Beer O’Clock: Galbraith’s Ale House, Auckland
Neil from Realbeer visits the iconic Galbraith’s Ale House in Auckland. This is his 'morning after' review.
Just getting to Galbraith’s Ale House proved interesting in its own way. The taxi driver nodded sagely when I said "Galbraith’s Ale House," and then proceeded to head off in what even my limited Auckland geography knew was completely the wrong way.
It turned out he thought I said Galbraith Street, but as he didn't actually know where that was either he was apparently planning to drive to the Viaduct and look it up on his map there. I guess he figured I was just a tourist. What he hadn't realised was that I was a thirsty tourist.
Of course, Galbraith’s is worth fighting through bad taxi service to get to. Hell, it's worth fighting through a long workday to get to. In a fine old building which was originally a public library (and later a line-dancing night club!) it is now one of the country's finest brewpubs, and it remains the only brewery I've seen with an art deco plaster ceiling - perfect after a hard night when you manage to land face up instead of face down.
This is a place which has got the fundamentals right, a place where regulars can feel comfortable knowing it isn't going to change to meet every passing fad and fancy on the bar scene. As a result, Galbraith's regulars are incredibly loyal, and the core of the business. There is even a certain table where it doesn't matter who you are - a regular can kick you off with no right of appeal.
The owner and brewer, Keith Galbraith, is adamant he won't move away from the basics of good beer and good food, and given how busy his bar was on the three times I visited (that's three times in three days), he has absolutely no need to. Despite three lengthy visits, my tasting notes are sketchy, hard to read or just plain missing. Or perhaps that's because of three lengthy visits. In any case, here are some I prepared on my previous trip:
Named after Galbraith’s mentor, Bob Hudson’s Bitter (4%) pours with a thick, solid and persistent head. It has a medium body with a lovely long finish. Though technically a sweetish beer, the taste impression is actually quite dry and refreshing. It lives up to the brewer’s description of a “hop driven session beer.”After three days of in depth research I can confirm that these are comments I still stand by. There have been only minor tweaks to the range since I wrote them (mainly to the Pilsner and to the Resurrection, which is now bigger, fuller, stronger and - in my opinion - even better).
The best selling beer is Bellringers' Best Bitter (4.5%) which was named after a group of regulars who were bell ringers at a nearby church. It is darker and bigger than the Bitter and more flavoursome with plenty of strong fruit, malt and caramel flavour. To maintain the balance, the hop finish is stronger and longer.
Bitter and Twisted (5.3%) is Galbraith’s 'Extra Special' Bitter. If the Best Bitter is a bigger version of the Bitter, then this is a hulked up Best Bitter. It has a huge hoppy, floral nose with a massive malt body and long, smooth, bitter finish. It is a dangerously drinkable beer and my favourite of the range.
Brewed in the tradition of a stout porter, Grafton Porter (5%) is the darkest beer in the range. It has a strong toasty nose with hints of hop evident. The beer has plenty of chocolate and roasted notes in the body before finishing with some cleansing bitterness.
Recognising the demand for a good lager, Galbraith's have produced the tasty Bohemian Pilsner (4.3%). Made with plenty of good malt and hops, this quaffable beer is well balanced with yeasty, fruity notes in the mid-palate balance off by plenty of hop bitterness.
The strongest beer in the range is the Trappist-style Resurrection (8.7%). It pours a darkish – almost orangey – colour with a pillowed white head. The beer, reminiscent of Chimay White, has heaps of fruit and yeast notes and is very dry. It’s delicious.
My favorites remain the Resurrection and the Bitter and Twisted, but with such a fine range there is a good pint here for all to enjoy.
Society of Beer Adcovates (SOBA)
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