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.