Wellington, New Zealand: Garage Project is crushing it

New Zealand’s Garage Project began life in a rundown petrol station in Wellington’s Aro Valley. They started brewing on a 50 litre kit in 2011, pumping out 40 beers in their first year alone, demonstrating a penchant for experimentation and producing beers with flair.

Garage Project Wellington

Things have shifted gears considerably since 2011 for Jos Ruffell and brothers Pete and Ian Gillespie, seeing their capacity grow and spread over several sites. Across the street from the brewery is their taproom, a bustling hub for local drinkers, and their Marion Street site, the Wild Workshop – where they are delving into the realm of spontaneous fermentation – is a short stroll away. Outside of Wellington, they operate their B-Studio in Hawke’s Bay, a production brewery with state of the art equipment and canning and bottling lines.

Garage Project Wellington

Their Wild Workshop is located in a former print factory, lending ample space for row upon row of wine barrels of their wild, spontaneous and mixed fermentation beers, all relying on native New Zealand cultures. In the attic, there will soon be a coolship, a tray-like open vessel that efficiently cools wort while exposing it to wild bacteria and yeasts. These are traditionally associated with Belgian lambic producers, such as the hallowed Cantillon in Brussels.

Garage Project Wellington

The coolship is an exciting prospect, primarily because if there’s one thing that New Zealand can offer in spades, it’s a thriving unique ecosystem bursting with distinctive native plants and flora. The island country’s physical isolation has resulted in a biological segregation, which means that native yeasts can impart some truly distinct flavour characteristics to beer (as it does to their world-renowned wines).

Yeast aside, New Zealand is already respected for their hop varietals, which includes a number of hops including Motueka, Nelson Sauvin and Wai-iti, all of which are coveted for their richly juicy, tropical notes ranging from lychee to pineapple. These impart aromas and flavours like honeyed apricots, peaches and melon to beers like Garage Project's own Pernicious Weed IIPA.

Garage Project Wellington

In their Wild Workshop, the brewery is also dabbling in natural wines. Their Crushed series is still in its infancy, but they intend to offer drinkers an alternative to the traditional wine styles of New Zealand. In both the aroma and flavour spectrum, these so-called 'wild' wines have a lot in common with wild fermented beers. To ensure that they get the most out of the project, the brewery has produced the 100% brett-fermented wines with the help of Alex Craighead, a stalwart figure in the country’s wine scene.

Garage Project Wellington

The focus on wild beers and wines points towards exciting times ahead for Garage Project. Not ones to play it safe, it also lends them further scope for experimentation. In their Wild Workshop, the hunkering foeders and fermenting beers and wines mark the brewery’s innovative spirit and lofty future ambitions.

As for the beer, the product that started this fruitful journey, they’re still brewing some of the best  in the country and although the volume of wild wines produced remains conservative, there's thankfully plenty of beer to go around.

Thank you to Jack Dougherty for some of the stunning photography featured in this post.

Wellington, New Zealand: A Craft Beer Guide to the real Windy City

Famed for its blustery gales and changeable weather, Wellington, New Zealand, is also lauded as the country’s craft beer capital. Over the past decade, breweries and craft beer bars have popped up in abundance across the city. These have been embraced by locals, expats and a thriving student population.

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital and second largest city. More than 60% of the central city’s population is under 40, according to the 2013 Census, and it has strong connections to the arts, acting as the base for the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, lending a dynamic and bohemian feel to the city.

The city's creative soul extends to eye-catching street art. Murals and art installations are scattered around the city’s centre, including lively Cuba Street, a bustling pedestrian mall that hosts the city’s iconic Bucket Fountain sculpture. This energy gives the city a pulse that starkly differentiates it from Auckland, New Zealand’s most populated city, located 493 kilometres away.

David Bowie Mural Wellington

In recent years, craft beer has joined the ranks of precious commodities, including their world-renowned wines and exceptional coffee, among the local Kiwi population. It has also become a tourist attraction in its own right. The joy of Wellington is that the central city can be navigated from one side to the other in under 30 minutes, making many of the unmissable venues and breweries easily accessible from one another.

Fork & Brewer 

14 Bond Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Fork & Brewer Wellington

Posed as Wellington’s premier craft beer bar, Fork & Brewer is a microbrewery offering a range of their beers across an impressive 41 taps, with room for guest beers to pour. The immense curving bar takes prominence in the venue, but there are plenty of booths and even outdoor balcony seating to enjoy. The venue is very polished – although touches like quirky utensil-themed keg handles give it plenty of personality– but isn’t unwelcoming. We enjoyed some flavoursome beers bursting with New Zealand hops and even a few refreshing wheat beers.

Fortune Favours

7 Leeds St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Fourtune Favours Wellington

Operating out of an old dip stripping factory, Fortunate Favours brews onsite on a 1,000L kit – a remarkable feat when you spot the tight corner where the brewing kit sits. Fermenter vessels are lined up, enclosed behind glass within eyeshot of the bar, and menu boards describe the beers that are pouring or fermenting. The venue is spread across two levels and also offers tempting cheese and meat platters for the peckish. The bar is also located literally a stone’s throw from Golding’s Free Dive.

Golding’s Free Dive Bar

5G / 14 Leeds St , Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Inspired by classic American dive bars, this is a great stop for both their beer selection and for first-rate pizza supplied by local pizzeria, Pizza Pomodoro. Under the neon glow of the ‘BEER’ sign affixed above the door, we were greeted warmly by clued-up staff. Here, we savoured pints from local breweries on a few occasions, even bumping into one of the Garage Project’s founders, Jos Ruffell, during our first visit. If the industry is drinking here, then you can guarantee that the beer served up is both fresh and in pristine condition.

Golding's Dive Bar Wellington

Whether pulling up a stool to the bar or being deft enough to secure a table, the atmosphere in Golding’s is electric and the beers were tasting sublime. It gets busy in the evenings and we struggled to find a seat, but persistence paid off and we were rewarded with pints of Orange Sunshine, a pithy citrus wheat beer from Garage Project, and a hot Don Mimi pizza that quickly dosappeared.

Husk

62 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Husk Wellington

Set down an alleyway adorned with twinkling fairy lights, this craft beer bar and coffee roastery is home to Choice Bros brewery, which is brewed and served up fresh onsite. The styles are modern and experimental, giving patrons a lot of intriguing beers to wade through. With 12 taps, one nitro and two handpulls, they aim to not only appease the beer drinker, but also those with a penchant for natural wines or barrel-aged cocktails.

The food menu is also impressive, serving up bar food with a contemporary – and aesthetically pleasing – touch. Plated beautifully and delighting palates, the chickpea Apocalypse Now burger and haloumi fries were excellent accompaniments to our selection of beer, which included an excellent collaboration with Modern Times Beer, a City of the Wind IPA that was replete with ripe peach and soft mango notes.

Stay tuned for more on The Garage Project next week. Thank you to Jack Dougherty for some of the stunning photography featured in this post.