Dates: 4th November – 10th November, 2013
Bottle shop: Garage Project Cellar Door, Wellington
- Pils ‘n Thrills, by Garage Project (1.25L rigger, $12.50)
- Pernicious Weed, by Garage Project (330ml can, $7.50)
Every weekday morning for the past couple of years, I’ve ridden the same meandering tarmac slide down from our home in Wellington’s hilly outer-suburbs to my office on the other side of town. It’s a slide which bottoms out at the base of Aro Valley, and ultimately chutes you out into the CBD.
Riders of this slide eventually pass an unassuming vacated petrol station – the forecourt of which is packed not with lines of pumps, but instead with containers and delivery vans. It would be easy to drive by this spot daily and remain entirely ignorant as to its current function; but those who are at least partially Beer-Aware are likely to know that they’re passing a hub of brewing excellence.
This is Garage Project, the once-nano-brewery which in a few short years has unquestionably raised the bar for what counts as quote-unquote innovative brewing.
On my morning slide into town, I occasionally spot Pete the Head Brewer strolling up Aro St towards the brewery – which at first came as a surprise; I had assumed that a brewer capable of style-warping beers like beer/wine hybrid Sauvin Noveau must surely transmogrify in from Some Other Planet as part of his daily commute. Or alternatively, given the depth and breadth of Garage Project’s innovation – from the 24/24 series which started it all, to collaborations with New Zealand Ballet and, most recently, a beer made with coffee beans ‘excreted’ by weasels – maybe I was just surprised to see that Pete the Brewer actually ever went home.
For a bloke heading to an office packed to the rafters with far too many people who are smarter than me, a neck-craning perv at Garage Project HQ is precisely the daily injection of inspiration that I need – if only to remind me that hard work and a solid vision rarely go unrewarded.
This is a blog about the quest for beer value, and I would argue that a trip to the Garage Project cellar door is an outstanding move from that perspective. This week I picked up 1.25 litres of the gorgeously fruity, grassy and moreish Pils ‘n Thrills (an American-hopped Pilsner) for about twelve bucks – great value when you consider that that’s more-or-less a four-pack of Garage Project for less than you pay for the same amount of Hoegaarden at your local supermarket.
I couldn’t resist supporting the move towards more craft beer in cans, and so also grabbed a tin of Pernicious Weed – a wickedly-hopped and yet perfectly-balanced IPA. Sitting alone under a glowing Wellington sun – after a long day of Paint Wall, Let Dry; Paint Wall, Let Dry – whilst sipping on 8% magic from a can definitely qualifies as an I Could Die Happy Right Now moment.
Beyond the well-priced rigger of Pils ‘n Thrills and the can of deliciousness, there’s also extra ‘value’ to be had from visiting GP HQ. The cellar door really is a thing of utter beauty; it’s as much a piece of art as it is a functional beer dispensary. And unlike a winery cellar door – where tasters have the winemaker’s process explained to them, a visitor to GP’s cellar door need only look slightly to the left for a full view of the working brewery, which is so close you can smell the grist.
Another lovely add-on to the cellar door experience is the tasting – while I was waiting for my rigger of Pils ‘n Thrills to fill, I was offered a taste of whatever I wanted to try (my choice: Mon Petit Chou, a slightly-funky ‘Farmhouse Ale’ which is really growing on me). In a characteristically-innovative move, GP are using this opportunity to gain critiques on their new beer Garagista, making tastes of the beer only available to cellar door punters on the proviso that they give useful feedback in return. Now that’s a brewery listening to its base.
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, I’m an unashamed believer in Garage Project – if only because they’re breaking new ground on our evolutionary behalf. Not every beer is to my taste – and some are even face-screwingly weird in my opinion – but no-one could ever label a GP beer as Boring. And that’s all that good beer needs to be: interesting. I may like it, or I may not; but if it’s interesting, it will at least provoke a response. Good beer is very much like good art in that respect: it’s all things to all people, all at once. And that’s fine.
So if you’re in Welly, point yourself towards Aro Valley and stop when you get to the old petrol station crammed with stainless steel fermenters. It’s a good idea to bring a rigger and an open mind – but really, the rigger is optional.
They sell those on-site.