It's Beer O'Clock. Time once again for your weekend beer-drinking story from Stu at Real Beer.
Last weekend a group of fellow beer lovers and I embarked on the second annual Breweries by Bicycle craft-brewery tour (Christchurch this year, after a most successful trip to Nelson last year). Friday consisted of the more 'formal' part of the weekend - cycling from brewery to brewery, admiring large stainless steel tanks, chatting with brewers, and of course sampling their beers.
The Christchurch breweries on the whole were rather 'working class' and, while not disappointing, didn’t quite reach the quality heights of those in Nelson. One of them, however, stood out in all respects and would now have to go down as a Mecca for NZ beer lovers.
The Twisted Hop brewpub was, without a doubt, the highlight of the tour. I’m a bona-fide real ale fanatic (moonlighting only occasionally as a pantomime donkey jockey), so this was always going to be a highlight for me. The brewpub really hits the mark on all levels. For one, although it serves traditional English beers it is pleasantly free of Toby jugs and other pseudo-traditional adornments. The architecture is modern, stylish, and very practical (except for the odd funnel-shaped bar). Second, the food is fresh and well prepared. There are a couple of standard pub offerings but on the whole it is a big step above average. Third, and most interestingly for me, the staff are genuinely friendly, really appear to enjoy working there, and can actually answer questions with more than the standard “Um, well everyone seems to like Beer X.” Lastly, the beer and wine range is fantastic - great quality, and mostly local, without stretching itself too wide.
My pick of the house ales was the Golding Bitter (the lowest alcohol brew at 3.7%), which is huge in fragrant hop resins and summer fruit notes. The beer carries it’s bitterness very well, with a nice sweet and fruity malt structure (and it’s distinct lack of fizzy bite from the low carbonation), so those who usually struggle with bitter beers should not be scared off. The bar staff recommend it mixed 50/50 with the stronger Challenger but I enjoyed many pints of it on it’s own.
Other house brews are Challenger, a strong and aromatic bitter; Centennial, a well-hopped and malty American Ale; and Twisted Ankle, a very strong rich brown ale. There’s always a range of excellent guest beers on tap too, for those who don’t like it “warm and flat” (the beers are actually served slightly cooler than would be standard in the UK). While we were in the guests were Emerson’s Pilsner, Wigram Dunkel and Three Boys IPA.
New Zealand cities could do with more bars that hit the mark like this place. In the meantime The Twisted Hop alone is worth a price of a trip to Christchurch. I’ll certainly be back.
LINKS: Twisted Hop
SOBA – www.soba.org.nz (The Twisted Hop offers a 10% discount on their own beers to all SOBA cardholders).
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