Nothing, I repeat, nothing prepares you for Beervana weekend. As soon as those doors open at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, it's like walking into hop heaven. It's an Aladdin's cave of craft, a veritable wonderland of foamy, malty magic.
This year, on August 9 and 10, more than 200 beers from 71 breweries and cider makers will be showcased to beer lovers from all over.
As well as getting a look at the breadth of craft brewing and cider making from across the country, attendees will also have the opportunity to try leading craft beers from Australia, from pioneer US craft brewer Samuel Adams and rapidly rising star from Scotland - Brewdog.
The Black Rock Home Brew Competition is also back at Beervana this year, giving the growing number of aspiring home brewers a chance to have their beer judged for the ultimate prize of becoming Champion Home Brewer 2013.
One of the best things about Beervana, however, is the food. This year, culinary director Martin Bosley has co-ordinated some of the capital's best chefs to create fantastic beer and food pairings. Plus, if you visit www.beervana.co.nz you can discover a range of entertaining and informative seminars on offer, including how to brew your own beer.
There are two sessions to choose from, 11am-4pm or 6pm-11pm, and tickets are $45 from www.ticketek.co.nz
Home brew crew ... The good folk at Crafty Beers are running a mass brew education workshop on Thursday August 8 at Regional Wines at Wellington's Basin Reserve, with the assistance of Little Beer Quarter (LBQ), Fork & Brewer and Parrot Dog Brewery.
It will run from 11am-3pm and is a condensed version of the Brewers Guild Certificate in the Craft of Beer, but you'll still get your 11 credits and Certificate. Organisers Tom-the-Pom Jones and his wife, Vicki Yarker-Jones (or Vicki Purple for short), have also negotiated a deal with the Brewers Guild to run the course for only $245 a person, a saving of $100 on the regular price.
For full details see www.brewersguild.org.nz
Nelson Brew Trail
Fancy a short ride and a long pint? Then Nelson, the craft brewing capital of New Zealand, may be the place to go.
Three of Nelson's craft breweries have got together with local cycle tour provider The Gentle Cycling Co to offer a dreamy, beer-tasting, bike-touring experience that celebrates Nelson's status as the home of craft beer. The three breweries, McCashin's, Bays and Lighthouse, are conveniently located within a 7km bike ride of the Gentle Cycling HQ, where you'll be kitted out with bike, helmet and map. From there, you can pedal at your own pace along the easygoing route to sample some of the beers on tap in the Craft Brewing capital and enjoy a tasty lunch along the way.
As well as bike and helmet hire, idiot-proof map and return shuttle to Nelson accommodations, the $75-a-person price includes all tastings, tours and lunch. Visit www.gentlecycling.co.nz or phone 0800WEBIKE
Beer and Blanc Collide
In a case of grape meeting grain, Sauvin Nouveau is an interesting new imperial pilsner by the boys at Garage Project, brewed with sauvignon blanc juice from Martinborough's Palliser Estate.
They've taken fresh sauvignon blanc juice and fermented it with pilsner wort, then brewed it with an extravagant late addition of Nelson sauvin hops.
"Vin Nouveau meet Sauvin Nouveau in a vintage harvest pilsner of crisp and intense aromatic fruit complexity, where the flavours of beer and wine intertwine so closely it's almost indecent," says a comment on Palliser's Facebook page.
"The aroma of this beer is amazing - lime, guava and passionfruit with some lovely hoppy notes coming through. On the palate very fresh and vibrant."
Sips of the week
Harrington's Breweries Baltic Porter 500ml ($9 8.5%)
This beer has a lovely salted caramel, somewhat briny aroma and there are hints of dark chocolate and aniseed flavours in the mouth. Deliciously smooth, beautifully balanced with a surprisingly clean, refreshing finish. A new dark beer favourite for me.
Twisted Hop Brewery Sauvin Pilsner 500ml ($9 5%)
A burst of lemony fresh, herbalicious aromatics opens the gates to fruity, vibrant mouthfeel which lines up nicely to a solid seam of bitterness right through to the long, clean finish. www.thetwistedhop.co.nz
Monteith's Brewers Series Double Hopped IPA 500ml ($6.30 7.5%)
Hop lovers ahoy! Tony Mercer and his team have used a smorgasbord of hop varieties and a handful of malts to create a beer with a solid, foamy head, vigorously intense herbaceous flavours, bitterness like when you chew on a grapefruit pip and a cracking finish that lasts and lasts. www.monteiths.co.nz
Hancock & Co. Cardinal Red Ale 330ml ($13 x 4pk)
Relatively new to shop shelves, this is a gutsy ale with a rich, malty, nutty aroma followed by hints of smoke, peanut skin and fresh hop bitterness. Superb with spicy food. www.hancockbrewing.co.nz