Golden Pints 2013 – the bar

Wellington. “Craft beer capital of New Zealand.”[1]  We drink a lot of it here.  And we have an ever increasing number of bars who stock tasty beers, as well as bars who specialise in them.  It’s a great place to have a beer.  Such as…

Bin 44 – buzz and hum’s favourite bar of 2013

A quiet pint at Bin 44 as the sun goes down over Wellington

A quiet pint at Bin 44 as the sun goes down over Wellington

Sometimes it’s all about having a local.

For years I hadn’t had one.  I live in a suburb whose hub consists of a superette, a Chinese takeaway, and a public toilet.[2]  I work down by Wellington’s railway station, a part of town not known for its vibrant craft beer scene.   But Bin 44 opened on Queen’s Wharf in 2012, and I soon discovered that was the perfect place to stop if looking for a pint of something good after work.

Location wise, it works very well. Sitting near the water, it’s slightly off to the side of the main routes through town, but this is a plus. A brief diversion for a drink before catching the bus for home, or for a few tasty beverages to start the night off before walking along the waterfront towards the bars in the Taranaki Street / Courtney Place / Dixon Street area.

If it’s a cold evening, stay inside – there’s booths, leaners, sofas and, one one side, restaurant seating. But when the sun is shining or the night is warm you’ll want to be outside. All the doors open, and tables sprawl out into the sunshine for almost a quarter of the plaza between the bar and the TSB events centre.

Pascal, the owner, is crazy and passionate[3] – about his bar and about the beer he sells.  There’s three taps set aside for a rotation of Tuatara beers, and another eight taps that will feature a constantly changing line-up of fine ales and lagers, with an emphasis on Wellington-based brewers.  On any given day you’ll find interesting and often hard-to-find beers being poured from the likes of Garage Project, Yeastie Boys, Baylands Brewery, Panhead and many many more.[4]

The collection in the fridge is well chosen, so it’s a great place to come to try a new beer, re-connect with an old one, or to find something that would suit a friend who is just starting to open up their taste buds to how good beer can really be.

There’s wine, too.  I mean, I’ve seen it served and seen people drink it, but I can’t say too much more about that.[5]

New Year’s Day brunch at Bin 44. Eggs bene, coffee, tea (beer), newspapers. All the essentials.

And the food – Bin 44 styles itself as a “restaurant-bar” quite deliberately.  While I tend to favour the second part of that title, every time I’ve eaten a meal there I’ve been utterly impressed.  It’s a bit pricey, but that befits the quality and the location..  Still cheaper than Dockside, and a far better beer range to boot.

The staff, led by Kieran the charming Irishman, is always friendly, and are good for a chat with about beer and other things.

The music’s great, too.  Not your standard MOR rock of other bars in the area, or the indie sounds favoured by more crafty bars.  Bin 44 decorates itself with a few blues-themed posters, and the music’s the same – old blues, and blues-rock.  A bit out of the ordinary, and something that gets me (as much a music nerd as a beer fan) cocking my ears with interest.

It’s not everyone’s kind of beer bar, I guess. But for me it suits me to down to the ground for some very particular reasons.  I can pop in after work or after finishing up at the shops on Lambton Quay, enjoy a beer, a chat.  Maybe stay for a meal or a few more beers, or head for a nice walk alongside the sea into the heart of the city.

It attracts a slightly different group of customers from those seen in the more bohemian bars towards the middle of town – often people you’d suspect would’ve spent last summer been drinking wine and cocktails elsewhere.  But that’s just part of the burgeoning good beer scene in Wellington, popularity expanding and comfort levels expanding. [6]

It’s my local, and I love it.

Bin 44 – 3 Queens Wharf, Wellington 6011 – 044994450

Bin 44 in full hum on a summer afternoon. Picture from their Facebook page (click on photo to visit)

Runner Up:  Rogue and Vagabond

Beer, pizza, music, “cool.” Rogue and Vagabond.

Beer, dogs[7], beer, hipsters[8], beer, kitsch and comics, beer, pizza and curly fries[9], beer, live music.  On Glover Park, off Cuba Street, Rogue and Vagabond opened this year and has quickly become a hit amongst those who love beer and those who love that part of town.  Funky, fresh, and slightly out-there. I’d call it “cool”, but they allow people like me in there so maybe not.

Like Bin 44, it’s another bar that uses both space and music well.  On a fine day you’ll find beanbags peopled by young and old drinking good beer spread out into the park, while inside you’ll find a table or niche to suit your needs. Live music is common, often something with a bit of jazz, bluegrass or swing, and if a band’s not playing the music will be something odd or old that you may not’ve heard in years (if ever).

And they do great pizza – some of the best I’ve ever had.

Rogue and Vagabond – 18 Garret Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011 – 043812321

[1] The scare quotes are deliberate. Both because it begs the argument about what is “craft beer” (and argument I don’t particular have much interest in, being of the “you know it when you see it” school of thought), but it also raises the old debate about Nelson being the place where the brewing gets done, while Wellington does the drinking. But even that’s a bit out of date now.  Really, the point is, we drink a lot of good beers in this city, and we’ve got a lot of neat places to drink those beers.

[2] Both the superette and takeaway are under new management.  For a while there you could get some good craft beers at the shop, but the food next door was horrible.  Now, the shop’s gone downhill, while the food is excellent.  You win some, you lose some.  The toilets are as bad as ever, suffice to say.

[3] As only a French-Canadian can be…

[4] Right now, for example, they Yeastie Boys “Golden Perch” on; a 4.4% golden ale full of passionfruit flavours from some joyful hops.  It’s a great summer beer.

[5] I do like wine, and do drink it from time to time.  I’ve just never drunken it at Bin 44!

[6] And being the beer hipster who says “I liked it before it got popular” is not the person you want to be. So don’t say that.

[7] Bruce, a bulldog as wide as he is tall, is the honorary manager and bouncer of the establishment.

[8] Lazy shorthand here for the young and fun people who hang around the Cuba Street part of Wellington.  I use the word ironically. Which is a very hipsterish thing to do. I have a beard.  But I’ve never ridden a tricycle past the age of four.

[9] Yessss!


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