Beervana from a wine drinker's perspective
OPINION: At the merchandise stand at Beervana, a T-shirt slogan proclaims: "If you don't love hops, the terrorists win".
As a non-beer drinker at an event where hops and everything they entail are unashamedly the star of the show, this seemed like a bad omen.
Don't get me wrong - I have drunk beer before. When I travelled in Thailand a cold Singha on the beach was just the ticket. And at a beer hall in Prague, a pint of the house-brewed dark beer was delicious and warming on a cold night.
But when I'm at home I would never choose a beer willingly. A hoppy IPA? Forget it. Pour this Marlborough girl a Sav please.
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To me a hoppy drink is the worst thing imaginable as the core beer ingredient seems to leave a lingering dry sawdust feeling in your mouth.
But there I was, at the Friday night session of Beervana, and I had a choice - take the easy route and stick to good ol' ciders, or actually branch out and try some beers.
I opted to be brave, and try a range of beers before allowing myself a familiar cider.
First up: A Kaiser Brothers Brewery Tangerine Dream. This golden wheat lager was utterly delicious. Fruity, refreshing and a perfect gateway beer.
Next up, my first sour beer of the evening at Deep Creak: a Steam Funk Apricot Gose. Sour beer, I'll discover by the end of the night, is the beer for me.
Refreshing and crisp my tasting note is simply amazing. I can picture sitting back on a hot summers afternoon with a glass of this in hand.
But now its time to take off the training wheels, and dive into the hops.
I give it a good shot. The South Island pale-ale at Eagle Brewing seems like a good plan, because I'm told it's brought in for people who don't love hops.
It's not too bad, but it's definitely not winning me over and my eyes start to seek out menus with Gose or wheat beer on the menu.
A big pigeon pilsner at Kereru is better. I could drink more of this - it's like training wheels for hoppy beers.
But a sip of a few of the big hoppy numbers my partner tries definitely aren't for me as I try to rid myself of the familiar sawdust feeling.
And then it's time for the big kahuna - a dark beer. My partner and I choose Altitude Brewing, and taste a whiskey barrel aged rum and raisin stout. It is smooth and delicious, leaving that familiar whiskey tingle.
But while its rich and complex, its also heavy, and I'm glad I only have a small taster.
By this stage I've earned a glass of water and some cider, but I'm somewhat converted to the world of beer.
At least, the ones without too many hops.
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Sour beers and wheat beers are a good option to get started.
If you're not sure, talk to the people serving. They're knowledgeable, friendly and eager to talk beer.
Don't be afraid of the homebrew stand. The NZHC stand has some great beers, particularly the Gin and Juice, a grapefruit and juniper IPA, by Baseline Brewing.
Unless you really love a beer, stick with the 75ml tasters. You get to try many more beers and they are usually generous pours.
Even the beer lovers should branch out into the ciders, because there are some truly delicious ones on offer. Tutu has a crisp classic apple cider, and the Zeffer apple crumble cider was amazingly complex in flavour with the familiar flavour and scent hitting you with every sip.
Ladies: this event is a revelation. While there are plenty of women, there are definitely more men, and this pays off when you need to go - there wasn't a line to be seen at the toilets.
Get in early with food. There are heaps of delicious eats on offer, but many had sold out by the end.