When it comes to delicious beer options, visitors to Mahurangi are increasingly spoilt for choice. I can vividly remember visiting The Matakana Pub when the beer choices included Speights, Speights and more Speights – but now even The Matakana has an excellent line-up of tasty brews from local and regional craft breweries. Warkworth’s Tahi Bar was an early-adopter and now local cafés and restaurants have cottoned on to the trend toward tasty beer, too, with most now offering at least a few bottles of the good stuff.
Unfortunately, our local swagger in this area took a pretty major hit back in October following the devastating fire that ripped through Sawmill Brewery on Leigh Road. While the damage to the building looked relatively limited from the outside, the story was completely different on the inside, with an extensive rebuild required before Mike Sutherland, Kirsty McKay and their team could reopen their doors to the public. I visited Mike and Kirsty at the brewery the day after the fire. A cool and calm Kirsty summed-up their que sera attitude in two words: “We’re resilient.”. Mike, true to form, was already joking about creating a smoked beer with the contents of the well-charred tanks. Resilience is exactly what the team are showing in the months after the fire. Rather than waiting for their brewery to be rebuilt, they’ve enlisted the help of friends from other breweries (including fellow locals 8 Wired) to borrow space, so they can keep up with demand for their most popular Sawmill beers. All being well, the current plan is to be back brewing at Leigh Road by April and to re-open the Smoko Room restaurant by the end of July. I’m confident I speak for the whole community in wishing Mike, Kirsty and their resilient team a mixture of aroha and kaha as they rebuild their dream.
On a somewhat brighter note, the fabulous new 8 Wired Barrelworks has opened on Matakana Valley Road. With industrial chic tones, the roomy and refined tasting room offers 20 taps of unique 8 Wired beers, as well as a guest cider tap, which is currently pouring an offering from local legends Bohemian Cider. But perhaps most exciting for my fellow beer nerds is the extensive collection of rare bottles that are exclusively available at Barrelworks – both to takeaway and to drink on site. Owners Søren and Monique Eriksen have been hoarding a few cases of ‘rare as hen’s teeth’ bottles going back to 2010, when the brewery was Blenheim-based and in its infancy. Fans of their famous Wild Feijoa sour ale are in for a treat, with every annual release available right back to the inaugural 2013 vintage. Vertical tasting, anyone? But it’s perhaps the hefty stout lovers who should make tracks as soon as possible to Barrelworks to sample rare big boppers including Batch 18 – a 12.5 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume) silky imperial stout, which was literally the 18th batch of beer that 8 Wired ever made. Also, pinot noir barrel-aged Bumaye imperial stout and its insane freeze-distilled cousin Frozen Bumaye, are available until they’re gone forever. With only 100 bottles of Frozen Bumaye ever made, time is ticking for those who want a once-in-a-lifetime beer drinking experience. However, at nearly 30 per cent ABV, going shares in a bottle with a few mates is heartily encouraged.