This week Wellington is set to welcome thousands of fans following the British and Irish Lions rugby tour around the country. We’re betting there’ll be lots of drinking going on and we’re hoping some of that will be at the breweries and bars that showcase the best beers (and beertenders) that Wellington has to offer. We’re hosting two walking tours on Thursday and Friday. Come join us.
If you can’t join a tour, here’s just some of our tips for a beer lover’s guide to Wellington. We’ve made the assumption that beer people are also keen on coffee and food. You have to start the day somewhere and one of our favourite places to go is Ti Kouka. In many ways, a hidden gem, up a discreet set of stairs on Willis St. The produce is local and the food made from scratch; it’s hard to do better. They serve Flight Coffee - a local roast – and a range of local beers from Kereru, Panhead and Garage Project. They also own the Leeds St Bakery (surprisingly located in Leeds St) where you can get a to-die-for salted caramel cookie.
Another great breakfast stop, on the waterfront, is Poneke by Mojo. You can’t really avoid a Mojo coffee while you’re in town. They’re everywhere. Some people gripe about that but, they’re reliable for both coffee and food. At Poneke there’s always a tasty treat – sweet or savoury - accompanied by a great view; whatever the weather. The Beanery by Mojo in Lambton Square is also worth stopping by if shopping in town. They roast their own small batch coffee and offer a range of different brews served by some of the loveliest baristas in Wellington.
If you’re heading to Miramar for a dose of Peter Jackson, then you simply have to make the hash browns at Café Polo – on the corner of Rotherham Terrace and Para Street - part of your trip. It’s a suburban treat that makes the trip out of town worthwhile. They’ve got a tight but diverse beer list if you’re after a breakfast beer. Maybe try the Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black. One of the founders of the brand used to live nearby, and is now in the United Kingdom building the brand. We also love The Larder on Darlington Road for food…but, their drinks list doesn’t even mention beer! A nearby haunt doing slightly better on this front is La Boca Loca on Park Rd. The restaurant team’s story and commitment to sustainability makes stopping by worthwhile. As with most all decent Wellington cafes and restaurants, they also have some local beers on offer. Try either the Tuatara or Parrot Dog. Tuatara Pilsner (now called Mot Eureka to confuse most people) is pretty much the minimum standard you should expect anywhere you go. It’s a great gateway beer.
If the Tuatara Pilsner whet your appetite, then you can head to their brew bar – The Third Eye – on Arthur St for a tasting tray. A ploughman’s platter is a great accompaniment, but it might be worth saving yourself for a wander down Cuba St to Grill Meats Beer. They’ve recently installed some more taps and always have some of Wellington’s finest on offer. It’s a haunt for rugby players as some of their burger offerings are HUGE; fit for a hungry player and fan alike! Another place with huge food is The Bresolin on upper Willis St. The beer offering is pretty standard but the “Feasts” are anything but; try a slow roasted lamb shoulder or 1kg Angus rib eye.
If you head to the Bresolin, you need to continue your journey to Aro Valley to visit the Garage Project cellar door and bar at 91 Aro St. The bar has 18 taps, and two handpulls. They’ve all been designed to enable the serving temperatures to be varied, to be right for the beer being served. If they have a dark beer like their delicious Aro Noir on nitro, you have to have it. It puts Guinness to shame! Otherwise take yourself back to Leeds St to Goldings Free Dive and their newly installed nitro tap. It’s a great bar with lots of visual stimulation with tightly curated staff and taps. Try a beer from Hey Day Beer Co if you find one while you’re there – they’re building a brewery on Cuba St, and are contract brewing while they wait. Their head brewer has great pedigree; a former chef and a beertender at Hashigo Zake, he then worked at Panhead to earn his stripes. Their Horizon APA is a fine tipple.
Another set of taps worth stopping in to visit are at Husk on Ghuznee St. A relative new-kid-on-the-block, Husk is home to Choice Bros brewery. Without a doubt, their Reet Petite is one of Craft Beer College’s favourite ales. Depending on the batch, be prepared for a huge ginger bite. This is a trophy winning beer from the New Zealand Brewer’s Guild Beer Awards. While you’re there, also try the cheese burger spring rolls and the fried chicken!
Across the road from Husk is Glover Park, and the relaxed and musical Rogue and Vagabond. The venue is constantly slinging out great beer, and a crowd favourite – some seriously good chips and gravy. There’s usually a North End Brewing option on tap. Well worth the try if you’re not quite up to a trip to visit them on the Kapiti Coast. Their Super Alpha gets a call out in most all of our tastings. And, we really enjoy some of the more experimental beers in the range.
Rogue really comes into its own later a night, some earlier alternatives are Little Beer Quarter (LBQ) on Edward St and (within walking distance) the Fork and Brewer on Bond St. LBQ has the best selection of New Zealand beer on offer in Wellington. And, Fork and Brewer has one of our best brewers. They’ve made a Burton Ale to make Lions’ fans feel welcome but their selection of kettle sours and New Zealand hopped ales are go-to beers for us.
From Fork and Brewer, you might want to wander to their partner bar – The Malthouse on Courtenay Place – it is a Wellington institution and is in-part responsible for our amazing beer scene. They’ve supported New Zealand beer for over 20 years and run an impressive tap line-up along with some of Wellington’s favourite beer events.
One place running events especially for the Lions tour is Hashigo Zake. They’re holding a Downtown Aley - Beer BBQ & Rugby event where they are coming out of the basement at 25 Taranaki St and into the light. This will be a place to drink and eat on the way to Saturday’s game. Otherwise, Hashi is a “sport-friendly” beer bar with some of the most interesting taps in town. It’s a great place to hunker down when the weather is not so great.
Another place to visit before the game is Black Dog Brewery. The “craft” offering of one of our big breweries – DB – pumps out a range of award winning ales. And, along with many of our bars is actually dog-friendly. You might see the local pup in there and have a pat. Their Chomp is perfect if you’re after something straightforward; it’s a slightly sweet NZ pale ale. But, they stretch themselves further than this and will often have something for the more adventurous. They don’t have much on offer by way of food, but that’s easily fixed by a wander around the corner to Basque, or up the road to our favourite Slim Davey’s Neighbourhood Saloon.
Basque do fine tapas, and are supporters of new beer brands such as Double Vision and Juicehead. They’ve got a tap takeover coming up that also includes Bonehead Brewery. Recently opened in Upper Hutt – these beers are pungent with New Zealand hop aromas and tropical fruit. Haven’t had a bottle yet that we haven’t enjoyed. Make sure you try them. They’re physically located in Upper Hutt near Te Aro Brewing which is also making some tasty drops.
Slim Davey’s offers a great venue and our pick on the best cheeseburger in town. Even better is that it is only $10 after 10pm and their kitchen doesn’t close until late. You can stop by after the game. But, don’t pat the yak…Yup, you read it correctly – there’s a massive taxidermy yak in the front doorway who will greet you along with the friendly staff.
We’ve got lots of great hospitality staff and beertenders in Wellington. Every one of them will be able to offer you a suggestion on a great beer, or the next great place to go on your journey. While you’re out and about having fun, treat them well. If you want to get to know them and their breweries and bars a little better, come meet them with us. We’d love to host you. Read more about our tours on our Facebook page. We hope to see you soon.