Beer of the month, February 2016

When I drafted this post at the start of the month, just to put a placeholder for it to remind me to do it when the month ends, I left myself a note which predicted that a New Zealand beer would probably take the title. This prediction has come true (there was very little chance of this not happening).

However, before we head to the Antipodes, there are 2 local candidates worthy of a brief mention. The first is Nuns Ale from Church End brewery. Who put the nun in Nuneaton? Nuns! A delightfully hoppy golden ale which was very nice. The second is Phoenix Pale Ale from Sly Fox Brewing Company, a delicious golden ale, nicely balanced.

However, this month’s top 5 are all big hoppy beasts from New Zealand. The story will be the same next month, without a doubt, as there will be twelve days of NZ beers to choose from, not just four. Three out of these five in the line up made it to the top 5:-


First up we have Three Boys IPA, one of several Three Boys cans that I picked up on our first day in Auckland. This was a good and hoppy IPA, although could have been a bit paler.

In fourth place we have Epic Pale Ale, which lived up to its epithet, with a mix of 15 hops and great levels of bitterness. It was lovely in the Waikino sunshine after a morning bike ride.


Next up we have Hapi Daze. Hapi is the maori word for hop, and this was a can of super hoppy happiness which was really tasty.

In second place we have Funk Estate Sophisticuffs IPA, caramel malts and a super hoppy attack on the palate. This was perfect with pizza on our first night of camping.

Our winner for February 2016 is Panhead Pale Ale – Quickchange XPA. In case you’ve not guessed, even more super hoppy hits, mosaic, galaxy and citra hops all joining together, with those alpha oils coming through very strongly.

A very worthy beer of the month, and likely to be in the top 5 or even higher at the end of the year…

Pub of the month, February 2016, The Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery, Auckland

In most months there is a fair and level playing field in the battle for pub of the month. But in the month when you visit New Zealand for the first time, that playing field gets rather tilted towards the direction of one of the furthest flung corners of the empire…

So let’s start with the plucky English runner up.

The Parcel Yard in Leicester was a new one for us. It’s been around for a while, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked past it when leaving the station. We were off to a show at De Montfort Hall, and were not eating at the Marquis, because we ate there the previous night and Mrs MOFAD didn’t fancy a second night there. In The Parcel Yard we encountered a good menu to choose from and some good ales on tap. We had a nice meal.


In second place, we have a pub and brewery, in the shape of Brothers Beer in Auckland. Andy and Ant, the Brothers Beer boys, first met over a beer, and eventually talked about starting a business together. Whilst drinking more beer, they came up with the idea of opening a brewery together. After visiting Good Beer Week in Melbourne, they agreed that restaurant menus need not be an anti climax when you get to the beer list. Pubs and bars can and should serve beers from little breweries, not just the big boys.

They opened a brewery and a shop, where they could stock beers from all over the world (we chatted about some of their Thornbridge ales), including their own. You can drink beer there (and eat some pizza) and you can take it home as well. They are based in the old City Works Depot in Auckland, alongside lots of other interesting local businesses, a great little pub and brewery all in one. You can pick up plenty to take away:-


There is a clear winner here, and sorry to the runners up, because you didn’t stand a chance when we got to the Southern hemisphere and discovered The Shakespeare, a hotel, pub, restaurant and brewery all rolled into one, and just a few hundred yards from our hotel. Technically, I discovered it quite a while before this, after hunting out various places to eat and drink whilst we were in NZ. And I had a feeling that it was going to be in the running for pub of the month either this month or next (depending when we would be visiting).

Everything has a Shakespeare theme, from The Bard pale ale to The Jester pilsner and “The Works of Shakespeare” burger….


That’s a burger, with a fried egg, bacon, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and a pineapple ring. Definitely the complete works of Mr S. A big portion and very tasty. A proper hand made burger, perfectly cooked, juicy and delicious. It lived up to their “best burger in Auckland” claim.

A great pub, and a worthy winner of pub of the month.

Talisman Cafe, Karangahake

Today was wet. Warm still, but wet. For the first 20 minutes, it didn’t rain. For the remaining 220, it did.

We set out on a bike ride from Waikino to Karangahake and back, on the Hauraki rail trail. Disused railway lines turned into cycle paths? Old railway tunnels lit up with disconcerting drips coming from the roof? Sounds familiar. It’s the Monsal Trail with some more interesting plant life, and a more impressive river.

And, much like Derbyshire, there are quirky cafes around. This is certainly one of them. For example, instead of a number for your order, you get a plastic animal.

There are also a random selection of local arts and crafts and souvenir tat available to buy.

Anyway, it was a good place to dry off, warm up a touch and have some lunch. It’s a simple menu, burgers, chips, pies, toasties and the like.

I had a tasty ham and cheese toastie, with good chips but a weird Chinese soup spoon full of tomato sauce, shown below…

As it was such a wet day, we needed a pot of tea to warm up. We might be turning into Hazel!

We decided to linger a little longer and had a tasty chocolate fudge cake. Just the kind of thing to cheer you up on a dreary day. I’m aware that the photo needs rotating, can’t do it on this dodgy Internet connection…

It’s fair to say that there’s more than a touch of the Grindleford station cafe about it (if you’ve been to Grindleford, you’ll know what I mean).

An interesting lunch stop!