Friday, 2 June 2017

Taupo - Crafty Trout Brewing Co

On 23 March 2017, after passing lush farmland and a geothermal power station, my bus from Rotorua gave a glimpse of Great Lake Taupo before arriving in Taupo. Pronounced toe-paw, the lake is in the caldera of the Taupo volcano and is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand.
Lake Taupo is drained by the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest, which starts at Taupo and a few miles downstream is channelled into a canyon to form the Huka falls. A riverside walk to the falls passes a cliff top bungee jumping point and a natural bathing pool where hot water runs into the river.
It is easy to find the Crafty Trout Brewing Co establishment, at 135 Tongariro Street, as it is on the same street and about 200 metres further from the lake than the main bus stop and i-SITE visitor information centre.
A brown 'Brewery' street sign points at the white-painted building across the dual carriageway and provides an excuse for a selfie!
My first visit to the Bier Kafe was in the evening after an afternoon walk on the Great Lake Walkway from Wharewaka Point back to Taupo. A NZ$ 15 tasting rack with four glasses is offered but I ordered a tall glass of Line / Taupo Pale Ale from the upstairs bar and found a seat on the balcony looking towards the park where the sun was setting.
The 4% ABV session ale is lightly hopped with a point of difference - it's seasoned with a hint of lemon and thyme. 'Ooompah' music on the sound system reinforces the Austrian feel of the Bier Kafe and cannot be avoided by sitting out on the balcony! The menu includes Austrian Pretzels (NZ$ 9), fresh fish with fries and salad (NZ$ 23) and beer garden pizza (NZ$ 17).
The balcony, with its vine covered front railings was a pleasant place to watch the evening sky turn pink as time passed and my glass emptied.
Inside, the Bier Kafe has whitewashed walls, some comfortable seating as well as rustic wooden furniture. A collection of decorative clocks adorn the walls.
There was a second chance to visit the Crafty Trout Brewing Co, before the departure of my bus to Auckland, two days later. (Booking in advance with NakedBus to get a seat for NZ$ 1 was a good idea even though the bus was delayed).
The ground floor shop area with beer and merchandise is at the front with the brewery at the back.
Brewmaster Anton Romirer was on hand so a photo opportunity with Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine, was not to be missed! Anton was grateful to keep this copy and asked for CAMRA to send more materials his way. Hopefully, CAMRA members visiting from the UK will bring him a copy of their local branch magazine in future.
Anton mentioned that Michael Hardman, one of CAMRA's founders, is a regular visitor to the Crafty Trout.
Anton was born in New Zealand but with an Austrian father and a mother from London, there is an explanation for his Austrian style brewery and bar which he runs with Rebecca 'chef and boss'.
The brewery incorporates some advanced New Zealand technology in brewing equipment supplied by SmartBrew based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Anton is confident with the brewing system which was capable of doing three brews in his absence.
When I mentioned that I was catching a bus to Auckland, Anton said 'Watch out, you're leaving New Zealand  and entering Auckland!'. 
Before departing, I was able to buy a bottle of Hook / Vienna Amber to take away. I shared this bottle with Cathy, my Auckland airbnb hostess, on my last night in New Zealand. The 5.5% ABV is smooth and malty. Crafty Trout Brewing Co notes on the beer - A complex mix of malt and hops using the traditional lagering method of the early 1800s. This style of beer traces its roots back to roughly the same time and location as the Romirer Family's brewpub in Kobenz, Steiermark, Austria.

Crafty Trout Brewing Co, 135 Tongariro Street, Taupo, NZ
10am to late (Closed Tuesday)
Brewery tours daily 11am & 1pm
Ph. 07 929 8570

Friday, 12 May 2017

Brothers Beer - City Works Depot

The original Brothers brewery was located at Auckland's City Works Depot. When the main production brewery was established in larger premises in Mt Eden, the original premises near the Central Business District were retained as a retail store and bar / tasting lounge.
Uphill from Britomart Transport Centre and a short westwards walk from the Skytower, the bar can be found on the east side of the City Works Depot accessible from Wellesley Street W or steps down from Nelson Street. In the evening, the high tables outside are shaded by the height of the building as I discovered on my visit on Sunday 19 March, 2017.
Entering the spacious bar / store you will find shelves of beer and merchandise, a retro seating area, beer filled fridges and a bar with 18 taps.
A framed display screen above the bar gives details of the current beer range, including seven from Brothers Beer on my visit.
Nick took my order for a flight of five beers and a pizza ($30 using a Brothers Beer voucher from an Auckland tourist booklet). I took the opportunity to hand him a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA quarterly beer magazine.
Nick explained that the Thunderbirds and other retro models decorating the bar / store are based on the founders' personal fondness for them. In combination with the retro furnishings the toys certainly add colour and style to the place.
At Brothers Beer the pizzas are served ready sliced. Plenty of paper napkins are provided but no cutlery. After a Sunday spent walking all around Auckland in the late Summer sunshine it was a relief to find a shaded outside table to sit down at for a meal and some refreshing New Zealand beers.
My chosen beer tasters were: Good George Brewing Lime & Hibiscus Gose, Brothers Beer Hoppy Wheat Ale (my favourite), Special Agent Dale Cooper's Cherry Pie, Pale Ale and North End Brewing Yellow Eye IPA. All of the beers were of a high standard and suited my palate.
There was some traffic noise but this was negated by a laid-back playlist on the sound system including: Guts - And the Living is Easy; Alt-J - Tessellate; Glass Animals - Black Mambo; James Blake - Life Round Here.
Before leaving I took a look at some of the international beers available from the fridges which included beers from Siren Craft Brewery (Berkshire, UK), The Bruery (California, USA).
I asked Nick about the brewing vessels remaining in the premises and he explained that although they were currently gathering dust he had hopes that they will be used in future for specialist brewing onsite.
By the time I left the City Works Depot, the sun was setting and and the temperature was dropping.
The Brewers Co-operative is a short walk south from here and this would be my next stop.

Brothers Beer, Shed 3, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St W, Auckland, NZ
Brothers Beer -
Twitter -

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Galbraith's Alehouse

Galbraith's Alehouse is located at 2 Mount Eden, Grafton, Auckland.
The Mount Eden (Maungawhau in Māori) volcanic cone and Eden Park internation rugby and cricket stadium are nearby. As it serves a range of traditional ales, the alehouse is likely to be busy when the 'Barmy Army' are in town for sporting events.
Keith Galbraith opened his eponymous alehouse in 1995 'with the heart-felt desire to reintroduce real ale to New Zealand'. With a background in New Zealand's growing wine industry he foresaw the similar opportunity for beer to develop. The website for Galbraith's Alehouse describes it as 'a proudly independent traditional English-style pub serving unique European-inspired ales hand crafted with authentic, natural ingredients'.
The central main entrance leads to a lobby with views through to the on-site brewhouse on the right.
A blackboard explains that all food and drink orders should be placed at the bar.
The bar itself, on the left side of the building, is certainly traditional and impressive. If it's shorts and t-shirts weather, an outside patio drinking area is also available at the back.
One blackboard behind the bar gives details of the regular cask conditioned beers brewed on the premises and served from handpumps at 10ºC including Bob Hudson's Bitter (4% ABV) named after Kentishman John 'Bob' Hudson who taught Keith Galbraith 'how to brew the old way'. A matching blackboard gives details of chilled beers brewed on the premises.
 Tasting notes are included in the beer menu found on the bar.
A blackboard on the wall lists Galbraith's seasonal ales, including my choice, Mr G's Luncheon Ale (3.7% ABV) also served from handpump.
 A larger wall mounted blackboard lists current guest beers.
On my visit, five different cask conditioned ales were available from the six handpumps mounted on the bar. (The other pubs and bars I visited in New Zealand usually had one handpump at the most with other beers served from taps.)
On a Tuesday afternoon, the alehouse was not busy and this gave me an opportunity to take some photos in the main bar.
 'No tricks or gimmicks, just good honest beer.'

 Recent gold awards for Galbraith's Rurik Russian Imperial Stout and Bohemian Pilsner at the 2017 International Brewing Awards were highlighted on a framed blackboard.
There was also a chance to have a chat with Stephen, a barman, and pass on a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine.
Leaving the bar after my beer, I looked into the brewhouse which was quite busy.
There was clear evidence of the authentic ingredients including a stack of empty Marus Otter malt sacks from Thos. Fawcett & Sons Ltd of Castleford.
To visit Galbraith's Alehouse soon after the Brewhouse's International Brewing Awards achievement was a highlight of my Auckland visit. Happily, Keith Galbraith's quote above shows that it is possible for brewers to embrace nonconformity and win recognition.

Twitter: @GalbraithsAles
Facebook: @galbraithsales

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Vultures' Lane

Located at 10 Vulcan Lane, in Auckland's Central Business District, Vultures' Lane is a well known craft beer bar would be the first and one of the last that I would visit during my trip to New Zealand in March 2017.
Vultures' Lane sandwiched by other bars - Vulcan Lane
It was surprisingly quiet on the Saturday evening of my first visit, which suited me as I was able to find a table near the bar and get some iPhone photos as a record.
Keg beer taps in centre and single handpump on right of bar
As a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and as the cask beer on the handpump was my favourite American Pale Ale style, I ordered a Tuatara Tomahawk.
The 425ml measure is less than an imperial pint and the price of $NZ10 equates to approximately £5.60 (March 2017). Beers can also be served in 330ml measures or in litre jugs for groups to share.
Served without gas pressure and at a cool rather than cold temperature this was a fine introduction to beer in New Zealand. Vultures' Lane has 22 rotating taps and 75 bottle choices in the fridge and the beer menu on a clipboard has the relevant details including brewery, ABV, IBU, style and price.
The beers on the taps are also listed on a blackboard behind the bar. These are mainly from New Zealand but the photo from my second visit, on a Monday night (above and below), shows that Guinness and Adnams Ghost Ship from the Northern Hemisphere were also available on draught.
On entering the bar, there are high and low tables on opposite sides of the narrow room. The bar is at the back of the room faced by further high tables. Typically, cricket may be shown on the TV screen above the entrance with the sound off. There are also seats immediately outside the pub and as Vulcan Lane is a pedestrian street, these seats are popular during warm weather.
With its handpump and bar service, any UK visitor is likely to find Vultures' Lane a familiar and friendly place to enjoy New Zealand beers from some of the best breweries.

Taupo - Crafty Trout Brewing Co

On 23 March 2017, after passing lush farmland and a geothermal power station, my bus from Rotorua gave a glimpse of Great Lake Taupo be...