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.)

Day 6 – Beers of Auckland – Epic Lager

Next week I’ll need to do more planing and not just go with the flow when it comes to drinking Auckland brewed beers at the weekend.

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 6 – Epic Lager by Epic Brewing Company

Epic Lager Mow The LawnBOTTLE: Epic Lager
BREWED: Steam Brewing Company
ABV: 5.0%
IBU: 25
HOPS: US Liberty, US Santiam, (currently also includes some GR Hersbrucker)
AWARDS: Keeps winning silver, but never a gold. Feedback is always too hoppy for style, that will be from the dry hopping.

Epic Lager lives in the shadows of the hops, pale ale and IPA’s of the family. It isn’t often talked about, and is always the last resort beer for people who can’t handle the hoppy ones.

In the early years it was reviewed several times to look at dropping it as a beer in the family, as it was never my intention to make a lager (now it makes up a significant dollar value in sales) . The Epic Lager was brewed as a response to the market feedback from tastings of the Pale Ale in 2006. People initially said the Pale Ale had too much flavour. (funny to get the feedback now 9 years later and people saying how malty it is. How tastes have changed). I positioned it between the hoppy Pale Ale and the green bottled lagers that the mainstream drink. I wanted a stepping stone to help people into the brand. A lager that was pale and light in colour, but had a floral hoppy aroma, and hoppy bitter taste.

It is different from the other craft breweries Pilsners which are driven by big tropical NZ hop character.

Epic Lager continually has its recipe tweaked, and if you haven’t had it in a while then now is as good as any time to give it a taste again.

If you really want to give it a real chance, don’t drink it after the Pale Ale like so many people do. Drink it after say, a green bottled lager, or on a fresh/clean palate. This way you will appreciate the floral and citrusy aroma. The citrus comes through in the flavour as more lime than lemon, with a sprinkling of pepper and salt, which suggests it might be worth trying with salt & pepper squid (sorry, a little hungry). The finish is soft and dry, with the citrus note developing into something more herbal. It definitely offers some great drinkability.

Over the last couple of the years the beer has quietly gained more and more popularity and continues to surprise especially with big jumps in sales during this time of year as new people try it. The handful of places with it on tap, go through a surprising number of kegs every month.

A great place to try this on tap in Auckland is Corner Bar (Hotel de Brett). They even serve it in the Epic Lager glasses.

Craft Beer in Auckland

#craftbeer, #auckland, #newzealand, #epiclager #epicbeer #adventcalendar

[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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