It was the longest, darkest night of the year.
And it was full of warming beers and good company.
New Zealand’s Society of Beer Advocates held its second Matariki Beer Festival last Saturday. Matariki marks the winter solstice and Maori New Year, and at this time of year, the sun has set in Wellington by 5pm.
Obviously this was an occasion for big winter warmers, and the brewers provided. At least 17 brewers were represented from with more than 24 beers. Most were from New Zealand, but Japan (Baird), Australia (Bridge Road) and the USA (Green Flash) kept the event international.
Some of the brews were old favourites, but others had been brewed for the first time and were launched at Matariki. One of the most popular was Brewaucracy’s Punkin’ Image Ltd, a collaboration between Liberty Brewing and Greig McGill. Greig is a keen home brewer, SOBA supporter, and blogger , while Liberty Brewing supplies brewing materials, so this was no ordinary collaboration. With 20 per cent roasted pumpkin in the grist, it is no ordinary beer either. Earthy, spicy and with great mouthfeel, this is my favourite use for pumpkins short of target practice.
Invercargill Brewery came in with Men’nskurrts Strong, based on a strong Scotch ale including smoky peat reek malts. Like the Punkin’, Men’nskurrts had a silly name and was immensely popular with the crowd. It was my favourite too.
Other favourites (do I have to have just one? No!) were Yeastie Boys 2011 Her Majesty and Baird Kurofune Porter. Three Boys Oyster Stout was my go-to beer last winter and I was very pleased to see it held its own in this challenging company.
The Matariki Festival is a great Wellington event, and I met beer fans from across the country, from Australia, the USA and Brazil. If you’re looking for a great way to spend a winter afternoon in Wellington, you could do a lot worse.