The Woolston Hop
The Twisted Hop is back, but with three new faces.
On the hops
It seems shameful to admit I never visited the Twisted Hop bar before the quakes, when it was quite the buzz in central Christchurch. But then it is difficult to remember how spoilt for choice we were, particularly in SOL Square and the lanes off Lichfield St, where there seemed to be a watering hole for almost every mood or occasion.
The Twisted Hop's quake-strengthened Poplar Ln building survived the September 4, 2010, pummelling, but was mortally wounded in February 2011.
While the owners, former Londoners Martin Bennett and Stephen Hardman, kept the spirit alive as best at their new Parkhouse Rd brewery, it seemed a long wait between pints for real Twisted Hop fans.
We arrive at its new venue in Ferry Rd, Woolston, in its first week of operation. The booths along one wall are already taken, so our group grabs a generous-sized wooden table near the front door.
For our first round we mark our seats with coats, then lean on the bar to examine the beer taps. Thankfully, the barman shows considerable patience in explaining the different brews. He is also kind enough to offer us small tastings.
He says the lighter Golding Bitter (3.7 per cent alcohol, $8.50 a pint) is an ideal "session beer", suitable for drinking all day. My beer-drinking companions nod knowingly, although later describe it as "unremarkable", with only muted flavours.
A better dinnertime pint is the Challenger, described as an "ESB" or extra special bitter. It is a smooth, creamy ale (5 per cent alcohol, $9.50) with a surprisingly clean finish. "Bloody good," declares my companion, a keen supper of real ales.
Another strong dark ale, the Twisted Ankle (5.9 per cent alcohol, $10 a pint), also impresses as a complex sip with an almost nutty flavour. My companion agrees with the menu warning that it is "dangerously easy to drink".
My Camla Farm Cider ($9 a bottle) has great flavour - crisp rather than cloyingly sweet - but, all too quickly, it is gone.
By now, we're back at our corner table, where we rely on the remarkably obliging waitress service. Unfortunately, a few early teething problems mean there are no straws for the juice drinker, the Hopback IPA is unavailable, and we are twice served pints when the smaller 425ml midi was ordered.
However, we are happy to chew on deep bowls of fries, served with a spicy tomato sauce ($6) and a platter of breads and dips ($12.50).
For our last round, I choose the Old Mout Boysencider ($8.50 a bottle), a mix of apple cider and boysenberry wine. It is cheerfully summery and I would like a second.
But it's a school night and we have work and children to get us up early in the morning. Still, I know we shall return - there are so many more tempting brews yet to try.
Where: 616 Ferry Rd.
Service: Very knowledgeable and obliging.
Ambience: Rustic, relaxed.