Brewery outlet of the year, 2016 – Fat Monk Brewing Co, Bridge Pa, New Zealand

This is a round up of some of the breweries and brewery taps that we visited in 2016. There were quite a few visits across the year, and many camping trips ended with bringing home a box or two of bottled beer. So this is my brewery (outlet) of 2016, based on those visited, not based on their output alone. Pub of the year will follow shortly…

Adnams Cellar & Kitchen featured in last year’s round up. We enjoyed our time in Suffolk so much in 2015 that we returned for a week in 2016. That led to lots of pub trips and adventures, and a lot of Adnams beer. It’s still worth a trip to the home of the Southwold mafia for a spot of lunch and shopping though. After a lazy Sunday morning (I’d cooked the customary full English earlier on) we had a stroll around Southwold, along the beach, along the pier and just generally mooched about the place.

If you want to know more about Adnams Cellar & Kitchen, then you can read the 2015 post. It’s pretty much identical to when we visited last year, with a few new beers and wines on offer.

On this visit, I opted for the Jack Brand Dry Hopped lager, something I’ve had in bottles before. From the keg it was certainly an improvement on the bottled version. It doesn’t live up to the hoppy promises of its blurb, “a super hoppy aroma of tropical fruits, citrus and passionfruit”, but it’s a decent effort that needs more hops.

Let’s quickly step back to 2015. Here is the smoked fish brewer’s board I had then:-

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And now here is the October 2016 version:-

Not a lot has changed, in fact it could still be the same board, with more scratches and scrapes after 14 months of going through the dishwasher every day. The difference is the addition of shrimps and the switch of the horseradish and capers for a dill mayonaisse. The horseradish was very good with the mackerel and it was missed, but the 2016 board was still very tasty, very good fish and the bread was good too.

After lunch we went shopping…

The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley bookended the year. We visited in January for the full experience, and again today, New Year’s Eve, for a quick spot of shopping.

Even though the surrounding environment is perhaps less pleasing than some of the other contenders here (an industrial estate in Staveley), the great food and brilliant beer on offer ensure that it gets on to the list.

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Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing The Beer Hall.

We sampled several beers on our visit in January, as well as having the “Brewer’s lunch”, huntsman’s pie (pork, chicken and stuffing), Brodie’s Prime sausages (made with the beer of that name), parma ham, slices of local ham, black pudding, sticky bbq ribs, a pickled onion, piccalilli, salad, sourdough bread and butter. Great food and great beer. The lack of beers for Mrs MOFAD turned our December visit into just a shopping one. A shame, as it would have been nice to eat there again too.

Another pub/brewery combination comes next, with a trip to The Vale Inn, Bollington in April. For my birthday. Because it’s a pub with a brewery. There are always lots of Bollington Brewery ales on tap, as well as two guest ales and several proper ciders. The menu changes with the seasons, and there’s also a specials board which changes more frequently.

A feast of food and drink began with sticky oriental ribs, sweet and spicy and delightful. It’s not often I have ribs whilst out, but with triple pork nirvana at stake, it had to be some tasty pork.

Mrs MOFAD had very tasty halloumi starter, it is so often just lightly cooked and bland, this was perfectly cooked whilst retaining the essential squeak of the squeakiest of cheeses.

My ribs were accompanied by a pint of Bollington Long Hop, delicious hoppy goodness and a perfect opener.

The main course was a juicy and moist fried chicken breast burger, with a very nice (and spicy) mayonnaise and some crisp potato wedges. Very tasty and very filling, with some token salad inside the bun.

I  had the Bollington Dinner Ale to accompany, a classic session bitter but it needs more hops.

There was something a bit different lined up for pudding. First it was time for another drink, this time a Bollington White Nancy (named after the white sugar loaf monument that can be seen on the saddle of Kerridge above Bollington). The beer was light, fruity and very drinkable.

The pub knew I was coming, so they added some artwork in honour of my birthday.

Time for the final flourish, Mrs MOFAD’s cake creation, which tasted as good as it looked. We all enoyed some chocolatey goodness, whilst attraction jealous looks from other tables.

And if all of that wasn’t good enough, I left with a box of beers, because they have a range of bottled Bollington beers for sale. A pub with great beer, great food, a brewery and beer to take away? You can’t get much better than that!

However, the first three are about to get blown out of the water by the last three. It’s a slightly unfair fight, as the last three are all on the north island of New Zealand, where we were lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in February/March.

The Shakespeare in Auckland is a hotel, a pub, a restaurant and a brewery all rolled into one, and was just a few hundred yards from our hotel. Everything has a Shakespeare theme, from The Bard pale ale to The Jester pilsner and “The Works of Shakespeare” burger….

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That’s a burger, with a fried egg, bacon, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and a pineapple ring. Definitely the complete works of Mr S. A proper hand made burger, perfectly cooked, juicy and delicious. It lived up to their “best burger in Auckland” claim. We visited twice, on two separate stays in Auckland, and although the beer line ups didn’t rotate between visits, the beers were good. And there’s plenty of competition within walking distance, so they have to be on top of their game.

We now hit the road (in our motorhome) and find ourselves down at Crafty Trout Brewing Co in Taupo. This was somewhere I had been looking forward to visiting, and after a long day of walking (we’d been up to Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon), we walked a bit more to get back down in to Taupo and the Trout, to have some great pizzas and good beer.

As with many good brewery tap outlets, they keep their menu simple, with a choice of 8 pizzas, a schnitzel, pie, spare ribs, fish’n’chips, pasta or a cheese’n’meat platter (brewery taps love these) as well as a few other snacks. My “Wild Thing” pizza with venison, olives and spiced grape jelly was very good. As were the beers.

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A lovely place in downtown Taupo.

We move on to our winner, Fat Monk Brewery in Bridge Pa, Hastings. That’s not the Hastings of King Harold getting an arrow in the eye. It’s the one in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. It was without doubt one of the highlights of the Great New Zealand Road Trip 2016. Here are a few words to explain why.

Great ales. Simple pizza. Sunshine. Tunes. Wines. Vines. Blue skies.

I’ll try and expand on that a bit. Back in March we did our version of the “Wineries ride” which is set out in the Hawkes Bay cycling guide. We came up with a modified version (as we pretty much always do), by starting our ride from our camp site in Hastings. This involved cycling through Hastings “city centre” (another New Zealand town abusing the word city), which was surprisingly quiet. There is plenty of well segregated cycling around, although it’s not all perfect. Once you leave Hastings, the paths start to separate from the road, and well packed gravel tracks soon take over, and are the dominant feature for the majority of the ride around the wineries.

Around 10 miles later, you are out of the “city” and well into wine territory. We made our first stop of the day at Abbey Cellars, which incorporates Fat Monk Brewery. You can probably guess why we wanted to come here.

We started off with a wine tasting (after a couple of glasses of water to rehydrate). We sampled a nice riesling, the “passion” rose, and a sweet Gabriel Chardonnay and dessert Malbec (both of which came home with us). A friendly and relaxed tasting.

Things don’t stop there. Further ingredients for the perfect lunchtime rest stop are now added to the mix. During the summer, Abbey put on the “summer sessions”. This involves local acts playing live music out in the back garden. You can sit out and listen whilst enjoying a glass of wine or two, a selection of food or some beers from their brewery.

Today was the turn of Ian Munro, a local act, with a mixture of his own songs and then acoustic covers of Layla, New Kid in Town, Waiting in Vain, Losing My Religion and that antipodean classic “Down Under”. We would have loved to have stayed to listen to it all, but there were more wineries to visit.

Lovely views all around…

So, on to the beer. Today there were four of their beers on tap, so we picked up a “flight” to enjoy out in the sun.

From left to right we have:-

Pilsner – citra hops in a pilsner – a first for me, and a perfect start in the blazing sunshine.

Pacific pale – a better IPA than the IPA, a tropical hoppy delight, utterly delicious.

American IPA – not pale enough (typical of anything classed as an American IPA), and the hops come through very late. A few more wouldn’t go amiss🙂

Raspberry wheat – good raspberry sourness, but suffers in comparison to the lovely hoppy hits from the others.

A lovely line up of beers, and there were more bottles available inside, but with other places to visit on the ride, you have to draw the line somewhere.

These alcoholic beverages need some food to accompany, and there are a few selections to choose from. We opted for some simple margharita pizzas – a simple food done well is a joy, and these were just perfect with a hoppy ale. Thin, crispy, delicious.

Look at all of the ingredients here. They all combine to make the perfect visit. This was a perfect few hours. If you are anywhere in the area, get here and spend some quality time in the sunshine with great food and drink, the combination of which make it my brewery outlet of 2016.

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