Good for what ales you

By Victoria Bartle

Mainstream pubs make Mic Dover grumpy and his friends are tired of him asking bar staff why they don't stock locally made beer. But if he finds a little out-of-the-way brewery where real ale is quietly fermenting, or a small pub that sells beer made by craft brewers in small batches, he may be in beer heaven.

Then Dover met Nelson local and beer fan Eelco A. Boswijk. The pair set up Dead Good Beer Events and organised their first beer fete in June last year. There have been two more since with ever-growing crowds - the most recent attracted 750 patrons to the spacious old granary and grounds of Nelson's Founder's Heritage Park.

Now they're going even bigger with MarchFest, which will have enough food and craft beers on offer to keep 2500 people satisfied.

"MarchFest will be the first New Zealand beer festival to feature nothing but brand-new Kiwi beers," Dover says.

"The beers have been created by just four local boutique breweries. Each was given the task of creating a new beer especially for the festival, and it had to include locally grown hops."

The event is very loosely based on Munich's infamous OktoberFest and the organisers have big hopes for it. "We're aiming to become the Southern Hemisphere's foremost beer festival, attracting beer lovers from around the world to taste unique Kiwi craft beers in this world-class setting of Nelson."

The brewers for the inaugural event are The Mussel Inn from Golden Bay, the Nelson-based Tasman Brewery and Founders Organic Brewery, and Townshends Brewery from the nearby Moutere Valley. Patrons will be ordering beers with amusing and meaningful names such as March Hare and Easter Ale or a Straw Beery Blonde

And, there won't be any chunky dishwasher-scarred glass mugs handed over the bar. Dead Good Beer Events has commissioned commemorative glasses for MarchFest. They'll have 14-carat gold rims, be inscribed with the event's name and date, and patrons will be able to take them home. Local wine will be available for those not game to wrestle with a brew.

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MarchFest takes place on Saturday, March 29 from 1am-9pm at Founders' Heritage Park in Nelson - rain or shine. Tickets are $25 each. See www.MarchFest.com for more details.

Nelson is an 80-minute direct flight from Auckland. Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to Nelson about 69 times a week, with Smart Saver fares frequently available from $89 one-way. Or, check Air New Zealand's 24-hour bargain "Grab-a-Seat" site for one-way fares from around $59.

Find accommodation, transport and other information about Nelson on nelsonnz.com

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