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.







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fruit cake mix ready after having been soaked in rum

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

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

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

Day 4 – Beers of Auckland – Pale Pat Supreme

Last night at the Lumsden Freehouse, I was talking with Phil Dale from Beertique, and we discussed doing a tasting of his new imported beers which have just arrived. I said why not tomorrow morning? So this morning Phil turns up with some beers for us to taste. The first one we tasted was Pale Pat Supreme from Brew Mountain (yes Beertique have started distributing some of the newer start-up craft brewers). “WOW” Totally took me by surprise.

Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar 2014
DAY 4 – Pale Pat Supreme by Brew Mountain

Pale Pat SupremeBOTTLE: Pale Pat Supreme 330ml
BREWED: Liberty Brewing Company (The Beer Fountain)
ABV: 4.6%
The aroma is totally New Zealand hops, big and bright but not punchy and in your face. Just right. Memories of Mash Up came flooding back. The balance of this beer is pure class. I immediately call this one of the best beers I have tried this year, and give it a 5/5 on Untappd. The malt and hop are really gentle yet obvious, big and satisfying. The balance is incredible. It comes across as having plenty of hop flavour, but delivered in a delicate balanced marriage with the malt. Absolute finesse.

I thought this beer was from Taranaki. Well it generally is, but they recently got some help from ex-Taranaki based super brewer Joseph “101 oysters in my belly” Wood of Liberty Brewing. (Therefore this batch is actually brewed in Auckland, and it makes the Beers of Auckland Advent Calendar).

I was going to write something about Kelly Ryan another super brewer (who I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past) and his contribution to Brew Mountain. Or maybe a photo of Kelly and Liam while on tour in the US earlier this year (what goes on tour boys, right?). Or Shannon. But no. Just get your hands on this beer, and read the articles below.

Great work guys, keep it up. I know once people get a taste of this beer they will be buying heaps more if it.


Some background articles: 

Brew Mountain Guys Shannon and LiamBrew Mountain brewery on swift climb to success – 1 Dec 2014

Just six months after it began, Brew Mountain, a small brewery founded by Liam Tranter and brothers Shannon and Kelly Ryan, has expanded its product range to include bottles of its first and most popular beer, Pale Pat Supreme.

The ascent of Brew Mountain – 10 Jun 2014

One of the boxing writers referred to him at the time as “pale Pat supreme with the choir boy looks”

Many titles, many roles for boxing stalwart (Pat Ryan) – 18 Oct 2013

Ryan, who represented New Zealand at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich

#craftbeer #auckland #newzealand

Craft Beer in Auckland

British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell – Thank You

British High Commissioner Homewood Brewers
Yeastie Boys, Epic and Good George

Thursday night the British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell invited the four craft brewers that had been to the UK to brew their beer for the JD Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. Each brewer was invited to bring the beer they brewed in the UK. The local Wellington brewing community and media were invited and every one happily tasted the beer and whisky on offer.

Stu & Sam from Yeastie Boys were there with the actual beer they had recently brewed in the UK and it was in a cask, being served via a hand pump and was tasting great.

[Yeastie Boys brewing up for UK festival] – 2014

Kelly Ryan was there (but no longer working for Good George, but now at the Fork & Brewer) along with reps from Good George and they had their new Black IPA.

[Brewer claims rare festival slot] – 2013

Luke Nicholas (me) was also at Homewood, with Epic Pale Ale.

[Epic to be brewed in England for biggest ale festival] – 2009


Jed Soane photo of British High Commissioner and Brewers
Photo Credit: Jed Soane awesome craft brewer photographer

I’d like to thank Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner, for organising this gathering, offering her residence and providing the incredible hospitality, it was wonderful evening. She has been a real champion for craft beer, not only here in New Zealand, but where ever she travels. It is a shame her time here in New Zealand is coming to an end, and would like to wish her well on all her endeavours in the future. I hope one day to share another pint of beer with her somewhere in the world.





Who Are These People?
The local craft beer community gathering at Homewood, residence of the British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell









Unfortunately brewer Ian Ramsey, nor any Galbraith’s Alehouse beers were present.

Its been a while since I was in the UK brewing Epic Pale Ale for the JD Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival but here are some videos of my adventure in the UK.

Pouring the first pint

Documenting the journey in the UK

2014-06-05 18.52.31 2014-06-05 18.52.51 2014-06-05 18.52.46 2014-06-05 18.52.55

BREW DAY – Four Horsemen of the Hopocalypse

Friday 24th January – Luke Nicholas, Kelly Ryan, Joe Wood, and Steve Plowman got together again to brew a batch of Hopocalypse. Below are a few moving pictures from the day. I will expand on these with some commentary and additional photos soon.

The Exploding Mash Tun

Milling 1000kg of Weyermann Pale Ale Malt

Adding hops to the Mash (5kg Zythos)

Cleaning Up

Silly photo of the Horsemen