Waiheke Island Brewing

Waiheke is famous for it's wineries and beaches but on a recent journey I discovered a gem of brewery.

Resplendent on a grey day, the café-bar and venue for Wild on Waiheke is nestled into a hillside and surrounded by grapevines. There is café food, condiments on sale and beer tastings.

The brewhouse, typical of many craft operations, is a micro affair, added to over time. Enthusiasm and care evident in the brewery extends to the beers themselves.

Brewer Alan Knight has in been in residence on and off since 1997 but our host, owner Simon Matthews, was generous and helpful, offering a brewery tour and impeccable service after we arrived, unannounced.

Wild on Waiheke produces four lines of beer as well as a cider and a non-alcoholic ginger beer. The brewery's foundation ale is Baroona Original, described as a pale ale and named after an old island ferry. It's an interesting, early example of the hugely popular New Zealand pale ale style and is notable as the first Kiwi beer to showcase Saaz B or Motueka hops.

Its malt base is pilsner and wheat, which also marks it out from many pale malted contemporaries. Baroona was a delight: Clear colour and crisp taste; light in body and smooth.

The Motueka hops played their part delivering a moderate grapefruit aroma and bitterness that was perfect. At 4.7% abv, this would make for a great session beer.

Next up was Onetangi Dark Ale. Onetangi, like the Waiheke beach it is named for, was impressive. Light in body - some might say thin - it had both a complex character and colour that changed and shifted in the glass.

Chocolate and coffee flavours were abundant. Eight malts are used to achieve this taste, and the beer is hopped with the classic English beauty, Styrian Goldings.

It was a smooth and creamy drop, and it paired nicely with the suggested accompaniment, Waiheke oysters. (Drunken oyster - oyster pitched into the glass - is a taste experience.)

On to the impressive Wharf Road Wheat. This is a less preferred style for me but a warm, day does invite the sampling of a beer with fruity and zesty tones.

Hefe style wheat beers characteristically have a hazy colour and lend themselves to lingering tastes. The
promised banana and clove flavours were there, as well as lemon and orange. This was a lighter version than others I've had - the Tuatara version coming to mind - but I still enjoyed its refreshing qualities. The wheat beer was 4.5% abv.

Rounding out the tasting was the heftiest brew on offer, the Matiatia Malt beer. Described as a Californian style imperial IPA, this beer is made with solid malts and Cascade hops.

It's a well-worn recipe that works well here. The desired resin textures were present and it has a good chewy toffee finish.

Wild on Waihake, while relatively modest, produces solid beers from a sensible range using local water. It's also notable for its bottles: An elongated neck ends with a squat bottom. The information panels in the cafe and the brewery's website are amongst the best I have seen.

Keep up to date with Taranaki craft beer events by liking Taranaki SOBA on Facebook and please ask your local to get some decent craft beer in if they haven't already. The beer scene in Taranaki has improved but with more and more drinkers enjoying craft beer, some bars and restaurants need to do better.


Warwick Foy

Taranaki Daily News