Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

Moon Dog Visit.. Live Music This Saturday... Faux Craft on 16th... Gumbowl... Ra Ra... Accolades... A Giveaway...

Moon Dog Visit

Forget the Sevens. We have a far more worthy form of entertainment on Saturday with a visit from Josh and Karl of Melbourne's Moon Dog brewery. The pair step off their flight some time on Saturday afternoon and we anticipate having them on the premises from around 4pm for a few hours of autograph signing, QandA-ing and, more realistically, standing around drinking.

Rumour has it there may be some small scale collaborative brewing going on while they're here too. We'll have to hope we get a crack at the result.

Live Music This Saturday

This Saturday night we host sevens-friendly sing-along pub rock live jazz in the form of the James Illingworth Trio. The music starts at 10pm, well before the Sevens crowd descend on Courtenay Place.

In all seriousness, we make our annual plea to regular customers not to be deterred from coming in by the behaviour of the costumed revellers who attend (or frequently miss) the Sevens. Nights like this are the reason we have someone at the door.

Faux Craft

Craft Beer College's controversial tasting of beers that may be categorised as "faux craft" returns on the Saturday afternoon of February 16. Please contact if you're interested.

Just in the last week, Australia's Critic-in-Chief of dodgy beer marketing, Matt Kirkegard, has launched a campaign to draw attention to the dubious marketing of a beer made by CUB (Fosters / SAB Miller) but marketed as if it was brewed by some Byron Bay surfies. In that case a small brewery have allowed a big one to produce and market one of their beers while all but concealing the arrangement. It's not exactly the same issue as what many of us call faux craft, where a big brewery will revive or invent a brand that pretends to be small and independent. But it's pretty similar. And it draws attention to just how sensitive many consumers and producers of craft beer (whatever craft beer is) are about the behaviour of the industrial brewers and honesty in marketing.

Now when wandering into debates like this it would be helpful to have an informed opinion on whether these beers are actually any good. And to make objective judgements, all tastings should be conducted without knowing exactly what beer is being tasted and with a reliable benchmark to test against. And that in a nutshell is what happens at the Faux Craft tasting. The mystery of not knowing exactly what is being tasted adds to the entertainment and it can be a pretty entertaining and provocative couple of hours.

Superbowl Forty Seven

It's that time of year, when we de-stress after Sevens weekend by relaxing and cooking up something suitably American in preparation for Superbowl Monday. With the match being staged in New Orleans we have an excuse to crank out a hearty gumbo which should be a good match for some (possibly discounted) San Francisco beers for anyone supporting the 49ers.

Kick-off is sometime early on Monday afternoon (it's always hard to tell through the excessive ceremonialising).

Ra Ra

The beards that many of our staff grow aren't our only homage to Rasputin, a pivotal figure in Russian history. Dutch brewery De Molen smartly recognised in Rasputin the perfect moniker for a serious Russian Imperial Stout. It's our New Release next week.

Is it right to drink an 11% Russian Imperial Stout in the middle of the best spell of fine weather in living memory? Let's not fool ourselves that every single beer is drunk for refreshment. Rasputin will be on tap and for sale in small glasses from 5pm on Tuesday.

Sadly they've been forced to rename this beer Disputin in the US because California's North Coast happened to produce a beer called Old Rasputin.


Hang on, the next few paragraphs are going to get a little weird.

Hashigo Zake is delighted to have been honoured by website in their "Ratebeer Best" awards for the year of 2012. We were named New Zealand's best bar and are in some pretty esteemed company. While ratebeer has its biases and faults, it also has scale, credibility and built-in checks to prevent abuse. In fact those built-in checks are one of the reasons we are able to show well on ratebeer. At least twice we've been the subject of what might be called "crank" reviews by individuals whose inconsistent behaviour on the website means that their reviews of us don't count in any aggregations.

Now when these crank reviews appear we don't completely ignore them. But after some soul-searching we generally conclude that, as much as anything, they represent a failure in our management of the expectations of new customers. We do make an effort in that regard - from calling ourselves a "cult beer bar" to issuing ourselves with a Heineken-free Certificate. But in honour of "Willingtrony", "thirstystirrer" and Giovanni Tiso here's our next ad in Fishhead magazine.

By the way that Fishhead ad appears on the same page as a piece by Hadyn Green on beer snobbery. This is genuinely a coincidence.

So thanks ratebeer, we appreciate the honour.

Trip Advisor

These days our name is turning up on more frequently than on ratebeer. People are generally complimentary and we're grateful for the good reviews. However the very last one chose to praise us for the quality of the "real ale" coming from our hand pumps.

In case anyone accuses us of perpetrating a fraud, we state for the record that the beer coming from our hand pumps at this time does not fit the definition of a real ale. I.e. it is not being dispensed from a vessel in which it underwent conditioning. We have once or twice put a cask on the bar top and dispensed what can accurately be called real ale. But for the time being the best description for what comes from our hand pumps (or beer engines) is, perhaps, bright beer. We haven't given up on serving actual real ale, regularly, through our hand pumps, but some more trouble and expense will have to be gone through to achieve that. If any statement on our menu or website suggests that we're serving real ale on our hand pumps please let us know.

Beer and Brewer Magazine

So what then of the Beer and Brewer Magazine awards? Has anyone heard of them? Or the magazine for that matter? Over the last couple of years we observed the way these awards were dispensed and repeatedly asked the magazine's publisher, David Lipman, for an explanation of his process for choosing winners. We weren't satisfied with his explanation, which included an acknowledgement that the publisher kept the final say on any awards for himself. So we made a clear, unambiguous request not to be considered for any awards the next time they came around. There can be no doubt that this request was received and understood because David tried to enter into a lengthy dialogue about it.

In October last year the magazine held some kind of awards ceremony, winners were announced, we weren't amongst them and it seemed that the magazine had complied with our request. But then overnight a press release has appeared on Beer and Brewer's website liberally associating Hashigo Zake with some awards that the magazine has bestowed on New Zealand's beer outlets. This is unfortunate. Our previous stated position means we cannot acknowledge nor accept any such award.

A Giveaway

A year ago we and some like-minded customers made a contribution via the web site kickstarter to the production costs of the movie Beer Hunter, about the late, great beer writer Michael Jackson. As part of our return on that contribution we have been sent a t shirt! We'll give it away to the first person who can reply to this email and give Michael's birthdate as listed on the back of the shirt. Warning: the shirt's an M and not a very big M.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 24, 2013


Thanks are due (and apologies in case we don't say this often enough) to our customers, for making our Wellington-only beer weekend a runaway success. We'll never really know if our call to parochialism influenced you or not, but we definitely served quite a lot more beer over Anniversary weekend 2013 than twelve months earlier.

Now as a result of all our ordering for last weekend our tap lineup still has a pretty yellow and black look about it. A more typical blend will be back very soon.


On Monday week (Feb 4) one of our own little highlights of the year rolls around. There's something perverse when an event that is the embodiment of sport's worst excesses (hype, money, unnecessary ritual) serves as light relief after another sporting event that should be about pure athleticism and entertainment. But in our corner of the world Seven-a-side Rugby is possibly our most dreaded weekend of the year, while Superbowl Sunday (or Superbowl Monday as we know it) is an excuse to match some colourful food and beer with one of the US's favourite occasions.

The good news is that this year's match is being played in New Orleans, giving us an excuse to serve gumbo for the first time since the 2010 Superbowl (won, of course, by the New Orleans Saints). The even better news is that the San Francisco 49ers are one of the teams competing. This gives us an excuse to offer a few specials on beers from Moylan's. Or even, if we stretch the point, Bear Republic. (Moylan's are in Novato which is on the outskirts of San Francisco, while Bear Republic is an hour or two further north.)

As for the aforementioned Wellington Sevens, we're making our usual plea to customers to treat it as any other weekend. And that is, largely, the case - most of the blokes in drag pass us by while we endeavour to provide a refuge for those who aren't in on the joke.

Darren Returns

Darren Watson and his Underground Blues Band return to our lounge this Saturday night at 10pm. Hopes are high that his set will include a cover of Gary Glitter's It's Good To Be Back. Regardless though, the cover charge will remain $0.

New Release Tuesday

Next week we showcase two more beers from pioneering Singapore brewery Jungle. They're Lah Belgique - a Belgian blonde ale with a slightly outrageous list of adjuncts - and their Porter.

They're on tap from 5pm on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 2013

The Envelope Please... Moon Dog Brewer Visiting... We're On The Road... Anniversary Weekend... Rye Chai IPA... Myele Manzanza... Fringe Fest...

The Envelope Please

The votes are in - 40% more of them than last year - the tabulations are complete, and we can announce the results of our survey of what our customers thought was good in 2012. If you support Wellington breweries - and Garage Project, Yeastie Boys or Tuatara in particular - the news is pretty good. Ditto if you're a fan of Taranaki's (and Wellington's via the Hurricanes catchment) Liberty. And as we explain here, the dominance of Wellington breweries in this survey is a new phenomenon.

Rather than paste in all three pages of results here, we encourage readers to follow the link and take in these results at your leisure.

Moon Dog Brewer Visiting

This week we put our first ever Moon Dog beer on tap and the adventurous of you might have noticed some of their provocative bottle labels staring out at you from the fridges. We're actually bringing in Moon Dog beer in sufficient quantities to share with other outlets and to support this effort, brewer Josh Uljans is making a flying visit to Wellington in just over two weeks.

So on Saturday Feb 2 Josh will be on hand to pour one or two servings of their strong lager (or Imperial Pilsner?) Love Tap, kiss babies and, above all, answer whatever questions our valued customers might have regarding their unconventional range of beers. Exact start time is t.b.c, but assume early evening.

We're On The Road

As hinted at above, Hashigo Zake's business interests do go slightly beyond the four walls of 25 Taranaki St. A couple of examples are coming up.

Firstly, a week today, on Thursday January 24th, we're supplying a number of beers to Brothers Beer in Auckland - a new craft beer takeaway, rigger filling station and bar, set in a former council workshop in central Auckland - for their US tap takeover. If you have Auckland friends who love intensely favoured beers but rarely get to try them, feel free to suggest a visit to next Thursday's US Tap Takeover at Brothers.

Next month we're returning to Christchurch's Great Kiwi Beer Festival with a truck full of beer to run the "World of Beer Marquee". Again the beers we'll be taking will generally be familiar to Hashigo Zake regulars, but this will be a once-a-year opportunity for Cantabrians to drink like Wellingtonians. Feel free to fire up your South Island friends with talk of how lucky they're going to be if they make it along to Hagley Park on Feb 23.

Anniversary Weekend

Meanwhile, back in downtown Wellington, we have our own anniversary day to celebrate. And our way to do this is to look inwards and celebrate the spectacular flowering of the Wellington brewing industry. So from 5pm tomorrow Friday until the close of business on Monday our taps are pouring Wellington beer only.

We promise that you'll be as pleased as we were at how easy it is to come up with a range of beer with all the variety and quality we demand.

Rye Chai IPA

Is 2013 the year of Rye? We're suddenly seeing plenty of impressive beers with high proportions of rye malt. Or will 2013 be the year the brewers run out of patience with rye and refuse to ever use it again?

Next week's new release is Garage Project's Rye Chai IPA. Made, as it is, with Northern Brewer, Amarillo and Simcoe hops and a percentage or rye malt, there are a few similarities with a recent De Molen release. But this beer also has tea and chai spices including cardamom, cinnamon and clove. It will be on tap from 5pm on Tuesday.

Myele Manzanza

This Saturday's music comes from Myele Manzanza. This is probably the first time that our musical lineup has been led by a drummer, potentially making this an interesting test of our relationship with Zibibbo upstairs. But we have great expectations.

As always, the tariff-free entertainment starts at 10pm.

Fringe Fest

Marketing for this year's Wellington Fringe Festival is well underway. For the first time ever we're hosting a Fringe show in the form of Adam Page's collaboration with comedian James Nokise.

Bear Empire

Bear Empire is a new Auckland brewery with (so far) very limited output. We've been lucky enough to get the first kegs to reach Wellington of their Guerilla Black IPA and Sabateur Red Pilsner. They'll be on soon, either just before or just after our weekend of Wellington beer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013

Faux Controversy

Last weekend 20 people took part in an unusual tasting here at Hashigo Zake. The theme was “faux craft” beers. The idea was to put the claims of the makers of faux craft beer and the prejudices of many of us involved to the test, by serving them blind alongside recognised and award-winning examples of their respective samples. A write-up of the event is here.

Now the organisers of this tasting also happen to run Craft Beer College, and we understand that the tasting is going to be repeated (with refinements based on participants’ feedback), possibly on February 16, and be open to Craft Beer College’s customers to join in. We encourage anyone curious about the relationship between beers known as “craft” and beers knows as “faux craft” to get involved. But be warned that you may run the risk of being labelled “pious”, “elitist”, “unhinged” or simply a “wanker”.

Santa Session Hangover

Back in December our attempt to add a little extra gloss to the Santa Session by getting commemorative glassware made was undone by a slow turnaround with the etching. But they did eventually get here, so if there are any Santa Session participants who'd like the souvenir glass that they never drank from, please come on down and ask.

Moon Dog Launch

Last week we foreshadowed the arrival of beer from the radical Melbourne brewery Moon Dog. After a delay getting to us from the port we're assured that they'll be here by Tuesday. Which makes Moon Dog Dasher's Envy the ideal new release for next Tuesday. It will be on tap from 5pm and we may have some of their bottled range in the fridge by then as well.

Dasher's Envy is a Christmas beer. According to website The Crafty Pint it's "a dark ruddy brown ale with a thick, treacly body, the spices are of the cakey variety and the aromas darkly sweet and fruity with a spot of what appears to be marzipan thrown in too."

We also have Moon Dog's Love Tap in a keg, but we'll wait to put that on because brewer Josh Uljans has pencilled in a trip to Wellington later this month. If and when that happens we've a feeling that some of you will have questions for him.

Survey Time

We announced this year's annual survey last Thursday and within a couple of days had as many responses as last year. This is great news but we'll resist the temptation to close the survey early and crack on with the analysis. Instead we'll close it next Wednesday and announce the findings on Thursday.

A glance at the responses in so far suggests that there are some definite changes in our customers' perceptions of what has been good, so we're all going to have fun picking over the results.

Anyone who wants to add their $0.02 worth should follow this link forthwith.

Gypsy Jazz

Gypsy Jazz returns to our lounge this Saturday night in the form of youthful local practitioners Black Spider Stomp. No change in venue (our lounge), start time (10pm) or cover charge (nil).

More Belated Christmas News

Every second item today seems to refer back to the season of selective goodwill. Here's another. Many of you will remember the fuss we made just before Christmas over Garage Project's The Chosen Few - the white truffle infused Belgian ale. We've heard that the funds raised from the sale of just 20L of the beer amounted to a very reasonable $930. And we're assured that this contribution made a big difference to the organisers of Aro Valley's "Room At The Inn" Christmas Dinner - wherein disadvantaged or housebound people got a decent feed. And not a peep from talkback radio! Back pats all round.

Finally, don't forget that we plan to come over all local on Wellington Anniversary Weekend and serve only Wellington beer. That's Jan 18-21.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3, 2013

Happy New Year... The Best of 2012... Single Hop IPAs... Music this Saturday... New Release Tuesday... Victory at Sea... Wellington Anniversary Weekend...

Happy New Year

Welcome back, all of.. well.. some of you. We wish our customers all the best for 2013. We also thank those of you who stayed in Wellington over the Christmas and New Year period and made it worth our while staying open. We'd also like to thank all the Wellington hospitality businesses who helped us by either closing or applying surcharges.

Our Best of 2012 Survey

The observant among you would have noticed that it's now 2013, so it's now a sensible time to reflect on 2012. We've had a lot of fun with our survey over the last two years, it's time we rolled out this year's version.

Little has changed. There are one or two more questions. And this time every multiple choice answer allows you to write in an alternative. We'll keep an eye on any of these and will add any (sensible) alternative answers back in as options for future respondents.

Anyone who wants to be influenced by last year's results can check them out at

You may take the survey here. We'll keep it open for a week or two and announce the results at a glittering, $200-a-head awards dinner later in the month.

Single Hop IPAs

One of Mikkeller's recurring experiments is the Single Hop IPA series. In the past we've been able to showcase a number of these and we recently received a load of kegs from the latest round of parallel single-hop brewing. It's going to be an education for many of us, with varieties like Galena, Super-Galena, Mt Hood and Cluster plus a few old favourites like, Citra, Amarillo, Cascade and.. ahem.. Sorachi Ace.

For those unfamiliar with Mikkeller's Single Hop series, these are IPAs brewed with recipes that vary only in the single hop variety that each one uses. They're all 6.8%, and usually delicious - unless the hop used is a "problematic" one.

Super-Galena is waiting in the wings and we'll be working through them steadily after that.

Music This Saturday

We decided not to interrupt our programme of live music over this period and we're pretty pleased with the result. It has kept Saturday nights (and New Year's Eve) humming at a time of year when supposedly you're all out of town.

This Saturday it's the return of Neil Billington, this time with his own blues band, which includes some pretty familiar names. The Chicago blues start at 10pm.

New Release Tuesday

After last week's Mikkeller two punch, we're sticking with a European brewer and launching what should be a flavour bomb from De Molen. It's their Rye Amarillo/Cascade IPA. After a succession of big De Molen beers packed with coffee, malt or both, an American hopped rye IPA at a mere 6.6% ABV will seem like light relief. But we've got a feeling this won't lack for flavour.

As usual the new release gets newly released at 5pm on Tuesday.

Victory at Sea

We've just had word that our first new consignment of Ballast Point Victory at Sea in two years is somewhere in the Wellington metropolitan area. It's likely that we'll have it available in bottles by the weekend and maybe even on tap soon.

For the uninitiated, Victory at Sea is a 10% ABV Imperial Porter flavoured with coffee and vanilla. It was wildly popular last time we got it in and we understand that it was the inspiration for Mike's brewery's recent (very good) Coffee Vanilla Porter. This time we've got more than the staff can drink on their own and hope to see it get out to plenty of other outlets.

Wellington Anniversary Weekend

Anniversary day is just a few weeks away. As a parochially Wellington-based business we're keen to celebrate our city's birthday. So over Anniversary Weekend we'll be dedicating all our taps to Wellington-brewed beer.

Even a year ago this would have been an awkward thing to attempt and would have required a lot of cooperation from the breweries to make sure we had enough volume and variety of beer. This year we look forward to not only having great local beer occupy the taps for more than three days, we'll have no trouble sticking to our usual practice of steady rotation.

The Wellington Anniversary Tap Insurgency will start on the evening of Friday, January 18 and continue through until the end of Wellington Anniversary Day, January 21.