#FreshHopNZ15 – Auckland 2015

fresh hop brewers from aucklandPRESS RELEASE – 23 April 2015

Freshhop is back for its second year, the brewers of Auckland learnt a considerable amount last year with our first Freshhop in 2014. Now they are using the lessons learnt and this year they are brewing using two varieties of Hops; Motueka and Sauvin.

In 2014 they used Waimea, this year Auckland Beer Lovers get the chance to try something new with not one but two new hops. These delicious beverages will be found on tap around the Craft Beer Bars in the Auckland Region.

The big difference between Freshhop beers and other beers is that the hops are picked fresh and brewed with as soon as possible. Hops are picked in the morning in Nelson then taken to a site for field heat to be taken out of them. They are then placed in a chilled truck and driven to Auckland as fast as legally permitted to keep them as fresh as possible. The truck is met by a group of eager brewers who take their hops immediately to their breweries to plunge them into their barley worts they have created and at the end they have a Freshhop beer.

If you can envisage the difference in cooking between using Fresh Coriander vs. Dried Coriander you are getting the gist of it. The Freshhop beer has more natural resins, more aroma and more flavour.

Many of the beers are designed to allow the hops to be the main aroma and flavour component of the beer. This is a unique once in a year opportunity to use the Hops as fresh as they can be and it is not a tasting opportunity to be missed by anyone who likes the greatest beverage of all…Beer!

There will be Eleven Auckland Brewers creating twelve different beers. These will be released on the 23rd of April in Nineteen bars across the Auckland region from Warkworth to Manakau and across to Riverhead. We shall be inviting the public to register with us and vote on which beer they liked the most and will go into a draw to win some great brewery gear from the brewers.

An Awards Function is scheduled at 16 Tun in Wynyard Quarter on Friday 1st May to announce the winners to the public, brewers and bars. Award categories covering best beer (people’s choice) and best activation/promotion by a craft beer bar on the theme of Freshhop Beers.

In the meantime get on to www.freshhop.co.nz

Twitter: @freshhopnz15

Auckland’s 10 Best Craft Bars

Glasses of BeerAfter reading the blog post Auckland’s 6 Best Craft Bars from the new blog “HOPCORN” it got me thinking about the short comings of ranking based on a single personal experience as well as trying to compare many bars which all have a point of difference. I found this list of the 6 Best Craft Bars to be some what not that useful, as it didn’t address/highlight the unique things for each bars offer, that will attract different people.

Everyone is different, every craft bar offers something different, and every time you go back to the same place you are likely to have a slightly different experience, especially with so many taps with changing beers. (judging a craft bar with multiple changing taps on a single visit and they don’t have your favourite beer on tap is a bit weak).

So I thought I would not rank each craft bar in Auckland, but list what is best about each one. So maybe the title should be something like “The Best Of 10 Auckland Craft Bars“?

Listed by reverse alpha-numeric just to be different, like each of these bars are.

Vultures Lane – the slow transition from a tied Irish bar to one of the great craft bars in Auckland was frustrating initially (for me), but it has paid off in the end. An ever changing choice of beers, many evenings you can get multiple new beers going on tap. The food menu has changed several times, but currently offers some pretty amazing value for the food you get. On any typical day of the week you are likely to see a local Auckland brewer.

Sky Sports Grill – 60 taps, 40 different beers, 30+ are craft. It is like the forgotten craft bar in Auckland, as most people think of it as a sports bar, as it has so many TV screens, and every possible channel of sport playing. If you just look at it for craft beer on tap, it potentially has the best selection of craft beer on tap on any particular day in Auckland. Plus crazy pricing for happy hour on craft beer.

Lumsden Freehouse – it has possibly the best outdoor area in Auckland for a craft beer bar. This was previously a tied bar, but it made the jump overnight, huge commitment, which has paid off big. Biggest selection of Bourbons, possibly in New Zealand. Free popcorn. Great Nachos, Ribs, actually all the food I’ve ever tried has been great. It also has a secret build your own salad menu. Oh yeah and a pretty great selection of beers, that are always changing.

Hallertau Brew Bar – if this was closer to the city they would be overwhelmed by people, then again they already are and they are based in Riverhead. You basically sit in the brewery when you are at the bar. All beer brewed on site (wrong, there is a guest tap or two there). Super fresh beer. Cool food, the platters are awesome for sharing. Bit of a drive from the city but well worth the effort.

Galbraith’s Alehouse – this brewpub was so far ahead of its time, that the current generation of craft beer drinkers will have no idea of how tough it once was in this city. Brewpub. Real ale from a cask. Guest taps of some of the best breweries from around NZ. Maybe the best food at any craft bar in NZ (possibly even better than Pomeroy’s), on par with some of the best craft food I’ve eaten in the world.

Brothers Beer – this place exploded on the Auckland craft scene, with just about weekly tap takeovers. It now has its own brewery on site, own beers on tap, as well as a changing selection of craft brewers from around the country. Huge selection of bottled beers.

Brew on Quay – since becoming a free house in 2014 this bar has become what it should have been on day one. A solid selection of beers, some permanent and some rotating taps. 102+ beers in the fridge, always the best of what they can get their hands on. The chef here is amazing at what he can produce for a beer and food matched dinner. Wish I could hold and attend more of these just to taste his dishes.

blanc – this is an oasis in the dry west side of the city. huge craft bottled beer fridge, always something amazing on the FYO taps. and if you haven’t been to one of their Brew Fest’s then you should. They are currently the best mini beer fests in Auckland. Casual and you can chat with your favourite brewers for as long as you like.

Andrew Andrew – a cool name, for an interesting bar. doesn’t open till 4pm, but by that time of the day the sun is streaming into the semi-outdoor area. (it is kind of outside so smokers can kind of smoke). Craft beers on tap are all locally Auckland brewed. It’s always interesting looking at their Facebook page with photos of their customers, and to try to find one with a glass of craft beer. Any way they seem to have it right as they sell plenty of craft beer.

16 Tun – these are the new guys on the block. They have started solid with several taps dedicated to some of the best breweries, so you always knew you would have a goto beer if the rotating taps didn’t work out for you. Parking was cheap and easy to get (unlike many other inner city craft bars). Recently things have been kicked up a notch with the doubling of the number of taps. Food is pretty impressive. Chicken wings are SPICY good. Excited to see how this place goes.

Other Mentions:

There are other bars and restaurants around the city slowly adding craft beer on tap, and many more adding bottles to their fridges and menus. These other mentions are for bars that have only a handful of bars, but worth a visit to support their passion and commitment to craft beer.

Corner Bar – tiny bar with four craft beers on tap. The taps change very infrequently but it keeps the locals happy that stop in for a drink after work. Seems to be most busy after work.

My Bar – another tiny bar, four craft beers on tap and a good selection of bottles, and one of the better selections of spirits of a craft bar.

The Garden Shed – Mt Eden, next to the Belgian Beer Cafe. Only been once, beer selection great, and food was very good too.

I know there are several others, but need to finish this post up. I’ll get to you soon. No. 1 Queen, Conch, The Block, Malt, Golden Dawn, The Thirsty Dog, Grand Central….

Fallen behind the times mention:

Shakespeare Tavern – unfortunately this place has fallen from grace since the death of brewer Barry Newman, and the sale by Ron Urlich. Even though these two had a love/hate relationship, the range of 12 different beers made on site made it a must visit craft bar by tourists, craft beer drinkers and NZ Herald staff. If you visit and things have changed for the better please let me know.

(This post still needs some work done on it.)

#freshhopnz15 STARTS NOW!!!!

fresh hop brewers from aucklandYesterday 13 Auckland brewers, and many of Auckland’s craft beer bars met to discuss the details for #freshhopnz15 An event which will feature 13 beers made with Fresh Hops, straight from the hop fields of Nelson. Like this Facebook page and stay up to date with developments, updates from breweries, launch date as well as the list of the beers and the bars and outlets you can get them in.


Read about what we did last year #freshhopnz14

BEERVANA – Fresh Hop 2014 – 3/3/14

24 HOURS IN THE HOP FIELDS (Part 1) – 11/3/14

24 HOURS IN THE HOP FIELDS (Part 2) – 12/3/14

FRESH HOP – Brew Day – 31/3/14

Happy 18th Birthday Baroona – by Alan Knight

(the following has been reproduce here with permission of the author/brewer Alan Knight. Congratulations to Alan and Waiheke Island Brewery for 18 years)

Baroona on tap - Waiheke Island Brewery
Baroona on tap – Waiheke Island Brewery

Auckland Anniversary Weekend and the City of Sails is celebrating its 175th year. But over here on Waiheke Island there’s another interesting birthday being marked. For it was eighteen years ago today that the first two kegs of Baroona Beer rolled out of the new brewery for the public to try.

I’d spent three months with brewery owners John Wallace and Bill Lyttle getting the barn building lined and floored. We’d gone through the lengthy process of getting Auckland City Council to admit that they couldn’t find a way to stop us running a brewery, (though naturally they did their damnedest to try) and now all was ready.

The New Zealand beer scene was very different in those days. Any beer with actual FLAVOUR was viewed with deep suspicion by the vast majority of consumers and the taste of hops was enough to have many folk crying for their mums. John and Bill had firm plans for how the brewery would develop but only the vaguest of ideas as to what the product would be. Wet, cold and mildly alcoholic, naturally, but apart from that?

They went about it in a way that still makes me glad I had agreed to come and run the place, for they did it with considerable style. Some time around late November the previous year, as the brewery was still under construction, we all went down to the old Palaver Bar on Onetangi beach. It was a fine late spring day and the beach and bar patio were busy. We sat down outside and they went and fetched an empty beer glass from the bar. Setting it down in the middle of the table they said; “We have no idea what beer to produce. We are hoping like hell you do. All we can say is this; Look around you at the island, its people and its climate. All we want is the beer that goes in THAT glass.”

Alan Knight Brewer Waiheke Island Brewery
Alan Knight Brewer Waiheke Island Brewery

I was impressed. This is how to inspire a brewer I thought. So taking that idea in mind, I looked at how much capacity the new brewery had and decided that I would make New Zealand’s first Kolsch beer. After all, there was no way we had enough space to get serious with bottom fermenting lager products, and besides, I’d spent the last four years making those and I was never that keen a lager brewer anyway. We needed a rapid production golden ale suitable for patio drinking. It simply had to be Kolsch.

Then there was the matter of the name. Another problem craft brewers had in the 90’s was that putting any indication of beer style on the label meant half your potential customers would find it off-putting. It really is hard to believe how much stubborn resistance there was to craft beer back then. “Oh I don’t like ‘ale’, I just like lager!’ ‘What’s the closest thing you’ve got to Lion Red?’, and, I’m really not making this up, “I don’t like that! It TASTES of something!” My God, the patience you had to have! Getting people to just try something new was like pulling teeth.
Worse, it was like getting toddlers to eat sprouts.
I could go on at great length here about how you younger brewers don’t know how good you have it these days, but that would be dull, so I won’t.

Back then, the best marketing approach was to give your beer a name that conveyed no information whatsoever about the actual product. That way people would have to actually try it before trotting out their endless list of half baked reasons why they didn’t like it and wanted a Steinlager instead. We decided on Baroona as being just the name we needed. It had the right specific Waiheke connection but revealed nothing at all about what the beer was.

Alan Knight Waiheke Island BreweryI brewed the first batch just after Christmas 1997 and a second by the middle of the following month. The brewery worked well and Jan Ramp’s iconic life belt label was ready to use. By the week of Anniversary Weekend we were ready to go. It was decided to launch the beer at the Onetangi Beach Races.

Now John Wallace worked in Auckland and was a staunch member of the famous ‘Dunny Club’ on the ferry home each evening. This cheerful group of beer and wine bibbing commuters take their name from their habit of standing and drinking at the back of the boat right by the dunnies. They had been following John’s daily tales of the brewery with considerable interest and by the time the brew was ready for launching they were all determined to be part of things. One of them produced a vintage lavatory, complete with wooden seat, a real old ‘Thunderbox’ type loo and asked if this could somehow be worked into the proceedings to give a Dunny Club feel to the event.

Any marketing person would tell you that launching a new beer into a hostile market by fitting a tap through the back of an antique lavatory and pouring the beer through it is just plain silly. But the hell with them right? This is Waiheke and we do stuff differently here. I gave the receptacle in question a serious cleaning with industrial grade chemicals and drilled a hole through the back of the seat for the tap to fit into.

We were all set.

That weekend was every bit as hot and sunny as this one is. There we all were, on the beach opposite where Charley Farley’s is now, well covered in sunscreen and handing out plastic cups of cold beer to anyone who looked even remotely interested. Nowadays we’d be arrested for doing that of course, but things were more relaxed back then. It was all a huge success.

Waiheke Island Brewery
Waiheke Island Brewery

So eighteen years have gone by and here I still am. I can’t claim to have worked here all that time since owner number two was simply not the kind of fellow anyone would want to work for so I spent most of his tenure working in Australia or running the local theatre, but once owner number three took over I was back and have been here ever since. I have absolutely no idea how many litres of Baroona have been produced in that time. One rainy Winter day I might go back through the files and research it, but today is too warm and sunny for such antics and that patio is calling. Suffice to say we’ve made LOTS, and never more so than we do now since this Summer has broken all previous production records.

Has Baroona Beer changed? Very little. I have slowly increased the quantity of hops used on the late additions but as a local product it fell rapidly into the ‘This is NOT broken. Resist trying to fix it’ category. I have other products I can muck about with anyway so the oldest recipe really needs leaving alone. I’m not entirely certain but I am reasonably sure that Baroona was the first commercial beer to feature 100% Motueka hops, or Saaz B as they were known originally. They gave the brew its citrus bite and I could never mess that about.

Have I learned anything in that time? Well, I can think of one thing. It’s fairly specific and maybe doesn’t apply to all that many people, but I throw it out there anyway for any younger Chaps who might be interested. It’s this;

If someone calls you up and asks you if you’d like to come and set a brewery up on a beautiful sub-tropical island with colourful people and great beaches, whatever you do for God’s sake say YES.

by Alan Knight (Brewer – Waiheke Island Brewery)


RELATEDDay 16 – Beers of Auckland – Baroona

Day 24 – Beers of Auckland – Funkonnay

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 24 
– Funkonnay by Hallertau

BOTTLE:  Funkonnay 13 Funkonnay
BREWED: The Beer Fountain

ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 18

I wanted to finish with something special for the Advent Calendar. Steve (Hallertau) was kind enough to give me the 2012 and 2013 Funkonnay for today. Earlier in the year I had the privilege to try the 2012 Funkonnay on tap at the Malthouse thanks to Colin keeping a keg, in his secret cellar. It was amazing. One of the best beers experiences I’ve even had in New Zealand. Colin is one of the best publicans in New Zealand, not just because he keeps back the special stuff, but because he knows what his customers want, and delivers awesomeness on a regular basis.

I’m not sure how this beer changes in the bottle over time but the 2012 has more condition, ie CO2, and acid, than 2013, which means sourness. The 2013 is easier to drink. The only thing I can say from this is that both of these beers are very good, and possibly the best sour beers I’ve had in New Zealand. I would like someone to put a better sour beer made in New Zealand, in front of me.

I believe I have drunk some of the best sour beers in the world. Brussels, Santa Rosa, San Diego. All amazing. Hallertau are on par, world-class. Maybe not the most sour, but perfect for the market here. Steve Plowman is leading the way for New Zealand. If you can get a bottle of Funkonnay then get it. Drink it, cellar it.

The Beer Advent Calendar has been tough, partly because of the time of year, with time available, and what is happening within the Epic business. Busy also because it has been hard to get around all the Auckland breweries. I’m thinking that I’ll try to get that done over the coming weeks. It’ll be fun. There are beers and breweries I did’t get to try yet.

2015, I’d like to be fun for craft beer in Auckland. It has the most potential in New Zealand. The most new customers, the most potential bars. Craft Beer + Auckland = the biggest win for beer in New Zealand in 2015.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!!

See you in 2015…..


Day 23 – Beers of Auckland – Stuntman IIPA

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 23 – Stuntman IIPA by Hallertau

StuntmanTAP + BOTTLE: Stuntman IIPA
BREWED: The Beer Fountain

ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 90
HOPS: Lots and Lots

This is probably the first time I’ve had Stuntman IIPA in at least six months. Man it is tasting good. My memory of it was more full-bodied and a bit chewy. This batch is lean, clean, bitter and ready to kick some serious ass.

I only had a taste while having lunch at Hallertau today, but did bring home a bottle. Bottled in September, it has lost some hop aroma and flavour compared to the tap version but still a very serious beer.
IMG_1677 2

As I taste my Hallertau from my Spiegelau IPA glass I start to think maybe it’s time that there should be a taste off with Stuntman IIPA, Citra and Hop Zombie, all Double/Imperial IPA’s. From Three of the Four Horsemen of the Hopcalypse.

Maybe at the release of the 2015 Four Horsemen of the Hopcalypse, would be a good opportunity to do this. Because that is just what a release party for a 12%abv beer needs, a tasting of with three beer that are 8.5%+abv.

Anyway, something to think about.

I had some lunch. Didn’t get the burger (I know I should have for comparison purposes) I got the Chicken Arms instead, because of the cool name and it was one item I haven’t tried on the current menu. As you would expect they were good. I haven’t ever had a bad food experience at Hallertau before. Always yummy (get the Jalapeno Poppers). Also it was just too hot to eat a big meal at lunch today. So hot in fact they installed a fan next to me while I ate. How considerate.

Cheers Steve. Always good to catch up for a beer, and Merry Christmas. Shame we live on opposite sides of the city, as it would be nice to share a beer more often.

Yes, I need to get my Gin reviews finished, and updated. I hope to do this over the holidays.

Day 21 – Beers of Auckland – Epicurean Coffee & Fig Stout 2014

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 21 – 2014 Epicurean Coffee & Fig Stout by Epic Brewing Company

CF14 Xmas tree
Great gift idea, and for sharing on Christmas Day with friends and family

BOTTLE: Coffee & Fig Stout 2014
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company

ABV: 8.0%
COFFEE: Columbian Excelso (roasted by L’affare)

Today I started to get a little Christmas feel going on. Maybe a chance to start feeling relaxed and knowing that the next couple of weeks will be a holiday.

The festiveness lead to opening a bottle of Coffee & Fig stout 2014 for desert.

On the aroma the coffee is still very dominate. With big coffee, and some mocha, and chocolate, but also a greenness, like green coffee beans and capsicum.

The flavour is also dominated by coffee, but also the roast barley and other dark malts contribute. The bitterness is pretty punchy right now, but not over the top. As it warms the fullness and maltness comes out and balances the bitterness. (so don’t drink it too cold, maybe 30 minutes in the fridge). The 8.0% alcohol gives a warming character and also a sweetness.

This years vintage is made with Columbian Excelso coffee beans, and the figs were added whole to the kettle. Each year a different coffee variety from a different country is used and the figs are handled in a slightly different way.

This is the fourth year for Coffee & Fig Stout. It was first made as a media brew for Beervana in 2011, with Kelly Ryan (who was employed by Epic at the time) and Victoria Wells (who was the editor of DISH magazine at the time). This beer won the media brew that year.

Fruit cake mix ready after having been soaked in rum

Quick notes from a recent vertical tasting of all four vintages.

2014 – as above
2013 – coffee still obvious but doesn’t dominate like when young
2012 – more mocha and chocolate
2011 – figs are coming of age now, and really fruit cakey

The beer has been designed to be able to put it in your cellar and give it some age. If you see it you should probably buy three bottles. One for now and a couple for the cellar.

Day 20 – Beers of Auckland – Luke’s Beer+

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 20 – Beers of Auckland – Luke’s Beer+

IMG_1483Conflicted. I was going to make up a beer I drank but I didn’t drink one. I just didn’t feel like it. I was tired. Not just from a late night but from a really big week, big month and big year. The holidays start here.

I’ve also got to a place with the Advent Calendar, where the feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Thanks. Not for what I have said about the beer, but the commentary around the beer. The other observations, the food, the venue, the questions raised, the discussions started and even the photos taken.

So I thought today I would write a little about what is beyond the blog.

Beyond writing this blog I also collect and post cool/fun links I find during my day from my stream of feeds and emails. The really interesting, helpful and relevant stuff I post to my Tumblr (http://lukenicholas.tumblr.com). I have titled it Luke’s Beer+ as it is more than just my blog posts.

Think of it as a curated list of the better beer related stuff out there. If you are New Zealand based, and interested in beer, a brewer or homebrewer, then this might be of some value to you. Get the latest beer news, without having to look for it.

To make it easier to get these links (rather than visiting the website all the time) I have created a daily email that comes out at 10am every morning with the links from the previous 24 hours.

This makes it easy to skim and see if there is anything of interest. If there are no links then you don’t get an email. Most days there will only be 2-3 links, and probably never more than 6 links.

Check out the previous emails that have been sent out, to get and idea of what it looks like.

You can sign up here.


Subscribe to Luke’s Beer Blog mailing list

Day 19 – Beers of Auckland – Epic Armageddon IPA

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 19 – Imperium by Epic Brewing Company

IMG_1473BOTTLE: Armageddon IPA
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company

ABV: 6.66%
HOPS: Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus

I didn’t get home till after midnight so missed doing the blog on the 19th.

Team Epic visited a few craft beer bars in the lower CBD yesterday afternoon/evening. (16 Tun, Sky Sports Grill, Andrew Andrew, Vultures Lane and Brew on Quay)

My observation for the day was Armageddon IPA. I had it at 16 Tun (and it was tasting spectacular) the hops were jumping out of the glass at you. WOW. So good.

Later at Andrew Andrew I had another Armageddon IPA and found that it wasn’t as good. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, just didn’t have the big punchy hop aroma. So we had a look at the date on the keg and found that the beer was from a previous batch, therefore a little older and less aromatic.

I suspect it was an issue with stock rotation at our third-party logistics cold storage. Will follow-up on Monday to see what went wrong.

Two bars, same beer, different experience. Beer does change with time and it needs to be sold fresh. Treat it like you would bread or milk. Consumer fresh and store chilled if possible, to extend its life.

Special thanks to the weather. Finally some sun, and an absolutely perfect day.

Day 18 – Beers of Auckland – Citra Jnr

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 18 – Citra Jnr by Liberty Brewing Company

Vultures PintTAP: Citra Jnr
BREWED: The Beer Fountain
ABV: 4.5%

This was my opportunity to try a beer at Vultures Lane, as I was having a lunch meeting there. Again it was a little hard choosing an Auckland brewed beer. I’m still to decide what the issue is. Is it because of availability? quality? consistency? popularity?

So I had a Citra Jnr. It has good balance. Soft and juicy malt. Great drinkability. Nice bitterness in the finish. I did find the hops where on the herbal side, and not the big citrusy notes one might expect from Citra / Citra hops. Overall a satisfying glass of beer that disappeared all too fast.

It’s been a few months since I’ve had lunch at Vultures Lane. There is a new menu, so I decided on the Chicken burger with bacon, cause who doesn’t love bacon. (Epic Loves Bacon).

The burger was tender and delicious, and a very welcome spiciness that was a happy surprise. Not hot spicy, but more of a zippy, sparkle on your tongue. There was possibly a little too much rocket on the burger as it did dominate the other flavours. (I love how the food I have tried in the last few pubs has been above expectations. I use to love the Pulled Pork Sourdough sandwich. A-Mazing.)

The cool thing was, with the food the beer came to life and that citrusy note I was looking for came forward. That always fascinates me how different things like food can change how you experience the beer you are drinking. Even more confusing to me is how can the same beer taste different out of different glasses. I’m calling black magic.

Joseph, once again you have made a very enjoyable beer.