Marchfest brews up a top formula
Nelson's Marchfest craft beer and music festival attracted a 3500-strong crowd, 500 up on last year.
Co-organiser Mic Dover described Saturday's event at Founders Heritage Park as "absolutely brilliant" and said it would be back next year "bigger and better".
It was the seventh Marchfest of beer, wine, cider, food and music that he and Eelco Boswijk have run, and he estimated about half the visitors were from out of town.
Sreenath Venkataraman, a safety engineer from Invercargill, said a company workshop was timed to coincide to the lead-up to Marchfest. "It's my first time to Nelson and it seems to be well organised. I'm loving it."
Peter Watts from Reading in England came to the festival and was staying 10 days in the South Island. "It's a great venue, lovely music and good beer. I'm coming back," he said.
The festival offered 16 specially brewed craft beers. Brewers from the region were each given a single hop variety with which to make a beer and came up with brews such as Sauvin Grace, a pale ale using the sauvin hop, and Riwakawaka, an ale using the Riwaka hop.
Nelson residents at the festival included architect Mikyla Greaney, engineer Marcus Grierson and IT manager Phil Croft, who all dressed in traditional German outfits - for a party-like atmosphere.
Beer columnist Geoff Griggs, ran a beer and food matched gourmet lunch at the festival.
"The matches are always risky because we never get the opportunity until the day itself to know what the beers are like and have to go on what the brewers tell us, but I was pleased with most," he said.
Standouts were Aoraki salmon matched with the Moa Berliner Weiss, called The Mottled Tart; and Founders' Save-On Hops Lonely Ale matched with harissa lamb, he said.
Mr Griggs said, "For me Marchfest is at the top of the New Zealand beer festivals because it is more than a beer festival, it is a relaxing day out. I like that all the beers are brewed specially for the festival. Most other festivals they say to brewers you can brew something specially or just bring along your regular beers.
"At Marchfest you get completely new beers you have never tasted before. It's a great opportunity for brewers to be experimental and brew something that's not commercial."
However, 8Wired assistant brewer Jason Bathgate said he would like fewer restrictions on brewers so they could brew whatever they did best. 8Wired made an IPA/Pale ale called Crosswired using the Southern Cross hop.
"I like single-hop varieties but allowing the brewers to do what they do well would put more focus on the drinkers rather than the brewers," he said. "I like the vibe of the festival, there's lots of families and everybody is having a fantastic time."
Mr Dover said a lot of people thought that the festival had got the music right this year, and it ended with The Eastern band members playing ACDC then blending off into the crowd.