It doesn’t matter how you get to Wellington for Beervana, you can start your beer journey long before you hit the central city and make the most of your time.
Flying into good beer
If you fly in to Wellington, it’s a short ride for brunch or lunch at Café Polo on the corner of Rotherham Terrace and Para Street, Miramar. Have the hash browns. They are the best. The cafe’s got a tight but solid beer list, largely featuring local breweries. Once you’re sated, you can wander around the corner to the new Double Vision Brewery on Park Rd. They’re making a range of hop-forward ales but the Magic Bean Coffee stout is well worth trying.
As an alternative to Miramar, you can head under the airport runway - by car or foot - to Lyall Bay. The Botantist and Maranui (both on Lyall Bay Parade) are good eating. They’re super popular so it pays to book. But, if you miss out you can also eat American diner-style at the Parrot Dog Brewery and Bar just around the corner (on Kingsford Smith St). It’s a must visit, with a laid-back working club style and a range of interesting beers you won’t often find outside the brewery. Try one of their freshly brewed IPAs and grab a can of Glen to take away while you’re there. It’s a beautiful looking boysenberry sour that needs a glass to be fully appreciated.
Coasting through great beer on SH1
If you’re driving into town on State Highway One, it’s worth taking a quick detour to Brew Union on Broadway Ave, Palmerston North. They’ve got one of the best regional offerings in beer and gin, and the food’s a treat as well. Try their well-made, lighter-style ales before driving on to Salt and Wood Collective, the home of North End Brewery on Ngaio Rd, Waikanae. You can eat your fill of American-style BBQ while working your way through a tasting tray. It should include their fine, classic gose – Become the Ocean – and an Omahi St Bitter from the handpull. You might want to save a can of Iron Sands Rye Stout for later. It’s a warming winter drop.
From Waikanae, you can book at tour a Tuatara Brewery on Sheffield St, Paraparaumu. They’ve just re-branded and revised their beer range but, thankfully, preserved the multi-award winning Hefe. The new Hazy Pale Ale is a tasty drop – a super juicy concoction from Head Brewer Brayden Rawlinson. Get it fresh in a six pack then head across the road to Duncan’s Brewery, where brewer George staffs the cellar door. Duncan’s are nailing the New Zealand Pilsner and Pale Ale style at the moment. The Yum Yum Yuzu lager is also a bit of fun.
Fueling up at Brewtown
Heading into Wellington from the Wairarapa is also a treat. Make a detour to Martinborough Brewery on Ohio St, just off the square. Get the gooey cheese rolls and a glass of their Foxy Red before heading over the Remutaka Hill into Upper Hutt. Your first stop should be Kereru Brewery on Maidstone Tce. The taproom is bright lime green and fully stocked. It’s hard to go past their Feijoa Weisse but, it’s a controversial fruit. If you don’t like it, try the Karengose if you’re after something tart. Their Rojito Pale Lager is a surprising little gem and the coconut porters in al their forms are classics. They’ve also got a range of big barrel-aged beers to take home.
Around the corner from Kereru is Brewtown in the old South Pacific Industrial Park on Blenhiem St. Panhead Custom Ales was followed there by Boneface Brewery and Te Aro Brewing; enticed by the generosity and support of Upper Hutt Council. You really need to spend the whole day here. Arrive hungry and thirsty, and start with a Te Aro Razzle Dazzle pilsner. Then move on to sample the tap-room only treats at Panhead. Their Hermann Holeshot German Hopfenweisse is also a delight if it’s available and you’re looking for something a bit different.
When at Brewtown, it’s hard to decide whether you eat BBQ at Panhead or a burger – that might just be cooked by the brewer Matt Danity- at Boneface. The big flavours on the Boneface menu compliment their hop-forward beers. Start with the Outlaw India Pale Lager, and finish with the fresh and resinous The Darkness American Stout.
…”are we there yet?”
After leaving Paraparaumu, you can drive by Tinker Tailor on Ulric St, Plimmerton, or stop at Baylands Brewery on Victoria St, Petone on your way out of the Hutt. Petone is also home to OnTrays on Fitzherbert St if you’re into speciality foods. Another solid suburban stop is Newtown, which has Moon 1 with three rotating hand pulls and Bebemos which is home to an open fire in winter and a solid tap line up. Both are on Riddiford St, and are a very short bus ride out of town.
A coffee and breakfast to get you started
Once you’ve finally made it into Wellington, you might need a coffee. Try Pour and Twist on Garret St. It’s conveniently located across the road from Rogue and Vagabond beer bar. This is your place for pizza and late night music with a bustling vibe (Hashigo Zake on Taranaki St also has a Saturday night band and requires slightly less energy so you can sit a sup on a beer from their “naughty fridge”). Customs on Ghunzee St, and Leeds St bakery also make great coffee if you can get in and get a seat. Try a salted caramel cookie from Leeds St with your brew.
Then, there’s Husk on Ghunzee. The home of Karaumu coffee and Choice Bros Brewery they offer one of the best brunches in town. Get in there and try the Hot Smoked Salmon. Stay a while and sample the beer range including the fun and spritzy Strung Out On Lasers Raspberry and Lime Gose and the clever Power of Voodoo White Stout. The Reet Petite is also a classic – you never know quite how much ginger you’re going to get on the aroma or the palate – the more, the better.
Husk has recently been bought by the group that have opened The Hudson on Chews Lane, at the bottom of Victoria St. Hudson is a new kid on the beer block at the corporate end of town and is a great place for a bottomless brunch on your way to Beervana at Westpac Stadium, or for a refreshing gin or warming whisky on your way back. They focus on local, seasonal and sustainable, have 17 rotating taps, a gin bar and whisky lounge.
Another solid pre- or post-festival brunch is Yum Cha. Wellingtonians will fight for their favourite, but Dragon’s on Tory St comes with great service and a range of Garage Project lagers and Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black. Grand Century, also on Tory St, is another solid option. Yeastie Boys are no longer a Wellington brand, but since they’ve moved to Auckland and overseas, their place has been filled by no less than nine central city breweries.
Now you’re here
Start in the Aro Valley and 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. You should also stop in at their Wild Workshop on Marion St when it’s open in the lead up to Beervana.
After Aro St, wander down the road to Tuatara Third Eye on Arthur St, and on to Heyday Brewing on Cuba. It’s a bright and welcoming space where Sam Whitney, the Head Brewer, shares the floor with Southward Gin Distillery. Brewing over 100 different beers since opening, you never know what you’re going to find on tap but all will be influenced by Whitney’s fine palate and hunger for perfection. The gin is also interesting, with their Wave edition having an unctuous and oily mouthfeel, and spicy, citrusy notes.
Further down Cuba St, you can stop at Grill Meat Beer. They have poutine! And a solid line up of taps and bottles. General Manager Dustyn Ford knows his stuff and will make a solid recommendation. Across the road from GMB is Black Dog Brewery in its new home, after DB gave up the lease on their premise on Blair St. They brew on-site and at the Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth. Fortune Favours Brewery is similar. They have a home base on Leeds St and contract their packaged stock at B-Studio in Hawkes Bay. Try a beer and cheese platter while you’re there, and ask for the Naturalist. It’s their unfiltered pale ale.
From Fortune Favours, take yourself to Goldings Free Dive. It’s a great dive bar with lots of visual stimulation and tightly curated taps. Ask if the Blue Collar Falconry Club is open, if it is, put your name on the door for some amazing cellared treats. While there, you can order in a DOC (denomination of controlled origin) pizza from Pomodoro’s or get yourself some Soul Shack chicken…be careful what heat level you choose! It has ruined many a palate.
Just across the road from Goldings, on the corner of Taranaki and Ghunzee St, is Whistling Sisters Brewery. Its name honours one of the owner’s daughters who sadly passed away from cancer. The profit from the brewery will go to raising money for the Karen Lousia foundation set up in her name. Their Rooty Toot Toot with Ginger, Galangal, Tumeric and Carrots is a treat. A gose, it has a surprisingly rich but tart mouthfeel. You can then wander over the road to the Mean Doses tap room on Tory St for a takeaway or on to Fork and Brewer on Bond St.
Fork Brew Corp won the Champion Small New Zealand Brewery in 2018 and head brewer Kelly Ryan is making simply excellent beer. There’s 40 or so of them on tap. You might need to ask one of their knowledgeable bar staff to make a recommendation to suit your palate. The I.P.Yay is hoppy deliciousness.
Not far from Fork and Brewer is Little Beer Quarter tucked down a lane on Edward St. LBQ has the best selection of New Zealand beer on offer in Wellington and is the city’s best beer bar. The tap line up is always solid and diverse, as are the clientele. They range from the usual after work suits to the hippest of hipsters. You’ll always find Wellington beer people in the bar. They’re also to be found at The Malthouse on Courtney Place. It is an institution and is in no small part responsible for Wellington’s amazing beer scene. They’ve supported New Zealand beer for over 20 years and run an impressive tap line-up. And, they are open late.
Time for a night cap
Also open late is El Culo Del Mondo on Roxburgh St. Their name, translated, means “arse end of the world”. It stems from a joke made by the owner’s Colombian in-laws but makes it difficult for them to advertise, as Facebook thinks it is offensive. Their service can be a bit erratic but you have to try their Tamarind Michelada. The rim is reminiscent of BBQ Shapes. It’s a top spot if The Malthouse is too crowded or Basque - also on Courtney Place with a solid tap selection and tapas menu - is too young and noisy! Basque is great fun late night if you’ve got the stamina! But, you could also go to bed. If you manage to pack all this in alongside Beervana, you might be drunk!