Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Christchurch, NZ

Christchurch is a cool city, despite the fact that it was ravaged by earthquakes only two years ago.  Perhaps in part because it was ravaged by earthquakes.  There has been much thought put into how the city should be rebuilt, and a lot of ingenuity applied to keeping businesses and daily life going.  For example, shipping containers are all the rage for new cafes, shops and bars - such containers were used as temporary shelters and barriers just after the quakes, and they've run with the idea.

Case in point - Smash Palace, which is directly across the street from one of the area's many, many ruined churches.  This isn't a construction site, it's the finished open-air pub:

Scaffolding and plastic sheets for "walls."

A bus for the bar.

A portable building plus a shipping container for the kitchen.

Add some patio lanterns, and you've got a cozy, Portland-esque beer garden that serves simple but excellent burgers.

As well as some great beer, such as Twisted Hop's Hopback IPA on tap, and Liberty Brewing's Yakima Monster IPA (very Pacific Northwest style).

In fact, Christchurch was my first stop in New Zealand, and craft beer - real, small-brewer craft beer - is everywhere.  No offence to Australia, which clearly has some good beer, but New Zealand is kicking your butt when it comes to craft beer, at least in my experience.  Very happy times!

This Three Boys Oyster Stout was an absolutely fantastic seasonal.  Poured nicely despite the unfortunate choice of green glass bottles.

The Central Business District (CBD) was hit particularly hard by the quakes - most of it is still closed while they work to dismantle the unstable buildings.  Even the cathedral for which Christchurch is named is being taken down.  But there are some great opportunities to be pursued among the destruction.  For example, the other end of this partially collapsed building on the edge of the CBD (above) survived the quake just fine, and has become:

Cassels & Sons new pub!  Instead of trekking to the edge of the suburbs to their brewery, you can now enjoy great beer, tasty food and a huge, laid-back patio with views of tourists taking walking tours of the damaged CBD.

Subtle poetry I can appreciate

Lots of British-style beers were on tap, but I particularly liked the ESB.  This is also where I discovered that New Zealand cask ales are never served colder than 9 C.  I respect the attention to detail, and I don't like frozen beer, but this is definitely on the warm side for me.  No matter, bring them on!

True to form, we seem to schedule most of our holidays so that they naturally miss all of the best festivals.  Such as this one, happening one week after we leave New Zealand.  Sigh...

A random bottle I picked up at the grocery store turned out to be fantastic: a rye Cascadian dark (black IPA) from Renaissance Brewing in Blenheim (NZ wine country).  We marked Renaissance on our itinerary as a place to visit if possible.

There were so many good coffee shops and eateries that we didn't have time to visit all of them in just a day or two.  Such as the above container-based beer garden Revival (one block from Smash Palace), with permanently on-site Lebanese food truck.

But we did make a point of visiting Pomeroy's, Christchurch's answer to Vancouver's Alibi Room.  Comfortable surroundings, good beer selection, and even a guided beer tour by Matt S (@MattSNZ), a VanBrewer who recently returned to his native Christchurch.

If you have a chance to visit Christchurch, take it.  If you like beer, jump at the chance.

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