Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23, 2009

Immediately below...
  • Tuatara in Japan
  • New Sake
  • New Imported Beer
  • Our Electronic Menu
  • Awards Season

Tuatara in Japan

This week your correspondent is back in the wintry southern hemisphere, having spent several of the last few days helping Tuatara Brewery to spring their products on unsuspecting Japanese festival attendees. And a very successful venture it may prove to be for the local brewery.

Tuatara appeared at the Yokohama Great Japan Beer Festival in some prestigious company. Immediately to the stall's left was Italy's Revelation Cat brewery, who specialise in acquiring new lambic beer straight from Brussels breweries and aging and dry-hopping them back in their Rome headquarters. In fact one of their four extremely sour beers had been dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin. (We hope to have more news of Revelation Cat in a couple of months - stay tuned.)

Further along were a variety of celebrated American beers. They were there either because they were part of the stables of Japan's most prominent craft beer importers or as part of an enormous donation to the festival by the American Brewers Association. There was one trestle table after another laden with maple-syrup flavoured saisons, lemon-grass and kaffir-lime ales, quadruple imperial IPAs and coffee vanilla chocolate porters.

For all the extreme beers surrounding us, there was a glaring lack of a good, bracing, aromatic pale ale below 6% ABV. Except that is for Tuatara APA. It wowed all the industry types around us, while the civilian festival tended to be satisfied with Tuatara's IPA and Ardennes.

It remains to be seen whether informal requests about availability from several bar managers turn into international orders, but for now Tuatara have taken a big step towards trading in one of the most vibrant beer markets in the Asia Pacific region. Many congratulations Carl, Sean and everyone at the brewery.

New Sake

We have just taken delivery of the full range of sakes from the Kamishin brewery in Okayama prefecture, in Southern Honshu, between Osaka and Hiroshima. This range was specially selected by our resident sake/cocktail/stout expert Shigeo Takagi and imported exclusively for us by our friends at Tokyo Foods. The whole range is high quality and all sold in individual 300ml bottles. We don't recommend drinking it warm.

In the next few days we'll update the sake menu, but in the mean time if you're curious and Shiggy is on duty then feel free to ask him for a recommendation.

Oh - and don't forget that we have a few bottles of Europe's first ever sake, from none other than Norway's Nøgne ø.

New Imported Beer

At the risk of repeating the news of the last three weeks again, our recent deliveries of Mikkeller, Nøgne ø, Unibroue, Dieu du Ciel and St Ambroise beers are trickling onto the tills and into the fridges. It might take a while to find room for them all as the fridges are somewhat chocka, but feel free to ask what's new.

Electronic Menu

The new electronic menu is attracting lots of comments, which is fantastic because we would otherwise have remained oblivious to its limitations. We look forward to finding time between sourcing the world's best beers, battling with freight companies, attending the world's beer festivals and dealing with the GST increase to enhance the look and information on our new menu.

Awards Season

Nominations close soon for the Beer and Brewer Magazine's Awards. We aren't sure exactly how the voting/judging process works, but more nominations can't hurt us. So we encourage readers to go to and register a vote for whatever small, underground bar that comes to mind.

Meanwhile we've been tipped off that we should pick up a copy of the October 6 Capital Times when they announce the results of their Best of Wellington survey.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that a certain recently published guide book seemed to base its listings on information from the middle of the last decade. Ah well... luckily we are attracting plenty of Wellington's visitors so the publication in question can't be as influential as we're led to believe.

September 16, 2010

Immediately below...
  • Beer Tourism
  • Well Traveled Beer and announcing a New Tasting

Beer Tourism

This week's missive comes to you from Japan, where summer temperatures have been breaking all records and the Yokohama edition of the Great Japan Beer Festival starts on Saturday.

The Export Consulting Division of Hashigo Zake International Corporation is here at the request of Tuatara Brewery to help showcase their range in the back yard of Lion Nathan's paymasters, Kirin.

It should be a fascinating few days, and an interesting contrast to Beervana. It is the done thing at these events in Japan to squeeze as many people as possible into a small, shapeless hall. And with the cost of samples included in customers' ¥4000 ($67) ticket price, there will only be the attendees' innate sense of decorum stopping things getting quite ugly.

We're also taking the opportunity to conduct a tasting of New Zealand beers for a select group of Tokyo's elite beer geeks at Baird's Nakameguro Taproom on Sunday evening.

Well Traveled Beer and announcing a New Tasting

But while some of us follow beer around the world, more well travelled beer is finding its way to Hashigo Zake.

New stock from the US, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Australia have all arrived over the last few days. It has left us with a backlog of paperwork, bills for excise and GST and a headache as we try and find room for them in our display fridges. Bear with us while we find time between serving drinks in two hemispheres to find space for all these exciting new beverages.

Or... consider booking for our October tasting of Quebec beers. At the heart of this tasting will be the beers of adventurous Montreal brewpub Dieu du Ciel. Expect beautiful labels, intense flavours and innovative uses of adjuncts such as spices. What's more the tasting will finish with something of a shootout of stouts in Ratebeer's 100th percentile - Dieu du Ciel's Aphrodisiaque and Péché Mortel and St Ambroise's Oatmeal Stout.

It takes place at 6:30pm on Tuesday, October the 12th. Anyone interested in booking is hereby invited to take part in an experiment - bookings are now being taken via our web store. Follow this link to book.

September 9, 2010

Immediately below...
  • 52 Weeks
  • New Drinks for Year Two

52 Weeks

Excuse me if, instead of the usual modest tone these messages try to strike, we indulge in a little smugness for once.

It seems just yesterday that a Beervana 2009 patron, visiting our stall and hearing about Hashigo Zake, said "But how are you going to survive?" There has certainly been no end of things we've supposedly done wrong. You'd think that when you take Heineken, bottled water, cheap tequila, jagermeister, hot chips and loud music out of a Wellington bar all that would be left is an empty shell.

But Hashigo Zake has, if anything, been an experiment in answering the kinds of questions that people with little or no hospitality experience idly wonder about. What if we ask the breweries we like, wherever they are in the world, to sell us beer? What if we don't go cap in hand to one of the big breweries? What if we trust customers to understand if we keep rotating the beers? What if we don't take any notice of what anyone says?

We should have been on our knees by January, apparently, and yet, here we are 52 weeks later, doing quite a lot better than just surviving. We've lost count, but we think there have been around 200 different beers through the taps, many of them being offered in a New Zealand bar for the first time. Our turnover has grown steadily over the last twelve months, peaking two weeks ago with Beervana at a level way above our most optimistic projections. We've built a roster of staff that I'm frankly tired of hearing compliments about. Brewers who are starting out or experimenting and looking for an outlet now seem to know that they can contact us and we'll be receptive. And similarly supermarkets and bottle stores are starting to show interest in picking up some of our exclusive imports. And we've created the most exciting range of pies known to man.

So we think we have something to celebrate this week, and this is how we intend to do it.

Tonight (Thursday) and tomorrow evening, there will be a generous supply of tickets being handed out at the door that can be redeemed for a complimentary drink. Keep one side of that ticket because at 8pm we'll draw some numbers out of a hat and the winners will take away some rather special bottles. We even promise not to have emptied them first.

We'll also be making an announcement during the evening that we think is very exciting for Wellington beer lovers.

Many of the drinks we're offering will be courtesy of generous sponsorship from Tuatara, Renaissance, Emersons' and Yeastie Boys.

Note that we are only sending a general invitation and no-one is more welcome than anyone else. If you feel like being part of this, or if you just feel like a Thursday or Friday drink then please come on down.

New Drinks for Year Two

Life carries on after this week and there are some exciting shipments on the water at the moment that should add interest over the next few weeks.

Arriving soon - possibly next week - will be a combined shipment from Scandinavian breweries Nøgne ø (Norway) and Mikkeller (Denmark). The Nøgne ø order is particularly exciting because it not only includes a number of beers that we have never had before, it contains some of the first sake ever brewed in Europe. It also includes a handful of kegs AND new stocks of Tyttebaer - the extraordinary sour fruit beer that won a gold medal at BrewNZ.

The Mikkeller products include a range of Imperial Stouts aged in rum, wine, bourbon, whisky and Islay whisky barrels (because Mikkel didn't think he'd made enough Imperial Stouts) AND several of his experimental series of pale ales made to the same recipe except the yeast used.

Also due very soon is our long promised stock of bottled beers from Quebec breweries - including several from the great Dieu du Ciel.

And Japan's Baird Brewery have announced that they have dispatched no fewer than 18 kegs of beer to us. But knowing what freight from Japan can be like we shouldn't get too excited just yet.

Oh - and.. Three Boys Golden Ale is back from its winter hibernation.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 2, 2010

Immediately below...
  • Big Thank Yous
  • Our 1st Birthday
  • Treats in Store
  • Japan Festival

Big Thank Yous

Last week was our biggest ever in trading terms and almost certainly our most exhausting. But it was extremely successful thanks to the enthusiastic patronage of our customers and the tireless endeavours of our staff. So thank you all.

We also seem to have become the home away from home for many of the country's best brewers, and it was a pleasure to see many of them coming back night after night last week, going hard on the plum wine.

It was also pleasing that several breweries built into their Beervana planning the option of selling their leftover beer to us freight-free.

Our 1st Birthday

The astute among you might have noticed that we're up to Issue #51 of what is more or less a weekly dispatch. Which means we must be close to a year's worth.

Our birthday is next week, and at that time we will contemplate the significance of the milestone while expressing contempt for those who were skeptical a year ago. This week however is for shamelessly promoting the event itself.

So... next Thursday and Friday, with the assistance of a few of our favourite brewers, we will offer several hundred complimentary glasses of fine, locally made ale to thank you, our beloved customers for your patronage. We will also find a way to give away one or two of our most precious bottles of imported beer.

There will be no gilt-edged invitations and no-one is more or less welcome than anyone else. Just come on down and enter into the spirit of things.

Treats in Store

The Sprig and Fern brought all their remaining Harvest Pilsner to Beervana and didn't sell it all. Which means we have enough to last another week or two, which is great news for lovers of aromatic pilsners.

Good stocks of various Bridge Road beers and Jamieson's The Beast IPA are making their way into our repertoire.

The leftovers of the Rogue XS beers that we took to Beervana will be on over the next few days. These are the Imperial Stout and the Old Crustacean Barley Wine.

The Mussel Inn had a stand at Beervana and left us with a healthy amount of their rare bottled beers - Dark Horse and Golden Goose Lager.

The second to last of our Meantime IPA kegs is on right now and will be followed by the final one soon.

Hawkes Bay Independent Brewery have a Perry (Pear Cider) in possibly the most elegant bottle we've ever seen. Cider drinkers might enjoy the alternative.

For those who've appreciated seeing the Mike's dispenser being used for IIPA, brace yourselves - the next keg will be one of their extremely good and much feted Whisky Porter.

Japan Festival

This weekend the Town Hall hosts a very different kind of festival from Beervana - The Second Wellington Japan Festival. Take a look.

August 26, 2010

In this Newsletter
Immediately below...
  • Beervana
  • Life After Beervana
  • Our 1st Birthday

We just crossed the 200 subscriber mark for this service. In this era of social networking and microblogging it's a relief to know that there are this many stick-in-the-muds who are prepared to sign up for an old fashioned email. Many thanks and please stay tuned.


We're now about half way through the exhausting calendar of events of which tomorrow's Beervana is the culmination. There are already plenty of bloodshot eyes and dopey, tired faces appearing as trade people, brewers and even one or two of our own staff wander down our stairs in the mid-afternoon.

We've been rapt to have the likes of Søren Erikson, Brian Thiel and Ron Trigg put in personal appearances to promote their fine beers. As well there's been a steady flow of beer judges, brewers (often the same people), old friends, celebrities and even a Discovery Channel film crew.

If the presence of the industry's rock stars disturb the serenity of your drinking experience, please bear with us - it will be over in a few days.

Remember if you are attending Beervana we'll be there with probably the strongest menu of beers in the Town Hall. In terms of ABV that is. Specifically:

  • Meantime IPA
  • Rogue XS Old Crustacean Barley Wine
  • Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
  • Rogue XS Imperial Stout
  • Jamieson’s The Beast IPA
  • Liberty Brewing Summit Imperial IPA

Note that we have more beers than taps, so at any point in time only four of these will be available.

Life After Beervana

We're doing our best to keep our ordering and planning ticking over as if Beervana wasn't happening. And we can guarantee that all this weekend the lineup on tap here at HZHQ will be as good as ever. What's more there's every chance we'll strike deals with some of the breweries at Beervana and have some surprises in store early next week.

Look out for these fist timers:

  • The Sprig and Fern's new IPA
  • Golden Bear's new Hop Toad
  • Bridge Road Chestnut Pilsner
  • Mike's Whisky Porter

And there will be the following returning favourites:

  • Renaissance Voyager
  • Twisted Hop IPA
  • Bridge Road Bling IPA
  • Tuatara APA
  • Sprig and Fern's Three Berry Cider

Our 1st Birthday

A year ago, almost to the day, we tentatively opened for the first time, in what we called "preview" mode, while simultaneously preparing for Beervana 2009, which we were sponsoring and attending. Those first days and nights of trading were such an effort that it was another week or two before we formerly declared ourselves open on September 10. So on September the 9th and 10th this year we will commemorate our first birthday.

At the moment we have promises of sponsorship from a couple of breweries, which will ensure that we can show some generosity to all visitors to the bar on those nights. That's not to say we won't welcome any more offers if suppliers of interesting beverages want the chance to promote themselves and win our undying gratitude.

We'll do our best to make those evenings particularly memorable, while sticking to our policy of always remaining open to the public. So anyone who wants to join in the celebrations will be free to. We will announce more details soon.