Winter is Beer Festival season here in New Zealand! I know I write most of our posts are about active outdoorsy adventures, but it’d feel disingenuous to not let you in on our other obsession… craft beer!
Brett has become an all-out beer collector and connoisseur over the past few years. And not just Kiwi beer. I’m sure I’ve told most of you about our adventures waiting outside Chicago’s finest Whole Foods and Binny’s beer releases?
During Founders KBS Release Season (a highly regarded holiday in our household), quantities are limited to two bottles a person. I used to earn ‘Best Wife Ever’ status so he could double his haul of barrel aged deliciousness. But now that Brett has taught me all about good beer, I drink my share. Hoping he doesn’t regret that!
Back to festival season…
GABS has come and gone from Auckland, but we may or may not have impulse-bought plane tickets to Wellington for Beervana next weekend… (That’s the weekend before we fly to the US for three weeks! Big mistake or best idea? We’ll find out!)
That said, I thought it’d be a perfect time for an Auckland brewery and tasting roundup. Here are our favourite spots for discovering new brews:
1. Best ambiance: Hallertau
Hallertau is my favourite spot, hands down. And chances are if you’ve visited, we’ve taken you to this magical spot. It’s a sprawling beer garden with a relaxed vibe, just far enough from the city centre to feel like an escape. Plus, it has cornhole!
- Best beers: Funkonnay, a sour aged in Chardonnay barrels! Skip the “Numbers Range” (you can get that anywhere) and ask what’s special and seasonal.
- Best time to visit: After a visit to the West Coast beaches or hike on the Te Henga Walkway.
- Nibbles: Yes, all of them. They have an awesome range of food made with local ingredients – Brett likes the sausage with sauerkraut bread best!
- What else? Highly recommend making a reservation if you’re going for a meal.
2. Best selection: The Beer Spot
While Hallertau has all the ambiance, for selection alone, you can’t compete with The Beer Spot. It has 30+ taps that rotate constantly. And, they’re tagline is “Your Tappy Place,” which is just too clever. The space is nothing fancy – but in a good way. It’s hidden away in the suburbs next to an old Pizza Hut building (turned Chinese buffet). But it really feels like a local, neighbourhood spot though – as a lot of CBD Aucklanders won’t cross the bridge to Northcote.
- Best beers: That’s impossible to pin down since they’re always changing!
- Best time to visit: When you need to refuel after running errands. Bring some playing cards!
- Nibbles: They have a guest food truck that changes weekly. Check the schedule, and bonus points if you can align your visit with The Rolling Pin dumpling truck.
3. Best newcomer: Garage Project Kingsland
Garage (pronounced GARE-age) Project is probably New Zealand’s best craft operation. They release heaps of creative concoctions on a regular basis – and for the most part, they’re done extremely well. The new taproom in Auckland is a nod to their original digs in Wellington (in an actual garage).
To drink there, you can only do tasting paddles, but they do let you try anything on tap for free before you decide on your paddle lineup. Plus, they have a cool canning system for takeaways, and a whole fridge of delights to take home.
- Best beers: Sours (Strange Ways + White Mischief) and Stouts (Aro Noir + Bitburger Verbetone Fruchte)
- Best time to visit: Anytime, but preferably on a rainy day. Or if you’re going to be inside on a nice day, walk Mt. Eden first. They’ve started doing tasting events, themed around a certain style or food pairings, so that’d be a cool time.
- Nibbles: They sell bags of chips – so not really. We’ve sometimes seen food trucks on weekends for themed tastings as mentioned above.
Brothers has three locations throughout Auckland – one in the City Works Depot (we visit here most often because of the bottle selection), one in Orakei Bay (just meh), and one with a BBQ restaurant in Mount Eden (really fun, but crowded all the time). We don’t love Brothers’ own beers, but they pour guest brews as well.
And for a quick happy hour or drink before a waterfront dinner in Wynyard Quarter, we really like 16 Tun. Or, if we’re on KRoad or in Ponsonby, we’ll wander over to Love Bucket. They’re both fun, chill spots that are actually real bars with amazing rotating tap selections.
A bit further afield…
We also really like these spots that are a bit further of a drive from Auckland. Try to line them up as a post-hike reward and make a day trip out of it!
- Sawmill (Matakana) – Cool off after visiting Goat Island.
- Good George (Hamilton) – Pair with Mt. Kairoi, or after Bridal Veil Falls in Raglan. Get the taco platter!
- McLeods Pizza Barn & Taphouse (Waipu) – Best after hiking Whangerei Heads. And a pizza is a must.