Walking tour of Wellington’s best beer spots is more than a grown-up pub crawl as our well-shod correspondent discovered.
It was an overcast, but warm, Saturday morning when I joined 12 other nervous, yet excited, people at Wellington’s popular Garage Project Brewery in the city’s Aro Valley. We had gathered for the inaugural public excursion hosted by the Wellington beer tasting company, Craft Beer College.
All armed with appropriate footwear, there was a good mix of attendees for the walking tour – both men and women, some were die-hard beer aficionados, others were just interested in taking a closer look at the city’s growing beer scene. There was even an American couple who thought it would be a great way to spend their only full day in Wellington. One of our three tour guides, Steph Coutts, greeted everyone with a warm smile and a goodie bag, which included a Teku beer glass to take home. And then we were straight into it.
Tour guide Phil Cook, who also works at Garage Project, started things off by introducing us to the brew house and telling the remarkable growth story of the brewery. We were given three beer samples over the course of the Garage Project tour – Beer, Hapi Daze and Death From Above – all of which were also discussed in detail by Phil. We also got to check out the cluttered canning and bottling area next door to the brew house, which we were assured was as tidy as it ever gets.
Our third tour guide, Ryan McArthur, then led us to our next destination, the beer bar Rogue and Vagabond, pointing out Wellington beer landmarks along the way. We took a seat as our Teku glasses were filled with Panhead’s White Wall, and Steph chatted about the short history of the Upper Hutt brewery and the Rogue and Vagabond bar.
It was lunch time when we moved on to Little Beer Quarter, where a pint of Emerson’s Bookbinder awaited. Our guides discussed the selling of the brewery to Lion a few years ago, and since we were a few beers in by this stage, almost everyone chipped in their thoughts on the sale. The American tourists also shared some similar examples from the US. The conversation barely died down as the huge plates of fish and chips and beef burgers arrived at our tables.
Completely stuffed, we were grateful it was just a short walk to the Fork & Brewer. We tried a selection of their house brews, including a 7 per cent weisenbock called Hop Sin Vice, as we were told more about the brewery and its utilisation of space. We had the chance to take a quick look around the brewery and it soon became clear the comments about space were no exaggeration as we squeezed past tanks.
And then it was time for our last walk of the day. Our guides marched us to the ever-popular Golding’s Free Dive, which was unusually quiet and had enough room for us to spread out on the comfy bar stools. It was a very relaxed atmosphere as Garage Project’s Aro Noir was poured into our glasses, and after hearing more about Golding’s and the beer before us, we ended the tour chatting among ourselves and finding out more about each of our companions.
I felt the walking tour was good value at $122.50 per person – the tastings were generous and the size of the lunch exceeded my expectations. The guides were well-informed and all of the venues were incredibly accommodating and generous with their time. We spent plenty of time at each location too and it never felt like we were being rushed from place to place.
The walking itself was easy-going and the furthest walk – between Garage Project and Rogue and Vagabond – was not far at all. The guides also broke that leg up with plenty of information about Wellington’s beer past and beer present.
The excursion would particularly suit overseas tourists and out-of-towners, or those wanting to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of Wellington’s most popular breweries. Craft Beer College also has plans to offer other tour options alongside the Cuba Quarter excursion in the near future.
Craft Beer College Excursion – Cuba Quarter Walking Tour
Cost: $122.50 per person – all tastings and food included
Duration: Approximately 4 hours
Pursuit of Hoppiness attended the Cuba Quarter Walking Tour courtesy of organiser Craft Beer College