Our Local Beer Scene: Alvarado St. Brewery & Grill

It’s been a while since we were able to highlight developments in our local beer scene. Thank goodness the long wait is over with the opening of Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill in Old Monterey.

The newest addition to the Monterey beer scene

Right up the street from Peter B’s Brewpub, Alvarado Street Brewery is a great addition to the Monterey Peninsula beer scene. Located in the renovated Regency Theater building, it also includes a small outdoor seating area with a great view of all the action on Alvarado Street. Inside, the marble counters and long, narrow shape give the place a sleek fancy feel, but don’t let that fool you. Alvarado Street is a comfortable and casual brewpub with an exciting menu and awesome beers!

Unfltered Minesweeper IPA

Head Brewer, JC Hill, stays very busy, with an average of 8 different house beers on at any given time. And I do mean different. JC has already introduced dozens of beers since the place opened in May. The IPAs have, of course, been a big hit with the likes of Minesweeper, a dank brew made with Citra and Chinook hops (7.2% ABV) and Duane’s World, a 7.5% American IPA with Nelson and Amarillo hops, leading the way.

But while JC definitely knows his way around the hops, that’s not all he has to offer. A variety of Belgian-style beers have rotated through, including the Bixby Belgian Blonde (5%), Alvarado Street Table Beer (3.9% Belgian-style tafelbier), Grains of Wrath (6.8% Belgian Farmhouse) and Doc Brown (5.8% American Brown brewed with Belgian yeast).

One of the things I enjoy most about Alvarado Street is that there is something for everyone. The beer list, which also includes guest taps and bottles, is always varied with everything from IPAs for the Hopheads, low alcohol beers for those taking it easy, and German-, Belgian-, and English-style beers for a more international flare.

Bright salads are one of the highlight the food menu

The food is also fantastic, ranging from small bites and fresh salads to flatbreads and larger dishes. I especially love the Mac-n-Cheese with white cheddar, brie, broccolini, and leeks (especially when I remember to ask for the addition of bacon!). The Artisan Cheese and Salumi plate also offers a substantial portion suitable to share before a main course. The flatbreads are tasty, with the Duck Ham (pineapple, gruyere, pickled chili and hoisin sauce) being a house favorite. Chris and I like the Butcher’s Bacon & Egg with a nice blend of cheeses, a Flander’s Red Ale tomato sauce and a fried egg on top. Admittedly, I have never had one of the larger plates, choosing instead to create a full meal from the small bites and salads. However, the desserts cannot be missed. The fresh and fluffy Beignets are terrific and be sure to ask for a spoon to finish off the bitter chocolate ale sauce.

Be forewarned, Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill’s reputation is growing and it is usually quite busy. With a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the bar is always a good option. Otherwise, be patient. It is well worth the wait. It can also be a bit loud in there, making it the perfect spot for socializing with friends and watching the game with fellow sports enthusiasts.

With the addition of Alvarado Street, I guess Chris and I can no longer call our home a beer backwater. Welcome to Monterey, the new California beer destination.

Setting Up For Our Big Day

At some point last year, I figured out that it was possible for us to visit our 900th brewery on our 25th wedding anniversary. For beer travelers like us, nothing could be more romantic. With this idea stuck in my head, the challenge became making it happen.

On the eve of our silver anniversary, we woke up in Nashua, NH. Somewhat out of the norm for our beer travels, I planned a leisurely day that would end in Portland, ME. And with the first brewery visit in Nashua itself, we even had time for a pleasant walk through the town’s park, Mine Falls.

A nice day for a walk…

Despite the relaxing start to the day along the Nashua River, there was a nervousness in the air. Well, at least I, as the planner, was nervous. To reach 900 breweries the following day, Merideth and I needed to visit all breweries on the day’s itinerary. There was no wiggle room, no plan B breweries to visit if one was unexpectedly closed. Something often goes awry on our travels and this day had to go perfectly.

The beginning of our beer day…

With that air of tension of what our day would hold, we finished our walk and drove the few blocks to downtown Nashua and our first beer stop of the day, Martha’s Exchange.

Despite the slight tinge of heat and humidity we passed on the air conditioned brewpub and chose a well-shaded table outside. With lunch plans already sorted, this was just a taster flight stop, which we quickly ordered.

Eight samples were soon in front of us. One of the more diverse set of beers we have tried recently, the octet of brews ranged from Volstead ’33’, a Golden Ale, to Velvet Elvis Vanilla Stout. In between there was an Alt, Saison and requisite IPA to name a few.

It was probably the weather talking but the refreshing, easy drinking Golden Ale stood out for me. The hopping reminded me of a German Helles, a style I really love. For Merideth, the peppery, dry Consortium Saison was her standout.

Eager to press on, we didn’t dawdle once we finished our sample flight. We quickly left Nashua in the rear view mirror heading across New Hampshire.

The first of many

For those who know of our previous New England travels, lobster and especially lobster rolls are as important as beer. Heading towards coastal New Hampshire on our way to Maine, it was time to indulge in our second passion.

Despite its touristy appearance, pre-trip research pointed to the Beach Plum in Portsmouth as the stop for our first lobster roll of the trip. Its location on our route and award-winning lobster rolls made it an easy choice.

Choice confronted us as Merideth and I stood in front of their extensive menu. Six versions of lobster roll were available including a 20oz., foot-long monster. Romance aside, we decided on the non-sharing route, each choosing the 10oz. version. Same amount of lobster meat, no competition or hurt feelings.

Preferring our lobster rolls naked, the light coating of mayonnaise was distressing to see at first. But they were quite yummy and were a worthy first roll of the trip.

It was a short drive up the road to downtown Portsmouth and maybe the surprise brewery of the trip, Earth Eagle Brewings. While I sorted the parking situation out, Merideth went into the tiny tasting room and ordered the six beer sample flight. When I finally sat down to sample, Merideth was already several tastes in.

Merideth enjoying her Gruit

Grabbing my first taste, Sputnik, a Pale Ale, Merideth said something about gruits. Not a gruit guy, I didn’t really pay attention until she added that three of the six samples were of the hop-free variety. Never having tried three gruits at once, curiosity got the best of me. Ignoring the two IPAs (which ended up both being excellent), I delved into Barelyberry, Exhilaration and Birthday Boy.

Though not a fan of the style, I could still appreciate the quality that went into the brews. I also liked that they had a forager who gathered the herby ingredients. The latter two were more what I associated with the style, earthy and herbaceous. The first, Barelyberry,  Merideth’s favorite in the set, as its name suggested, employed blackberries in the brew.

A candidate for beer of the trip was not in the sample flight. Madame Trixie, their current barrel release, was a Blood Orange, Black Pepper Saison with Brett. If that wasn’t enough, Madame Trixie was aged in Allagash Curiuex barrel for 14 months. A sucker for beers with black pepper, despite what all was going on in the brew, it all worked together deliciously well.

Crossing over into Maine, we found the final new brewery of the day in the beachside town of Wells. Hidden Cove Brewing at Fire N Brew didn’t open for another hour. Confidence was high that it was opening, so that stress I had been feeling all day went away. With time to kill, Merideth and I backtracked to Wells Beach Mini Golf.

It was a beautiful Maine afternoon for a round of mini golf. Unlike previous times we have played, Merideth rode a strong short game on the front nine to finish +2, a surprising seven stroke lead over me. Her only mistake was to hit the ball out of bounds, a one stroke penalty. This was to prove costly.

A nice day for some mini golf…

The back nine played more true to form with myself slowly eroding Merideth’s sizable lead. My par and her bogey on the last hole sealed my comeback, both of us finishing with the identical score. Despite our normal competitiveness, we thought it quite romantic on the day before our 25th anniversary.

The mission of the day is accomplished!

Back to Fire N Brew, we bellied up to the bar and chose four beers, Summer, Scully, A’Rye and Crowsfoot, from the five offerings for our sample flight. First things first, Merideth and I each grabbed a sample glass and toasted the important goal of the day being successfully completed.

Eager to get to Portland to watch the USA v. Ghana World Cup match, Merideth and I didn’t really dwell on sample flight. Our loss, since Hidden Cove was doing some interesting things in the brewhouse with local ingredients and wild yeasts. We’ll give it a proper visit on our next trip to Maine.

In Portland, I was finally able to let my hair down. After catching the inspiring USA victory over Ghana in the Old Port, we moved on to our traditional activities. First up was a lobster roll and Allagash White at J’s Oyster followed by a Maine Beer Company nightcap at Novare Res. A great ending to a productive day!

Our Portland tradition…

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The Long Drive

No matter where we travel for our beer adventures, somehow a long drive always becomes involved. For New Zealand, this meant getting from the southern tip of North Island to its northern end setting Merideth and I up for our departure out of Auckland.

A welcome sight after a long drive

With a possible double digit hour drive ahead of us, we departed Wellington as early as our bodies could manage after the previous beer-filled day. Our route north would skirt the west coast of the lower North Island before heading inland at Whanganui. Then on to Hamilton, Auckland and beyond.

For the most part an uneventful drive from morning into the afternoon, we did see a giant apple and carrot (who said Australia had a monopoly on giant things) and passed through Te Kuiti, the “sheep shearing capital of the world.” Unfortunately, we were a month early for the World Championships. If we had only known.

After about six hours on the road, we reached Hamilton in the mid-afternoon. We didn’t get to see much of New Zealand’s fourth largest city except for the light industrial section which was home to Good George Brewing. Set amongst a bunch of home improvement stores, the only way we knew we were in the right place was the giant 32As (the address) on both sides of the entrance.

A bit saddle-sore, Merideth and I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough. Passing through the entrance, my eyes lit up when I saw the open air bar and expansive beer garden before me. Some sun therapy would be just the ticket to revitalize me for the next leg. We quickly picked a table and settled in for a five-beer, one-cider sample paddle and quick bite to eat.

A much needed break

We had reached the beer travel moment where we REALLY needed the beer to taste good. Anything less probably would have sent Merideth and I into a tailspin with many hours still to go in our journey. Merideth cautiously took her first sip of the White Ale, a Wheat beer with “New Zealand botanicals,” and immediately proclaimed it good. This was her favorite of the paddle.

With Merideth’s trademark endorsement, I eagerly dug into the samples. After the White Ale, there was Sparkling Ale, Amber, IPA and Stout. My star was the Sparkling Ale, a 4.5% ABV citrus-noted Blond Ale that paired well with my lunch of Salt and Pepper Squid.

At this point, we would have liked to buy a couple of pints, play scrabble and enjoy the beautiful summer day in Hamilton, New Zealand. However, no time to linger, we finished the paddle, our meal and trudged back to our vehicle.

Back on the highway heading north, I did some mental math of when we would be passing by Auckland, the countries largest and most populous city. According to my guess-timate, it would be right around rush hour. If we ever wondered whether New Zealand had annoying traffic jams, we soon found out as we passed south then west of the city at a snails pace.

Yes please!

The traffic didn’t completely suck the spirit out of us, but it did make us a bit punchy. Finally reaching Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant, Merideth and I needlessly bickered (discussed?) where to park in their car-filled lot. Luckily, we resolved our differences and were soon sitting in Hallertau’s modern, industrial bar listening the the DJ spin cool grooves waiting for a sample paddle.

Maybe tuned into our mental state, the 4 regular beers, three ales and a lager, were designated with large numbers on coasters 1through 4. Somewhat confusing, there was a fifth numberless beer on the paddle, Maximus IPA. I really wanted a coaster with the number 5 on it.

Merideth really liked 1, also called Luxe, a 4.5% ABV light-bodied and refreshing Kölsch-style brew. Of course, the hoppy Maximus, weighing in at 6.8% was my favorite, although 4 on the paddle, Deception Schwarzbier, was also really nice.

A ways into our paddle, our waitress offered a sample of a sixth, special beer. A massive 12.5% and 180 IBUS, this Triple IPA was “possibly the hoppiest beer ever made in New Zealand.” Given who I work for, I got a kick out the name, “Hopocalypse,” almost laughing when our waitress said it. Safe to say, I prefer the Drake’s version better.

Friday night in Browns Bay

Back on the road heading not north but east, we felt our odyssey was nearing completion. Reaching Browns Bay on North Island’s eastern shore, we made yet another quick stop for dinner.

Walking into Deep Creek Brewing, Merideth and I felt a bit out of place as it was Friday night and the locals were getting their party on. The beach town atmosphere in the pub was loud and boisterous, fueled by beer and a band in the back corner. More interested in mellow, we weren’t quite sure we were up to being lively. But being the beer travel professionals we are, we sucked it up.

While I waded into the crowd to get beers, Merideth grabbed a couple of seats in an out of way corner. Given the large number of people trying to order beers, I didn’t bother inquiring whether a sample paddle was available. I ordered Little Armoured One, an Amber, for Merideth and 309, a Kiwi Pale Ale, for myself then joined Merideth in the corner.

Smiling at Deep Creek because the long drive is almost complete

Brewed with Motueka, Nelson Sauvin and Cascade, the 5% ABV 309 was a delightful and bright beer. It really hit the spot.

And luckily for us, during out time there the restaurant cleared out a bit and the din dropped. We were able to enjoy a nice dinner before finishing the journey.

In the scheme of our day, it was only a short drive up the coast to our final destination, Leigh. Thirteen hours after we left Wellington, we collapsed in the bed at our lodgings seeking much needed to rest up for our last few days in New Zealand.

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Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand

Welcoming us to North Island

The 3-hour early morning ferry ride from Nelson, the “Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand,” to the North Island mostly lent itself to a nice little nap. Fortunately I woke up just in time to witness a pod of dolphins frolicking and leaping through the boat’s wakes as they escorted us into port. I looked forward to a day of exploring Wellington, the “Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand.” That’s right. The Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand; not to be confused with Nelson, the aforementioned Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand.

Prior to leaving on our trip, Chris connected with a Twitter friend (@NikCarmichael) who eagerly offered to introduce us to the Wellington beer scene. We planned to meet Nikki for what we assumed was going to be a quick pint, so she could give us the lowdown on where to go. Much to our surprise, Nikki had no intention of simply offering a verbal report on Wellington beer. She wanted to show us herself! Beer brings people together and makes the world smaller and Nikki was a prime example of that.

Filling up at Garage Project

The first stop on Nikki’s tour was the innovative Garage Project, located in an old petrol station in the Aro Valley area of the city. Apothecary jars filled with beer sat above each tap, which offered us a quick glimpse of what to expect.

Garage Project combines the New Zealand hops we all love and know with ingredients such as chili, mango, Venusian Spear Fungus, and Manuka (New Zealand Tea Tree). This daring attitude made for the most experimental and memorable beers of our trip. Chris was especially enamored with the Pernicious Weed, a strong, hoppy brew using organic Rakau and whole cone Nelson Sauvin hops. Fulfilling the stereotype, I liked the pink beer best. Beyond the Pale, a sour beer made with sumac, lemon and hibiscus, was brewed for the New Zealand Fringe Festival and tasted refreshingly tart. From wildly experimental and super hoppy to delicious golden and ultra dark, Garage Project offered an impressive range of beers.

Diverting attention away from our obsessive focus on breweries, Nikki wanted us to experience Malthouse, Wellington’s original beer bar. The Malthouse boasts 150 different beers from around the world, including 27 taps and 2 handpumps. On a weekday afternoon we were the only ones in the place, but Nikki assured us that it gets hoppin’ at night. Our Irish bartender was attentive and even offered me a beer cocktail of his own creation. I initially protested, but somehow one made it into my hand and I was forced to admit that it was quite tasty.

Some of the choices at Malthouse

If your time in Wellington is short, the Malthouse is the perfect place to taste a variety of Kiwi beers. Although we didn’t order one, they also serve pizzas, which makes this a very convenient stop. The Malthouse proudly serves beer from Tuatara Brewery (located 60 km north of Wellington) and Baylands, the nano brewery owned and operated by Nikki, her husband, and a business partner.

Nikki already had her suggestion for where we should order lunch; Hashigo Zake. You may be wondering why a place with a name like that would be included on a beer tour of the city. Here’s the answer: they call themselves a “Cult Beer Bar” and have a great array of beers from New Zealand, Japan, and the United States. Plus, at the top of the entrance to their basement location there was a sign that I especially liked. “There is no such thing as a girlie beer.” Damn skippy.


Hashigo Zake offers a dark and cozy atmosphere that is refreshingly mellow (at least when we were there). It gave us a nice break from our busy jaunt around the city. In addition to a  nice beer selection, Hashigo Zake has a yummy menu of asian-inspired cuisine, including udon noodle bowls. For the record, wasabi peas are now my favorite beer snack. I like having good food with my craft beer and this was the perfect place for that.

Nikki was the best tour guide we could have asked for as she took us on a brief detour from our beer stops. A drive up a steep winding street landed us on top of Mt. Victoria, the best view in Wellington. It was something we probably would not have had the time or energy to do if Nikki hadn’t been at the helm.

The happy beer travelers overlooking Wellington

We did need to get a move on, though, and our next brewery visit was to Parrot Dog. We had tried to make this our first stop of the day, but they were closed to catch up on some bottling. We were happy to see that with the bottling complete the tasting room was open later in the afternoon.

The happy beer travelers at Parrot Dog

The small tasting room was simple, yet inviting and definitely a must stop. Six beers were available for tasting, including Flaxen Feather Blonde Ale, Bitter Bitch IPA, and Bloody Dingo, an Imperial Red Ale. They also have an American IPA called Pitbull, which apparently drew ire from a Pitbull group because it defamed the breed. Apparently the Dingo Anti-defamation League is much less organized, as they never mounted a campaign against the name of the Imperial Red.

Parrot Dog (not to be confused with another brewery in town with ‘Dog’ in the name) crafted great beers. And very convenient for travelers, they sell beer to go in flagons, plastic 2-liter bottles. If you don’t have a chance to stop by the brewery, be sure to look for Parrot Dog beers at craft bars throughout the city.

Our final stop with Nikki was Fork & Brewer, an upscale brewery and restaurant. The main focal point (besides the brewery, of course) of the upstairs pub was the circular-shaped bar surrounding a large barrel that housed the kegs. Now the early evening, the bar was beginning to fill up with after-work drinkers. Our four-beer sampler included a Pilsner, IPA, Brown, and “Old World Pale Ale.” All the beers were quite good, but I bet you can guess which ones we liked best. If you said the Pils for me and the IPA, you’d be correct.

Our last Wellington brewery…

Nikki introduced us to the brewer, Lester, who sat down to talk New Zealand beer with us. An interesting, mellow guy with a thick curly mop for hair and a bushy beard, Lester would fit nicely into Santa Cruz or the Haight. For brewing such great beers, he was very humble and possessed a laid back attitude towards brewing.

Fork & Brewer serves up an awesome menu and at Lester’s suggestion we tried the chicken wings. Oven baked and coated in a spicy spent grain rub, they were deliciously spicy without being messy. The salt and pepper squid also paired nicely with our beer.

This was the end of our visit with Nikki. She was an amazingly energetic beer guide and she really made our day in Wellington memorable. When we first started beer traveling, we would hope to meet a local in a pub who would point us in the direction of great places while steering us away from the not-so-great ones.

All smiles after a great day in Wellington

Today, social media makes it easy to connect with local beer lovers no matter where your destination. And we’re finding that more often than not, people want to not only tell us where to go, but actually go there with us. The idea that beer brings people together may sound like a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

PS: Bin 44 Restaurant and Bar on Queens Wharf is another great stop. With 11 craft beer taps and another few dozen in bottles, Bin 44 also serves up good food. The walk along the water from our hotel topped off our night beautifully and once there, the outdoor seating offered fun people watching.

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Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand Part II

So pretty…

The following morning, we headed out to Golden Bay at the other end of the Nelson Beer Trail. As we drove along Hwy 60, vineyards and orchards flashed by, a countryside very similar to home. Hop fields emerged in the the patchwork of fields with their large, fragrant cones ready for harvest. Passing through hop-named towns Motueka and Riwaka, we crossed over the mountains on this scary, windy road into an idyllic-looking coastal plain with Golden Bay in the distance.

Pulling into the Te Waikoropupu Springs carpark, beer’s most under-appreciated ingredient (water) was not foremost on our minds. After that somewhat harrowing drive crossing the mountain, we fancied a bit of a walk to stretch our legs.

Water welling up from one of the eight main vents

Translated from Maori as “Place of the Dancing Sands,” the spring water was billed as some of the cleanest in the world. Most of the 30 minute board-walked loop took us through what appeared to me to be swampland, not really my idea of clear water. But at the very end, we emerged out of the trees to see a large pond with sparkling crystal clear water. The vents were clearly visible, bubbling at the surface. Given the warm weather, the water looked very inviting, but the springs are closed to all forms of contact as they are considered sacred to the Maori.

Worth the drive

Learning part of the day complete, our next destination was the Mussell Inn, the furthest most brewery along the beer trail. With a such a name, I expected the pub to sit on the water. All during the several hour drive I had visions of enjoying their beers with an ocean view. But in fact, the Mussel Inn was well hidden in a grove of trees, its location only given away by a sign along the road.

Combined with the scenery, the remoteness of the Mussel Inn reminded me of parts of coastal California, even down to the nouveau hippies strumming on guitars on the front patio as we entered. Still early in the day, only a few other customers milled about the dim interior of the pub. Merideth and I were focused on the task at hand and quickly ordered a sample flight and lunch.

With a 4-beer, 1-cider sample paddle in hand, we decided to sit in the outdoor area at the side. When I drop out of society to some remote coastal area or the Bavarian Alps, I picture my patio looking just like this. The roomy space was filled with large, natural wood furniture that encouraged community drinking. We were shaded from the summer sun by massive growth of hops interwoven into the beams overhead.

Mussel Chowder at the Mussel Inn

With the warm, slightly steamy weather, the two light colored beers, White Heron Wheat and Golden Goose Lager, both went down quite nicely. Although not cider drinkers, even the Apple Roughy, a “mix of Sturmers, Grannies and other random  apples from around the hood,” was a welcomed quencher.

The most anticipated beer was the 4.4% ABV deep amber Captain Cooker Manuka beer, brewed with freshly picked tips of the Manuka tree. Safe to say this was our very first beer brewed with this native shrub of New Zealand. Used for medicinal purposes for centuries, the tips gave the beer a slightly herbaceous quality.

I didn’t pair my lunch very well with the warm weather, but it seemed to me to be a requirement to eat mussels at the Mussel Inn. The hearty, warm chowder was thick and full of the meaty mollusks.The beer that paired best with the chowder, and thus my favorite, was Dark Horse Black Beer, a roasty 4% ABV brew.

Lunch over, it was time to brave the hill again. happily, the return didn’t seem as treacherous because we knew what to expect this time. Cresting the hill we could see the vast orchards and hop fields of Riwaka below. When we reached level ground we bee-lined for our next brewery stop which had already been spotted on the outward journey.

One of our favorites of the trip

It was mid afternoon when we parked in front of Hop Federation. In the summer heat, the ice cream parlor across the street was doing a crackin’ business. Meanwhile there was not even one customer in the brewery tasting room until Merideth and I stepped through the doorway. Well, besides the young gentleman behind the bar.

After exchanging greetings, he offered us four beers to sample: Golden and  Pale Ales, an American Brown and finally a Red IPA. Probably the first ‘wow’ brewery of our journey, all the beers were well-crafted and delicious. Merideth’s favorite beer of the trip was Hop Ferderation’s 4.5% ABV Brown Ale, which combined nice roast and chocolate notes with a lighter than expected body. I fancied the 6.4% ABV Red IPA. Hopped with Simcoe, New Zealand Cascade, Motueka and Southern Cross, this brew reminded me a lot of home.

As we sampled the beers, I perused the cold box. Hop Federation had bottled beers but much to my surprise beers were also available in 1.25 and 2 liter plastic bottles. Not something I normally associate with beer, I found out later plastic packaging was some popular on South Island.

Like a number of our favorite breweries on the trip, Hop Federation only served tastes. They were strictly an off-license. Liking the beer as we did, we would have hung out, had a pint or two and played scrabble. Disappointed that this idyllic vision wouldn’t pan out, we bought several bottles including one plastic and moved on.

We shared the American Brown Ale from the plastic bottle several weeks later with friends at home. It tasted great. Bring on the plastic bottle revolution!

Go Bears!

While the modern, industrial Golden Bear Brewing seemed somewhat out of place amongst the older structures of Mapua Wharf, it had one of the best feels of all the breweries we visited on the trip. In slow-paced New Zealand, the setting along the old wharf turned the pace down even another notch.

Being Cal grads, we were obviously very excited about going to a brewery called Golden Bear. This was despite the fact that the owner’s ties, a California ex-pat, were to our sister school to the south, UCLA. Even if we didn’t know this history going in, three of the ten available beers being IPAs hinted at West Coast roots.

No flight, we guessed at beers to sample before buying from the diverse selection available. A much easier task for me with the three IPAs on the board. Merideth started with the Watou-zea Wit but changed to Hot Lips Pils, a brew more to her liking. The three IPAs were all excellent. Seismic, dry-hopped with Simcoe, was probably my favorite, but I chose the lower ABV, Citra-hopped Fortress for a pint.

With pints in hand, Merideth and I grabbed a seat outside. We watched the Mapua community stroll by, most seemingly headed down to the nearby water for a swim. Every now and then, a dad would let the rest of the family go ahead while he grabbed a pint to go. Usually on the go when traveling, it felt very relaxing sitting at Mapua Wharf enjoying a beer.

Our destination in the distance…

Our last day on South Island was devoted to hiking. Given the rain and cold conditions we endured on our previous hike, we were excited to see this day dawn sunny and warm. On the road early, we re-traced part of our drive from the previous day on our way to Abel Tasman National Park.

The smallest of New Zealand’s national parks, the 87 square mile Abel Tasman is famous for its Coast Track. Following the coast line for 32 miles, it can be hiked in three to five days but is also accessible via water taxis that drop people off at different points in the park. We are not campers, so we opted for a speedy boat ride to Bark Bay in the middle of the park. From there, we would enjoy a seven mile hike to Anchorage, the beach were we would be picked up by another boat later.

Everything about the day in Abel Tasman was a sheer joy. The ride out in the small, speedy boat was exhilarating. The hike, while not too strenuous, was chalk full of great scenery and German tourists. And the big boat that we caught back had a snack bar that stocked beer. Merideth and I enjoyed a McCashins Pilsner keeping up our Hike-n-Beer tradition.

Enjoying a beer after a nice day on the trail

Prior to the trip, I looked at this three day leg as the focal point of our first New Zealand adventure. In a reflective mood on the 3-hour ferry ride to Wellington on the North Island the following morning, I couldn’t help but think what an almost perfect three days Merideth and I had visiting the “Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand.” It’s always nice when traveling this far that reality meets expectation.

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