Christchurch is epic. Camper van all sorted and awe-inspiring with its bells, whistles (and more importantly a fridge for the beer), we hightailed it to meet Craig at BeerNZ. Craig handles distribution for 24 NZ craft breweries, so is a massively important link in getting what we brew to the the people who want to drink it!
We had a chat and a look around his coolstore and warehouse and then headed to Pomeroy’s pub. What an amazing place. Owner Steven Pomeroy and his family have been running the place for 10 years and have done an incredible job at developing a great centre for locals and the community to relax, eat and enjoy each other’s company. Chatting to Steven is great. He epitomises the passion that is so often seen in the industry. His heart, soul and most waking hours have been poured into the place and the lovely bed and breakfast next door. It’s so important for great pubs to have great personalities and this definitely delivers. Ava manages the pub, doing a great job as hostess and the staff are knowledgeable and inviting. Christchurch is a lucky city! With 20 plus tap beers to choose from, including a handpull for cask ale, it’s definitely beer heaven.
We met up with Ally from Golden Ticket Brewing and David Gaughan from Golden Eagle Brewery, chatted to them about their brewing experiences and tasted a couple of their beers which included a delicious session stout hopped with Centennial from Scotsman, Ally and a luscious, full, rich 6.2% Coal Face Stout from UK born and bred Gaughan (originally from Rotherham in Yorkshire). David told me about his trip to Thornbridge Brewery a while back, which I remembered and that he had recently opened a bottle of Thornbridge Saint Petersburg! Small world is the brewing one!
A night of beverages ensued and we met up with various beer lovers and brewers. Fraser Kennedy, president of the Canterbury University homebrewer’s club (and barman at Pomeroy’s) pulled out a delightful Feijoa Pilsner that he had brewed on his homebrew kit. Beautifully perfumed, the fruit was subtle and well integrated into the beer. The finish was slightly dry and not in the least bit cloying. Fraser plans to go on and study through the Siebel Brewing Institute in Chicago and is definitely a keen and eager young brewer to keep an eye on.
The next day dawned with a nice 5.1 earthquake at 6am. For some reason… perhaps the fact that the beer was far too tasty and needed to be sampled until at least 3 in the morning, Luke and I slept through it! Our film and sound crew, Scott and Jacob didn’t and ran out of their rooms screaming. They are young Aucklanders and it was their first earthquake. Poor souls. The footage we got on camera that day was a bit shaky. I’m guessing their nerves were a little frazzled. Or maybe I just lie…
The first brewery we visited was Wigram Brewery. We were eagerly met by the guys behind the beers who I designated The Two Pauls (Paul McGurk and Paul Cooper). Both of their names were Paul. Hence my decision. We had a look around their cool 600 litre brewery. They have a pretty smart setup, using fermenters/conditioning tanks on wheels so they can move them into their cold store. We tasted a couple of their beers including a bitter and a pale ale, both with great clean bitterness and joyfully balanced brews. The standout for me though was their Imperial Stout which was a rich, chocolatey 8% treat. Top stuff! Paul Cooper is a great guy to talk beer and brewing with. Being involved in brewing over here since the 70s, this guy is a wealth of information and has acted as a consultant for a number of breweries.
From Wigram, we stopped in to see student Fraser as he was bottling a Plum-infused Black IPA he had brewed at home. It was pretty awesome to see a student flat again and cool to catch brewing at the other end of the scale on camera.
Twisted Hop in the city was next and we met up with expat Brit and owner, Martin Bennett. These guys are pretty unique in that they are one of the few breweries and bars in NZ that produce cask-conditioned ales. The brewpub is right behind the bar itself and the six handpulls were all go with beers ranging from 3.7% to 6.4%. From the citrusy Goldings Bitter to the lemon and pepper goodness of the Challenger, the beers were in great condition, all smooth and lightly carbonated and a pleasure to drink. The best beer of the lot though was the 6.4% India Pale Ale which screamed big tropical fruit notes and grapefruit bitterness and is definitely up there with the greatest cask IPAs I have tasted.
Martin then pulled out a couple of bottles. Nokabollokov, an incredibly rich and complex Imperial Stout had bold, bitter coffee notes with an amazing caramel and chicory nose and even hints of hazelnut. Brilliant. Even better was the Enigma, an incredibly rounded 11% barley wine that had coconut and toffee up front and a smooth, rich mouthfeel, almost sherry like. We tried it with a couple of pieces of Blue Windsor cheese and the match worked perfectly.
We finished with a palate cleansing Sauvin Pilsner which did exactly what it said on the tin. Hints of the characteristic Sauvin hop in the nose and a nice dry finish, this was a great brew. If you’re ever in Christchurch and you don’t visit this place, then it’s a pity. It’s brilliant.
We made it back to Pomeroy’s where I had the best ever pub burger. I’m a bit of a pub burger fiend and really enjoy rating a drinking establishment based on the quality of the burger. This Scotch Fillet, bacon and garlic butter packed taste sensation is now my official number one best bar burger experience ever. A big call, but a true one. A couple of pints of Epic/Dogfish Head Portamarillo washed it down and it was off to bed and ready for our next day in Christchurch. Earthquakes and all!
(Sorry about no photos, will stick some in at a later date… am currently typing this on my lap in a campervan outside the Dux de Lux Brewery!)