Being Californians, I think that we are quite earthquake aware. And we were aware there was a devastating earthquake in Christchurch several years back, but that was all in the back of our minds when planning a one day beer exploration of the South Island’s largest city.

Driving through the darkened streets of Christchurch after a late flight from Sydney, there really wasn’t much to see. All looked perfectly normal. Even the next morning when foraging for a cup of coffee from our just off the city center motel, I saw a few empty lots and a bit of construction. To me, it looked like a city well on the way to recovery.

Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower

By the time Merideth and I set out for our Christchurch Urban Beer Hike it was a bit warm and sticky. Our plan was for a leisurely three or four stop day that would be our introduction to New Zealand beer. We headed towards the city center which lay in the path to the first brewery stop a couple of miles away in the suburb of Woolston.

In a few minutes we reached the Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower. Surrounded by construction fencing, the historic clock was seriously damaged during the earthquake, the face still displaying the time of the disaster, 12:51. Continuing on, we entered what on my tourist map labeled the “Red Zone,” an area of limited access.

“Red Zone” probably should have been a clue. Not knowing what to expect, I guess we didn’t expect to find what we saw. We wandered somewhat in disbelief. Block after block of either empty lots or abandoned, tattered office blocks that looked like a set from some post-apocalyptic movie. Every now and then there was a buttressed building facade with no building behind it.

Palette Pavilion

Not that there wasn’t hope in all the devastation. Creativity sprouted up here and there. Empty lots hosted every sort of art installation. Palette Pavilion, stacks of blue-painted wooden palettes, was part cafe, part garden.

And just off the tram tracks was our favorite, Re:START, a shopping mall made of shipping containers. The eclectic mix of shops drew a good crowd of noontime shoppers. If it only had a beer bar, we would have spent more time there.

A shipping container mall

It was at Re:START that we made an interesting discovery. Reading a earthquake memorial plaque, we realized that coincidentally we were in Christchurch on the 3rd anniversary.

Continuing on, it was pretty much more of the same. Somewhat numb, we reached the other end of city center and exited the “Red Zone.” Passing from light industrial to residential, it was a straight shot out to Woolston.

The Brewery

In all the sensory overload of the city center, we completely forgot that it was a bit warm. Just when it felt like we had had enough of the heat, we reached our first brewery Cassels & Sons.

On arrival, the first thing we noticed were the cool brick buildings, tanneries built in the Victorian era which now were trendy-looking shops. Pre-earthquake, Cassels & Sons was housed in one of these buildings. Destroyed, it was reestablished as a brewpub, called the Brewery, at the front of the same complex, a 1970s building originally slated for demolition.

Compared to the somewhat somber mood of the city center, an energetic vibrancy welcomed us as we entered. Walkers, cyclists, bikers, families, and all manner of people were enjoying lunch and a beer or two on a nice Saturday afternoon. From the ample outdoor seating, Merideth and I chose a quiet corner in the covered section. We quickly ordered the six beer sample paddle.

Merideth enjoying her first ever pint of Kiwi beer

The diverse paddle ranged from Light Owl, a 2.5% ABV Pale Ale to a malty Dunkel that clocked in at 5.6% ABV. Parched from the long, hot walk, Merideth and I two-fisted the small samples of beer and ice water. Almost lost in the moment was the fact that these were our very first New Zealand beers on New Zealand soil. The honor of the very first went to their 4.8% ABV Lager, a beer perfect for the day.

Of the six, my favorite was the what I thought was there IPA. But  when I ordered a pint, I was corrected by our waitress. It wasn’t IPA but 1PA (One-PA), a single malt, single hop Pale Ale made with New Zealand Cascades. Very subtle in flavor, this was my baptism into local hops.

Our thirst sated, Merideth and I were able to enjoy a nice lunch. We were ready for what the rest of the day had to offer.

We didn’t walk all the way to Woolston for just for one brewery. Just a short distance away, mostly through a quaint park, was our New Zealand brewery number two. The Twisted Hop was located in the city center prior to the earthquake in a building that since has been demolished. Their Woolston location opened in October 2012.

The Twisted Hop

The cool air of the pub was very welcoming and we quickly had our second beer paddle in front of us. Another sextuplet of beers to sample, these ranged towards the lighter side of the spectrum except for the black/brown Twisted Ankle.

The paddle at Twisted Hop…

Despite specializing in English-style cask ales, it was the two lagers with a Kiwi twist that stood out for both of us. The refreshing Pacifckölsch was brewed entirely with New Zealand Pacifica hops, a local version of Hallertauer Mittlefrüh.

The star was Sauvin Pilsner, a crisp brew made with New Zealand’s signature hop. Undoubtedly, Pilsner purists would be up in arms but we enjoyed the Kiwi twist on the classic beer style. Sauvin Pilsner, for both of us, was one of the beers of the trip.

Somewhat out of character for us, we decided to take the bus back from the Twisted Hop rather than walk. More of a time issue, we did enjoy the air conditioned bus instead of being broiled by the midday sun. Back in the city, we took a rather circuitous route to our final Christchurch beer stop.

The “Pom”

Housed in an imposing 18th century red brick  building, Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn bustled with a late afternoon crowd. Families and groups of friends crowded most of the tables inside and out. We grabbed a booth for ourselves.

There were two reasons for us to visit the Pom. Not only were there 30 plus taps of mostly New Zealand beer but recently they had added an in house brewery, Four Avenues Brewing.

We quickly added Four Avenues to the List as there was only one beer to try. Half Nelson, that I am guessing was 50% Nelson Sauvin, was an easy drinking 3.8% ABV English-style Bitter. It paired nicely with the huge plate of crackling.


With a few beers still left in us, we chose from the menu two breweries that we knew we weren’t visiting. Farmhouse Pale from 8 Wired was a Pale Ale/Saison hybrid inspired by the brewers visit to Oxbow in Maine. I’ll need to fly back to Maine to try the Oxbow version again for comparison. Yeastie Boys Golden Perch, at 4.4% ABV, was similar in body to the Half Nelson but had much more hop character. Golden Perch was one of my favorite beers of the whole trip.

Taking a break at the end of the day…

Beered out, we called it a day and wandered back to our motel room. Later that night as we lay in bed, we could hear music and fireworks off in the distance, a commemoration of that terrible day three years ago. Beer travel doesn’t often make us reflective but this was one of those moments we were thankful for the day’s experience.

View all the Christchurch images…

Quick Australia Visit

No one accuses us of wasting time on our trips. We use every minute possible to visit as many breweries as we can and drink as much beer as our bladders can handle. So before moving on to New Zealand, we took a few days in Sydney to get acclimated, celebrate a friend’s birthday, and add a few more Australian breweries to The List.

An early morning arrival in Sydney allowed for a full day of beer travel. After a quick shower at the home of our good friend Todd (from Beermen.TV), the three of us hit the road heading north. The first stop was Six String Brewing Co. in Erina, a town about an hour from Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Getting the trip off to a good start….

Located behind a day care center and a gym, the brewery is non-descript from the outside. However, once you step through the door of the industrial building, you’re transported to a haven of sudsy goodness. Six String has been open for less than a year, but you would never know it. They had a strong line up of beers, including the usual suspects such as a Brown (a strong contender for our favorite) and a Saison, as well as their Pale Ale on cask and a session IPA.

Despite being in Australia, my top choice was the Hefeweizen. Light and refreshing, it was full of that true Hefe flavor. Six String also had a menu of tasty nibbles and I had a chance to snack on their tasty shrimp spring rolls.

Chris was happy to be the cameraman

Continuing up the coast with Todd at the wheel, me as navigator and Chris as the trusty passenger, our next stop was in the Hunter Valley, an area best known for their wine. Potters Hotel Brewery Resort, among several other things, is home to Hunter Beer Co.

The weather was a bit drippy and a few claps of thunder greeted us as we arrived, but we still opted to take our taster set (or “sample paddle” as they call them in Australia) outside to the large covered patio. We sampled 10 of their beers, which ranged from a 4.5% Kölsch to a 10% Belgian-style Ale. They also had a smoked Doppelbock and a black, Belgian-style IPA. By far the standout was the Ginger Beer. Big in Australia, ginger beers are usually quite spicy, something that comes from the use of real ginger. The one from Hunter Beer Co. was lightly spiced and refreshing with a reasonable ABV of 4.5%.

Lovedale Brewery

A short distance away, we moved on to the Lovedale Brewery, located on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resort Hunter Valley. Newly opened, they had two beers for us to try: the Paddo Pale Ale and Glama Rama Summer Ale (remember, it’s summer down there). The beers were solid for such a new brewery and we all went for pints of the Glama with our lunch.

Our pizza and pork scratchings hit the spot and with our table’s view of the large pool, the atmosphere was fun. With Todd’s connections, we peeked into the brewery and chatted briefly with the brewer. Look for good things to come in the future, including a distillery and cider.

Having made it all the way to Port Macquarie the night before, we enjoyed a bit of brekkie and a walk at the water’s edge before visiting Port Macquarie’s two breweries.

We reached Black Duck right before the cellar door opened, but owner/brewer Al was nice enough to let us in early, so we could get our beer day started. This, of course, was after being greeted by a very friendly, but rather large Great Dane in the parking lot. We tried 8 beers, including an Australian Pale Ale, ESB, Golden, and an Irish Red Ale. Without a doubt, our favorite was the Dark Ale, an easy drinking 4% beer full of chocolate notes. Black Duck sells full pints and even has a Ploughman’s Platter, but it was 10am and we had a long day ahead.

Little Brewing Company

The other Port Macquarie brewery, The Little Brewing Company, is more of a veteran in the New South Wales beer scene. The brewery opened in 2007 and co-owner Kylie Little shared her seasoned views of the Australian beer scene and the local politics of opening a brewery while we sipped a few of their beers.

Four beers were available for tasting, including a Pale Ale, Pilsner, Porter, and Wit. While all were good, we especially liked the Pale Ale and Pilsner. They also have a line of Belgian-style beers (Dubbel, Tripel, and a Christmas ale), but we didn’t have an opportunity to try those. Despite their big reputation and excellent beers, the cellar door does not sell full pints, so our stop was a fairly quick one.

Our last stop before home was Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. in Bobs Farm. (Yep, that’s the name of the town!) While the property was somewhat farm-like, much to our disappointment we did not meet any Bobs. The brewery is set on 35 acres and shares a home with Port Stephens Winery. Be forewarned, the spot has become a destination for tour buses. They have a large café/tasting room (for both the wine and beer)/gift shop and it is all best enjoyed without a crowd of milling tourists unsure of why they’re there.

Reminds us someone we know…

We lucked out and were able to try several beers and order lunch before the first bus arrived. The woman who helped us was friendly and patient as we tasted several samples from their wide offering. I enjoyed the Rude Boy Pilsner with my tasty German-style sausages while Chris drank the  Angry Man Pale Ale with his salt and pepper squid. As we were leaving, two more tour buses pulled up…

That night we celebrated Todd’s birthday at Flat Rock Café. A fun and, judging by the crowd, a local’s favorite, Flat Rock almost missed getting added to The List.

They had one of their beers hooked up on cask, but the manager had decided not to serve it because it did not meet his standards. Todd saved the day by asking if we could taste it anyway. The beer tasted fine, just very green. While they had a nice selection of yummy tapas and a solid list of Australian craft beer, I would love to go back and taste their beer for real.

There were more than four pines…

The next day we had a few hours to sight-see and check out one last Australian brewery before leaving for our Big New Zealand Adventure. Located a short ferry ride away from Sydney in Manly, we had high expectations for 4 Pines Brewing Co. A friend in California was extremely insistent that we make the time to go there and we were so glad we took his advice!

Four Pines lived up to every bit of the hype! This brewery/restaurant overlooks the ferry harbor and the outside deck was great for people watching. They had a large selection of beers and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. With a large sample paddle, we had time for one quick pint, a Kölsch for me and Pale Ale for Chris.

And thus concluded the first leg of our trip. (Thanks to Todd for all that driving!) A brand new adventure awaited us…

View all the images from our quick stop in Australia

New beergeek.TV Episode – Oz Beer Adventure, Part III

One more look at the Indian Ocean

Oz Beer Adventure, Part III” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

In the last part of our two week Australian beer adventure, we explore the beer scenes around Perth, Fremantle and the Swan Valley. Along the way, we visit a sprawling gnome village, embark on an Urban Beer Hike in Fremantle, seek out koalas and both reach the 700 brewery milestone.

So enjoy the final installment of our latest beer adventures in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

New beergeek.TV Episode – Oz Beer Adventure, Part II

Thanks to Augusta Margaret River Tourism for
the help and support on this portion of our trip.

A bonus of beer travel…

Oz Beer Adventure, Part II” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

In the second part of our two week Australian beer adventure, we visit the world-famous Margaret River wine region in Western Australia to explore its vibrant beer scene. In our short time there, we found more to love than just great beer.

So enjoy the second installment of our latest beer adventures in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

New beergeek.TV Episode – Oz Beer Adventure, Part I

There’s more than good beer in Australia

Oz Beer Adventure, Part I” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

In the first of three episodes from our two week Australian beer adventure, we quickly explore the area around Victoria’s capital. Beginning in Melbourne, we completed a loop in four days around Port Phillip Bay, finishing up back in Melbourne for an Urban Beer Hike.

So enjoy our latest beer adventures in Australia…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.