After multiple days of rubbish weather, the drive from Invercargill to Queenstown was amazing. The sun was shining and for the first time since Christchurch, the temperature even got into the twenties. It was time for singlets, stubbies and jandals! For those non-Kiwis out there, singlets are tank-tops/vests, stubbies are short shorts and jandals are flip-flops/thongs (no not that type of thong…)

The scenery leading into Queenstown is incredible, following Lake Wakatipu in gave us an amazing vista of the Remarkable mountain range and with the meraldd-green lake at their base, it was easy to see why so many people come and check this place out!

We ended up at the camp ground in Queesnstown, which, crazily, is the same one I had stayed in as a child in 1986! I remembered our family having signed a big boiler that was in the reception and went to have a look. The fact that thousands have since signed it meant  that our mark was no longer there, but my memories as an eight year old in this place were (surprisingly) still with me. Proof that beer doesn’t dull the memory perhaps?

We went into town and checked out Atlas, where we had a great hop-laden pint of Emersons 1812 India Pale Ale. Hunger drove us to the impressive Fergburger where we all went for the recommended Cock-a-Doodle-Oink-Oink, a massive creation of chicken schnitzel, bacon, avocado and all the trimmings. Why we decided to get fries and onion rings with the burger, no one knows (it was a seriously BIG burger)and as for the sun-struck, skunky Peroni that we purchased to wash it down… a fatal error and proof that Fergburger really needs to get craft beer into their place. Fergburger, I hope you’re reading this!

The sun woke us the next ay and we took the short trip to Arrow Brewing in Arrowtown, where we met up with brewing industry consultant/engineer John Timpany, who is their brewer and director, Darryl Jones who is responsible for the seriously impressive graphics and branding that the brewery has. The brewpub itself has an awesome bar, all leather seats and big gas fire, with a plan to put in more handpulled ales to accompany the great bunch of draught taps they have. John uses a plethora of different hops for his various styles which range from a big, crisp, lemon-sherberty and properly bitter Pilsner, through to a delicious English-style ale, Tobins, which is destined to to used on handpull alone as a cask ale.

It is the experimentation that really fascinated me with this brewery. John not only built the well-engineered kit, but also devises all of the brewery’s recipes. Their catch phrase is “Sufficiently Bizarre” and they enjoy playing around with barrel-aging, different herbs and spices, and even producing their own wine, grappa and maybe even some other spirits in the future.

The Christmas Ale that John produced was the best spiced beer that I’ve ever tasted. It was like liquid Christmas cake, big wafts of cinnamon and candied peel and even hints of marzipan icing impressed the nose and the balance of spice, alcohol and intense fruitcake character coated the mouth and filled the mind with images of Christmas Pudding and sweet brandy custard sauce. Luke threw drunken fruit into the mix, a perect descriptor for this truly decadent beer.

Thoroughly impressed with the Arrow setup and ethos, we moved on, picked up a bunch of ridiculously sweet, juicy Central Otago stonefruit, chowed down on apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries and succulent peaches and hit Wanaka Beerworks.

Californian native Dave Gillies met us at Wanaka Beerworks, which is attached to the Aviation Museum, the site of the amazing Warbirds over Wanaka airshow. Dave founded his brewery in the late 90s and came to quick fame with his flagship Pilsener, Brewski which took out Supreme Champion Beer of New Zealand back in 2000. Brewski, his Vienna Lager, Cardrona Gold and his Schwarzbier/Dunkel/Stout Tall Black are all brewed with the characteristic New Zealand Saaz hop and are great exponents of this variety. Brewski in particular had big notes of chamomile

His 600 litre DME-made brewery’s copper is still gleaming and working well for him and the brewery itself has certainly been keeping both locals and tourists alike happy and sated. Dave has done his time though and just sold the brewery to a Kiwi/Belgian couple who are to take over in 6 months. It will be interesting to see which direction the brewery heads and we are all really curious to see what calibre of Belgian-style beers come out of the heart of Otago in the future. Thanks Dave for your fantastic contribution to NZ Brewing!

With spectacular views of Lake Wanaka and Hawea, we climbed over the ranges and through the prehistoric Haast region. Ferns and Podocarp forest aplenty, it was easy to imagine Moa and giant dragonflies lurking in the dense rainforest just out of sight. A surreal and beautiful place.

The rugged mountain landscape continued as we reached our destination, Franz Josef, the glacial ice stretching over the pate of the mountains and glowing white-blue in the fading sunlight. Our campsite, The Rainforest Retreat was exactly as the name suggested – a series of campsites, cabins, treehouses and van sites filled with tourists young and old enjoying the ambience of the bush that encompassed the area. It was the next morning however that was magic. We got up just after 5am so as to make the next leg of our trip. The dawn chorus was astounding. Tui, Bellbirds (Korimako) and other winged forest denizens incessantly chatting and calling their territory and hollering for mates. What a way to start a new day.

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