Wellington is New Zealand’s must-visit beer city: the Kiwi Beervana. It’s the best place to take in the country’s beer scene, to see what’s happening now and next, and to visit a few great brewers and many great bars, plus it’s a generally excellent city to visit.
Garage Project (68 Aro Street, Aro Valley, Wellington 6021) is the city’s big-name brewery attraction. They opened in 2011, wanting to put a brewery in the center of the city and to open it for people to visit— surprisingly, for a place that had a great beer scene, there wasn’t a centrally located brewery before Garage Project. They started with a tiny kit and chose always to brew new things, experimental and varied, and that beginning has stuck with them, though they’ve also added some more refined and consistent beers. They now open the brewery doors for samples, growler fills, and merch, and also have a trendy taproom across the street (at 91 Aro Street) with 20 taps of their beer.
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The beers are intriguingly varied. Many have foodie inspirations, including Cereal Milk Stout, which is brewed with cornflakes, or Death from Above, a US-hopped IPA with mango, Vietnamese mint, lime, and chili. Also look for Pernicious Weed, their excellent Double IPA, or Sauvin Nouveaux, a Pilsner base brew with freshly pressed Sauvignon Blanc grape juice and lots of Nelson Sauvin hops on top. The taproom is a cool place; the beers all sounded great—and were largely irresistible to me. They also looked great, and mostly tasted great, though, for me, none quite reached the huge heights of the hype, all just slightly missing a clean preciseness of flavor. But you’ll want to go to Garage Project—it’s essential in Welly.
Also essential is drinking Kelly Ryan’s beers in Fork & Brewer (20A Bond Street, Wellington 6011). You go in and upstairs, and the first thing you see is the brewery at the top of the stairs. Walk a full circle around the large central bar and it’s a smart brewery restaurant, with around 25 of their own beers always on tap and all brewed with the kit by the entrance. The beer list includes almost every style you might want, from bright, clean lagers to boldly hoppy Pale Ales, to smooth-spicy Wheat beers and a bunch of Sours. They are the best-brewed beers you’ll find nearby, always balanced and clean and exceptionally well made.
Garage Project serve up some of the finest beers not just in Wellington, but in the whole of the country and their taproom is an essential bucket-list tick.
Tuatara Brewing have a bar called The Third Eye (30 Arthur Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011) in town, or, if you’re driving into Wellington from the north, then you’ll pass by the brewery and tasting room—(7 Sheffield Street, Paraparaumu 5032)—around 30 miles (50km) away. Stop at one of these for good Pale Ales and an excellent Pilsner. There’s also Black Dog Brewery (17-19 Blair Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011), which is more scruffy pup than pedigree, but has some good brews. Husk (62 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011) is a café, bar, coffee roaster, and brewery. It’s a funky space with the brewery dominating at the back and producing some interesting beers.
The bars first turned Wellington into New Zealand’s best beer city and they continue to be the best places to drink. I really liked Rogue & Vagabond (18 Garrett Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011). It’s vibrant and visually interesting, with comfy seating inside and plastic cups so that you can take your pint outside. They have a good range of local brews on tap. Golding’s Free Dive (14 Leeds Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011) is on a foodie crossroads, a developed industrial space just off hip Cuba Street, with tasty things on every corner, including a great restaurant called Shepherd, a pizza place, a soda-maker, a bakery, a coffee shop, and Golding’s, which has seven well-picked taps and is colorful, fun, and friendly. You can order in pizza from opposite.
Little Beer Quarter (6 Edward Street Te Aro, Wellington 6011) is a cozy, well-worn, old pub with a lively, unfussy, relaxed atmosphere. The 20-odd taps are from around New Zealand and they pour some beers you won’t find elsewhere in Welly. Malthouse (48 Courtenay Place, Te Aro, Wellington 6011) has the broadest and biggest tap list in town and they pick from all over the country, again including beers you won’t find in other local bars. There’s also Hashigo Zake (25 Taranaki Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011), which is a “cult beer bar” that feels a little jaded in comparison to other places, as if it hasn’t moved on from when it was the must-visit bar, but it’s still worth visiting, especially if you want to drink non-NZ beers (it’s run by a beer importer).
Wellington is a great beer city. It’s a great city full stop. It’s a delicious destination, one that’s creative and chilled out, with excellent food and drink choices. It’s New Zealand’s essential beer destination.
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