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.)

Craft Beer Auckland

Auckland Sky TowerSome weeks get really busy and I have trouble keeping up with everything beyond my little world of beer.

The following are tabs I have open in my browser (which need to be closed) so I am storing them here, to refer to and maybe comment on later.

AUCKLAND CRAFT BEER TONIGHT

Epic Hot Zombie & Hop Zombie Launch 5pm-7pm Brew on Quay

Yeastie Boys Spoonbenders Launch  – Galbraith’s Alehouse

8 Wired Flat White Launch – Vultures Lane

This seems to be more common now. two or three venues having cool craft beer events on a Friday in Auckland. #CraftBeerAuckland

New Beervana Trade Show

Westpac Stadium from 2pm to 4pm, on Thursday 21 August…. the afternoon before Beervana opens to the public, is for the brewing industry, retailers, restaurants, bars, caterers, media and others wanting to develop their business with the brewing industry, with the aim of increasing trade for New Zealand brewers both here and in Australia.

 

These are dark days, indeed

“I don’t like dark beers”.

Starting this Friday The Malthouse will host its annual two-day Darkest Days event.

A celebration of dark beers, some of the highlights include Epic’s biennial  stout, this year named Imperium, the always-amazing Three Boys Oyster Stout and another San Diego offering – Stone 2013 Espresso Russian Imperial Stout.

No, you won’t like them all but if you’re a dark beer virgin this is the place to start.

 

Help shape Auckland’s alcohol policy

Submissions open Monday 16 June and close at 4pm, Wednesday 16 July 2014.

ShapeAuckland.co.nz

 

Craft beer is a culture, not a craze

But for all of the excitement our love affair with craft beer is still in its awkward adolescent stage, with much fumbling at clasps, enthusiastic – and sometimes clumsy – experimentation and occasional disappointment and regret. In our teenage years of beer discovery, we often find ourselves drawn to the enigmatic bad boys who will break our heart, or the hottie whose short skirt distracts us from her inability to carry a conversation, or at least their beer world equivalents.

 

Brewing up a storm at new beer festival

Eckhard says the event aims to showcase home brewing and 10 home brewers from the Nelson Tasman region will have their beer at the celebration – (wow, slow news day Nelson?)

 

JED.IPA Beer Launch

Sweet name for a beer.

 

Gorgeous Gale’s lost for want of a gyle

In the last few years Speight’s eight remaining kauri gyles have once again fallen into disuse, but Lion continue to maintain them and has expressed a desire to keep them in working condition on the off-chance they may be once again brought out of retirement – perhaps for special one-off or limited release brews.

 

Society of Beer Advocates City of Ales Festival 12 July

When: Saturday 12 July 2013; Two sessions 1) 12pm- 3pm 2) 4pm-7pm
Where: The Floating Pavillion, Gate 1, Hobson West Marina, 220 Quay St, Auckland
How much: $35 per person
What: 2 complimentary sample glasses of beer and a plate of food, with the option to purchase more beer

 

New Beer Events and New Epic Beers

Its been a while since I have talked about what’s coming up and there seems to be a few things worth checking out. Pencil these dates in.

Darkest Days 201413 June – Epic Imperium launch – The Lumsden

20 June – Hop Zombie & Hot Zombie release – Brew on Quay, Auckland
20 June – Darkest Days – Malthouse (including Epic Imperium on hand pump), Wellington

23 June – Epic Hop Zombie 2014 & Hot Zombie official release to market (and probably bottled Apocalypse Black IPA)

24 June – Epic Beer Dinner – Pomeroy’s, Christchurch

28 June – Winter BREWS Out West – blanc, Henderson, Auckland

4 July – Independence Day, Brew on Quay, Auckland

12 July – City of Ales – SOBA Auckland

18 July – West Coast IPA Challenge – Malthouse (Epic brewed a new Imperial IPA for this), Wellington

31 July – 3 August – The Food Show, Auckland

22-23 August – Beervana – Wellington

blanc winter brews out west

city of ales 14

7th WCIPAC

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.

EPIC MOSAIC IPA – Auckland Release

Friday evening was the official re-release of Epic Mosaic IPA at Brew on Quay. They also suggested another Hot Wings Eating Competition, which we always agree too, as people love them so much.

Below is a video of the final round. The winner Phil, seems to have no real sense of the pain from the chilli till the end of the competition. (sorry the video is a little long, but it is the end part you really get to see how hot these Carolina Reaper chillis are). (…and what is it with the little hot chilli dance people do?)

If you missed the Mosaic on Friday night, then you can catch me at Vultures Lane tomorrow night for a Mini Midweek Tap Takeover.

On Tap:

Mosaic IPA
Carolina
Hop Zombie
Coffee & Fig
Armageddon IPA
Pale Ale
XPA (X as in experimental)
Lager

And of course a little chilli action

[NEW BEER] Mosaic IPA – back for a limited time

The One Trick Pony series is all about a single hop. First was Zythos, then Mosaic and finally Comet, which has all but run out. (best background story written about this was by Geoff Griggs – Epic no one trick pony)

Mosaic 14Mosaic IPA we really didn’t have enough kegs available at the time so not much of it ever really made it too tap. Many bars complained as it sold very well. So as a special treat we brewed a one-off batch for the Beer Festival season.

It was released at the New Zealand Beer Festival last Saturday, and was our first beer to run out.

Friday 21st (tomorrow) it goes on tap at Brew on Quay, from after work time. Plus as you might guess we will be doing a hot wings eating competition with Culley’s hot sauce, because everyone has so much fun at these, especially me.

SO! Are you coming?

Can’t make it? You can try it at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival in Christchurch 29th March

Culley's Hot sauce

 

FYIEpic Carolina has sold out. So if you see it on tap anywhere in the next week or so, get a pint as that is it. We had a lot of fun with this beer, and many people have loved drinking it. The next question is do we make it again?

Craft Beer Around Auckland Today

So I was just minding my own business this afternoon and happened to be in Liquor King Ponsonby and who do I see….

Yup, Richard Emerson  (The Emerson Brewing Company).

Nice to catch up with Richard, had a little chat, sounds like things are going amazing for him. Lion seems to really be helping with the growth and distribution of the brand. Meaning more people get to be able to drink it in more places.

He said he has had people complaining about the change in the Pilsener, because it has gotten better. Awesome.

So while having a meeting at Brew on Quay about the launch of a new beer there for Epic on the 14th February (details will follow…). Who do we see walking by…

Yes that is Gareth Hughes, General Manager of Moa Brewing.

Funny to see people from the two largest craft breweries in New Zealand in the space of a few hours this afternoon. Especially since they are both South Island breweries.

Guess it is exciting times for Auckland beer drinkers.

What I ended up doing this afternoon was an interview on 95bFM with Max Oldfield, on a segment sponsored by CraftBeerOnline.

A 10 minute chat about Epic and the beers. Hopefully those that heard it found it interesting and useful.

(If so let Max know and he will have me back. We already talked about me coming back and maybe being a little more extreme in what I was saying about craft beer. I said I was able to do that.)

The evening was beautiful as the sun was going down on the city. (Albert Park, next to Auckland University)

And the beer tasted good….

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