Our new year holiday was spent with friends in Christchurch. Jacky and Paul lost their home in the eastern suburbs in the February 2011 earthquake but were fortunate to find a rental property in Prebbleton, to the south of the city, and have since hosted us on several occasions.
On each visit Jacky and Paul have been keen to take us on a tiki tour around Christchurch to see how the city is gradually recovering. Last week we visited the site of their old home in Avondale and although the house was demolished only last August, already weeds of up to a metre in height are growing. It was a sobering experience to walk around the empty section while remembering all the good times we'd shared there.
I felt much the same when we toured the inner city and passed what was once my favourite South Island pub. Located in the popular Lichfield Lanes area, The Twisted Hop brewpub was reinforced before the first quake in September 2010 and survived the February 2011 quake virtually intact. Sadly the surrounding brick buildings did not; they were all irreparably damaged and have since been bulldozed.
When we drove past last week the site was unrecognisable. Although The Twisted Hop still stands defiantly, the area between Lichfield and Tuam streets is otherwise completely level; the only clue to its former life the road markings on the narrow streets that once threaded their way between the lofty buildings.
As for The Twisted Hop itself, trading ceased on the day of the earthquake and it was almost a year before its owners, Martin Bennett and Stephen Hardman, were allowed back into the building to remove their brewing equipment and chattels.
Happily the two expat Englishmen are now back in business and working on individual Twisted Hop projects. Last winter Martin opened a new Twisted Hop Real Ale brewery in an industrial park in Wigram then, just a few weeks ago, Stephen opened a new Twisted Hop pub in Woolston. We visited the shiny new pub last week.
Located at 616 Ferry Rd, The Woolston Hop has been tastefully furnished and is a delightful place to relax and enjoy a few beers. Several banks of hand pumps and taps dispense a fine selection of craft beers from The Twisted Hop and other respected Kiwi breweries.
The Twisted Hop's familiar trio of cask-conditioned "real ales" - Golding Bitter (3.7 per cent); Challenger (5), a special bitter; and Twisted Ankle (5.9), a strong dark ale - are all showcased on hand pump, alongside Hopback IPA (5.8), a recent addition to the range that features generous additions of New Zealand Cascade hops.
Crisp and drying, with a resiny hop-driven finish, this was my pick of the bunch on the day.
Two cool fermented Twisted Hop tap beers are also available: Sauvin Pilsner, an aromatic and well-balanced example of the New World Pilsener style, and Pacifikolsch, a hybrid of the delicate German style that's hopped entirely with Pacifica, a New Zealand cultivar of Germany's famous Hallertau hop.
While the original Twisted Hop brewpub awaits demolition another Christchurch brewer has moved into the area. Just a stone's throw from the derelict brewpub, Cassels & Sons have opened a new craft beer bar at 208 Madras St.
Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to visit CBD Bar but I did get to sample the Cassels beers at their brewpub in Woolston.
Since the departure of original brewer Nigel Mahoney, Cassels' unique wood-fired brewkettle has been tended by Eli Haines under the watchful eye of head brewer Simon Bretherton, whose brewing career began at Boddington's of Manchester.
Nigel is sharing brewing duties with Paul Cooper at Wigram Brewing Company.
On an impromptu visit to Pomeroy's Historic Inn - an excellent craft beer pub on Kilmore St, which survived the quakes and has become the hub of Christchurch's craft brewing scene - I caught up with a group of local brewers and beer lovers who'd gathered to jointly celebrate the New Year and the birthday of David Gaughan, of Golden Eagle Brewing. Among those toasting the birthday boy were brewers Sean Harris, of Raindogs Brewing, and Carl Hadler, of Four Avenues Brewing Company, Pomeroy's new in-house brewery.
Over a quick pint David and Sean told me they're in the process of installing a new brewery next door to another of Christchurch's best craft beer bars, Volstead Trading Company (55 Riccarton Rd).
The new brewery, which will be known as The Eagle Versus Dog Brewery, will produce both the Raindogs and Golden Eagle beers as well as the occasional collaboration brew.
The new brewery should be running by the end of March. On the subject of collaboration beers, I am reliably informed David and Sean's next joint effort - their third under the Eagle versus Dog label - is likely to be a wheat-influenced beer.
Although the earthquakes saw an end to brewing at The Twisted Hop and Dux de Lux brewpubs, as well as Harrington's Ferrymead brewery, the phoenix that was Christchurch brewing is most certainly rising from the ashes.
- The Marlborough Express