Reflecting on the highs and lows of multiple circumnavigations of a beery concrete concourse.
At the weekend, The Spinoff’s most enthusiastic consumer of beer made a pilgrimage to our nation’s capital to attend Beervana. For the uninitiated, Beervana is a big craft beer festival held over two days every August in the cosy concrete concourse of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium. If you didn’t make it along this year, fear not. In the spirit of #snackablecontent, here are The Spinoff’s official highlights, presented in handy alphabetical format.
A is for arachnids
At the Panhead stand, punters could try Mojo Hand, a stout made with malt smoked with tarantulas and scorpions. The general consensus was it didn’t taste that spidery but was still a pretty nice stout. If you’re wondering where an Upper Hutt brewery gets its hands on tarantulas and scorpions, congratulations, you clearly have a future as an investigative journalist who may one day reach the dizzying heights of The Spinoff’s food section. I inquired and was told they came from Crawlers, a New Zealand company I am very pleased to have discovered exists.
B is for bouncy castle
Except it’s not. Well, it is, but there wasn’t one. Good George’s stand was an inflatable “temporary pub” that from a distance, glimpsed through the haze of the beer-fuelled masses, looked a lot like a bouncy castle. As it grew closer, doubts began to surface and upon entering, I was disappointed to find it was not even a little bit bouncy. Their tropical IPA wasn’t bad though.
C is for costumes
Or, if you’re the woman who came dressed as a native American, C is for cultural appropriation. Other costumes included the Trump homage of Behemoth’s Andrew Childs (he does a beer called Dump the Trump), the scary Halloweeny women at Panhead (apparently one was the aforementioned Mojo Hand), and various gaggles of grown men in matching outfits (it must be nice to find a socially appropriate forum to dress like your best mate in this otherwise cruel, conservative world).
D is for door and also doof dungeon
At one point along the never-ending concourse, promo girls beckoned apprehensive punters through a mystery door that resembled the entrance to a portaloo. From within came LOUD NOISES, so naturally I avoided this unnerving scene until the very end of the day, when — emboldened by some sort of Beervana-induced bravery, the source of which I couldn’t possibly speculate on — I decided to go through the door. Inside I found even LOUDER NOISES and also FLASHING LIGHTS and DANCING PEOPLE so I got the hell out of there with haste. I have since learnt from life’s great informer, social media, that this was the George FM “doof dungeon” and I don’t even want to know why it was there because everyone knows that craft beer should be enjoyed in a quiet, respectful manner, while thoughtfully contemplating yeast strains and hop additions and shit.
E is for eating (is cheating)
JOKES! You’d be dumb to go to Beervana and not eat because a) there was some nice food and b) eating is very important when you’re drinking alcohol. However, I forgot to plan my food consumption and apart from a late-in-the-piece stroke of culinary genius, ended up having only a tiny taco and some (admittedly delicious) spicy Japanese-inspired fries. My friend spent $20 on a box of brisket, which he soon concluded was TOO. MUCH. BRISKET. For more on eating, see O.
F is for flatulence
Walking into clouds of beer-induced farts is an unpleasant but unavoidable hazard for every Beervana-goer.
G is for glitter
For $7.50, Beervana attendees could get a glitter beard. Sadly — and possibly in breach of basic human rights — it appeared you had to already have an actual beard for the glitter to attach to, so I couldn’t get one. There were also glitter cleavages on offer, which, surprisingly, did not appear to attract much uptake. Adding to the glittery theme was Hop Federation’s Lemon, Lime & Glitter sour beer, which was indeed glittery and also very drinkable.
H is for holy matrimony
Garage Project always gives Beervana a jolly good nudge, and this year they took things up a notch by holding actual weddings in honour of their reborn beer DFA (for more on that, see L). After an exhaustive search, I failed to find anyone to marry at Beervana, but I take heart from the committed and loving relationship I have with hops.
I is for inspiration
There were beers inspired by sticky date puddings, the shaka, corporate jargon, Cherry Ripes, dan dan noodles, the Marquess of Pombal, and the ill-fated expedition of the HMS Bounty, to name but a few.
J is for juice
I counted no fewer than nine beers that had the word juice, or variations of it, in their name.
K is for kiwifruit
Garage Project did three Tangy Fruit beers inspired by the New Zealand movie-goer’s favourite lolly of yore. Despite their ABV of 5.9%, they tasted much healthier than (but just as delicious as) the original Tangy Fruits because they were absolutely loaded with real fruit, including, in the case of the green one, the kiwi variety.
L is for Latin
The aforementioned Garage Project weddings (see H) were inspired by the rebirth of their beer DFA. The IPA formerly known as Death from Above (read more about why they ditched that name here) is now Demus Favorem Amori, which means “we choose to stand for love” in Latin (or so I’m told, anyway — unfortunately my brain has been addled by age and craft beer to the extent that all it retains from five years of high school Latin is the escapades of a cartoon Roman boy called Quintus).
M is for milkshake IPAs
If you’re thinking a beer milkshake would be gross, you’re right, but milkshake IPAs are not gross. I repeat, NOT GROSS. Basically they’re a new thing where lactose is added to an IPA during the brewing process (also not gross — lots of beer styles have lactose in ’em, such as milk stouts and various sours). In addition to lactose, milkshake IPAs often contain fruit, so they’re a bit fruity and a touch sweet, but still hoppy. There were a few of them on offer this year, and I enjoyed Hey Day’s version made with raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrants.
N is for NEIPAs
Milkshake IPAs are a sibling — or a subset, if you take a more hierarchical view of the world — of the NEIPA. NEIPA stands for New England IPA and these beers are basically hazy, juicy, hoppy buggers that were popularised in the northeastern US region known as New England. You might also hear this style referred to as east coast IPA or hazy IPA, and they tend to be less bitter than their west coast (we’re still talking America here, so get all thoughts of Westport and Gizzy out of your mind) counterparts, but still flavoursome AF. There were heaps at Beervana.
O is for olliebollen
Beer ceased to be served half an hour before the end of each Beervana session, and at 3.35pm on Saturday I found myself with a few dollars left on my wristband but nary an ale to be had. Enter Montfoort, which appeared to me like a tasty Dutch mirage on the horizon of the desert that is the stadium concourse. They happily sold me two olliebollen, the most perfectly delicious little doughnuts filled with apple and cinnamon-soaked raisins, which live on in my dreams.
P is for puns
A lot of beers at Beervana had punny names, and, unlike many killjoy types who roll their eyes at such behaviour, I am totally on board with this. Some favourites included B.Effect’s Barrelel Universe, Brew Moon’s Czech Please and Emerson’s Hazed & Confused.
Q is for quadrupel
Quadrupel is a Belgian beer style that’s richer and bolder than its siblings dubbel and tripel. There appears to have been only one on offer at Beervana, and I didn’t try it, but I need a Q, OK? And holy shit, it sounds delicious. North End, a brewery based in Waikanae on the Kāpiti Coast, took its Visitation Quadruple (I don’t know why it’s spelt that way rather than the el way, sorry) and aged it in rhum barrels (rhum is the French-speaking Caribbean’s version of rum, made from sugar cane juice). It’s 10.7% and they recommend it poured over ice cream.
R is for reviews
Punters could rate and review beers on the Beervana app as they went, and some of them were, er, interesting. One poetically equated a beer I shall not name to “sucking off a hipster who smokes 20 a day and then showers you with cinnamon cum”.
S is for sun
I have been to Beervanas where the stadium concourse is akin to the Arctic tundra, but this was not one of them. The Wellington weather was glorious and the sun shone through the occasional gaps in the concrete of the concourse, almost but not quite making me wish I was outside rather than trapped in a concrete circle with hundreds of flatulent beer louts.
T is for truffle
I really wanted to try the beer Brew Moon made using the biggest truffle ever found in New Zealand, handily dug up just down the road from their north Canterbury brewery. But I forgot and then it was too late. It was probably nice though.
U is for unlucky
The woman who dropped her dumplings on the ground before she’d even taken a bite was unlucky, but she was friends with the cultural-appropriation-costume lady so maybe it was karma by proxy.
V is for Vern
Vern was my grandad and he used to grow hops, something to which I attribute my fondness for hoppy beverages. Vern was a big fan of swappa crates of DB Draught and I don’t think he would’ve liked Beervana one bit, but he was there in spirit.
W is for women
Beer festivals are often sausage fests, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of wāhine at Beervana this year. Almost an even split, I reckon.
X is for XPA
XPA stands for extra pale ale. What that is appears to be open to interpretation, but to my mind they’re lighter (in both colour and body), easy-to-drink versions of IPAs. Once again, only one at Beervana (Bach Brewing’s All Day XPA) and I didn’t bloody try it, but X is a hard letter so cut me some slack.
Y is for yeast
Yeast is basically what makes beer beer, so it’s very important. Lots of Beervana beers big-upped their yeast, whether it was Belgian, German, wild, or usually used for wine.
Z is for zest
Zesty is a nice thing for a beer to be, and heaps of the Beervana brews described themselves thus. Many varieties of hop impart a citrus character, and brewers often chuck in some real citrus zest to take it up a notch. This was seen at Beervana in IPAs galore, as well as Double Vision’s Chocolate Orange Porter, inspired by a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. (Terry’s Chocolate Orange is a thing English people are obsessed with at Christmastime, and Spinoff boss Duncan Greive informs me they’ve gone downhill in recent years.)
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