Waitangi Park 12:00 PM till 9:00 PM
$25- Per ticket
Team FireChief Reporting for Duty
Team FireChief are ready: Me, Finchy, Fish, Vee and Chris are primed and ready for a fantastic day trying some new beers and hanging out together. We're decked out in garish Island shirts and wearing plastic kids-sized firemans helmets – we are definitely here for a good time.
We front up to the gate and barely have to wait before having our bags checked (oddly, Vee gets her water bottle confiscated and then returned to her) and then tickets checked and vouchers for free Monteiths beer are issued. This is a good sign, there are wall to wall staff ready to get people in the gate with as little fuss and delay as possible - good work!
So Many Beers - Bring 'Em On!
Bennetts Fine Beers and Ales
We are encouraged by the founder, Maurice Bennett, who almost takes us hostage as we walk past the Bennetts stand. He is extremely passionate about his beers.
Maurice gives us a full run down on the beers, along with recommendations. It sounds like we can't go wrong, so my first beer of the day is a Bennetts Wellington Lager. It is an excellent drop, light, crisp, tasty and an excellent start to what promises to be a legendary day.
Our next stop is the Tuatara Brewery stand. Vee and Chris are keen advocates of Tuatara beers – Vee the Ardennes, a Belgian style beer and Chris the Hefe, a cloudy wheat beer. Both are nice, but I love zesty Belgian beers, so I go for the excellent Ardennes.
I'm getting pretty hungry; pouring back beers on an empty stomach isn’t a recipe for longevity, so I make a note to find lunch. Soon.
There is a large marquee, with comfy seats etc in the middle of the central grass area, handy for comfortable shelter from the rain today and much appreciated as by the punters packing it out. It is actually the one of two marquees housing tiny cigarette stands. The stands are small and unobtrusive, only noticeable because the young ladies staffing them are dressed in bright red outfits.
Fish has already had a Baltika and is keen for us to give them a try. Baltika is a Russian brewery and they have an impressive array of beers to try. We mosey over to the Baltika stand, admire the pretty Baltika girls on duty and order our beers. I go for the Porter; what a brilliant beer! I have never heard of Baltika, but they certainly brew good beer. Note to self – visit Russia some time, bring a maddening thirst!
Harrington's Brewery are next on the list for us. Ahhh, what memories - we've all stumbled from Harrington's in Christchurch in our dim and distant past(s), so their beers are a real trip down memory lane – especially their Ngahere Gold! The boys go for the Ngahere, but I'm getting a taste for Porters after Baltika, so I put my hand up for a Wobby Boot porter. I am not disappointed, it's a particularly tasty beer – a pleasure to enjoy - again, Harrington's deliver the goods!
Lunch – At Last!
I am so hungry, I have to get food. It's a dilemma – curry that will probably be mild or ribs. Ribs. Ribs. Curry. Ribs it is! Hell Pizza deliver the goods for the ribs, sticky, messy and deliciously fitting for a day drinking beer. They don't last long and look as if a school of piranhas have been by after I've finished. Right, the next beer has to be from Croucher Brewing Co – we've walked past their stand and talked to the girls there a couple of times and their beer has got to be worth a shot.
Croucher Brewing Co.
We front up at Croucher Brewing, keep talking to the lovely girls and order a couple of beers, I go for their pilsner – I need some refreshing after the sticky ribs. The pilsner does the trick all right. We are starting to get some attention, due to the colourful shirts and firemans helmets. One poor girl asks us if we're really firemen. Of course we lie – this is a beerfest after all.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
The rain is just getting heavier, the beer is helping but it isn’t hiding the fact that everyone is standing in ankle deep water in their chosen marquees – apart from those swimmers crossing from one side to the other in search of more fine beer.
Funnily enough, as the water and mud levels rise, the blood alcohol levels rise in proportion and everyone actually gets friendlier! Apart from being near Fish and Finchy, I haven't seen any sign of trouble – we are all here having a hell of a good time with like-minded souls. Absolutely awesome! We join the crazies and cross over to the wet side.
Jagermeister - The Decline Begins
We hang out in the Jagermeister tent for a long time, long enough for something like four Jagermeister-RedBulls each. There is a steady procession of pretty ladies trying Jager and trying to throw hoops onto deer antlers to win a prize. Bless 'em. This is where for us we crank the fun up a notch – the booze is starting to have an effect now. Everybody is having a great day, despite the weather.
The rain eases off for a bit so we venture out for some fresh air and to watch a couple of the bands play. I have no idea who the first few bands are, the only one that stood out was Charlie ASH – they're pretty good and have a unique sound.
We are all standing in puddles and or mud, watching the band and the "dancers". In some circles they would be called dancers – not in this case! The swampy ground makes conventional dancing impossible, these guys and girls are swamp-moshing (a brand new phrase – you'll hearing it more often now!); a combination of dancing, diving, splashing, flopping, sliding, recovering and avoiding being tackled and thrown into the morass.
We haven't drunk enough to consider the swamp-moshing fun yet. Maybe we haven’t been drinking enough! Time for Team FireChief to get a few refills!
The Antics – It wasn't Us!
While strolling casually past the Tuatara stand, we notice a keg has been carelessly left outside the marquee – right in the walkway in front. Fish tries to lift it for a photo opportunity – Crikey – it's full!
He and a bystander (with a combination of determination, desperation and absolutely no coordination) manage to push the ball valve in and fill a glass or two with Tuatara's fine pilsner.
Next thing a surprisingly angry bloke with a big chip on his shoulder comes out from behind the counter and starts squealing and pointing at Fish, threatening all sorts of dire consequences for interfering with their keg.
He's a loud-mouth and is treated with all the respect that Fish several dozen bystanders can muster. None. I hope he isn’t in Tuatara's PR department! They make fantastic beer, but this guy is in the wrong party.
The Long Cool Finish – Carlsberg
We retire to the Jagermeister tent for one last Jager-Redbull before wading across the pond that was grass earlier in the day, and park ourselves at the Carlsberg stand. It's dry, though flooded and friendly. I have no idea how many Carlsbergs we drink, several, but it is just easier than wading and braving the ongoing downpour to go anywhere else. We stay at the Carlsberg tent until the end of the beerfest at around 9 PM. As they close the bar staff throw me a small tent! Yay! A freebie! Thanks Carlsberg!
What Planet Are They On?
I head out to the portaloos and on the way back, with Fish, I take a picture of one of the smokers tents.The woman running the tent – working for one of the major cigarette companies, starts shouting.
Hey, I've been drinking all day, who cares? I keep walking/stumbling, getting about 200 metres away before being asked to return to the smokers tent by a confused security guard – he has no idea what the fuss is about either, he is a nice guy doing his job.
The smokers' tent attendant starts shouting and ranting at me. Little does she know, I've been married before and her mind tricks are powerless against me. My resistance is further enhanced by me also having a belly full of beer. Even the security guy is rolling his eyes.
Apparently in New Zealand, much like in Khmer Rouge era Cambodia, it is a serious breach of copyright to take photos of cigarette stands in a public event. Goodness me.
I let her go on for a while then delete the photo in front of her. I feel pity for her poor partner - assuming she has one; he's probably handcuffed in a cellar somewhere, praying for a quick death.
We manage one final beer at the Carlsberg tent and head out onto the streets. As I mentioned earlier, there seems to be no trouble happening anywhere, that must be some record for any event in Wellington!
We finish our night with a couple of rounds of extra drinks around the pubs and a traditional post-boozing-kebab on Courtnay Place.
The Wrap-up in the Sober Light of Day
I will definitely be returning to the NZ Beer Festival in 2010. The event was well-run, reasonably affordable, the facilities were amazing. When I say facilities, I mean toilets; there were so many toilets that there was never a queue! I have never been to any event where you didn't have to queue for the toilets! Sure they were portaloos but they were clean and available.
The sheer variety and number of beers available was astounding! What a fantastic selection to try and enjoy. My favourites were: Baltik, Harringtons, Carlsberg and Croucher. That may sound judgmental, but to be honest, I enjoyed every beer that I tried.
The staff throughout were generally very good with the couple of exceptions, I experienced above and I heard a few grizzles about heavy handed female security staff, but I they were the exception, not the rule.
I take my hat off to the organizers of the Wellington Beerfest, they have outdone themselves and thank you for putting in the effort to make this years Beerfest the true day of champions, in spite of the miserable weather. Congratulations Guys, You Rock!