I was queueing for Fiasco Brewing’s Double DeckYa – one of many beers the Twitterverse had recommended – when the guy in front of me turned to his girlfriend and said: “I’m in a really good mood. You might say it’s the alcohol but I’m going to say it’s not.”
“It’s Beervana,” she told him. “It’s got such a good vibe!”
She was right. Beervana did and always does have a very good vibe. Aside from the endless varieties of great brews to taste, there’s something magic about being in a room with thousands of other people who are drinking, talking about, and appreciating good beer. It makes for a very good mood and, of course, the alcohol doesn’t hurt.
This year over 10,000 beer enthusiasts filled the concourse of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, where almost 300 beers from 65 breweries were on offer. Many of the most popular beers had sold out by the time I showed up for the fourth session (including Double DeckYa, which Mr. Good Mood got the last glass of), but I still found plenty to get excited about. These were my Beervana highlights:
I’m declaring 2014 the year of sour beer. While a few Beervanas ago they were scarcely available, this year I tried a barrel-aged kiwifruit sour from Good George, a wild feijoa sour from 8 Wired and a cherry sour from Moa, among others. Not all my companions were on board with this trend, but I told them they were just going to have to pucker up; sour beers aren’t going anywhere soon.
The Portland Bar
One of the biggest additions to the programme this year was the Portland Bar, where beers from three Oregon breweries were available. This was the place to try extreme brews – hop-heavy IPAs, syrupy Russian stouts and funky sour ales. My favourites were the Flemish Kiss from Commons Brewery (earthy, fruity and tart) and Gigantic Brewing’s Too Much Coffee Man (like a fresh coffee liqueur, with a crisp finish).
At the other end of the stadium, and the spectrum, were the gentle cask conditioned ales. I probably should have visited the Cassels & Sons stand before blasting my palate with Portland beer, but their Milk Stout and Townsend's Golden Ale (both from the hand pull) still managed to shine.
Yeastie Boys dazzled in hot pink, Garage Project projected kaleidoscopic beer art on to the wall, and Mac’s, embracing beer geek stereotypes, offered free beard trims. The most impressive stand, however, was Panhead’s “Custom Ales and Tattoo Parlour” where tattoo artist Simon Morse had been applying ink to live subjects. I briefly considered getting “HOPS” and “MALT” tattooed across my knuckles, before being informed that punters were only eligible for stick-ons. Just as well.
I’m afraid to say the moment I “reached Beervana” I was not actually drinking a beer, I was eating a ParrotDog beer-battered black pudding on a stick. Heavenly.
The Beervana app
I loved this. It allowed you to log beers, comment on them and rate them out of five as you went. The overall scores were reflected on a leaderboard within the app, which meant it was easy to see what the crowd favourites were. Even better, I now have a permanent record of all the beers I drank and how much I liked them, which isn’t always crystal clear the morning after Beervana.
And finally, these were my top 5 beers:
1. Garage Project - Wabi Sabi Sour – Tart, refreshing and seriously elegant.
2. Kereru Brewing - For Even Greater Justice – A coconut-heavy ANZAC bikkie in a glass.
3. Parrot Dog - Riwaka Secret – Sticky tropical fruit with a clean finish.
4. Gigantic Brewing - Too Much Coffee Man – Just enough coffee, man.
5. Cassels & Sons - Milk Stout – Like chocolate milk for grown-ups.