strikingly clear brewery behind the bar in a very open plan building. The staff are really friendly and talked us through the beer tasting. Again, like Hallertau rather than being different flavour wise, they seem to just do a twist on the classics and although nice beer it didn’t necessarily stand out as being world beaters. We did eat here as well, we had mussels, pizza and fries - very standard bar food but the fries which where thinly hand cut were delicious. We got 6 beers as part of our sampler and they were Best bitter, Woolston ale, E.S.B, Pilsner, ‘Beer’ and Dunkel. They were all great but the dark beer I didn’t like because I don’t drink dark beers so that’s not really their fault!
Hallertau and Cassels do good variations on traditional beers and it may come across as a little negative but before I went to the next microbrewery I genuinely loved them. Many people know Sale Street in Auckland, a bar that is heaving with people on Friday and Saturday nights. Recently I was given the opportunity to go and see the chief brewer and sample their selection of “brewed on site” beers. The barman that was there told us were to find Michael Stimpson who is the brewer and managing director of Brewedwell Ltd, he also describes himself as ‘specialising in Brewery troubleshooting, recipe formulation and a temporary brewer service’ we couldn’t find him but could hear noise, something was banging around in the fridge!
When he appeared from the fridge we were greeted by what I can only describe as a typical beer scientist with a beervana t shirt and school chemistry goggles. (I say typical, by this I mean what I would imagine in my mind, I am not sure there are any beer scientists?) He explained to us that he had done everything in his previous life from cleaning toilets to DJing. One day a new brewing consultant came to a previous job of his and showed him the ropes, the rest is history.
He explained the process of coming up with ideas and how they become reality and I can tell you now, brewing beers with a difference is not a quick process, or a cheap one. The thing that struck me was his unwavering passion for his work, constantly trying beers from other similar establishments and keeping up to date with what’s going on. Basically he seems to live in a beer World, it sounds like me but in my case its food. He explains he can’t relax drinking specialist beers, when he wants to relax he drinks a DB again just like me with food, I love fine dining but it always makes me think about what I am doing but I can easily relax with a simple beans on toast.
Mike doesn’t do variations of traditional beers he creates flavoured beers. I have had plenty of flavoured beers but have never been this impressed. My simple advice before I go into details is get yourself to Sale Street NOW and try these………..
Welcome back weren’t they great! Ok if you didn’t go I’ll tell you what I discovered.
This was verging on a standard microbrewery beer in the style of a Hallertau and Cassels but there was something refreshing and light about it. Although only 10am it seemed ok to be drinking this. Great start.
Xmas pudding beer
Divine. I’m tempted to stop my description and move on as divine is the perfect word. I really dislike dark beers/ales but this was a stroke of genius. When the beer is cold you get the fruit and brandy notes but as it warms up a bit the beer develops a vanilla custard note. It was like drinking a wine, the nose and pallet constantly changed as you drank. Hands down best dark beer ever.
Chilli beer was an interesting one for me, I’m not a big chilli fan and I can’t really take much heat. When I had the first mouthful I was worried because there was that heat and I thought it’s only going to get worse but it didn’t. It was a beautiful fresh chilli heat that wasn’t overpowering and if you want to know how he gets that chilli heat you will have to ask him yourself, I don’t want to spoil the secret.
It was a great day, thanks again to Mike who seemingly has a great life, basically waking up in the morning and for the rest of the day constantly drinking beer. I can promise you though it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I’m excited for the launch of the WWW beer which is going to be released by Sale Street on June 14th. If the others are anything to go by, I am sure this will be an amazing beer so get down to Sale Street and have a taste before they run out.