Wellington bracing for international beer invasion
OPINION: Forget the Ebola virus. An outbreak of the alcoholic kind is making its way towards New Zealand and will hit our capital city in three' weeks time.
This year's Beervana festival will have a more international feel to it than previous years. Headlining the event is three award-winning brewers from the American city of Portland. All are medal winners from the prestigious 2014 Beer World Cup: Widmer Brothers Brewing, Gigantic Brewing Company and Commons Brewery.
But it's not all about the yanks. Plenty of quality brew-masters from other parts of the world will be wandering the Westpac Stadium concourse on August 22 and 23.
Here are a couple of breweries you probably don't know much about, but will after Beervana.
Gigantic Brewing (Portland, USA)
We'll start with one of those 'Merican breweries. The lads from Gigantic Brewing spend their days nestled among the liberal voters, coffee jerks and beer geeks of Portland, Oregon, so they should feel right at home when they touch down in Wellington.
Brewers Ben Love and Van Havig aren't big on sticking to style guidelines, or repetition for that matter. Gigantic only has one year-round beer, its Gigantic IPA. Everything else is seasonal and only exists on God's green earth for about three months.
So only Ben, Van and the Almighty knows what they'll pack into their suitcases for Wellington. If it helps, the seasonal beers they have available now include a smoked Hefeweizen (wheat beer) with aromas of clove and banana, an Imperial Black Saison (fruity, spicy pale ale) roasted with cold-pressed coffee beans, and an English Bitter/American Pale Ale mash-up that has a ''rich, bready malt aroma'' and the hop flavour of fresh orange peel.
Brew Cult (Melbourne, Australia)
Steve ''Hendo'' Henderson is one of the more colourful characters on the Australian beer scene. He's been something of a gun for hire in the past, jumping from brewery to brewery, injecting as much hops as he can into their recipes.
Now he does his own thing under the moniker of BrewCult, describing his beers as irreverent and fun, which might be putting it mildly.
He risked a serious backlash from hardcore beer fans recently with a brew called ''Beer Geek Rage Quit'' which is a lager with hops more suited to an India Pale Ale.
The idea was to make ale-loving beer geeks think they're sipping an IPA before realising the awful truth. He was even cheeky enough to sneak some Pride of Ringwood hops - a staple of Carlton Draught - in among the florally, fruity Kiwi and US hops. The label features a screaming bearded chap, which says it all really.
Eagle Bay Brewing Co. (Eagle Bay, Australia)
These guys actually started out life as a third-generation farming business. It all came about when Nick d'Espeissis got his father, John (the farmer), a home brew kit as a gift. But it turned out John was rubbish and his first brew exploded all over the family laundry.
Nick assumed control of the equipment after that and has been putting it to good use ever since, while John tends to the sheep and cattle outside. Eagle Bay aims to use as much organic, seasonal, local produce as it can. Some of its beers are actually made with fresh rainwater.
Nick is no stranger to this country either having worked for the Dux de Lux in Christchurch.
Green Beacon Brewing (Brisbane, Australia)
Green Beacon is a group of brewers doing their best to transfer some of the US and European beer culture to Brisbane.
All of its beers are crafted to be paired with specific foods. Green Beacon's Uppercut Imperial IPA contains over 1kg of hops per keg and is an absolute belter at 9.3% ABV. But it's an exception to the rule.
Its other beers are mostly under 5% ABV making them very easy to drink indeed, which is all that really matters when you're sitting in a beer garden in ruthlessly humid Queensland, sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage.
Mash Brewing (Swan Valley, Australia)
Brewers Charlie Hodgson and Eddie Still were the big winners at the Australian International Beer Awards back in May, leaving with the trophy for ''Champion Australian Beer'' under their arm.
The winning brew was their big, bold Copy Cat American IPA (6.8% ABV), so here's hoping they bring plenty of that to Wellington.
Mash had a bit of a staff clean out in 2011 and the new brewery team aimed their beer range squarely at mainstream drinkers.
Pale lagers, ciders and seasonable wheat and pale ales are Mash's standard fare these days. That said, they did create a Belgo-American IPA called Tussle in Brussels (5.7% ABV) which pits classic US hops against funky Belgian yeast, resulting in a black magic concoction of fruit and caramel flavours.
The Dominion Post