Mussel Inn - Onekaka, NZ
From Riwaka, NZ, one can take an incredibly twisty road up and over a mountain and into the Golden Bay area. It feels a little - no, make that a LOT - like the Shuswap area of BC. Farms, mountains, water, earthy hippie-types everywhere. And when you get to Onekaka, you will find the famous Mussel Inn
If a place ever belonged in the Shuswap, this is it. An overgrown, weathered-wood beer garden, peppered with slightly cranky hippie locals, a staff band that might or might not be playing that night... all good stuff.
And of course, there's the Inn's own beer and cider. The fresh version of their Captain Cooker manuka beer was bracing and herbal (a version of which Captain Cook was said to have brewed in order to ward off scurvy, much like spruce tip beer). Though to be perfectly honest, I wasn't blown away by their other beers. (Crannog Brewing - actually located in the Shuswap - is in no danger of losing its crown.) But it was still a cool place to visit.
If you forget your mobile phone at the Mussel Inn, go back for it in a BIG hurry. If you don't, and if the phone remains there for more than a few hours, they will nail it to a tree - right through the screen. You've been warned.
West Coast Brewing - Westport, NZ
As seen in a Westport, NZ homebrew shop window. Home distilling is clearly legal in NZ.
Right behind the far-too-grand art deco municipal hall in Westport is West Coast Brewing.
Unfortunately, due to some kind of licensing snafu, it's not open to the public. At all. Very unfortunate.
But fortunately, only a couple off blocks down the main street is Portabello, a restaurant run by Buck, a fellow from Oregon, and his Kiwi wife. They have the complete lineup of West Coast beers, and they also have an extremely good-value steak special for dinner. Go there and have the IPA, which is excellent.
The Hard Antler - Haast, NZ
Haast, NZ is tiny. There's only one pub in town. It's a Monteith's house (only serves Monteith's and other DB beers). But you've gotta love the local colour.
Antler tap handles.
And antlers everywhere!
Huge, original-growth native wood plank tables, too heavy for one person to move.
A particularly good specimen.
Local hunting heroes adorn both the pub stools in person, and the walls in photos.
Wanaka = the Okanagan with better mountains and far fewer people. It's a fantastic place to unwind for a few days. Its also home to a cool little bottle shop just a couple of blocks from the beach that has some interesting beer, and lets you drink it in-house.
Dr. Hops World Pale Ale is a really great, small-batch, contract-brewed pale ale made with around 7 hop varieties. Well worth a sample.
Pot - Kettle - Black is one of Mrs. Hoplog's favourite sayings, so naturally we had to try it as well.
Just a few kilometres from downtown Wanaka is the kitschy transport and toy museum.
Wanaka Beer Works - the local Wanaka brewery.
The brewing room has a window onto the museum's gift shop next door. The brewery is operated by a local couple - the Belgian husband works his butt off doing all the brewing and packaging work, while his very pregnant Kiwi wife conducts tours and pours beer while trying to corral her precocious three-year-old girl at the same time. A very, very busy family!
The tour included three beer samples. I enjoyed their standard NZ pilsener, and found their seasonals pretty interesting if not exactly quaffable - they featured ingredients such as sage, nettles, edelweiss flowers, etc. In general I didn't feel the brewery had any kind of theme to their beers, which were all pretty off-the-wall; which I suppose increases anticipation for each new beer release.
The tasting room wall included a list of all New Zealand breweries. New Zealand's population is only slightly bigger than BC's, and it appears to have a similar number of breweries (in the neighbourhood of 50).