You’ve probably worked out by now that I like beer, and I like music. I like walking, too, feeling this pretty city of Wellington under my feet. I’m also an introvert, who needs time to recharge after being around others in social situations. And, putting all those together, day 3 of Hopstock 2014 was a near-perfect day for me.
I’d gone out on Thursday night, but that was mostly to be social. I was able to tick off three more of the Hopstock beers during the evening: Tuatara’s ‘Conehead’ IPA at D4, Dale’s Brewing Co’s ‘Fresh Hop IPA’ at Hashigo Zake, and, at Malthouse, the ‘Fresh Hopped Rudolph’s Pique’ red ale from Wairarapa’s little Peak Brewery. The Dale’s IPA stood out the most for me, being a very clean, very well made and well balanced example of the West Coast IPA style. Nearly flawless.
But, really, the night was for being out with friends. But, with the town full of what was essentially a Friday night, all the pubs were crowded and noisy, and by the time I got home I was very ready to spend some alone time, recharging.
So, just before 11 on ANZAC Day morning, I put in my earphones and set out from my home in the southern hilltop suburb of Kingston. I first walked over to Bebemos, a Latin-American influenced restaurant / bar in Newtown that I’d heard many good things about but never gone out of my way to visit.
Well, I’ll be back. The place had a lovely feel, the menu’s very interesting, and there’s a great range of beer on tap and in the fridge. I brunched on the moqueca, a superb Brazilian fish stew served with spiced ‘biro biro’ rice and drunk the ‘Autumnal Harvest Ale’, a collaboration between Bach Brewing and Shakespeare Brewhouse. The ale is brewed in the saison or farmhouse style, and there’s an appealing spiciness under the tangelo flavours of the hops. It proved a perfect match with the peppery fish stew, a chance combination that I’d love to try again.
After a walk down Adelaide Road and across the Basin Reserve, it was The Hop Garden for 2014’s fresh-hopped version of 8 Wired’s ‘Hopwired.’ Unsurprisingly this was a massive hop bomb, with huge citrus aroma smacking into the nose, and a big clean taste of sweet lemon. But it faded a bit quickly, leaving a bit of an astringent aftertaste, and I wonder if it might’ve needed a bit more oomph in the body, with a bit of more malt solidity to balance the huge hops.
But, just to show it’s all subjective, a guy I chatted with while tasting the beer thought it was perfect. Ah, it’s all subjective, isn’t it?
Next, a walk over to The Southern Cross for the ‘Hopwit IPA’ from Mike’s Organic Brewery. Look at it. Cloudy as an orange juice. Lots of juicy apricot flavours from the Nelson Sauvin hops sitting above an excellent sour wheat ale body. I love sour beers, and so do the brewers at Mike’s, and they’ve never let me down yet.
Then it was a walk down Cuba Street to Golding’s Free Dive, always a favourite place of mine to visit. Here the Hopstock beer was ‘Waifly’ by Baylands Brewery. Oh my god. Hops. Hops hops and more hops. I’m glad I only had a taster, as I could feel it killing my tastebuds. Not my thing, I admit, but for those seeking extremes of hops I bet this was their favourite of this year’s Hopstock brews. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a beer quite so tongue-stripping. I bet Neil Miller loves it…
Thankfully, I had a chance to refresh my palate after that, as my next destination was another bar I’d never visited before; the Kelburn Village Pub. I hopped on the #23 bus up the hill, past the university into a suburb I’ve never visited since graduation. Weirdly, it seems to have not changed all that much in the last 15 years…
The Kelburn Village Pub scored immediate brownie points by me for their snack menu (or “tapas” as they called it, but really, it’s not). Because as well as chips, dips and breads, they offered a small bowl of salad in the same price range. Perfect. More pubs need to do this; while there’s always a place for fries, pizza and chicken wings, I love a good salad or lighter, healthier light meal, especially during the day.
The salad, the cosy interior, and friendly staff made me very well disposed towards the ‘Hopstacle Course’ golden ale brewed by Mapua’s brew pub and brewing supplies company, Golden Bear.
Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a huge fan of hoppy golden ales anyway, and this one was delightfully clean, crisp and refreshing. Another great combination of food, beer and environment.
Finally, through Kelburn, down the steps and down Tinakori Road to Sprig & Fern for their fresh-hopped ‘Harvest Pilsner.’ It’s a favourite lager of mine, and with the addition of fresh Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops, it’s bright, vibrant and fruity while the solid biscuit-like malty base never disappoints.
It was a lovely way to spend an autumn day. About five and a half hours, about ten or so kilometres walked while listening to music, popping into six different bars to chat with bar staff or fellow drinkers, with some nice food and interest beers on the way. A day that was good for the soul.
Well played, Hopstock 2014, well played.