Belgian Beer Cafe – De Fontein – Mission Bay

Belgian Beer Cafe - De Fontein - from 2004
Belgian Beer Cafe – De Fontein – from 2004

Today we had lunch at the Belgian Beer Cafe De Fontein at Mission Bay. I’ve been here a number of times over the years. This time of the year is the best, as you can sit outside on the balcony and look out to the beach and ocean beyond.

We arrived at 12.30pm, so the height of lunch and all the outside tables were full, but they said they would move us outside once a table came free. We sat at a table inside. After sometime the waitress came back, we were ready to order some drinks, actually we were ready when we sat down. It wasn’t a mad busy lunch time, and it wasn’t crowded, as half the tables inside were empty. It also didn’t seem like there were to many or too few staff. About right for the number of people.


De Fontein Pilsner
De Fontein Pilsner (or Mac’s Hop Rocker?)

On the drinks menu there was a promotion for the “De Fontein Pilsner”.

I asked the waitress about it. As there wasn’t much more than “Crisp hoppy bitterness with just a touch of malt”. This didn’t tell me much.

I asked where it was from/where it was made. She said “here”. It was their beer. I started to ask did they make it in the kitchen, or have a brewery on site, but then stopped as it just made things more confusing.

It was obviously going to be a Lion brewed beer. Do people really get sucked in by buying house labelled beer? What is the point? I guess it’s the price? So who cares where it’s made.

(On leaving I asked for a small taste, and at a guess would say it is Mac’s Hop Rocker. Why not sell it as that. Isn’t there more value in having the Mac’s brand on it rather than De Fontein Pilsner )


Hoegaarden 500 vs 1000 jug
Hoegaarden 500 vs 1000 jug

I had a Hoegaaden and it was as good as it as ever. Love the citrus from the orange peel and coriander (or flavours of). But always find the little floral note slightly detracting in the finish. Still 4/5

The others got a 1 litre jug of Jupiler to share. Pretty clean, flavourless and easy drinking. Well made, and fresh.

Here is a photo of my 500ml Hoegaarden glass next to the 1000ml jug of Jupiler. That is a lot of glass in the Hoegaarden.

Both beers were in great condition.

Prices seem pretty fair for the beers in this place. More than your average mainstream beers. But for imports with higher ABV’s they offered value.

Only issue was some where out of stock due to the last two weeks being holidays. Missed out on the Rochfort 10 I wanted ($17.50)

De Fontein Calamari

Since the service was pretty slow I just took a punt and quickly  ordered a large main size calamari with the drinks, as an entrée to share. Even though it had been a year or so since I had had this meal here, the previous couple of times I had been impressed.

This time not so much. Everything on this plate was disappointing. I’ll leave it as that. I just hope the feedback makes it to the kitchen, and they can lift their game.

We had just finished our calamari and drinks and they came and said we could move outside. WooHoo. Beautiful day. Before we moved we said we wanted to place our order for our food. Didn’t want to lose our waitress again and have to wait even longer.

Tasting Platter of Grilled MusselsWe ordered the tasting platter of grilled mussels.

Tomato and Basil Pesto ones didn’t have much of either of those flavours.

The cheese and bacon just dominated the mussels

The crumbed/breaded/parmesan overpowered the mussel as well.

Don’t get these, as they aren’t that great.


Belgian Beer Cafe Pork Ribs

The BBQ Pork Ribs (800gms shown) came with a very runny/watery liquid on the plate. Maybe the sauce used, BBQ sauce? There was no BBQ flavour. The ribs were tender, meat fell of the bone, there was plenty of meat. There was just no flavour. Maybe they forgot to put the BBQ sauce on?

OK, but wouldn’t recommend these.

Where was the Flemish Stew? No longer on the menu?


Belgian Beer Cafe Pot of Mussels with Tasting Sample of saucesWe couldn’t decide on what flavour mussels to get so we got a kilo of mussels with a sampler of all the tasting sauces. This was a really cool idea, because then you could taste them all.

Unfortunately they were all disappointing apart from the Thai curry. They lacked any flavour intensity.

So if you are going to order a pot of mussels, just got straight to the Thai curry. There was a deal on today where you get the mussels for half price with your beer.


Leffe Brune, La Chouffe and Mussels

In summary, this place had a feel of new management (or owners on holiday), the food felt like there was some corner cutting going on, as the quality wasn’t has high as I have come to expect. The staff seemed new, inexperienced, and overwhelmed. They lacked knowledge, and attention to customers. We had to get their attention several times, to get them to come over. We had to ask for water, twice.

For the win, location, great weather, good company, good beer.

If you visit (sorry I couldn’t have been more positive about todays experience), get there just before 12 noon, get a primo spot on the balcony, and watch the world go by. Order a 500ml of Hoegaarden and a half pot of the Thai curry mussels.

Luke with previous BBC owners Trevor and Lynn Ready 2004
Luke Nicholas with previous Belgian Beer Cafe owners Trevor and Lynn Ready 2004

I found this old photo of a younger version of me (from 2004, WHAT!?? 11 years ago) with Trevor and Lynn Ready who started De Fontein in Mission Bay. Not sure when this bar opened, but this photo was from the night they got awarded the Brew Masters certificate for clean beer lines. Guessing it wasn’t long after they opened.

The beer is good here. An extensive range of bottled Belgian specialty beers.







TASTING TUESDAY 140610 – Brew On Quay

Its been a while, after much international travel and much beer judging, now its time to bring back Tasting Tuesday. Tasting Tuesday has probably been the posts that I have had the most positive feedback from. So it would be silly not to do a few more.

Brew on QuayI was asked by David Cryer of Beervana when I was doing my next one, I said how about tomorrow, there is no reason I shouldn’t do one. I just need to get on and do it. Next on the list had to be Brew on Quay. This is one of our best tap accounts for Epic Pale Ale.

The one issue many beer geeks have with Brew on Quay is that it is 80% tap tied to Lion which has historically meant that the range of beers had been boring due to them having to come from the Lion portfolio. Things have improved since Emerson’s joined the family though. But wait [BREAKING NEWS] come the 4th July Brew on Quay will be independent, a freehouse. They will be free to put what ever beers they like on tap. WooHoo! Finally a win for #CraftBeer in Auckland. (FYI we lost a few more taps last week with the closing of No 1 High St. Come on publicans we must be able to turn this tide).

Gallery of photos and tasting notes:

Moa 5 Hop Winter Ale from hand pump was also sampled. (I forgot to take a photo of the tap badge). Presented with a nice head, the beer was clean and balance, the malt had hints of chocolate/cocoa, but I found the hops were muddled, and lacked definition, or any peaks that stood out. Maybe got some Fuggles in there?


We got lucky with the food, as it a new menu. Check it out. I’d have to say they have come a long way since my post on getting carrots in my Nachos (need to find the photo, and then I will repost). We only sampled from the tapas menu, so haven’t tried any of the main dishes. Something to look forward to.

Photos of menu and food:

I’m excited to head back for the 4th July to celebration Brew on Quay’s Independence Day. (actually I am excited to be heading back on Friday 20th June for the 2014 Hop Zombie and Hot Zombie launch)

On a side note, if you are looking for a unique property investment the building that houses Brew on Quay if for sale. Here is some background history on the building.

The single-story brick structure was designed by architect Charles Arnold on reclaimed land, and was completed in 1904 as the New Zealand headquarters for the Australian company Colonial Sugar Refining, now known as Chelsea Sugar, which processed sugar from Fiji and other colonies.


The New Zealand Police took over the lease of the building in 1961, and it was the Wharf Police Station up until 1993.

[TASTING TUESDAY] After 4 Craft Bars – Time To Reflect

When I started out on my Tasting Tuesday journey I didn’t have a plan on how long it would go for, or what the end game was. My main motivations were, taste the beers on tap at the local craft beer bars, taste them with the staff (hoping they might learn a little), then report back via the blog.

The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive. Even from the brewers who’s beer I have possibly made less than positive comments about. They have contacted me for more information on why their beer may have tasted like they did, and even asked for help on improving their beer, which I am very willing to help with.

Tasting Tuesday

Here are some of the notable observation that have stuck with me

– Craft brewers can do no wrong 
I found several faulted beers at the four bars reviewed so far. The obvious concern was none of the staff could identify the beer as faulted. There were a couple of staff that identified the beer as something they liked the taste of, even with a high level of diacetyl. The general feeling I have got is staff just accept the flavour in the beer as they don’t know any better. This is no ones fault as there has never been any training given on what is good or bad in beer, let alone what you should expect to see and not see, in different beer styles. Bar staff and the general hospitality industry, is notably transient, and training staff to a level of competency on being able to identify faulty beer is a big call.

I believe there is a training course that the Brewers Guild of New Zealand or SOBA?, run every now and again (I haven’t been able to find it on their website) If I can find out about it I am going to have to attend one and see if it is worth attending for bar owners and staff.

The short-term fix is that the owners and bar managers need to drink more beers (and different styles) with people who know more about beer than them. A good start would be brewers (mostly). They need to learn more about beer so they can be the experts in the bar, so they know as much or more than the most knowledgable punter in their bar. It is their business right?, and they should know it better than anyone.

– Between the brewery and the tap is the biggest problem

barrel on shoulder

Out of all the problematic beers tasted, the majority of problems could potentially be attributed to the handling of the kegs, between when the keg leaves the chiller at the brewery and when it is hooked up to the tap to be served at the bar. Cold chain, transport, distribution and storage.

At this time of year these issues are magnified due to higher temperatures and increased sunshine. Beer that isn’t transported cold, is stored in an ambient warehouse for extended periods, delivered warm, stored warm at the outlet, stored outside and stored in the sun all has a negative impact on the quality of the beer.

Bar owners should be insisting that the brewers keep their beer cold, from the brewery to the bar. Brewers should be insisting that the bars put the kegs in the chiller on arrival, and keep them out of the sun. This isn’t going to happen overnight (in some cases it can), there are going to need to be some changes in systems, processes and building and equipment.

  • Beer selection criteria
    This point kind of ties in with the above couple of points. If the beer is in poor condition or actually bad then the person making the purchase decisions of craft beer should be making the hard calls and saying “hey Mr Brewer your beer is no good, you need to come pick it up and replace it with good beer or I’m not going to put it on my taps and serve it to my customers”.  If “brewers can do no wrong” then purchasing will come down to pricing, deals, and personalities. So if you are a good guy, have a sweet price, you are going to get a tap. This doesn’t guarantee the quality of the beer though.

Beer Tasting

Education – of people ordering the beer, they need to keep the brewers honest and make sure they are stocking the best beer for their customers. Know good beer and bad beer, and reject bad beer.

Cold Storage – all the way from brewery to tap. Too many beers quality is being damaged due to the sun, and being warm outside the chiller for too long. Keep it cold.

These two simple points will have a huge effect on the craft beer drinkers experience. If every craft beer is a good craft beer then more people will have a positive experience and will drink more of it, and will also become champions for craft beer.

I challenge all craft brewers to not only make the best beer they can, but to also work harder to look after the condition of the beer even after it leaves your brewery. Keep it cold for as long as you can

I challenge all craft beer bar owners, managers and staff, to drink as many different beers, hopefully with someone who knows more than you so you can learn from them. Brewers are a pretty good start.

I hope these thoughts are of some help…


EDIT: If you are in Wellington check out Craft Beer College to learn more about beer. Website

EDIT 2: I remembered about this flavour training kit which could be used to help train people in off flavours and flavours that can be found in beer.

EDIT 3: Brewers Guild training. Here is a link but not much information

[TASTING TUESDAY] – 140218 – Vultures Lane

Vultures Lane (previously know as O’Carrolls Irish Bar)

It has been really cool to see the transformation of this bar over the last few years. From one of the most popular Irish bars in New Zealand into possibly the leading craft beer bar in Auckland.

(Why is it called Vultures Lane?  I have now found out this was an old name from early in the 20th Century when Vulcan Lane was in a bit of the seedy part of town with working ladies, drunks, sailors, pirates and undesirables, hence Vultures)

Coopers Pale Ale – mostly as I expected, the bitterness was higher, and yeast lower.

Ben Middlemiss White Lady – I would guess this is a different batch from a few weeks ago. The initial aroma this time was a black pepper spice note, pretty interesting. It was drier and more of a belgian yeast fermentation note.

Sawmill Pale Ale – hazy, diacetyl, caramel, and no hops for the style. But told it is a good seller. Maybe the staff push this one more than others

The Right Stuff – Yeastie Boys and Hopmongers. First question was who are Hopmongers? Told they are Christchurch based, asked if it was brewed at 4 Avenues, told don’t know. Guess I need to do some research.

A Belgian IPA, the best example of the style I have tried in New Zealand. Good Belgian aroma, followed by wonderful US hop characters.
If you see it, give it a try.

Nerdherder – Yeastie Boys
This beer is all about the biscuity malts, a little husky, a little crystal. Not bad, body felt a little light for the flavours.

Schippers Boffin Aroma hints of sour, in the mouth it seems water and thin, possibly an acetic character too. Not very enjoyable.

Iron Harvest – Behemoth
A pretty nice hefeweizen, delicate banana note, pretty good drinkability, but the abv was slightly too high and noticeable. Then I was told it was a Saison, Oh!?. Therefore if it’s suppose to be a different style than hefeweizen then it isn’t as good. I didn’t know what the style was going in, it was good for what I tasted, but when I was told it was something else I was disappointed. This is the best beer I have had so far from Behemoth.

Sawmill Pils – having now had three beers from Sawmill with diacetyl. I was totally expecting to get it again in this beer. Some how it wasn’t there, if it was, then at much lower levels. The beer seemed to be something like an Emerson’s Pilsner, driven by an NZ hop like Riwaka. But there was a smokey note in the background, possibly like a burnt element or a character sometimes contributed by hops.

Golden Perch – Yeastie Boys
A third beer from Yeastie Boys, guess it is a bit of a tap take over. A solid hop flavour, this beer is worth at least a pint if not two. Big sweaty and savoury hops. Makes the beer seem like it is delivering more than its manageable 4.4% abv

Liberty – Oh Brother
Possibly the best beer on tap today at Vultures Lane (I am excluding my own beer ;-). Wonderful piney citrusy flavours. If you like big hop flavours with a manageable 5.1%abv then you should be drinking this all afternoon.

Governors Lager
Last time I had this it was more of a fresh lager yeast character I like. This time it was dominated by the malt, somewhere between a Helles and a Vienna style lager. The malt flavours are sweet, grainy and husky, almost a little worty. Not bad.

Brew Brothers – Fork & Brewer & Yeastie Boys
Actually that is now four beers on tap today. Surprised I didn’t see Sam here for lunch. This is a Spring Ale, which I am drinking two weeks before Autumn. So yes it was showing some real age, so will leave it at that.

I probably shouldn’t go into the beers on hand pump other than just list them. They were in a very distressed state to say the least.

There are four hand pumps. Three are currently in use. The beer is being served from a 20 litre bag, stored ambient, and taking more than a week to sell. Oh no.

Stoke Olde Pour Oatmeal Stout – fastest seller, nice roasty note, not the body or creaminess I would expect from the oatmeal

Raindogs ?? Black IPA. You wouldn’t know as there weren’t any hop notes, but some vegetal.

Golden Eagle – Belgian aroma, lemon, lime and bitters flavour, told it was an American Pale Ale.

Enough said. Maybe just run one hand pump, and keep the beer fresh and turning over.

The taps are unique with them being set into a steel I beam. The beer lines and cooling lines are exposed. The tap badges for each beer are located on top of the of this I beam.
If you are short than 5′ 5″ you won’t be able to actually see these tap badges so won’t know what is on tap to be able to order
Recently this problem was remedied by them adding a blackboard behind the bar where they list all the beers on tap.
Yes there is free wifi from CallPlus. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to connect to it. Then again I had been told by Dave the owner that he was having problems connecting to the internet to pay the wages. So maybe the internet wasn’t working for the wifi either.
Give it a go and let me know.

Top: Buttermilk Chicken, was very tasty, goes well with the dipping sauce, and juicy thick pieces of chicken. $11

Bottom Right: Mini Corn Dogs – pretty nice sausage, kind of chorizo like, batter is a little doughy, flavour needed a little boost, and the mustard seemed to help it. $8
Bottom Left: Two Soft Shell Tacos, changes each day, today Hapuka in one and prawns the other. Fresh and yummy, needed a little hot sauce to jazz it up. $10
People next to us had the dipping bread and fries. Great for soaking up beer. This carb hit is only $6, with 4 different dips including an olive oil with chilli flakes.
The Only Burger – review mid this blog post
Up the lane
Down the lane
In the sky
The end.

[TASTING TUESDAY] 140211 – Sky Sports Grill – Part 1

Sky Sports Grill it seems is the forgotten cousin on the craft beer sense in Auckland. It has the most taps. 60 taps, 40 different beers. 30 of them craft. No where has more craft beers on tap in Auckland.

With much thought, maybe it is when people think about it as a destination, the sports bar theme jumps to mind first.

When you arrive for the first time you might actually think there are more TV’s than their are beer taps. (the reflective mirror panels on the ceiling give an impression there are more TV’s than there really are.)




If you love your sport and your craft beer, then this place is heaven.

If not, you may still be in heaven with a great selection of craft beer, there is an outdoor (ish) area where you are away from the AV overload.

Located in the Viaduct Basin, it is the only place that really offers a choice of beer beyond the large brewery tied bars and restaurants that line the water front.

To the beers I tried today. There was no way I was going to try all 30 different craft beers in one go, so this is Part 1 of my posts about Sky Sports Grill.




Schippers Geezer 4.4% abv. a honey/grainy aroma, flavour was underwhelming but seemed balanced, the questions is a Golden Ale the same as a NZ Draught? Looking for something cold and thirst quenching?

ParrotDog Bitter Bitch – one of the better examples I have had of this beer. It seems well made, balanced and clean. The hop character seems to be dull, maybe it is just end of seasons hops losing their pop. In pretty good condition.

Tuatara Pils – better/fresher than the one had at Corner Bar last week. Found out that this one was delivered direct from the brewery. This batch seemed to lack the expected hop intensity in the aroma and flavour. Overall good.

Black Sands IPA – note to self “contact brewer and advise of problems” IPA’s have hop character. Hop notes in this were vegetal.

Panhead APA – very impressive perfumy aroma, the flavour didn’t deliver as much intensity but would definitely drink a pint of this. Odd character I noted as it slightly warmed was it had a pencil shavings character in the finish (this might just be me), only had this once before in the Bach Brewing Hopsmacker, I’m going to put it down to Riwaka hops until I can work out what the common factor is. Don’t get me wrong both of these beers are excellent examples of how great New Zealand craft beer can be.

Stoke Biscuit Lager – Vienna Lager. which biscuit is it? I am going to say it is a little ANZAC. This beer doesn’t have more than a caramelly sweetness. Nothing wrong with it, just a bit underwhelming if you are looking for flavour in your beer.

Speights – I wanted to try New Zealand’s number 1 selling beer. It had been a very long time, and it will be a long time before I try it again. It is sad to think so many people chose to drink this. They obviously don’t know any better, having never tried anything with flavour. All I got was a fermentation stink (aroma is too nice of a word to describe this character), beyond the yeasty note there was a sweetness guessing from priming, and no perceiveable bitterness, then again my taste buds probably can’t detect anything below 20 IBU. Technically very well made. The shareholders will be happy.

Kereru Woodfired Toasted Coconut Stout – end of the keg, but one of the best coconut flavoured beers I have ever had. I will be looking out for another chance to try a pint of this if I get a chance.

Kronenburg 1664 – this was terrible, why would anyone want to drink this. It had notes of cider, apple, pears, a belgian yeast fermentation. If this was 9%-12% abv and I was drinking a tripple, then these characters I could live with. A 5% lager, not so much.


A selection of snacks from the menu

  • Wings, 1kg for $20. That is a lot of wings and they are great. Could do with extra hot sauce, but maybe that is just me.

  • Jalapeno Poppers – Awesome BBQ sauce, the cheese filling overwhelmed the pepper

  • Salt & Pepper Squid – fair, seemed like they came from a freezer bag and deep fried.








  • Nachoes – the bowl they came in made it hard to access all the toppings for getting a good mix on your chip. Pretty good. Guessing the green squiggles was Avocado. Always nice to see jalapeños.

Next time will try the burger. They looked incredible coming out, and the size was huge. So if you buy and pint and can get one of these for $10, that will be a win.









So what is cool, and what don’t you know about Sky Sports Grill

  • booths, I love a booth.
  • lots of TV’s &; lot of sports (if you like TV’s. I don’t like them in bars as they distract me)
  • toilets smell good and look clean
  • everyday 5pm -7pm Happy Hour – 5 craft beers on special
  • Monday – “All You Can Eat Chicken Wings” $20
  • Everyday – Buy a pint get a burger for $10

Overall the selection of craft beer and quality was worth making the effort to visit and drink beer there. There are specials on every day, and the value on the food for what you get is really good.

On Facebook

[BEER JUDGE] The Tasting Tuesday Challenge

Here is some background information on me which will hopefully make my “Tasting Tuesday” posts more relevant and credible.

There have been many people who have become craft beer drinkers since I have started my career as a brewer in 1997. Many people won’t be aware of my experiences in judging beer, managing beer systems and educating bar staff.


My beers were first entered into competition in 1998 in Australia, all of them won awards that year.

In 1999 I won Supreme Champion Beer at the inaugural New Zealand International Beer Awards.

2000 I was invited to judge in the New Zealand International Beer Awards, (there was no conflict of interest as I wasn’t brewing at that stage, I was working from

2001 the industry got frustrated with the organisers of the NZIBA as there were changes the brewers wanted to make, to make the competition even better, but it seemed the organizers (event managers but not involved in the brewing industry) were more interested in sponsors and making a dollar from this event. So the brewing industry formalised a group, and an event called BrewNZ. No judging for me this year.

2002 the first BrewNZ, I was the head steward and organised the entries, and managed all logistics behind the scenes. No judging, just making it all happen for the judges.

(I need to make some time to look back to confirm the years I have judged the BrewNZ vs when I was running the judging, but I think this is right)

2003 – BrewNZ head steward
2004 – BrewNZ
2005 – BrewNZ
2006 – BrewNZ
2007 – BrewNZ

2005 – I was nominated and then invited to be a judge at the World Beer Cup (as they call it the “Olympics of Beer”). I was the first New Zealander to join the panel of international judges. World Beer Cup is held every second year.

2006 – World Beer Cup – Judge – Seattle
2008 – World Beer Cup – Judge – San Diego
2010 – World Beer Cup – Judge – Chicago
2012 – World Beer Cup – Judge – San Diego, (my first year as a table captain)
2013 – Australian International Beer Awards – Judge – Melbourne (first time invited to judge)

This year I have been invited to judge
2014 – WBC Denver
2014 – AIBA – Melbourne

I started my brewing career in 1997 at the original Cock & Bull brewpub in East Tamaki. So being the brewer in a brewpub you have to learn alot about the beer systems that dispense your beer. Getting your beer from the tanks and pouring through the taps at the right temperature, with the right speed, with the right level of gas, so it looks great, takes a bit of skill and experience. Plus regular cleaning of the beer lines is important for the quality of the beer too. 1997-1999

After a few years away from brewing doing website stuff, I returned to the C&B, initially on a contract basis, not only to manage quality assurance of the beer (I didn’t initially return as a brewer), but also look after staff training, monitor beer systems and ultimately find ways to reduce beer wastage at the tap. 2002-2005

I’ve had many years as a brewer, an international beer judge, working with beer dispensing systems, training staff on pouring beers, educating staff on beers, beer styles and the brewing process.

Therefore I think I can add value to bars and bar staff by visiting on “Tasting Tuesday”, discussing the beers on tap, talking about their beer systems, practices, discussing the beers on tap, the beer styles, the aromas and flavours we experience, including off flavours. Then sharing the experience online through this blog as a review of the beers and the bars. Highlighting the points of difference and the reasons why you might want to visit this bar.

Making an effort to make craft beer and bars a better experience. (firstly for me, but ultimately for everyone)

[TASTING TUESDAY] 140204 – Corner Bar – Hotel DeBrett

Its Tuesday, so time for a visit to a craft beer bar. This week I thought a craft beer bar with only a few taps. So Corner Bar came to mind.

Only four taps, but generally solid craft beers and brands on tap (not the relentless rotation of beers hourly), offering people a good introduction to craft without getting smashed in the face with massive hops or alcohol (because I’m told not everyone likes that).

First up is a new beer on tap here, Good George Sparkling Ale from Hamilton. These guys are just smashing it out these days, going from strength to strength. I’ve even heard that DB are doing some distribution for them now, which means they are getting their beer on heaps more taps.

Unfortunately the huge success these guys are experiencing seems to have taken a slight toll on the quality of the beer. I got a diacetyl character in the aroma and flavour. Not too intense and a lot of people most likely wouldn’t get it. I’m sure the next batch will be great.

Tuatara Pilsner. Another brewery which has been hugely successful, with the partial sale of 35% to investment fund Rangatira.
It seems that this beer doesn’t like coming to Auckland. I have never had an amazing Tuatara Pilsner like I have experienced many times in Wellington. I’m going to put it down to distribution, and lack of cold chain for this kegged beer.
If you had given me this beer blind and not told me what it was I would never have been able to pick it.
I got DMS, stewed raisins and prunes, out of balance bitterness and a dry astringent finish. Seems a real shame knowing that when its fresh it can be one of the best beers made in New Zealand.

It sounds biased but the Epic Lager was tasting great, a little floral and citrusy in the aroma, and the flavour is light malt sweetness and soft bitterness.

It highlighted the benefits of cold storage, and cold delivery to an outlet where the beer was put immediately into the the chiller on arrival.

That does come at a cost, but it is worth it for the condition and awesomeness of the beer.

Moa Pale Ale – not sure what happened and why I didn’t take a photo. Guess I got distracted. The beer was also not in the best shape. Had a very noticeable vegetal aroma and flavour. Once again not the best example of a beer that I have had in good condition before.

From my experience Corner Bar are very good at putting kegs straight into the chiller on arrival. Even if they didn’t, they are stored below street level inside so don’t have issues with direct sun heating them up.

We sat down with our beers and the waitress came out to the table and gave us this selection of cashews (did you know that cashews come from a fruit) and almonds, coated in something, not sure what it was, a little salty, and the small pieces of Nori were cool.
An interesting snack that complemented the beer, and made you want to drink some more.
Thought the best thing to try was the $10 pizza special for lunch. Not a bad pizza, freshly made, and delivers OK value for money. Good filler when drinking beers and talking to mates.
Too much talking lead me to forgetting to take a photo of when the pizza arrived, so this isn’t a good indication of what it looked like.
I was advised that there is a menu refresh on the cards, so maybe I’ll wait till then to revisit the food on offer.
Here is the full menu. Remember it isn’t the biggest bar, with what seems to be more outside seating than inside.
So at this time of year it is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening drinking a beer with mates, and doing some people watching.
Definitely a very busy corner, particularly at lunch or after work.
I guess this is Happy Hour. There is only one beer available for $6, and it is currently Good George Sparkling Ale.
There is an OK range of other craft beer in bottle if you can’t find something you like on tap. Sorry currently no Armageddon IPA.
I kind of like the disco ball frontage of the bar.

The walls are decorated with lots of old kiwiana advertisements from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

With a bit more time I would expand on the restaurant upstairs “Kitchen” . I have eaten there a handful of times and been pretty impressed with the quality of the food and service. It has been a few months so would need to try again.

Kitchen was named as one of Auckland’s top 50 restaurants in the Metro 2013 Restaurant of the Year Awards.

They do offer a reasonable selection of craft beer in the restaurant and upstairs bar. Better than 99% of restaurants in New Zealand.
Also worth considering is staying in one of the 25 luxury boutique hotel rooms. I have never seen one but I’ve known people that have stayed here and they have been really impressed with the experience. Maybe I should check out a room some day.

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[TASTING TUESDAY] 140128 – The Lumsden Freehouse

After my blog post about  New Beers Everywhere, But Buyers Beware which also linked to Dodgy brews bringing industry into disrepute by Geoff Griggs and The Emperor’s New Suds by Greig McGill, I thought I would do something about it.

I thought it might be useful to go to the local craft beer bars, and taste the beers. Not only taste the beers but actually arrange to taste the beers on tap with the staff that work at the bars.

So today I started with The Lumsden Freehouse. I rocked up at 11am, had a handful of staff, and just tasted our way through the taps.

First question I asked “have the beers been pulled through” answer wasn’t the best start from the guy on duty, but at least it was a good learning.

(edit: it is important that a bar pulls through at least the beer in the beer line from the tap to where the cooling ends, as this beer will had sat warm overnight, and wont be in the best condition. Plus it will also create extra foaming when pouring the first beer of the day as the gas will have broken out of solution.)

Ginger Fusion – from Hawkes Bay Independent Breweries,  aroma ginger and lemon/orange, flavour is very sweet, a difficult pint for me, but might be good as a mixer for a cocktail.
Cool Beans – from Laughing Bones (brewed at Brothers Beer by John Morawski, ex Britomart Brewery). 5.25% abvThe beer is obviously coffee beans in the aroma, and the flavour is like cold plunger coffee. Good clean beer, well balanced. Reminds me of when I have drunk Youngs Chocolate Stout. Aroma and flavour start off big, but fade away as you work your way down the pint as your palate gets use to the intense flavour, in this case the coffee.
White Lady – from Ben Middlemiss Brewing (not sure where Ben is brewing at the moment, so if someone wants to add that info below thanks). This is a pretty nice Wit Beer, 4.5% abv, makes it easy to drink, nice aroma of coriander, and citrus (more lemon then orange peel), the body feels very full, maybe a little lighter would increase drinkablity, but not to say this isn’t a nice beer.
Guinness – Lion Breweries 4% abv (I thought it was 4.2%, then again it has been a long time since I have had a try, then again it did use to be 4.9%) The bar staff passed on a story from a punter that says that it is Steinlager with roast malt extract added. It did use to be that, and it could be again. It had an aroma that just seemed to be grainy with fermentation/yeasty notes, the flavour was more washed out than I remembered it with a slight burnt toast note.
HBIB Pilsner – Hawkes Bay Independent Breweries, 5% abv very pale colour, the very slightest hint of hops on the aroma, light body, hop bitterness a little astringent, and some what sweet finish, but overall, an OK beer.
Sawmill Saison – sweet alcoholic aroma, on the palate the alcohol was quite hot, it was 8% abv, the bitterness/ hops came across a bit sharp and astringent.
Old Speckled Hen – 5.2% abv for some reason I remembered this being lower in alcohol, and therefore watery. This beer for what it was, seemed OK, the caramel character was dominate, with a hint of English hops.
Electric India – Brew Dog – 7.2% abv, because it was on tap and had come from Scotland, my expectations were low for this as I had had other Brew Dog beers in NZ when they first arrive and they were in shockingly bad condition. When I smelt this it was like “WOW”. It was in great condition. It was big spicy Belgian yeast character, and some nice IPA hopping. Overall a pretty cool beer, in good condition. This is worth a try before it runs out.
Hallertau #4 – a Dark Lager (Schwarzbier) 5.1% is not the most interesting beer in the world, but this is a pretty cool, and tasty example of the style. Actually it is one of the beast batches I have tried of this beer from Hallertau (wonder if it is from the new Brewery?) Flavours of toasty dark/black malts, and dry finish.
Sawmill Crystal Wheat – 4.5% abv Diacetyl/smokey ash like notes in finish
Epic Armageddon IPA – 6.66% abv very hoppy aroma and flavour
Liberty Oh Brother – 5.1% abv hoppy Pale Ale, sweatness from hops accentuated from drinking after Armageddon. Good beer though.
Mustang Ale – 4% abv at only $1 per pint less than Armageddon and no real flavour other than priming sugar (sugar added back to the beer to give some body, and sweetness) maybe a little from the caramel that is added for the colour too, it surprises me people would bother drinking this at $9 a pint. Then again maybe they only drink it when it is on special at $6 at Happy Hour.

A pretty good selection of bottled craft and imported beers, incase you have tried everything on tap


A fantastic selection of Bourbon. Love to know all the places in New Zealand with a better list than this



Totally Insane Wings

If you like it hot, then you have to try the Hot Wings.

You have to sign a disclaimer to eat them and they serve them with safety gear on.



The Nachos are on par with some of the best Nachos I’ve had in New Zealand. Plenty of beans, meat, jalapenos. Maybe a little more cheese would be nice.

So for New Zealand I’ll give it a 9.5/10

Jalapeno Poppers – second place I have found these. The other place is Hallertau.

A few other cool things to know about the Lumsden.

  • get your cell phone charged
  • get free WiFi, you need to tell the staff a funny joke to get the password, the dirtier the better
  • there are assortment of board games on the tables inside
  • there is chalk on the tables outside and each table is a blackboard
  • when it is cold in the winter months, there are free blankets and hot water bottles so you can still sit outside
  • free popcorn

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