Greater Wellington Brewday

February 22nd, 2016

Every time I write about a beer festival I want to say it is the best one ever. Beervana, Pacific Beer Expo, X-Ale, the SOBA Winter Ales Fest: they are all immensely enjoyable, each with their own strengths and characters. Greater Wellington Brewday is no different. Sure it may have taken me twelve months to write about it but it is still fondly remembered, and by writing about it now you have time to get a ticket for this year’s festival in Martinborough on this coming Saturday, February 28th.

The formula for a great festival is simple: good beer, good food, and a pleasant environment, all of which attract good people, the most essential ingredient to any successful day out.

For Brewday, the good beer is all about Wellington. Wellington has long been the craft beer consumption capital but for many years there was a dearth of breweries. Five years ago there was only Tuatara and Peak with breweries anywhere near the capital (plus half of the Yeastie Boys were based here). Then four years ago, breweries started popping up every week. This inspired some genius to conceive of a festival to showcase the great beers from the Greater Wellington region and Brewday was born.

Somehow I missed the first two Brewdays but having heard so many good reports I finally made it along last year. I thought I had been keeping up well with the local scene but there were many new breweries there I had not come across before, or had only tried a beer or two. Tiamana, Wild & Wooly, 9 Barnyard Owls, Choice Brothers, Webb Street Brewery, Hop Hustlers. Most didn’t have breweries. Instead they were using the Occasional Brewer or sophisticated home brew setups to test the waters. Some had plans for breweries. Tiamana and Wild & Woolly now share a brewery in Mt Cook (the suburb in Wellington, not the altitudinous southern alp) and Choice Bros’ brew-pub plans are progressing while using Te Aro Brewing’s brewery for now (yet another new brewery).

Set in a paddock on the road in to Martinborough, Brewday has a great, relaxed bucolic vibe with the feel of an A&P show. Woodchopping competitions would not feel out of place (indeed as a woodchopping fan, adding wood-chopping demonstrations would be on my list of improvements, along with dog trialling).

Enjoying the Wairarapa sunshine.

The food includes plenty of great local produce. Mmmm, venison burger with beetroot relish. Paella matched with wheat beer.

Panhead Whitewall wheat beer and paella, a perfect match.

Getting to and from Martinborough is part of the adventure, for a Wellingtonian. Some people rent a house and stay the night. You can take the train to Featherstone and then a festival bus to Martinborough. Last year I got on the LBQ bus. This included many beer-lover bonuses, like a cooked breakfast and beer before leaving, a beer or two on the trip over (with a perfectly-timed toilet stop in Featherston), a goodie bag (including a croissant, lollies, and cake), a ticket to Brew Day (of course), more beer on the bus back (with a less-perfectly-timed toilet stop at Melling), then a nightcap at LBQ to top off a perfect day. Great value, both in money ($100!) and company. Sister bar Basque is running the bus this year. Check their Facebook page for availability. I highly recommend it.

If you’re in Kapiti then Tuatara and North End are putting on a bus too. No excuses. Just get there. The beer is great.

* Today’s post bought to you by the letter beer and the word “great”.

The LBQ bus to Greater Wellington Brewday.

ParrotDog Matt.

Hats and t-shirts.

Kieran Haslett-Moore from North End pouring a delicious Baby Grand.

Wild & Woolly Llew Bardecki.

Garage Project.

Martinborough Brewery

Garage Project.

Ciaran from Malthouse.

Garage Project.

Hop Hustlers and mountain bike enthusiasts.

Hop Hustlers.

Another hat.

H2O and rainbows.

Selfie with a brewer and hats. Choice Bros brewer, Kerry Gray, happily poses.

Brother Brayden from 9 Barnyard Owls.

Hats and mo.

Alex and Chris from Kereru.

RIP good guy Paul Wicksteed. Here he was helping out Aidan at the Baylands Brewery stand.

Mr Golding from Golding’s Free Dive.

The subdued bus ride home.

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