Wellington has become known as the craft beer capital of New Zealand: there are breweries to check out all over the region, along with regular festivals and beer events (including an annual Oktoberfest festival held by the water). To sample some of the city’s best pints, a brewpub tour is in order. From a craft beer “village” in bush-clad Upper Hutt to a spot in the city run by a hospo family with 20 years of experience, here are six places to start.
A giant hand holding up a tarot card marks the spot for Fortune Favours: a grungy brewpub in the Leeds Street precinct (a renovated alleyway with trendy shops and street art – you know the vibe). The name is inspired by owner Shannon Thorpe’s scary leap from the corporate world into making beer full-time. Here, you can try one-off specialty brews from the craft beer brand, like a nutty Peanut Slab porter or the Sun Chaser cider which is made with New Zealand blueberries. For food, Fortune Favours collaborates with two venues down the road: The Cheese Wheel for cheese and meat platters, and Gorilla Burger for burgers and fries.
Parrotdog is the project of three friends (all named Matt) who met at university and decided to brew beer. Their brewhouse is a relaxed and popular establishment a block back from Lyall Bay beach, a popular surf beach. The venue is split into a pub and a cellar door: the pub is laidback and retro-style, with cosy booths, a pool table, quiz nights, burger specials and live music. The cellar door is called Nice Takeaway: a simple spot with a line of taps along the wall, where you can fill up a growler with your favourite ale and take it home.
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Panhead’s industrial brewpubs in Wellington CBD and Brewtown are the best places to try all the brand’s “boutique bogan” beers, from standard drops (like the tropical, hazy pale ale Sandman) to more original one-offs (the salty Margarita gose sour beer, inspired by the summer cocktail). Co-founder Mike Neilson was a prolific homebrewer before he partnered with high school mate Josh Drake (who was, helpfully, an accountant) in 2013 to start the brand. On Sundays in summer there’s often live music in the beer garden and you can grab a burger alongside a tasting paddle of beers.
A lofty space on Ghuznee Street in Wellington with a bar, restaurant and brewery section, Whistling Sisters is named to honour the sister of founder Lisa Butcher, Karen, who passed away from breast cancer in 2015. The brewpub is run by a family who have been in Wellington’s hospitality industry for 20 years, and 20 cents from every can of craft beer sold goes towards a cancer fund set up in Karen’s name. The brand’s beers are intentionally “easy-going” and designed to be balanced and clean – so they pair perfectly with food from the restaurant.
Upper Hutt is an area known for fresh air and pristine water. It’s now become a bit of a craft beer mecca and is home to Brewtown, a craft beer “village”, along with activities like ice skating, axe throwing, gigs and a farmer’s market. Spend a day there and check out the Wild Kiwi distillery, Te Aro, Good George, Kererū, plus Panhead and Boneface (which are both on this list). It’s within walking distance of Upper Hutt train station, so you can indulge in a tasting paddle without worrying about driving home.
One of many breweries inside Brewtown, Boneface is a craft beer brand inspired by the world of sci-fi (all beers are inspired by Planet Hopton, the planet of hops). The brewery is a gorgeous industrial-style space in Upper Hutt with big windows that give you views of the surrounding hills. The brand’s standard beers are always on tap, but owner Matt Dainty likes to experiment with out-there brews like his vanilla coffee imperial stout and “soul sucker” raspberry and lime sour. The kitchen serves pub classics like burgers and cheese fries.
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Wellington NZ.