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.
After 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.
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.
Yesterday 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.
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.
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 )
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)
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.
We 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.
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?
We 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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was the extended family Christmas party, so again I had a selection of Epic beers in front of me. It’s a fun day for me, as it’s the only time of year I get to get to catch up with most of the aunties, uncles, cousins, and beyond.
It ‘s kind of a little show and tell of the beers and things I have created through the year. Hop Zombie was popular as always. There was curiosity around Lupulingus as a name, and awe at the 9% abv. IMP got a “I was wondering when you were going to make a low alcohol beer”. The Hot Zombie sauces did its job of taking people to the edge of heat, but not so far that it was too much. I do think the heat in this case overwhelmed and they didn’t have a chance to focus on the hoppy flavour.
The beer that seemed to have the most interest/discussion was Epic Loves Bacon. I guess this is reasonable considering all the other beers are iterations of alcohol strength and hop varieties.
Loves Bacon is fun as it creates so much discussion. “How much bacon did you use?”, “How do you add the bacon?”.
Well actually there is no bacon in the beer, it is also actually vegan. WHAT!?. That’s right, there is no bacon in it. All the smoke character comes from a malted barley that has been smoked with beechwood smoke. The reason that you think it smells and tastes like bacon is the smokeness, but also from the name and imagery on the label. Through the power of suggestion even before you have smelled or tasted the beer you are expecting bacon.
The beer was going to be called “BACON” but I felt it implied it had bacon in it, where as “Loves Bacon” was more of a statement about our love for bacon. Partnering with Freedom Farms seemed like fun and natural fit for both companies. Freedom Farms is our bacon of choice as it tastes the best and the philosophy and farming practices behind the creation of the bacon are inspiring. They made us a sausage with bacon and Armageddon IPA in it for Beervana where the beer Epic Loves Bacon was launched.
Another surprise that people get is when they are told it is a lager. Initially the smokey flavour is powerful but after three or four mouthfuls the taste intensity drops off, and becomes an enjoyable quenching beer.
Thinking more about this Advent Calendar, which is becoming dominated by Epic beers at the moment, is that there needs to be more planning, and getting more beers in bottle before starting out, so they are available from the fridge when needed. Also it seems as though posting on the weekend receives way less views. All good learnings and something I will consider for future posts.
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company ABV: 9.0%
HOPS: Fuggles, Chinook
It got to 6:30pm this evening and all of a sudden I remembered the Advent Calendar. It was a huge day at the Lumsden Freehouse yesterday. Thanks to everyone that come along to have a beer with us for our 9th Birthday, it was a really fun day. Once again my Spotify playlist was a bit of a hit, even if I was only allowed to play my 2pm to 4pm choice of tunes. I even had someone subscribe to the playlist during the day. I have embedded yesterdays list on the side bar.
So a lazy day, lead to a lazy beer choice. As each day passes I think more and more about Alice Galletly and the massive undertaking she did with her blog Beer For A Year. I have only just passed half way on my 24 day endeavour, yet she did this for a whole year. Hat off to you Alice, I don’t think anyone realises what you achieved, I am only just starting to gauge how massive your undertaking was.
Unfortunately I haven’t brought home my stout glass, so just used a wine glass instead to appreciate the aroma, which has hints of mixed spice and Christmas cake. (I put the bottle in the freezer for 30 mins before opening just to get a chill on the beer).
On tasting the beer, the roast and bitterness dominated, and came across as being a bit young (this is the 2014 Vintage Ale). It isn’t an Imperial Stout like many people think or expect , but more of a foreign export stout. As it warmed the malt became fuller, but it really needs another 6-12 months before that maltiness is going to work with the bitterness, and the fruity hops will back off a bit. This beer has done well in awards this year winning a couple of gold medals.
For dessert this evening there were some fresh blackberries, blueberries and Whittakers Dark Chocolate with Almonds. I tried each separately with the Imperium, and BOOM!, the blackberries were an incredible match (chocolates and blueberries didn’t work so well). The blackberries became joyously spicy with the black berry goodness, and the beer became more malty and chocolatey (without eating the chocolate). I would have never have guess these two would have worked so well together.
Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 11 – Endless Summer Pilsner by Shakespeare Tavern
TAP: Endless Summer Pilsner
BREWED: On Site – Shakespeare Tavern ABV: 4.2%
Today it was my intention to try Baroona from Waiheke Brewery, but it wasn’t on tap when I got to No 1 Queen Street (saving this for next week now). Next venue the Shakespeare.
I haven’t been to the Shakespeare since previous brewer Barry Newman passed away a few years ago. No one really talks about the Shakespeare anymore, so it has kind of been forgotten in my mind.
I had a quick small sample of the three beers brewed on site. I decided to get a glass of the Pilsner. It did remind me a lot of the beer that Barry use to brew. The quality of it seemed pretty good, but the hops aren’t as intense as I remember. It was bright, and looked good in the glass. The aroma was low. The beer has a slight grainy sweetness and good balance and cleanness. The lingering hop flavour though slight is pleasant. I’d happily drink another glass of this beer if I happened to be in the Shakespeare.
Barry’s passing was a loss to the local Auckland and greater NZ craft brewing industry. I think of him like our Richard Watkins, when he was at the Wig & Pen in Canberra. He always had something secret, fun, strong and interesting tucked down in the cellar. He won many awards, and made many inspiring beers.
Since it was lunch time I thought I better get a quick bite. I thought compare apples with apples, so I had the burger. OMG. This burger was $11.95 compared to the Galbraith burger the day before at $18.90. I can tell you I got more than twice the joy from eating the Galbraith burger. The Shakespeare burger – had the bun previously been frozen, or was it just old, as it was dried out and crumbly. There was extra lettuce, but the tomato looked like it had been precision cut with a laser it was so thin. Patty was not good. Amount of chips wasn’t very generous, then again it was a $11.95 meal in the CBD. The chips also tasted like they had been cooked in dirty oil. The only reason I thought about that was because yesterday a comment was made about how the Galbraith chips tasted amazing and must have been cooked in clean oil. The tomato sauce may not have ever been in contact with a tomato, it seemed just like red sugar sauce and flavourless
The over all feel of the place seemed tired and distant from its craft brewing roots. As I was sitting at the bar a guy came out of the pokies and asked for another glass of chardonnay.
DB has always had a connection with this brewpub as they helped set it up originally. Now you have to ask the question why does this place even have a brewery anymore. I am sure it is cheaper to buy beer in from DB than to make it. The beers on offer aren’t really that interesting, and not markedly different from the DB beers.
Based on this experience, where the beer wasn’t bad or interesting, I can’t come up with any compelling reason why you should visit, unless you are walking past and just curious to check it out. There is some great history in the building, but unfortunately the walls can’t talk.
They do have Tanqueray 10, which makes a lovely martini or G&T.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Galbraith’s Alehouse.
I had a glass (Colonial size 425ml, I’m guessing this is vs Imperial size) of Bob Hudson Bitter. It was exactly as I remembered it. Perfect balance of malt and hops. This has to be the original Auckland craft beer pint you can session on.
From the cask this beer is lovely and clear, and presents with good foam. The rich juicy malt and hop flavours are seamless, yet flavourful. There is a bitterness which you don’t notice without looking for it. And the bitterness lingers in a way that it creates the desire to have another mouthful.
A really great beer, which put a smile on my face.
It has been even longer since I have had a meal at Galbraith’s. Something they have always done well is the food. (sorry still not got the turning of the images sorted out yet).
Today though I was seriously impressed. I think I might have had the best burger I have ever had in a restaurant in New Zealand. It was simple, and had all the basic fixings, but the flavour and the ratio of meat/bun/fixings just was magic. This was on par with some of the best burgers I have ever tasting (burgers from the land of the burger, USA).
Just go and try it for yourself. It might have been a little situational, and the other feel good feelings I was having around a great beer might have helped too.
I had a sip of the session IPA Redemption 4.0%. That is a face full of hops. I’d say I will be heading back here again very soon to try the rest of the beers. (also had a little sip of Epic IMP too, which is currently on tap there, and it was a taste of big ripe nectarines)
Mr Sam Williamson you are doing a very excellent job on brewing the beers I tasted, and I hope Mr Galbraith is proud of your workmanship.
Last week when I was talking to John Morawski (owner/brewer of Laughing Bones and previously of Brewery Britomart) at The Lumsden Freehouse he said his new beer would be on tap at Sky Sports Grill, so I headed down today.
An observation I have made is it is hard to gather much information about some of these beers I am trying from the people selling them. (Not your fault Ben, you obviously hadn’t been told). Maybe there is an opportunity for brewers to spend some time with bar staff and educate them about the beer, and leave some support material for them to refer back to.
I just did a little online searching and found the label.
The label promises a lot of late hops. I found the aroma offered a malty caramel character, but not alot of hops. The colour was a beautiful bright copper. It makes me happy to see brewers taking pride in the presentation of their beer. The flavour has a sweetness from some crystal malts, a hint of nuttiness, and it is well-balanced with the bitterness. There is a presence of hops in the mid palate and a lingering hoppiness on the finish.
One of the cool things about this beer is it truly is very local, travelling less than a kilometre from where it was brewed. Just up the road at Brothers Beer. Try it now while it is fresh.
Something that did pop into my mind was 6.6% alc/vol, and then thought I’ve already tried on of these. 3D IPA is also 6.6% alc/vol.
Once again I am late to posting my beer of the day and that was because I was out late attending the O-I New Zealand White Burgundy Tasting with Bob Campbell MW. It was more to see how the event was run, rather than my interest in White Burgundy. The angle was to see if something could be created for the brewing industry along a similar format.
(hey and way can’t I reorient my images anymore on WP?). (this page still some reworking)