Thursday, 24 December 2009

New Year

With the mailing list, facebook and the demands of work in general this blog has been a little neglected lately. But for the hell of it, here are some clues about what may or may not happen on the night of December 31.

At the very least we will be putting on what is probably the last keg in New Zealand of Hopwired, the extraordinary IPA from 8 Wired Brewing.

What else goes on is pretty much in the hands of our Freight Forwarding/Logistics company and the trucking companies they use. Apparently our shipment of fabulous west coast beer was due to arrive in Tauranga today (the 24th) and then has to be taken to Auckland then Wellington. I've got no idea why it can't come straight to Wellington. But apparently there's a chance it will arrive by New Year's Eve, in which case we plan to unleash two kegs of fresh hoppy goodness at different times during the evening.

Of course the chances of this working out are still around 50%, so we happen to have some good backups in the cellar. Croucher's Vicar's Vice and Emerson's Maris Gold maybe.

Update :- a container ship that may be the one carrying our order docked at Tauranga at about midnight last night.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


This was a huge bonus. I got invited to a small gathering at a new bar in Shibuya called Craftheads. It's the second outlet belonging to Koji Nomura (the first one being the far more remote Sal's in Saginuma).

I like the way Koji has taken a fairly basic space and let function pretty much define the way he has filled it. But by using solid, chunky furniture and letting his taps and bourbon collection dominate the bar he has actually created a surprisingly inviting atmosphere. See

As well as the owner Koji (a.k.a. Michael) were beer writers Tim Eustace and Bryan Harrell, Kjetil Jikuin of Nøgne-Ø and Eigo Sato of Tamamura Honten (brewers of Shiga Kogen beer).

Koji has cultivated such good relations with US brewers that he can stock beers on tap and in bottles that are rare in the cities they originate in, let alone in another country. The bar is pretty much a home away from home for breweries like Three Floyds, Bear Republic, Stone and Allagash. All official imports - not grey market.

Koji had heard about the fuss created when Greg Koch of Stone learned of grey market imports of Stone into New Zealand and isn't short of an opinion. I'll leave readers to guess the nature of those opinions.

Kjetil didn't arrive empty handed. He provided a very early, uncarbonated sample of a radical new Nøgne-Ø beer called Red Horizon. It was fermented slowly, at low temperatures using a sake yeast to no less than 17%ABV. You'd swear it had been fortified. With a little age and a little carbonation this is going to be an instant classic.

Kjetil also hinted at some other upcoming Nøgne-Ø releases, such as an Imperial Dunkelwit(!), Beetroot Ale and a collaboration with Mikkeller and Brewdog. And sake brewing will begin soon.

I won't bore you with more details of what was said and drunk. Here is a picture of Kjetil, Sato-san and Koji discussing the technicalities of eco-kegs. What a pity that in a city of 37 million people the public transport shuts down so early.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Popeye, Maltan and smoke

First chance I got I visited Popeye in Ryogoku. While more places are opening up Popeye seems to retain its place as the natural home of craft beer around here. There were a few changes - a single, bilingual menu and the "Hops Heart" which is an ultra-late hopping device like the Randall. But the concept, the friendly well-dressed staff, the extraordinary beer list and the uncompromising prices are still unchanged. I got a congratulations on Hashigo Zake's opening from the legendary Aoki-san and it was a relief to hear the name Hashigo Zake get the laughs that it was meant to. I had a pint of Toshi's IPA (7%! and outrageously rich), two glasses from the Hops Heart (one passing through Centennial that smelt like a peach and custard danish and one Simcoe which was surprisingly restrained by comparison) and an Ozenoyukidoke IPA (always good).

Next it was a quick feed at an Izakaya and a reminder of the bad old days - cigarette smoke. While other countries resort to legislation to liberate our lungs, the Japanese government (50% shareholder in Japan Tobacco) all but make smoking compulsory by forcing smokers indoors.

Amends were made by a quick stop at Maltan in Kanda. It's an atmospheric underground bar with a good mix of tap and bottled beer. And particularly enjoyable when you come across it by chance.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pilgrimage to Numazu

A trip to Tokyo would hardly be worthwhile without a visit to the Baird Brewery in Numazu. Bryan gave me a thorough tour which also gave me a chance to say hello to legendary home brewer Chris Poel. Not that Chris can really claim to be a home brewer any more.

It's a surprise how small the brewery still is considering how many different beers are made and how far they are now reaching. But Bryan insisted that they could in theory quadruple production before having to expand. Having said that he did foresee a new brewery becoming necessary in two years.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Lean Two

Nothing like custom made furniture to really make a space. Thanks Florian.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Tastings Future

We've been busy planning and confirming the next phase of our in-house tasting programme. For some time we've had a Rogue XS tasting scheduled for Nov 10. It was fully subscribed but one cancellation has opened up two places for anyone quick enough to get in.

We can now confirm that that will be followed on Nov 17 by an event dedicated to Japan's (and Asia's?) best brewery - Baird Brewing.

Now that we have stocks of Flying Dog's Canis Major range we have enough of their products for a dedicated tasting, so that will be November 24.

The programme will take a break during the first week of December as the first Tuesday of any month is generally the night of a SOBA event. But we'll be back with a vengeance on December 8. We can't say with certainty what will be on the menu that night, but we will be starting with Sake. This is because we are regularly being asked to have a follow-up to September's Sake and Sumo tasting. But this time we won't stop with a simple wander through a representative range of sakes. Between now and December 8 I will personally fly to Tokyo and exhaustively search the inventory of the city's great liquor stores to come up with a range of fermented and distilled Japanese beverages unlike anything ever sampled in Wellington before. Who knows what we'll end up with - peach jelly infused sparkling sake? beer made with sake yeast? $500 whisky? There will only be one way to find out.

Tastings Past

It's been a week of tastings. First came Rogue on Tuesday, Hashigo Zake's best attended and rowdiest single brewery tasting so far. It must have been a success because by the end the XS tasting (in a couple of weeks) was fully booked. We've since had a cancellation so if anyone is interested in sampling six of the rare and special Rogue XS beers in one sitting there are two places available.

Next came our first ever custom tasting which was for Wellington's American Women's Network. We created a menu of eight American beers from five breweries using our inventory here at the bar. It seemed to be really well received too. There are likely to be more of these kinds of events. Anyone interested in working with us to come up with a tasting for a social or work group is welcome to get in touch.

Finally late on October 25 came our first ever invite-only, "landlord's selection" tasting, made up of around 20 beers, mostly from my own cellar, but augmented by a few random additions and some of Kieran Haslett-Moore's own output. I'd heard whispers that Kieran knew a thing or two about brewing traditional English beers but his Merchant of the Devil Imperial Stout was some eye-opener. Now the beers and the years took their toll on me the next morning afternoon. But before I'd even made it out of bed some of our attendees had been all over the web and facebook with reviews and comments. I dunno where these crazy youths get the energy. Here's Kieran's article on his employer's website: (Kieran, you left out Utopias and Eisenbahn Beer Likor.)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Festival Time

Here's the face of someone whose friends have just bought him a Mikkeller Festival Special Edition for his birthday. One and a half litres of grins.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Today we received in the mail a document I can only feel should be named: “How to charge over and over for the same thing.” It came from the Australasian Performing Right Association. It started with the sentence “We understand music may be being played at Hashigo Zake”. Not “we believe CDs are being played…” or “we believe live bands are playing..” BUT “music is being played”. It seems APRA are claiming ownership of all music. So much for whistling while you work. Yes that’s a facile interpretation but remember that if we turn the TV on, and at a sporting event some of that banal and infuriating incidental music is being played so loud it comes through on the TV broadcast, then APRA considers that background music is being played and a licence fee is payable.

Now we’re busy enough here at HZ HQ without picking a fight with the apparent guardians of the rights of performers. So we will probably pay the fee, which isn’t too much for us as we simply play a (very good) commercial free radio station. Although it would be good if the fee was relative to sound volume which would get us a huge discount over every other bar in the vicinity of Courtenay Place.

So instead of fighting APRA I plan to embrace their business model and borrow from it (while praying they won’t claim royalties). Henceforward we won’t be selling beer - we will be selling licences to taste. Note that by default the licences will only be to taste. All beer must be returned in a slops bucket. (You’ll never guess who’s buying those off us.) Anyone wanting to swallow their beer must return to the bar and upgrade their tasting licence to a consumption licence. And it doesn’t stop there. We’ll be installing an array of closed circuit television cameras to clamp down on the degenerate practice of beer-sharing. As soon as anyone is seen so much as pushing their glass across the table top towards a fellow customer a siren will sound and all occupants of the table will be detained until evidence of a beer-sharing licence is shown.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Well it finally arrived and it hasn't disappointed. A succession of oohs and aahs followed the unveiling of Rising Sun Pale Ale (APA) and the Harajuku Taproom Celebration Ale (American IPA). The Rainy Season Black Ale (a hopped porter) went down pretty well too.

We're already talking to the brewery about what to bring over in the next shipment. With the northern hemisphere winter coming they have a bunch of big, high-gravity beers conditioning now.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Saturdays seem to be the most challenging night of the week. There's no pattern to when people come in, sports events play havoc with customers' movements and it's the night with the highest proportion of people who really have no idea what kind of a bar they've (literally) stumbled into.

But we also seem to get a random mix of genuinely interesting customers. For instance last night we hosted our landlord(!), Mick from the Freehouse in Nelson, Deon from Tuatara (it's great to be able to tell a customer that they're standing next to the person who made their beer) and a brewer from Melbourne whose name I never learned but who seemed to know our bottle list better than we do.

Still.. 4pm to 4am is a long night especially when all the customers disappear for an hour in the middle of it. Even more so when Friday was spent unloading unspeakable volumes and varieties of beer.

Which reminds me - ETA for Baird beer is now Tuesday.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Hop Oil Orgy

That's how Bryan Baird describes his Harajuku Taproom Celebration Ale. The last I heard our first shipment of Baird Beer, including the one-off Harajuku Taproom Celebration Ale will arrive on Friday. The queue to taste these will form behind me.

Did I mention that we will be Baird's first outlet in the southern hemisphere?

The Harajuku Taproom Celebration Ale was brewed to celebrate the opening of the Harajuku Taproom (unsurprisingly) about a month ago. Here is a link to a review of the place by a legendary Tokyo barfly known as "Chuwy".

Friday, 18 September 2009

High Def

When we got Sky installed the lack of a High Definition decoder was a huge disappointment. It seemed that pubs weren't allowed them.

That's now changed and our tired old late '90s decoder was replaced today, letting us show sport in glorious high def.

For those with an allergy to sports bars please remember that there are no TVs in the lounge and in there you can remain oblivious to the fact there are people watching sport elsewhere.

Bledisloe Beer

Just a quick note to promote what's coming up this weekend. To coincide with the Bledisloe Cup game in Wellington we're grabbing the opportunity to put on some fine Australian beers that we have access to. I'm talking about Little Creatures (Pale Ale and Roger's), Wicked Elf Pale, Bridge Road Bling IPA and Hargreave's Hill ESB. They'll be taking over whichever taps become available over the next couple of days.

And we've been shopping around as well. Thanks to Mexi-foods and Regional Wines and Spirits we suddenly have access to Sierra Nevada and Anchor Beer. We barely had them in the door today (Thursday) and they started flying off the shelves. Enjoy.

Friday, 11 September 2009


Mikkeller is here! Unloaded this afternoon with a few bottles straight into the fridge and more to join them tonight and tomorrow.

Feast your eyes on one of our six magnums of the 2009 Special Festival Ale.

Here's the full list.

  • Simcoe IPA
  • Nugget IPA
  • Nelson Sauvin IPA
  • Tjekket Pilsner
  • Jackie Brown 330ml and 750ml
  • Warrior IPA
  • Struise
  • Draft Bear
  • USAlive!
  • Monks Elixir
  • Fra Til (From To)
  • Oatgoop
  • Festival Special Edition
  • Big Worse Barleywine

  • And in the same shipment - more Meantime:
  • Coffee Porter
  • London Porter 330ml and 750ml
  • Chocolate Porter
  • IPA 330ml and 750ml
  • Winter Time
  • Elderflower Maibock
  • Wednesday, 9 September 2009

    Tasting Calendar

    We've been planning a calendar of regular tastings at Hashigo Zake and now's the time to make some noise about them and start accepting bookings.

    First up will be a journey through the beers of Norway's celebrated, maverick brewery Nøgne Ø.

    Nøgne Ø was founded in 2002 by two home brewers. One of them (Kjetil Jikiun) also happens to be an airline pilot who has used his time travelling and his affability to forge links with renowned breweries in Japan (Shiga Kogen), Denmark (Mikkeller) and the US (Stone & Jolly Pumpkin). Luckily the beer is also uncannily good, so for a small brewery their reputation has spread disproportionately.

    I was lucky enough to meet Kjetil in Tokyo late last year and this set in motion a sequence of events that led to us becoming Nøgne Ø's first outlet in New Zealand.

    At the moment we have seven of Nøgne Ø's beers and this includes some of their best - the intense Imperial Stout, the IIPA/Barley Wine called #100, the puzzling Sahti and (don't tell DB) their Saison. Try it before they set their lawyers on us.

    We are now taking bookings for this tasting.

    A week later we will host something a little different - a Sake tasting with live (televised) Sumo thrown in. Our cocktail and sake expert, Shigeo Takagi, will guide us through a sampling of our sake range, plus a few special extras, climaxing in live coverage from Tokyo of the September Grand Sumo Tournament. The tasting will be oriented to beer drinkers - experience with sake will not be a pre-requisite.

    To book for either of these, call the bar at (04) 384-7300 or send us an email at The price for both events is $30.

    Cylon Beer Dispenser

    We found some space on our bar top to install one of the self-contained keg pouring systems that White Cliffs Brewing make available for serving their 10 litre kegs. So we now have nine taps and Mike's Mild is in our lineup, with the new Mike's Pilsener waiting to come on next.

    Tagger Caught in the Act

    I was thinking of offering a prize to the thousandth person to come in and suggest that we put a sign outside. Well soon we'll have the sign pictured, plus a sandwich board and eventually a sign bolted to the facade of 25 Taranaki St.

    Speaking of taggers, someone fitting the description of the culprit in my Crimewatch post has a court appearance in a few days. I might have to take the day off to be a spectator in the courthouse. Or maybe even a witness.

    Sunday, 30 August 2009

    Preview time

    The paint's dry, the taps are working and an eftpos terminal miraculously appeared late on Friday. If the business was software we'd be in beta testing. So since the middle of last week (Aug 26) we've been letting customers in. Not everything is working yet, but beer lovers are well looked after.

    It was appropriate that the first customers were the Beervana volunteers, who patiently waited while the first four taps came to life.

    On tap now are:
  • Emerson's Pilsener
  • Epic Pale Ale
  • Renaissance Elemental Porter
  • Hofbrau Weissbier
  • Harringtons Monsoon
  • Three Boys IPA
  • Emerson's Bookbinder
  • Mussel Inn Captain Cooker.

    Waiting in the storeroom are Three Boys Pils, Three Boys Wheat and Renaissance Stonecutter. And thanks to Beervana we've had the brewers of almost all of those beers through the doors as well.

    I'll think up some comments soon about the experience that was Beervana 2009.

    Anyone in Wellington who's inclined to come in, please do. We're opening the doors at 5pm every day.

  • Friday, 21 August 2009


    Another watershed. Our first crime and it was before we've even opened. Our friend wandered in as if he owned the place and started looking for something to steal. The fact that we confronted him, asked him what he was doing and continued to watch every movement didn't stop him finding the nearest bottle, picking it up and taking off. It didn't occur to him that one of us might be armed with a camera phone and be pissed off enough to chase him for as long as it took to get a good shot.

    And here it is:

    Thursday, 20 August 2009

    Cutting a hole in the tunnel to let the light in

    Joking aside, it's all coming together in dozens of small but frantic steps. Taps are on their way in, as is a heat pump, TV, Sky, flooring, leaners, the enomatic system, artwork, glassware... a couple of pieces left but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

    Thursday, 13 August 2009

    Baird Beer

    Baird Brewery (recently voted the best craft brewery in Japan at are packing their first shipment to Hashigo Zake. This is a huge coup for us, not least because the brewery is in the process of opening only their third outlet - the Harajuku Taproom.

    We'll be getting most of the brewery's year round beers, including the beer that sustained me through three years in Japan - Rising Sun Pale Ale. To top it off, Bryan is throwing in a small amount of Rainy Season Black Ale and Harajuku Celebration Ale. As good as the year round beers are, it is seasonals such as these that really get their regular customers in Japan excited, so we hope that there will be more of these to come in future shipments.

    It's unlikely that this shipment will arrive in time for Beervana. This might be a good thing as I don't want to be cleaned out of rare and special imports on two days in August. But we'll mark its arrival in Wellington with a fitting celebration in September. Stay tuned.

    Thursday, 6 August 2009

    Order #1 unloaded

    Watershed day today. On a gloriously sunny late winter's day in Wellington, 75 cases of the finest output of Nøgne Ø, Meantime, Flying Dog and Rogue were lovingly de-palleted and hand carried down the stairs to their home for the next three or so weeks. We also started making a few of the minor alterations to the interior that we think will make the bar more spacious and comfortable. Please excuse the grainy camera-phone picture.

    Wednesday, 29 July 2009

    Beervana Sponsorship

    Hashigo Zake is one of two major sponsors of Beervana, along with Regional Wines and Spirits. As a result we will have a presence at Beervana and will be open for business after each session (and forever afterwards). We'll be at Stall 11, next to Renaissance.


    The sale and purchase agreement has gone unconditional. So I can finally let on that the location of Hashigo Zake will be the basement at 25 Taranaki St. At the moment it is the home of Vintage Bar, and over the years it has variously been known as Cell and Monkey Bar.

    It's close to Courtenay Place but not in its noisy centre, which is something I always wanted in a location. It's also very atmospheric and already fitted out in a fashion that's compatible with what I wanted to create. It can hold 120 people, which should be plenty.

    I take possession next week and have a few changes to make before opening later in August.

    Tuesday, 21 July 2009

    First Import Order On Its Way

    Hashigo Zake's first import order is on its way. It's not big and it's not cheap, but on opening night we're guaranteed to have at least one pallet of rare and exciting beer sourced from North America, the UK and Scandinavia.

    Monday, 13 July 2009


    A sale and purchase agreement has been signed (although it's still conditional) and I'm very close to being able to announce a venue.

    Wednesday, 10 June 2009

    Website (or is up and running. Give it a go.

    Tuesday, 9 June 2009


    It's been a while since I posted. Lots of stuff in motion, not many results. Here's something at least - some artwork done by Sean Golding. Part of a pile of work he did including interior design concepts, branding and even a T-shirt design.

    Wednesday, 13 May 2009


    I just blew a pile of frequent flier points and visited Tokyo. It was mainly for personal reasons but it did give me a chance to visit the Baird Nakameguro Taproom during its first anniversary celebrations and talk to Bryan about making Hashigo Zake his first outlet in the southern hemisphere. I got to try the Colombus IPA, Four Sisters Spring Bock and Temple Yuzu Ale. No disappointments.

    Sunday, 3 May 2009

    More Beer Tourism

    I'm just back from Xxxxxx, where I met the local importer of yyyyyy, zzzzzz, qqqqqq and of course kkkkkk. Finding a decent beer in Xxxxxx was just about impossible, unless you were in the know, which I guess is true of most cities in this part of the world. Once I did get solid information about a well stocked bar I made my way along at around 8pm on Friday night and found it closed for a private function. Bit of a pet hate that. Take all your regular and prospective customers and tell them to fuck off in one go. For the record this is something I promise to never do at Hashigo Zake.

    Speaking of Hashigo Zake itself, it's been a couple of weeks of dire warnings and scares. Rents for hospitality businesses in Wellington are going up just when they should be going down, the accountant and the bank and talking like undertakers and the ideal location just isn't appearing. Meanwhile distribution opportunities are lying there waiting to be pounced on. So it's increasingly likely that the next step will be to do that - import and distribute. It was always part of the plan to do this on the side and maybe let it grow, but it now looks like a useful stepping stone and sensible business move.

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    The Freehouse

    This is a brand new Nelson bar whose "soft opening" I snuck into. Two things are notable about the place. One is that they are, as the name suggests, a free house. The second is that they are occupying a former church. It's certainly a visually striking place, although with only a few tables and a few customers it felt a little empty when I was there.


    The company has been registered, with me as the sole shareholder and director. Registering the trademark is under way but it sounds like that takes several months.

    Yesterday I went on a one day course as preparation for gaining the "LCQ" qualification, which is a prerequisite for getting a bar manager's certificate. Although apparently I can't get the bar manager's certificate until there's a real bar to manage, which seems a little circular.

    Off for preliminary talks with the bank tomorrow.

    Lighthouse Brewery

    Dick Tout is still making beer, 200 litres at a time, under the Lighthouse name. Although he has moved from Nelson to a kind of industrial estate in Stoke. The pilsener was much as I remembered it and he also sold me a bottle of "Nelson Victory Ale", a very English pale ale with a distinctive biscuity malt flavour. In spite of the tiny batch size - or maybe because of it - he also does some contract brewing for 666 in Blenheim.

    Monday, 20 April 2009

    The Mussel Inn

    The Mussel Inn must be one of the best pubs in the world. It's remote, atmospheric, idiosyncratic, hosts great bands and best of all serves its own great beer. 

    It had been many years since I tasted the Captain Cooker Manuka beer and it was as good as ever. Although I will concede that it is a matter of taste. It struck me this time that the distinctive flavour is a tad phenolic, which is sure to help polarise drinkers. I think though that Manuka beer is New Zealand's greatest single contribution to the evolution of beer - ahead of Riwaka and Sauvin hops and, ahem, continuous fermentation.

    I liked the lemonade and the feijoa-infused lambagreeny too.

    Unfortunately I had to leave in a hurry on the morning after and had limited time for taking photos.

    Tasman Brewery and the Sprig & Fern Pubs

    I was really quite impressed by both the Tasman Brewery beer and the success of their own little chain of pubs, all called (slightly confusingly) the Sprig and Fern.

    The Tasman beer range is large (apparently there are 28 beers, ciders, soft drinks and alco-pops altogether) and very consistent. I tasted no bad ones and several very good. I particularly liked the spiced Summer Ale, the Harvest Pilsener (made with fresh hops) and the Wee Heavy.

    The pubs themselves (I visited Hardy St and Milton St) are new and friendly and have a light, clean and unthreatening feel. Interpret that positively or negatively as you see fit. They are also doing a lot of business. Attached is a photo of the Hardy St bar, with Scott the manager in the background. One of the group's directors, David Barrett, pointed out that they intentionally installed the taps behind the bar, rather than on it, to minimise the distance from the kegs, and were told it would never work. Once he pointed this out I realised that this is something I saw often at craft beer bars in the States.

    Beer Tourism

    Having just returned from a trip to Nelson (to visit some brewers and find out more about the beer scene there) I thought I'd write a few notes on what I saw. I may throw in some recollections of the U.S. west coast as well.

    Friday, 3 April 2009

    Having slagged off trademarking...

    I've just applied for a trademark on the name Hashigo Zake (in New Zealand). I'm comfortable that mine is legitimate while DB's trademarking of Radler is absurd.


    Rob Owen (treasure of SOBA) mentioned this issue to me - the absurd trademarking by DB of "Radler". Words can't do justice to the contempt I have for companies that pull this kind of stunt. I'm looking forward to hearing imaginative ways to make the perpretators realise quite how evil they are.

    Doing things with beer the brewer hasn't dreamt of

    One of Hashigo Zake's exclusive offshore suppliers is sending a test shipment of Japanese beer shampoo. It may yet transform the business.

    Thursday, 2 April 2009

    ... and crucially

    started this blog!

    Official bits and pieces

    just applied to register the domain name. And yesterday I registered the company although that isn't completely official until I return the forms, which won't happen until my new printer comes from Ascent.