Thursday, June 7, 2012

CT Column 07/03/12: Destruction, Vitality and Rebirth (unedited)

Last week I travelled to Christchurch for the first time since the devastating earth quakes that have drastically changed the city. I visited the garden city to run a series of tastings and to work at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival that was held at Hagley Park. Like most recent visitors to Christchurch human nature led me to explore the edges of the devastated CBD. The suburban streets on the outskirts of the CBD resembled a city fallen on hard-times like Detroit, with every fifth property an overgrown empty section and every third or fourth holding wounded red stickered houses that are still awaiting their fate. Further in towards the Red Zone the scene becomes more like those from London during the Blitz. Piles of brick lie where buildings once were, office floors lay ripped open displaying desks, PC’s and filing cabinets to the elements, landmarks I once knew are now holes in the ground, tributes to the dead line the red zone barriers and makeshift outdoor congregations have been gathered together from picnic furniture and tents on the foundations that once were churches resembling scenes from 19th century missionary work. There are very few people around making the city eerily quiet however there is the constant sound of bulldozers and jackhammers as the demolition crews go about their work. The brewing community has not gone untouched with the Dux de Lux damaged and closed behind the Red Zone, the Twisted Hop sits stranded, visible from the barrier now an almost lone edifice amongst a bulldozed block, Harrington’s have lost one brewery and are going to have to relocate from their existing one. Three Boys also have a relocation on the cards as their building requires repair work that is worth more than the building itself.
All is not doom and gloom however, there is a lot of rebirth going on. The Cassel family has set up a thriving brewpub across the road from the Three Boys Brewery. The Brewery as it’s called is a hub of activity with a pizza oven constructed from an old brewing vessel , a wood fired kettle, fermentors and bar all crammed into one long thin space. I visited on a Friday night and the place was absolutely pumping. Cassels brew a range of English style cask ales and German style lagers, my picks would be the smooth Milk Stout and the Alchemist Golden Ale, a hoppy mid gold bitter that accompanied my salmon pizza perfectly.
Across the road Three Boys are contemplating their move which in the long run will allow them to expand their plant. A number of oak barrels are currently sitting in the brewhouse waiting to be filled by something tasty. Three Boys Brewer Ralph Bungard also gave me a taste of an amber ale that combined tangy Fuggels hops with complex dark malts resulting in a wonderfully tasty session ale that might be brewed for keg release soon.
Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn is located on Kilmore Street at the edge of the CBD. Pomeroy’s has the feel of an old English pub and combines the traditional services of serving good beer, good food and good accommodation. I stayed at the thriving Family run business while I was in Christchurch and trade was brisk all weekend. Pomeroy’s is located on the site of the historic Wards brewery. The earth quakes have destroyed the old brew house and maltings but the pub at the front stands firm. In a quirk of fate now that the old brewery has crumbled the Pomeroy family are reintroducing brewing to the property with the Four Avenues Brewing Company going into a shed at the rear of the pub. The brewery will primarily produce beers for contract brewers but will also produce beers under the Beer Baroness brand the creation of manager and owner Ava Brown.
While the original Twisted Hop sits stranded within the Red Zone, owners Martin Bennett and Stephen Hardman have managed to extract their plant and install it in an industrial unit in Wigram. The brewery is light and sunny and positively roomy compared to the cramped confines of the old Twisted Hop. New bars are planned for Woolston and Lincoln with both going into new purpose built buildings. A larger new brew plant is on its way and when it arrives the old Twisted Hop plant will go into the Lincoln pub which will brew some of its own beer.
One thing I noted everywhere I went was that people were friendly, enthusiastic and optimistic, Christchurch has taken one hell of a knock but the population seems to be all the stronger for it. The old Christchurch is gone but there is a bright new one coming.