Wednesday, April 2, 2008

SOBA Pub Meet April: The Shepherds Arms

On the first Tuesday of every month the Wellington chapter of the Society of Beer Advocates meets at a different local pub or bar to socialise, and drink good beer, and/or campaign for good beer. Last year I posted about visiting my old local Bar Edward. This month it was decided that we would visit the Shepherds Arms, Wellington’s Speight’s Ale House. The chain recently found some publicity and notoriety when they shipped a kit set pub to London in order to sell coals to Newcastle as it were.

The Shepherds Arms is an old pub, located in Thorndon, one of the oldest parts of the city. It was formerly called the Western Park Tavern (although apparently was called The Shepherds Arms originally) and in the 1970’s was a popular haunt of my Parents who flatted up the road. Since my parents frequented the bar the Victorian/Edwardian multi room layout has been knocked out making for one open dining room/ public bar with one small function room off to the side.

While the majority of the beers on offer are mediocre, the Pilsner and the Porter from the Speight’s ‘Craft Range’ have always had their defenders. Personally I don’t care for the Pils but I have always thought that the Porter was the best beer to ever come out of a Mainstream New Zealand Brewery. I was most disappointed when last year the decision was made to stop bottling the Speight’s ‘Craft Range’ and the beer was only to be brewed for draft consumption.

When we arrived the pub was packed for the weekly pub quiz and the SOBA contingent ended up perched on the dining area side of the bar. The Porter was tasting drier than I remembered it but still had a gloriously roasty chocolaty character. The Pils seemed subdued but certainly had a resiny hop character that stood out when compared to the eternally neutral pale ale. Several ‘pints’ of Porter were downed before the last stragglers made our way to the Malthouse where we were joined by a certain notorious ex-landlord who was finishing up a kitchen shift to pay off his tab! A half of Nigerian F.E.S., a nip of Montieth’s New Zealand Lager and a 'pint' of London Pride later and all that was left of my night was a pie and taxi ride.

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