Portland – Beer Magnet

Portland – Beer Magnet

85 000 peeps

85 000 peeps

 PORTLAND – Oregon Brewers Festival

85,000 people can’t be wrong – can they?

The 28th Oregon Brewers Festival pulled in 85 000 over the last weekend of July 2015, for four days of sun, dust, dank, great food, genial crowds and of course – great beer. But  what was it really like? Is it worth the trek? Are there really 60 + breweries in Portland? Is the city water really as close to distilled as it gets?

Answering the last question first – yes indeed – I refer you to pFreim Family Brewing IPA – having brought a bottle home to share – this has to be the softest mouthfeel ever, amazing, but don’t take my world for it check this report.

Anyway back to the beer. Friday at the brewfest was fine, sunny, dusty, with small queues and good fun. There were some great beers on offer over 96 taps and many not had before, but all good? No, there were a few average ones too, though it as all new so lots of great new tastes.

Portland is a makers paradise, not only home to 61 breweries but also about 50 ‘third wave’ coffee roasters including the famous Stumptown, a huge number of crafters, including a fantastic Contemporary Craft Museum, and plenty of Farm to Table eating options, Hipster heaven. From the Alberta Arts District to Mississippi, the Coffee Roasters and 700 food carts, this really is a paradise found for many people, not just a mecca for beer lovers, but it is easy to see how easily beer fits into the ethos of the city – lots of small breweries all making enough for the local community.

Brewery Tap Rooms, brewpubs, Growler stations (The Big LeGrowlski was my favourite) and bottle stores are easy to find, and if not offering food, there will be some authentic café nearby. Easily accessible from down town are better known names such as The Commons, Burnside Brewing, The Cascade Barrel House among many, but some are further afield. I started one afternoon at the excellent Ecliptic Brewing, wandered up through the newly gentrified area (yes that is a problem worldwide) up North Mississippi and past Stormbreaker Brewing, and along and down the next street to Hopworks Urban Brewery Bikebar, which is next door to  Lompoc, and so it goes.

Portland can be an expensive city to stay in – I stayed at the Jupiter on East Burnside, a ten minute walk across the bridge to the city, a hip joint, will blackboard doors and cool stuff, replete with free condoms, but no open windows. Did I mention how affordable it was though. No fridge or things like that, but aircon, required for those hot days, and with its own bar/venue right on site – the Doug Fir. Very hip, good for breakfast, and drinks, and oh yes – I saw a Talking Heads and David Bowie tribute band one night. A good way to wind down after a day out eating and drinking.

Food carts are the way to go here, it would take you two years to visit them all, but some stand out, as well as much of the other food options. This is no Anaheim resort or San Fran diner, this is food. Enjoy real Belgian waffles, Georgian dumplings, some decent Thai, and best of all, out at the food cart “pod” on South East Division, Hawaiian Korean goodness. Some of these guys progress from foodcart to bricks and mortar – such as Lardo.

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Back to the questions I posed at the beginning. The Brewers Festival is a fantastic event, but its only part of the reason you go to Portland – it’s a great event to base your trip around, but there is so much more to Portland that a visit at any time of the year is worthwhile, and it is impossible to see and do every brewery, foodcart, and coffee roaster. A minimum of five days is where I would start, with time to do one of the food walking tours, take in some of the different areas, take a brewery tour to visit something different, and generally relax.

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The festival itself was on the waterfront, very accessible from anywhere. With no entry charge to get in but some ID and a wristband required for each day, it was easy, then you just buy your glass and tokens. So don’t forget to take your plastic glass back each day you go. On the non-weekend days the queues were short, and in fact they were short for many beers, but half an hour long for some of the popular ones – and frankly sometimes they were popular but not worth the wait. The Logsdon Farmhouse Ale was fantastic, but no queue. The Kiwi beers had queues at times, but not like the queue for the Belgian beers, which frankly weren’t as good. It was 1 token for a taster – and 4 tokens for a full glass. I opted for tasters as 20 tasters over an afternoon is still plenty!

The venue was a great size and the summer weather really helped the fun, though the heat and close crowd, and queue for the toilets can get a bit much if you let it. Was good to see a wide range of ages and the locals were very hospitable – I plonked myself at various tables that had a gap and got talking to plenty of locals and out of towners. Was good to be able to share the fact they didn’t know much about the kiwis or our hops.

We did a BREWVANA tour on a Sunday afternoon with a few Oregonians, a couple of home brewers from Hawaii, and me. Packed into the little bus we headed off to Coalition, Culmination and BTU, the first brewery/Chinese restaurant combo in the US. As some of these places are a wee way out it is worth the effort to tag along with the knowledgeable crew. Last day I stopped at Belmont Station out on 45th St, Eastside, and picked up a dozen or so beers to bring home. They made it safely once a trip to FedEx for some packing stuff, and although exceeding the allowance – I wizzed through customs no problem. Win Win.  Now home and reflecting on my time – Portland is not only a great city to visit for beer, it is great fullstop for all sorts of reasons, not too mention the lack of sales tax.

So all in all, Portland definitely lives up to the hype!

SO WILL WE BE BACK?

YES INDEED – FOR THE 30TH BREWERS FESTIVAL IN JULY 2017

Get to Portland: On Hawaiian Air via Honolulu, or through LA or San Francisco on Air NZ.

Hobart – MoNA & The End of History

Hobart – MoNA & The End of History

It is always a great experience to discover something unexpected. Hobart offers that in spades. I have visited three times over the last few years principally with groups to visit that cavernous cliff lined steel building that is the amazing Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). While yes it is an extraordinary museum and the thing to do for tourists if it’s raining – (and even if they have no idea what they are about to get themselves into) it isn’t just a museum. It is an art resort. With fine dining attached as well as a great café and wine bar, an amazing boutique hotel, a winery on site, and a micro brewery recently off sited, summer offers markets and concerts as part of the FOMO festival. All round it is an experience.

Did I mention beer yet? MONA is the home of Moo Brew, and while there you can opt for a tasting tray of the beers instead of the wines. The beer is of quality, no doubt as are the bottles and labels. They produce a great dark ale, some seasonals and a decent pale ale among their range.

Moo Brew Tasting

The Winebar also offers a range of good craft beers and fantastic platters, and the first time we visited there was a bottle of the Squirrel with beer out of mouth encased on the counter. Brewdogs  ridiculously high alcohol beer, ‘End of the History’? Art or beer? I am picking at 41 % it will age well.

MONA Wine Bar

MONA Wine Bar

MONA is also home to an art work by Dutch artist Wim Delvoye called “Cloaca”. It is a working reimagined human digestive system. This is one of many variations of this work, and in true to life form they feed it lunch (this day it was a Turkey sandwich and a Dark Ale) at noon and sometime between 2 and 4 it excretes! Does make for a somewhat overpowering odour. Wim Delvoye is also responsible for the photo of Tattoo Tim, a man living with an artwork tattooed on his back – which is owned by a collector. Tim can opt out at anytime, but while under contract can be shown twice a year. On this visit to MONA he sat twice a day for 2 hours at a time before taking people on a tour of the exhibition and telling the story of his life. He did let on that when not on his stool he did make the most of Hobart bars and had discovered some great Australian beers.

Hobart is based around a working harbour with historic buildings each side we are talking 1806 and hand crafted with convict hands. There are a good amount of options accommodation wise – we stay at the Grand Chancellor for the harbour views. With good food options from fish and chips to fine dining there is nothing not to look forward to here. Heck there is even the Lark Distillery portside, and the historic Cascade brewery is not too far inland.

There are more beer options coming online all the time in Hobart. On our first visit we hit Preachers in Battery Point, a kind of old villa that might pass for a student flat with a bar, and a great garden bar area for those warmer afternoons in summer. We did find a good bottle store with a great selection as well, and new spots since our first visit include Jack Greene and The Winston.

Hobart is also home to the Tasmanian Beer Festival usually held in November. Get there an be surprised!

 

 

Berlin

Its red, refreshing and a little sour - hmmm

Its red, refreshing and a little sour

Berlin is a city of culture, art, history, bikes and beer. There is plenty of beer – that good German pilsner. Of course there is the Berlinner Weisse, said to be the most refreshing beer there is, and said by my friend from elsewhere in Germany, not really to be beer at all. One thing that is a little harder to track down in Berlin is craft beer. Though it is not impossible, it is definitely on the ‘search for’ as opposed to ‘stumble upon’ side of things. Never the less on my first visit to Berlin, with a mere 24 hours there was one bar recommended, which I made a b(eer) -line for.

The Vagabund Brauerei is in Wedding, a few stops from Mitte on the train, in a semi Turkish area. I availed myself of the bar, the home made pies by some locals fundraising for their Skoda trip to Mongolia, and the few local craft beers from around Germany. The beer made by the lads – all expats – who run the bar/brewery was good, a couple of the other local beers were plainly not right unfortunately. But that was last year and like elsewhere in Europe craft beer is on the rise in Berlin.

We’ll be looking out for another repeat visit in a year or so, it will be interesting to see what has developed. Keep up to date with Berlin craft beer here

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Vagabund Brauerei, Wedding

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Interesting, not much Citra but

Berlin is a truly fantastic city to spend time, having the second time stayed for a week and covered a lot of ground from the Wall remnants, to the flea markets and contemporary art galleries – it is all here.

So what should you do in Berlin? That’s easy.

Visit the Reichstag – don’t forget to prebook online

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Check out the area around Hackescher Markt in Mitte, lots of shopping, drinks on the river side, markets, garden bars, and a little graffiti too

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There are so many churches and art galleries that you will never see them all – but do make the effort to see at least one.

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Memorial to the murdered Jews in the Holocaust

Track down a part of the Berlin Wall, better yet go out to Mauerpark and follow the trail, then visit the flea market there and shop for steins.

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Small wall fragment at Potzdamer Platz – covered in gum

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Don’t forget Berlin is geared up for cyclists – they are everywhere – you can even bike the runway at the old Templehof Airport 

Stay: Try the Adina Hackescher Markt for a cool, very handy hotel close to transport, bars and restaurants.

Links:

http://www.berlincraftbeer.com/

http://www.ratebeer.com/places/germany/berlin/113/

Bike routes in Berlin

Berlin Art Guide

Barcelona – Bier CaB

Barcelona – Bier CaB

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He rejected the call from his wife, angry was she, he skipped out. Must have been a few hours ago as my new friend was verging on slurring his words. He kept repeating the words “you are the orange man”. The chap on my other side was a lawyer for the US patent office and enjoying downtime in Barcelona before exploring the rest of Spain.

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It would be typical that at the bar we are mostly male, with the exception of one couple, who do the translating for my new BFF (beer friends forever – thanks to Untapped). The bar though is CaB – the new best bar in Barcelona, and with 30 taps, soon doubling to 60, and expanding to the shop either side – is really on the up and up.

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CaB has a great mix of mostly progressive European beers, a lot of To Ol, a couple of good UK breweries and a smattering of Spanish options. Check their current taps here All in all a good journey through Pale Ales, Saisons, Belgians and IPAs. No easy handwritten chalkboards here – oh no – Manolo and the team have the full electronic scoreboard with what’s on, what’s nearly empty, what’s coming up, and along the top all the recent Untapped check ins. Of course that is me scrolling along the top – the only UnTapped profile without an image – “the orange man”. So to be fixed my by new colleagues in arms.

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Not to be outdone by the electronic menu – (and nothing but beer, and water to drink) – the style is cool – open window to the kitchen, friendly staff, fairly warm, and hundreds of what look like they could be barrel staves hanging from the ceiling. It’s cool enough that I felt comfortable bringing friends who aren’t beer people, but keen to try something new. And new they got.

“Fuck Art – the heathens are coming” was a fantastic hoppy Saison, ‘Ashtray Heart’ was a smoky stout, and with a few nice Belgian crossover options – they tried ten beers in a tasting they had never had, and enjoyed the occasion of it all, and the beer – fantastic!

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Barcelona is often puzzlingly hard to find the real thing when it comes to food, good food that is, and I had assumed this place would be no exception – but boy was I wrong. From the unique presentation on slate tiles to the layout and taste – the food was exceptional. Octopus, Sausages, Chicken wings – all unexpectedly good.

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BierCaB is at 55 Muntaneer, in L’Eixample. A ten minute walk from Placa Catalunya, about 4-5 blocks off Passeig d’Gracia.

http://biercab.com/

Bar CaB Barcelona

Bar CaB Barcelona

Birra Italia – Florence

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Antonio is gesticulating wildly across the bar in what looks like an animated conversation about beer. I can tell because firstly he is talking to the barman / brewer who is also speaking with his hands as only Italians can, and I can hear the word birra and birifficio often.

Having had the boys put a couple of my donated New Zealand favourites in their fridge earlier, its time they came out and helped foster a conversation around beer in Italy and New Zealand.

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Antonio it turns out is the Italian distributor of Brewdog. His mate is from Brewfist (think I got that right), and we are talking to the boys at Archea Bar and Brewery, one of the 700 micro brewerys in Italy. They are a small local contract brewery, brewing their four beers once a month somewhere outside of Florence.IMG_6995

They make a pretty decent IPA – more a session IPA in my book, light but discernible malt and a crisp hop finish. Not chewy or arduous on the palate at all. Definitely more than I expected from Florence, the artistic capital of Italy.

So the tasting turns to Panheads Quickchange XPA. Now there is some serious nose turning smiles as these Panhead virgins get their aroma burst and first taste . I have tried all theirs and now they are trying mine!

I tried quite a few Italian beers actually, and the other one that really stood out was the Rurale Black IPA – not dark enough to be black but really tasty and balanced.

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The Archea bar is in the Oltrano – across the river from the centre of Florence and a few minutes walk from Piazza Santo Spirito, a hip student hangout when the sun is shining. At Archea you will find Giulio behind the bar most nights and the two brewers tending bar as well, and the place is a drop in for those seeking a fridge and taps of real beer amidst a sea of Moretti. There are students, tourists like me, the odd local, and generally a good feel, and an electronic dartboard.

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Back across the river in Santa Croce on Via Tentorri is Beer House Club. These guys too make their own beer and have two or three on tap at once as well as a bunch of other locally made beers. I had the tasting platter – 3 of which were fantastic – but as I rotated it on the way to the table I got a couple round the wrong way – oops. BeerHouse Club has more tables out in the light, but just not quite the atmosphere of the Archea Bar.

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Watch out for the Doppo Malto – most of the big breweries and some smaller ones make a “double malt” beer and restaurants mistakenly hand it out as Birra Artiginale when it aint.

Craft beer is almost all over Italy, with a lot of US distribution available – mostly Sierra Nevada and Andersons, the odd Sam Adams and a couple more. Even in ridiculously pretty Vicenza, where most tourists don’t tread, the restaurant across from our small hotel had the range of a local brewer called BiRen Ge X. I tried their American Pale Ale and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Venice however is another story. Apparently there are a couple of places in Venice to get real beer, but I came across just one. The Devils Forrest Pub, a short but easily lost walk from our hotel in San Marco. Not much choice but I did find a Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Founders All Day Session Ale and the Ubiquitous Sierra Nevada.

Rome has spots if you have time – mostly away from the Termini area, but there is a classic bottle shop called Domus Birrae which has a great selection of Italian, European and US beer. Though not sure about the stiflingly warm well lit storage – but they sure looked appealing.

Prices were pretty reasonably, an imported bottle was usually around 5 Euro at the bar, a 300 ml glass was around 3.50 Euro and a half litre around 5 Euro.

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Antonio tells me there are some 700 micro breweries across Italy. That is amazing and shows that it is very much a burgeoning scene within Europe. In fact just after I left Florence got its first Brewdog Pub, and with a final post Beervana twist, Brewdog Bars in Europe are the only ones to stock Portlands own Gigantic

http://www.ratebeer.com/places/city/firenze/0/102/

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Barcelona

Fort Brewing

Fort Brewing – Eepa

Welcome to Barcelona

A Cosmopolitan art nouveau city famous for names such as Gaudi, Picasso and Dali in the art world, and Fort Brewing in the beer world.

Patron Saint: St George and the dragon – see below

A city not far from the Spanish French border, famous for its city planning, warm weather, maritime history, art and architecture,  food culture as much its tourist strip of gaudy frozen actors and pickpockets.

Drink

I first visited as a back packer in the 90s, with a penchant for penny pinching and cheap beer. It was a different set of circumstances that took me back to one of my favourite cities in 2013. As a tour manager for a small group of 16 art enthusiasts I got to experience the best of both worlds. This gave me access to some of the best art and culture by day and beer hunting by night.

St_George and Dragon Bar

Nice Rogue selection and very cheap compared to home – click for a panorama

As it turns out beer hunting didn’t take me far. Conveniently across the road from our hotel was (now sadly closed) a well regarded local bar – George and the Dragon. Often mistaken as a replica English pub by many looking for something of home, they would be hard pressed to find a pint of their local favourite. While not so much on the food front, they did have a large screen for sport, a helpful staff, and a manager dedicated to craft beer.  While the taps sported some London craft beer and the ubiquitous Rogue taps, for something different I loved the local Eepa (IPA) by Fort Brewing. Smelling hugely fruity, with Pacific Gem and Simoce, with a light malt base, I wouldn’t have said it stood up on the malt front to a kiwi IPA, but it certainly was a pleasure to drink. I couldn’t say the same about all of the local brews, but the scene is definitely developing.

This time it looks like a visit to La Cerveteca in Barcelonetta, down by the waterfront and the highly rated Bar CaB will be in order, as well as Ale&Hop.

La Pirata

La Pirata

Barcelona has several other artisan beer bars, but according to my source (beer hunter and writer Brett Atkinson) St George was the best of them. For a list of all craft bars in Barcelona Rate Beer has a solid list. I would go back in a minute, but since it is closed I will have to go beer hunting elsewhere when back in September to see how the scene has developed further in the 18 months since my last visit.

For more reading on craft beer in Catalonia this is a good post, and this one

Eat

If you have time in Barcelona you should visit Tapas 24 – right next door to George and Dragon on Diputacio St, just off Passeig De Gracia. Tapas 24 is one of those must do Tapas spots, where a seat at the counter is worthwhile for the view of the kitchen and its non stop action.  Be prepared to wait to get in, but it’s worth it, and if you dress warmly it might be quicker to get a table out on the street during off the locals off peak eating times.

Staying

We stayed previously on Diputacio, just off Passeig De Gracia in the Hotel St Morritz. It was reasonable value for money, though some found the internal facing rooms a little dark. Next time we are staying a little further up and off the other side of Passeg de Gracia at Gallery Hotel, this looks great. Value for money we do put people in several hotels around the Gothic Quarter, and not far off La Ramblas. For a local 2 star somewhere like Hotel Atlantis is ok for a few nights. September is a busy time in Barcelona for fairs.

Do

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Salvador Dali's - Rainy Taxi

Salvador Dali’s – Rainy Taxi

Gaudi’s Casa Mila

It is highly worthwhile discovering Barcelona by foot with one of the local guides. I can recommend Sandra at Walking Planets for fantastic knowledge, great English and an excellent sense of humour.  You can’t miss Gaudi’s Houses, Parc Guell, and famous church La Sagrada Familia, and just up the coast in Figueres Salvador Dali’s crazy Theatre Museum. There is also an excellent naval museum, as well as plenty of markets.

Where

Catalonia, Spain

Arrive

Direct flight on Singapore Air or Emirates, or cheap low cost carriers from the UK

Population

1.6 million

Key Words

Cerveza – Beer

Eeepa – IPA

Hola – Hello

Where is …? – Donde Esta….?

Language

Spanish, Catalan

History – Sant Jordi*

*From Barcelona Travels.net

Catalonia and Saint George

If you visit the Barrio Gòtico of Barcelona especially one figure is present no matter where you are. In paintings, sculptures, fountains, etc. It is a knight with his sword high in the air fighting an enormous dragon. The knight is of course Saint George and in the Catalan version his name is Sant Jordi. This is the patron saint of Barcelona.

The Catalan version of the myth

According to the myth about Saint George, the dragon was terrifying a small village called Montblanc in the south-west of Catalonia. When it had eaten all the animals the village had to draw a person to satisfy the hunger of the evil dragon. When the name of the young princess came up Saint George came riding and he killed the dragon with his sword in the last moment. This myth about Saint George can be found all over Europe (England, Georgia, Greece, etc.), but the Catalans have been drawn by the story to a higher degree than in most other places.

Barcelona - Beach

Barcelona – Beach

Barcelona - Passeig de Gracia

Barcelona – Passeig de Gracia

Barcelona from Montjuc

Barcelona from Montjuc

Don’t leave home til you’ve seen the country

Discovering new beers while travelling combines two of my favourite things. In this blog I will report back from a travel point of view – not from a quality of beer point of view.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVH7uBzQX7I

If you are old enough your might remember this one. So when it came to starting a craft beer and travel blog, I thought it prudent to take that advice and start at the beginning.  So with that in mind here we are beer hunting in the middle of Auckland, in Ellerslie to be precise. Somewhere I visit nearly everyday and have the occasional beer. To start I thought a little research as to what craft beer is available in the hood, since as a typical main street village, we have several pubs and bottle stores to choose from.

Ellerslie

In real estate speak they might say this up and coming suburb is conveniently located adjacent to the  southern motorway and train corridors, with a diverse and thriving village feel.  Anyway, its where I work and that’s that.  Home to the Ellerslie race course, not home to the Ellerslie flower show, surrounded by businesses, not surrounded by an excess of car parking. To get here jump on a train from Britomart, and just walk across the motorway overpass.

Bottle Shops

Ellerslie has a Glengarrys, a ‘Bottle O’ and a small off license in the shops called Mayfair. Glengarrys just across the road from the office has a decent selection of beer and the occasional beer night. This afternoon they are tasting some Schippers and Bach brewing. Not the biggest selection by Glengarry standards, but with a couple of 8Wired, Panhead and Liberty brews there is generally a good selection.  The two other off licences have a small selection of mostly Epic and Renaissance in one and an Epic Pale Ale in the other.

Fully stocked shelves at Glengarry Ellerslie

Bars

Doolan Brothers, the latest incarnation of the old Cock and Bull, a mere twenty metres from our front door, is a Lion premise with a large selection of Macs, James Squires, and one Emersons 1812 Pilsener tap, (which was tasting great earlier this week). I am pretty sure they have previously had a decent selection of Emersons, but currently there are none in the fridge, though they do have a Little Creatures.

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Union Post

I popped into the Union Post to see the range of shiny Macs taps of all shades, but did come across 3 different Emersons in the fridge including Bird Dog.

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Mexico

Ellerslie is benefitting from a visit from the Mexico brand of restaurants, installed in an old petrol station. A lunch there required me to have a couple of Stoke low alcohol beers, which were surprisingly drinkable for the 2 odd percent of alcohol. They also have a few other imports from Mexico, but they do have a great atmosphere and excellent food.

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Brewers Coop

Ok so its not strictly in Ellerslie, but is a five minute drive across the highway into Penrose and is our closest and best homebrew supply store – so its ours!

So that’s Ellerslie – Craft beer capital it ain’t, but in typically suburban Auckland its nice to have a Glengarrys that does provide a decent choice.

Next time somewhere a little further afield – Barcelona!

Cheers

Glen