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.

View all the images: Hamilton | Northlands