The trip to Galbraith’s Ale House was interesting in its own way. The taxi driver nodded when I said Galbraith’s Ale House then proceeded to head off in what even my limited Auckland geography knew was completely the wrong way. It turned out he thought I said Galbraith Street but that he didn’t actually know where that was either and was planning to drive to the Viaduct and look it up on his map there. I guess his map only worked there. Marvellous.
Of course, Galbraith’s is worth fighting through bad taxi service to get to. It is a fine old building which used to be a public library and later a line-dancing night club. I think most (normal) people like it best as the fine brewpub it has become. It is still the only brewery I’ve seen with an art deco plaster ceiling.
This is a place which has got the fundamentals right and isn’t going to change to meet every passing fad and fancy on the bar scene. As a result, it has a crowd of incredibly loyal regulars who are the core of the business. There is even a certain table where it doesn’t matter who you are – a regular can kick you off with no right of appeal. The owner and brewer, Keith Galbraith, is adamant he won’t move away from the basics of good beer and good food. And given how busy his bar was on the three times I visited (in three days), he has absolutely no need to. Though I wish he would bring the pork pies back… mmmmm, pies.
Despite visiting three times, my tasting notes are sketchy, hard to read or just plain missing. So here are some I prepared on my previous trip:
Named after Galbraith’s mentor, Bob Hudson’s Bitter (4%) pours with a thick, solid and persistent head. It has a medium body with a lovely long finish. Though technically a sweetish beer, the taste impression is actually quite dry and refreshing. It lives up to the brewer’s description of a “hop driven session beer”.
The best selling beer is Bellringers Best Bitter (4.5%) which was named after a group of regulars who were bell ringers at a nearby church. It is darker and bigger than the Bitter and more flavoursome with plenty of strong fruit, malt and caramel flavour. To maintain the balance, the hop finish is stronger and longer.
Bitter and Twisted (5.3%) is Galbraith’s Extra Special Bitter. If the Best Bitter is a bigger version of the Bitter, then this is a hulked up Best Bitter. It has a huge hoppy, floral nose with a massive malt body and long, smooth, bitter finish. It is a dangerously drinkable beer and my favourite of the range.
Brewed in the tradition of a stout porter, Grafton Porter (5%) is the darkest beer in the range. It has a strong toasty nose with hints of hop evident. The beer has plenty of chocolate and roasted notes in the body before finishing with some cleansing bitterness.
Recognising the demand for a good lager, Galbraith’s have produced the tasty Bohemian Pilsner (4.3%). Made with plenty of good malt and hops, this quaffable beer is well balanced with yeasty, fruity notes in the mid-palate balance off by plenty of hop bitterness.
The strongest beer in the range is the Trappist-style Resurrection (8.7%). It pours a darkish – almost orangey – colour with a pillowed white head. The beer, reminiscent of Chimay White, has heaps of fruit and yeast notes and is very dry. It’s delicious.
I stand by those comments. There have been only minor tweaks to the range since I wrote them mainly to the Pilsner and the Resurrection (which is now bigger, fuller, stronger and – in my opinion – even better).
My favourites remain the Resurrection and the Bitter and Twisted.
There will also be a rich Vienna Lager available soon and from an early tasting I think it will do well.
After a long chat with Keith over a few pints and some Asian bites, it was time to head back to the Shakespeare. I hadn’t been there in hours and I’m sure they would be starting to worry. Back to the Shakespeare (by an amazingly direct taxi route this time) I was lucky enough to meet up with some of Auckland’s beer glitterati in the bar – David Cryer (David Cryer Malt), Peter Freckleton (The Sawmill), Sam Shrimpton (Independent Liquor), Jean Pierre Du Four (Otago University) and Barry Newman (Shakespeare).
We had an understandably wide ranging conversation though it must be said beer was the predominant theme. Perhaps the most interesting news was J-P’s work setting up a craft brewers cluster with support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. This is apparently going very well with a 90% positive reaction to date and I’ll monitor the progress with great interest. It has the potential to be a major step forward in the development of the craft industry. He was also fascinating on the topic of Belgian beer, food and pubs – a topic I hope to experience first hand later this year.
Then, the bitter hand of irony returned to slap me on the back and say “well, isn’t this ironic”. In a complete reversal of the previous night where I piked early on a group of brewers, the brewers were all gone by 8pm I was left with only the company of my old mate Mr Puck to watch the rugby. The Aucklander’s were most generous in their support of the Crusaders who crushed the Sharks. I almost felt bad that I had won money on the Blues losing over night. Almost.
Only one post to go, dear exhausted readers.