Monday, 13 December 2010

NZ beer trip - Santa Monica and home

Tuesday 30 November (part 2), Santa Monica
On my second version of this day, fly into Los Angeles airport and stay at Santa Monica, the LA beach. It has a splendid pier (shrimps for lunch) and lovely boardwalks, along which we walk to Venice Beach. Then watch the stunning sunset with a pint of locally brewed Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale (their take on Newcastle Brown?). And then back into town for dinner and a half of Stone Smoked Porter. Both very impressive, need a US beer trip now. Score: Trip days 27 Beers drunk 41

Wednesday 1 December, Santa Monica

Explore near Beverly Hills (including the shop 'To Wag For') then to the airport while watch sun setting on the mountains, the Sierra Nevada, drink a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - and a Monteith's Original, for old time's sake, as it were (sure I must have had that before?) Score: Trip days 28 Beers drunk 42

Thursday 2 December, Newcastle upon Tyne

We land at Heathrow, which is utter chaos, so give up and get train home through the snow. Lovely! Reach into beer stocks and come up with a bottle of Westerham Brewery William Wilberforce Freedom Ale - somehow this seems appropriate. Final score: Trip days 29 Beers drunk 43
Speight's Distinction was a real find, but my favourite was Monteith's Winter Ale - I was lucky to get one, as we hit a heatwave. Until next time, then, cheers!

NZ beer trip - Dunedin

Sunday 28 November, Dunedin
And so the great bike trip ends. It will indeed be, I think, unforgettable (for the right reasons!) And we are off to Dunedin, to get as far south as possible in the time allowed, and to take a photo of the tiles at the railway station. We wave goodbye to the rest of the group, who head back north, and catch the bus to Dunedin, a city on a slope. Find the Green Man Organic Brewery brewpub right in the centre, where I taste (but do not drink) the most hoppy beer I've ever met in my life - a true headbanger. My choices were their Strong (6.5% draught) and IPA (5.5% bottled, great label). Good beers but a bit too hoppy for me. All the beers have been good, has been amazing. Score: Trip days 24 Beers drunk 36

Monday 29 November, Dunedin
After breakfast in sunshine at St Clair, the surfing beach, and a walking tour of the sports venues, it is time to look round Speight's Brewery. A pleasure, with all that copper brewing kit. And a fitting end (nearly). Sipped half-halves of Speight's Gold and (very good) Porter at the brewery, then on to a bar for a Stoke Amber from McCashin's in Nelson. Score: Trip days 25 Beers drunk 39

Tuesday 30 November (part 1), Auckland
Fly back to Auckland, but no time to leave the airport - have a Speight's Old Dark as wait for the big plane to Los Angeles. This is the first time I've not managed to find a completely new beer - but, what the hell, at least I've seen where it's brewed. Indeed you could argue that because of the time zone change - crossing the dateline, we are going to get another Tuesday 30 November - I may not have failed at all! And so, goodbye to NZ. Score: Trip days 26 Beers drunk 39

NZ beer trip - rail trail and the great pass

Friday 26 November, Danseys Pass
After breakfast we set off on a roundabout route to attack the Southern Otago Rail Trail, starting just beyond Clyde and ending - for us today - at Wedderburn (not quite that far for me). Unlike most Brit trails, the surface is thick gravel, the end result feeling like riding uphill on Chesil Beach in a heatwave - went to a tin shack dunny and almost boiled myself! However, the night at Dansey's Pass, middle of nowhere, was great - a Monteith's Summer Ale (5%) did the trick, 'enlivening' as it says on the label. A good night had etc etc. Score: Trip days 22 Beers drunk 32

Saturday 27 November, Oamaru
One last great climb, over Dansey's Pass - pushed my way up and slithered down the gravelly hills, tho my dirt track riding technique has definitely improved. Then another two hills.... And finally Oamaru, back on the east coast, where we found a fine pub to enjoy draught ales, Harrington's Rogue Hop (a 5% pilsner) and Harrington's Clydesdale Stout. And then end-of-trip dinner, about which of course I remember very little. Score: Trip days 23 Beers drunk 34

NZ beer trip - cycling by boat

Wednesday 24 November, Te Anau
The bikes went with us for a boat trip across Lake Wakatipu, allowing us to start riding at distant Walter Peak Station. Off we went, uphill on gravel tracks (naturally) through wonderful scenery - blue skies, snowy mountains - fording rivers on the way, and ending up cycling through really remote country with huge grey peaks all around. Didn't want to stop. But we had to, in order to get to Te Anau before dusk. A quick beer stop at the superstore (thanks Michael), which had a great selection of NZ micro beers, meant a bottle of Tuatara IPA (5%) from their brewery in Reikorangi, and a Harrington's Big John Special Reserve (6.5%) from Christchurch. Cracking day! Score: Trip days 20 Beers drunk 29

Thursday 25 November, Te Anau
Off to Milford Sound by bus - bikes not allowed in through the amazing tunnel, which was rather more interesting than the Sound itself. Being processed with thousands of other tourists. Back to a walk along the lake and a beer in the local, where TV coverage of course still dominated by the Greymouth mine disaster (29 dead), which happened the day we drove through the town itself. Awful for all concerned. Then to lodgings to finish up the superstore beers, bottles of Three Boys Brewery IPA (5.2%), very hoppy, and their Wheat Beer (5%). Followed by a corker of a fish chowder to start off dinner (thanks Kate). Score: Trip days 21 Beers drunk 31

NZ beer trip - cycling in the south

Sunday 21 November, Wanaka

Got a lift up the Haast Pass, but then long ride ending up with ascent of the neck between lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Found yet another brewpub-type establishment, for a Wanaka Beerworks Tall Black (and their Gold is very good too), and a Monteith's Pilsner (5%). Score: Trip days 17 Beers drunk 25

Monday 22 November, Queenstown
Long long drag up a hill past gold mining shack at Cardrona, then more up to top of pass with amazing descent then down to river to watch bungy jumping. Then briefly to Arrowtown - more gold, but bit of a tourist hole albeit with excellent brewery - after tasting, tried Arrowtown Brewery IPA (8%! more a winter ale). Then had another Moa Weka lager at the Dux-de-Lux later in Queenstown. Quite a day. Score: Trip days 18 Beers drunk 26

Tuesday 23 November, Queenstown
A day off so we rode round the lake to the golf club on the hilltop - a lot tougher than it sounds, getting towards singletrack. Great views. To the Speight's Bar for a pint of their Pilsener. Score: Trip days 19 Beers drunk 27

NZ beer trip - cycling West Coast

Thursday 18 November, Punakaiki
Beer crisis! It turns out our motel is dry! This after a long hilly ride then ace descent in warm air to beach. So had quick pint of DB Export Lager in pub, walked back up hill carrying bottle of Monteith's Black, only to find our guides (well done Kate and Lofty) had got in some Budweisers. Barbecue, but indoors because of the dreaded sand flies. Scenery spectacular. Score: Trip days 14 Beers drunk 21

Friday 19 November, Fox Glacier
Longish flattish ride (good for me) to chilly Fox. Saw a Kiwi (in captivity, but there we go) in afternoon. Soon found yet another good pub, for a Monteith's Celtic Red. Score: Trip days 15 Beers drunk 22

Saturday 20 November, Haast
Haast was a revelation, reached after an almighty hill and an endless trudge into the wind (how come the wind was always against?!). Suddenly one crossed a bridge over a vast sunlit estuary, to a huge flat space surrounded by snow-capped mountains. So tired (and last, of course), I sunk into bar with pint of Speight's Distinction, just glorying in hills. Utterly fab, view and beer. Forgot to change for dinner.... Distinction bears some resemblance to London Pride, fruity, full bodied. A nice symmetry. Pride upside down? Also a Monteith's Old Ale on draught. Score: Trip days 16 Beers drunk 23

NZ beer trip - cycling north

Tuesday 16 November, Hanmer Springs
We meet the cycling group in Christchurch, where our guide leads us around a flat (=hilly) route to test us and the bikes before we make off to cycle near Hanmer Springs. Not being a hot pools type, I opt for the pub - Jollie Jack's Bar - and a bottle of Moa Weka. This in honour of our trip, the Weka cycling tour by Active New Zealand. The Moa Brewery is in Blenheim, which we passed on the train. Also a half of Speight's Old Dark Ale, a great South Island brew. Then a very good dinner with the group. Score: Trip days 12 Beers drunk 17

Wednesday 17 November, Murchison
We cycle over two mountain passes to gold mining town of Murchison, fording several rivers on the way. Barbecue under stars, after bottle of Paddy Sweeney's Good Bastards (4% dark ale), and a handle, a smaller measure than a pint, but bigger than a half, of the West Coast Brewery's Green Fern organic lager (5%), both ace. Brilliant pub-cum-restaurant. Great local beers. Score: Trip days 13 Beers drunk 19