Seventeenth century monks came up with the idea of producing strong, malty beer to maintain their energy and spirits during the 40-day fasting season of Lent.

A handful of centuries later, and half a world away, the idea of drinking darker beer to cheer yourself up for the oncoming winter has caught on at Okere Falls. Chuck in hearty food and fantastic entertainment, and you have the makings of the holy grail of good times - another Okere Falls Beer Festival.

Organisers asked breweries to send their favourite drops for tasting and the result is 12 different beers from all over New Zealand and the world, ready to be won over by ale connoisseurs.

"Many of them are unique and have stories to go with them such as 'Sami Claus,' a beer that is only brewed on December 7 in Germany, for the Christmas festivities," said Kimi Chater, Okere Falls Store promotions co-ordinator.


To ensure people went away knowing what they had sampled, everyone entering the beer fest will be given a beer passport where they can make tasting notes.

Ms Chater recommends getting a group of friends together to share the different beers, "as no-one would be able to work their way through all of them, but you want to try as many flavours as possible."

As well as beer, hearty stroganoff and hot apple strudel, and an eclectic mix of music is on offer throughout the weekend.

Kicking off the entertainment tonight is local Stella Maris, winner of 2012 Pacifica Beats Best Song.

Andre Manella from Sonic Delusion takes the stage at 7.30pm laying down a funky, electro-coustic folk vibe.

Tomorrow the line-up includes a band that appeals to "in the know" teenagers. Joe's Van is a group of young musicians from Mount Maunganui.

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Superhero then mix it up with a big band sound, and superhero costumes. Sal Valentine &
The Babyshakes will further fire up the crowd with a 10-piece soul and funk fusion.

"You wont be able to sit still once they perform, as they are amazing," said Ms Chater.

The festival continues on Sunday with Superhero Second Line, as well as members of The Waiheke Soul Orchestra, The Solomon Cole Band and These Automatic Changers along with international artists.

What: Strong Beer Festival
Where: Okere Falls Store
When: Tonight until Sunday