Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31, 2011

Funds Raised... Canned Beer... Events... On Tap... Fishhead Magazine... Finally...

Funds Raised

Another round of fundraising has finished for now, with our Japanese Craft Beer Tasting, raffle and contributions from the sale of some beers adding up to $1,828 in funds raised.

Thanks are due to everyone who contributed one way or another, especially those who tried to buy so many raffle tickets they had to win but still didn't. And congratulations to Aimee for having her ticket butt come out of the jar.

Above all we need to thank Rei Murakami. She is now back safe and sound in Tokyo, but contributed enormously to last Thursday's tasting by personally bringing a number of beers with her and entertaining everyone with her enthusiastic championing of ji biru.

For those at the tasting who were wondering, Rei's blog is at

Canned Beer

Probably the second Japanese Craft Brewery to reach New Zealand is here. Echigo Brewery is from skiing country in Niigata Prefecture and were the first company to be granted a licence to brew beer after Japan legalised small breweries in 1994. After tasting their whole range with the help of Tokyo Foods, their local importer, we decided that their Red Ale deserved to be in our lineup. Interestingly it comes in a can, making it our first canned beer. (Unless you count kegs.)


Our Beer and Food Night on April 12 remains fully booked. Sorry. But bookings for our Sour Beer Tasting on April 19 have inexplicably slowed. Perhaps some people out there simply aren't macho enough. Details are at

Wellington SOBA members may have read about what we're planning on May 2nd. We're to host the monthly SOBA social and it's the night before the legal hearing at which a certain foreign owned corporation learn not to try and subvert intellectual property law. Or to put it another way, it's the final chapter of the Radler dispute. Now our friends at SOBA are trying to be diplomatic about the whole thing, but we don't feel the same obligation. We're looking forward to gloating about the humiliation that DB have coming (barring some legal travesty). So put it in your diary.

And if anyone can think of a suitably celebratory name for such an event please let us know. A couple of suggestions are Breaking the Cycle (get it?) and We're Gonna Show You Your Own Withered, Black Heart, DB.

On Tap

The big news this week is the return of Sprig and Fern Harvest Pilsner - the pilsner so packed with fresh hop flavours that last year's was still tasting great in September. We made a big order of kegs of Harvest Pilsner with the Sprig and Fern and while we were at it we picked up kegs of their IPA, Dopplebock and Three Berry Cider.

Look out too for Golden Eagle's Ah Reet, more Black Emperor and lots from the Brew Moon Cafe.

And Liberty Brewing is back, this time with another variation on Joe's West Coast Blond - this one hopped with Citra, and his American Landlord. Joe promises that Sexual Chocolate is a few weeks away.

Fishhead Magazine

Fishhead is a year old today. Congratulations to Ben, Richard, Hadyn and all involved.


Did we mention that 8 Wired iStout is back in stock?

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 24, 2011

Seasonal Stirrings... Sauvin Pils... Other Thrills... Tastings and Fundraising... In Other News... And Finally..

Seasonal Stirrings

Now that Hashigo Zake has been open for well over a year, we now get to relive annual occurrences - like the arrival of Three Boys Oyster Stout. This time last year the end of daylight saving loomed, at the same time as Easter (later by a few weeks this year) and the much heralded Brewjolais. And with much less fanfare but arguably a ton more merit than Brewjolais, crept in the first kegs of Oyster Stout.

Strangely there's no word on Brewjolais 2011. The decision of its parent corporation to move production to Christchurch seems to have backfired somewhat. And yet out of the rubble of the very same city comes Oyster Stout.

So provided the freight is getting out of Christchurch as well as Three Boys are brewing through rubble, then we'll have Oyster Stout on tap in the next day or so.

Sauvin Pils

The miraculous resurgence of Three Boys Brewery has another bonus. The Twisted Hop brewpub remains inside the cordon but they've always had their Sauvin Pilsner and one or two other beers brewed at Three Boys. So we've picked up a keg of Sauvin Pils for our collective pleasure over the weekend.

Other Thrills

We might as well re-brand ourselves a Three Boys bar this weekend, because we're picking up kegs of their Golden Ale and IPA. We're even sneaking some of their Porter onto the handpump.

Look out too for the return of Golden Bear Black Magic IPA. We picked up a keg of this a few weeks ago without really knowing what to expect. Now that it's returning we're still at a loss to come up with a style to label it. But it's hoppy, rich and definitely not pale.

Right now a couple of extraordinary imports are on tap. From the US we have Green Flash West Coast IPA and Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout. And from Japan we have Baird's Carpenter's Mikan Ale.

Last week's debut of Aku Aku Lemongrass Ale from Norway's Nøgne ø was undone by a damaged keg coupler. That's been repaired and the beer should be on any day.

Another seasonal appearing at this time of year is the Spring and Fern Harvest Pilsner. We're hoping to see this and one or two other Sprig and Fern products (3 Berry Cider anyone?) turning up early next week.

Tastings and Fundraising

Tonight's tasting of Japanese craft beer, raising funds for victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, is fully booked. BUT we are running a raffle in conjunction with this event and anyone is free to buy tickets up until 8pm tonight (Thursday). At that point we'll draw a winner and one or two reserve winners in case the prize (Baird beer and merchandise in a Hashigo Zake cooler/backpack) isn't claimed within seven days.

We'll name the winner (or at least the winning ticket) on our website at

Meanwhile we have two tastings planned for April. The first - a matched food and beer night - happens to be fully booked. The second has a few places left. It's dedicated to sour beers, featuring a number of radical new arrivals from cult Danish brewer Mikkeller. Go to for more details.

Other News

This should make little or no difference to our customers, but the building whose basement we occupy changes hands tomorrow (Friday, March 25th). Ownership is reverting to the building's other occupants - Zibibbo Restaurant.

Our Barman and Operations Manager Shiggy added another string to his bow this week. He's now a journalist for a Japanese trade publication. See the proof here. The subject of his story - Hashigo Zake.

And speaking of the news media, the New Zealand Herald took notice of our importing activities last weekend - publishing this article. A pity about the spelling of Hashigo Zake, but it has led to an increase in orders from Auckland with the Cult Beer Store.


The next few days could be unusual ones at Hashigo Zake... several of our staff (and a few regular customers) depart for Marchfest in Nelson to seek out new brews for the rest of us to enjoy over the next month or two. In return we believe we'll see a few more out-of-town visitors than usual, starting with tonight's fund-raiser for Japanese victims of the tsunami and earthquake.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011

Another Week... Other Tastings... Bubbling Under...

A short dispatch this week. A long-winded contemplation on another tragedy and our feeble measures in response has been rendered redundant by the enthusiastic response of our customers.

Another Week..

..another soul-numbing, catastrophic natural disaster.

This email was going to dedicate paragraph after paragraph explaining the motivation and the details behind a hastily arrange fund-raising tasting of Japanese craft beer that we are holding next week. But after starting to take bookings yesterday there are now only three two places left. Can we simply say that there are more details and the chance to book at

Since numbers for this charity tasting are strictly limited, we'd like to provide another way for people to contribute, so we've donated some bottles and merchandise from the Baird brewery, along with one of our own rare and very stylish cooler bag/backpacks. We're raffling this set of goodies off at $2 a ticket with the winner to be drawn during next Thursday's tasting. You can buy tickets at the bar.

Other Tastings

We're all really looking forward to our food and beer night on April 12th with a menu prepared by Sam Whitney. Unfortunately for those who haven't booked yet there are no places left. But if this event leads to as much satisfaction as we hope, then we may well make it a regular event.

Meanwhile the Sour Beer Tasting on April the 19th is about half full. Go to to book for this.

Bubbling Under

As ever, there are treats in store over the coming few days for the discerning drinker :-

  • The return of Golden Ticket Black Emperor. Was this the best named beer of 2010? This time the hoppy schwarzbier (or black pilsener?) has been hopped with local varieties.
  • Remember the Captain Cooker we promised last week? Instead of that, we had delivered to us an extra keg of Golden Goose, from the same brewery. The error has been corrected and another keg of Captain Cooker is on the premises.
  • Peak Brewery is back with the best batch of Mendip Bitter we've tasted.
  • Another keg of Bear Republic's Big Bear Black Stout, all 8.1%ABV of it, awaits.
  • On "the Japanese tap" there are a few servings left of the delicious, spicy Jubilation Ale with Teikoku IPA taking its place. And this week $2 from every glass of Japanese beer served from the taps goes to the Japanese Red Cross.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011

Tasting News... On This Week... Charity Events... Further Reading...

Tasting News

Bookings are now open for our two events in April. First on April the 12th is our beer and food night. The emphasis is on approachable, beer-friendly but high quality food and good, thoughtful matches. Because of the constraints of our kitchen numbers for this are limited to 18. We're taking bookings through our web store at

To celebrate the imminent arrival of more sour beers with fearsome reputations from Mikkeller, we're holding a Sour Beer Tasting on April 19. We're negotiating to get some of the Mussel Inn's fabulous feijoa-flavoured gueuze known as Lambagreeny. Added to that will be our last stocks of Nøgne ø's BrewNZ Gold-winning Tyttebær, several from Mikkeller including Cherry Alive, USAlive! and It's Alive!. Bookings are open at

On This Week

Last week two experimental beers from 8 Wired turned up with very little fanfare and the Saison yeast-fermented Hopwired went on tap on Saturday night. We sympathise with anyone who missed out on this riotously flavoured beer. It has been followed by what Søren referred to as a Farmhouse Ale (we thought that's what a Saison is), which is on tap right now, but might not be for long.

We've been talking up the new shipment of kegs from Baird in Japan for a while. The first keg from this shipment went on yesterday. Fittingly it's Jubilation Ale. This beer was a big hit when we acquired a few bottles last year. It's a big, rich ale seasoned with fully ripened and freshly picked figs and cinnamon twigs culled from a Japanese nikki tree. And coincidentally bottles of this year's batch of Emerson's Taieri George arrived a couple of days ago - anyone wanting a set of warming, spiced ales need look no further. Also back on tap will be Baird's fabulous Teikoku IPA.

The Mussel Inn's Captain Cooker has made an overdue reappearance and in two forms. We were lucky enough to get a keg of the original version straight from Onekaka, Golden Bay and at the time of writing this is on tap. It's 4% ABV and flavoured with fresh manuka, stalks and all. Waiting in the wings is the Invercargill Brewery version, all 5% of it, seasoned with dried manuka leaves.

And while we're going nuts with Mussel Inn beers, we've got a keg of Golden Goose.

We've got some of the latest batch of Yeastie Boys PKB on the handpump, as well Rapture.

And look out for a couple of beers that we haven't had before from two of our favourite breweries - Golden Bear Black Magic IPA and Townshend Three Piece Wheat.

Charity Events

We've been alerted to a fundraising event later this month at Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary, involving Tuatara beer and accompanying dishes. It's on Thursday the 24th at Zealandia. Details are here. The benificiary, naturally, will be the Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.

And Regional Wines and Spirits are continuing their programme of earthquake fundraising events with a special whisky tasting on March 29. Details are here.

Further Reading

Very, very occasionally there appears in print or on the web a piece of writing that makes us nod and mutter "bang on". It really is surprisingly rare. Here are a couple:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3, 2011

Saturday's Fundraising... Liberty Brewing... Tasting News... On This Week...

Saturday's Fundraising

It's our goal not to impose on our customers - with loud music, bad beer, intrusive marketing etc. And normally that would include pressuring people into contributing to a cause.

Last Saturday was an exception as the twin blows to our collective morale from the murder of a customer and the Christchurch earthquake demanded drastic action.

The amount raised on Saturday was substantial and substantially more than expected. (If anyone wants specifics, come down and ask.) Clearly a lot of people made a point of coming in on a night that they otherwise would not have.

Without prompting a couple of breweries - Townshend and Liberty - volunteered stock to offset our losses, so I'd like to acknowledge them.

And we're leaving Red Cross collection boxes on the bar for a while longer.

Collective back-pat over.

But the crisis remains and the brewing industry is organising coordinated fundraising events this Friday. In Wellington there is an event at Bar Edward in Newtown. We understand that some beer has been donated by breweries and will be on sale with proceeds going to earthquake relief. There will also be an auction at 7pm. For anyone who has wanted to take home some of our branded glassware and attire (i.e. without stealing them) this will be your chance.

Liberty Brewing

For many of us Liberty Brewing's Summ!t Imperial IPA was our favourite beer of 2010. That beer was actually brewed at Hallertau for Liberty Brewing, which is still best known as a supplier of equipment and ingredients for home brewers. But Joseph Wood was so encouraged by the success of last year's IIPA that he has scaled up his home brewing to the point that Liberty is now officially a brewery too.

Liberty's batch size makes it possibly the smallest commercial brewery in the country. (Joe and Lighthouse's Dick Tout will have to get together to see whose is smaller.) Which means that he has only approached two outlets to carry his initial output - ourselves and Auckland's Hallertau.

Now we'd been talking to Joe about this for months and had adapted our equipment to cope with his corny kegs which aren't normally used by commercial brewers. But it was still a small surprise when eight of these little kegs turned up on Saturday afternoon - carried from Taranaki, appropriately, by a fellow home brewer and customer (thanks Matt!) rather than a freight company.

Joe's first commercial beer from his own outlet is actually two beers - the same beer made with two different American hop varieties, namely Simcoe and Amarillo. The style is West Coast Blonde, so it's a relatively easy drinking, even delicate blonde ale, but with plenty of hops and 5.5% ABV.

At the time of writing the Amarillo version is on, but these corny kegs don't last long and it could be back to Simcoe soon. Our advice is: don't get hung up on which version it is, just enjoy.

Tasting News

We have just started accepting bookings for next Tuesday's tasting of beer from Squatters in Utah, incorporating three versions of the Mussel Inn's Captain Cooker. Please understand that volumes are limited and air-freighting these beers over wasn't cheap. See to book.

Planning is under way for two events in April. Firstly our barman and semi-retired chef Sam Whitney was so inspired by Shiggy's efforts with last week's Food and Sake event that he is planning a Food and Beer night. Sam is a remarkably talented and experienced chef, so expectations are high. We're tentatively scheduling this for April the 12th.

On top of that, it has been noticed that our stocks of various sour beers are looking very good right now, particularly with a couple of Mikkeller beers arriving any day. So lovers of intense flavours should keep April the 19th free.

Note that we aren't ready to take bookings for events in April just yet.

On This Week

To our surprise last week's order from Christchurch distributor BeerNZ arrived this week. It included several Three Boys and Twisted Hop beers. Now we don't know when either will be brewing again (although Three Boys are quite bullish) so this could be the last chance to savour the Pilsner, Wheat and Golden Ale of Three Boys or Twisted Hop Challenger for a number of weeks.

Two Bear Republic beers are on right now - Hop Rod Rye and Red Rocket. Racer 5 will be back soon after as well.

And we believe we may be seeing the fruits of more experimentation at 8 Wired in the near future.

And finally, our long awaited shipment of Scandinavian beer, including eleven (yes eleven!) kegs from Nøgne ø, is on the wharf or (by the time you read this) safely housed in our secure storage facility. Either way, it is in Wellington. Lots of fun coming...