Monday, April 22, 2013

Something's Brewing in Wellington

Something that I took for granted whilst being here until quite recently is the large number of craft breweries in and around Wellington.  I immediately noticed that the overwhelming choice of beer here was, obviously, better than the average beer in the States.  I was very happy about this, especially since I can't even consider Bud Light and MGD "beer."  I need substance in my beer.  I need hops.  I need flavor.  I need body.  So thank you Wellington for being awesome.  I must say though, the beers here are a lot hoppier than they were back home, so if you're not used to that, then you have been warned.  I generally don't go for IPAs or other beers that are especially hoppy here because they're usually hoppy enough.  I've heard that the New Zealand beer history started with Captain James Cook who would brew his own beer.  So beer goes back to the very (European) beginning of NZ.  Pretty dang cool.
Of course, there are a select number of beers here that aren't craft beers, but I notice that these are more the "working man's beer".  These are the beers that sponsor sporting events and are (kind of but not really) cheaper than others.  On the whole, though, I have found, in Wellington, that Mac's and Montieth's to be the biggest brands around.  Mac's is technically a craft beer, much in the way that Sam Adam's is in the States.  It's a big company, but it's crafty nonetheless.  Mac's has a brewbar in Wellington, so it brews on site, which is pretty awesome actually.  The food's pretty delicious too...
Yummy selection-- I'm a fan of the Sassy Red. Also, notice the pull tab tops. America, you have much to learn. (photo courtesy of
Now, Montieth's isn't a craft brewery, as it's owned by a big corporation, but it's still brewing beer that is at a higher end than the aforementioned crap beers.

In Wellington alone, there are at least six craft breweries, including ParrotDog and Garage Project, the latter being pretty close to where I live actually.  Garage Project is super new, so they don't have much beer.  Yet.  I wish I would be around in the next few years to see what they do.  ParrotDog is a little bit more established, and I think one of my favorite things about them is ordering the BitterBitch beer.  Yes, you read that right.  They're a funny bunch of crafty bastards.
Let's all laugh at the funny name!
Other notable and delicious breweries are 8 Wired, Yeastie Boys, and Tuatara.  I mean, really if you weren't satisfied with one company, you could definitely find a different one to fit your needs.  Generally, I base my decision on what's cheapest.  Is anyone surprised?
Not THAT kind of tuatara!
Now where do you find all of these delicious beers, you ask? Well good thing there is a handy dandy craft beer tour guide you can find online at the Craft Beer Capital.  I told you, they take it very seriously in Wellington.  This guide shows you all of the yummy bars in the city that are technically "Craft beer bars," including the one my friends work at.  I have unfortunately only been to six of the thirteen bars, but I will conquer them all, don't you fear!  So far I'd say Fork & Brewer would be my favorite.  If you are looking for a wide selection of beers, good food, a reallllly relaxed atmosphere, and a sweet display of taps, than this is the place to go.
All of the taps are different utensils/random crap. There's a flute for one tap pull. I kid you not.
There are also random festivals all the time if you just need to know the latest about the craft beer scene.  Just a few weeks ago, there was Hopstock, which showcased beers made from this year's hop harvest.  I tried a few, and they were amazing.  This festival involved 12 bars and 8 beers.  It was really about showing how amazing this fresh beer was and giving publicity to a lot of great bars in the area.  Are you getting that Wellingtonians are into the beer thing yet?  Maybe?

In August, I hope to attend Beervana, which is basically just all these breweries coming together to show themselves off.  Last year, there were 96 breweries present, with 271 beers between them.  While this isn't necessarily just for craft beers, it is a really important convention for breweries across New Zealand, and of course it happens in Wellington.

I know that was a kind of crash course, but I hope it opened up some of your eyes to this small little capital's love of beer.  From me to you, cheers!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Not-So-Exciting Hiatus

Hi everyone. So sorry for the delay in writing, but really I've not been up to much other than working. It doesn't help that we also didn't have internet at my flat for a week and a half (let me tell you, it felt like a millenium to internet-junky me). We, luckily, had internet installed three days ago, so I feel much better about everything now.
Like I said, though, I've been working 36-45 hours/week for the last few weeks, which has been exhausting. I didn't think you all would be super interested in my day-to-day activities, so don't think I was neglecting you! The most interesting thing I've been doing in the past three weeks, though, is that I finally started volunteering at the Wellington SPCA. I decided on this back in November or December, but they didn't have any volunteering orientations until last month, and it took them two weeks to get back to me after that. So, finally, I'm settled in. I work in the dog run with all the lovely doggies in need of lots of love! If you'd like to check any of them out, go to the SPCA Flickr to look at some pictures. My average duties as a volunteer are to help clean out their kennels, rotate the dogs in the play area, and take dogs for walks. It's been great for me to de-stress and help out some really sweet dogs.
I've also been trying to go on some good walks around Wellington with some friends. I went over to Makara Beach, which is a good 40 minute drive from my flat on the West Coast, to go on what was supposed to be a little trek. We ended up walking for three and a half hours. The views were absolutely stunning though and reminded me of why I came over here.

Sun's still bright at the beginning of the walk

That's actually the South Island in the distance 

Beautiful wind farm in the hills

Same as the first picture, but sun is going down. This took way longer than anticipated
I've also been taking smaller treks closer to home, but it really allows me to see the city and the surroundings in a completely different way. Being above everything else gives me perspective and clarity. Oh, and it's free. That usually is pretty awesome when you're a poor expat. Until next time!

View of Wellington Airport and surrounding suburbs from Brooklyn Hill.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Of Trees and Ferns

After my walk/picnic today in the lovely Wellington Botanic Gardens, I started thinking about the large amount of strange foliage here in New Zealand. In the gardens, there is a particular plaque which I like which explains why the Southern Hemisphere has such different vegetation than the Northern one.

But most importantly, we should discuss the Pohutukawa tree. It's crazy in bloom right now, and let me just say that I didn't know what it was until I googled "New Zealand tree with red fluffs." It looks like this:
I feel like it's a New Zealand attempt at a truffula tree.

Yes, I see a resemblance.

So apparently the Pohutukawa tree is considered a NZ staple around Christmastime, and like everything else essentially Kiwi, there's a Maori legend involved. This one says that a young Maori warrior wished to climb to heaven to avenge his father, but fell. The red fluffs represent his blood. I'm sure it sounds a lot more serious if you don't refer to them as fluffs...
This is by far my favorite of the NZ trees, but they have some really awesome, prehistoric looking trees. Mostly, it just seems really jungly and like a scene from Jurassic Park here. Seriously though. I always feel like I've just stepped into the jungle. My North American/European self is not really sure how to handle it.
Oh! I almost forgot the most Kiwi of all the plants. How could I?? The silver fern is an icon of everything that is New Zealand, in case you weren't already aware. The All Blacks (the national rugby team), as well as many other sports teams use the silver fern as their logo. It's called ponga in Maori, and it is seriously EVERYWHERE. It's so Kiwi that if someone has it as a tattoo, you can guarantee that they are either from NZ or are practically in love with the place. 
Unofficial Kiwi flag
But I like the ferns. I think they're cool, and it reminds me that I'm in New Zealand, and I'm lucky to be here every time I see them.
I particularly like when they're just sprouting or whatever you call this action

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hey all. So we just had Christmas a couple days ago. It was strange to me, as someone who has always lived in the Northern Hemisphere to experience a summer Christmas. The fact that I was at the beach two days before Christmas BLEW my mind. It seemed unnatural. I should have been wearing four layers, gloves, a scarf, drinking hot cocoa, and hoping for snow. I should not have been in a bikini, craving iced tea, and getting sunburnt. As much as I love summer, I think Christmas should belong in the winter.
I mean, New Zealand still plays all the Christmas music about how it's cold outside, snow, and winter wonderlands, but they don't have those things. It seems rather strange to be hearing the opposite of what you're seeing. Since we listen to the radio at work, which I am at for eleven hours straight, I heard a lot of Christmas music over the last few weeks. While my ears were like, "Yes, it must be close to Christmas. Get some holiday cheer," my eyes would tell me that it was summer. It couldn't possibly be Christmastime. The dichotomy of seeing people wearing shorts and tank tops whilst also seeing snowflake decorations on shop fronts is rather jarring.
Even the traditional Christmas meal is better suited for cold weather. In the summer, I don't want to eat heavy roasts or turkey and heaps of potatoes. I want salad. I can understand why more people down here go for the non-traditional Christmas barbecue. I don't blame them. But this is not my Christmas! I want to feast on so much food that I fall asleep and drink eggnog and have mulled wine. I had none of these things. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be staying in the Southern Hemisphere for Christmas again. While I like that it's summer (and my tan looks awesome!) I feel like a large part of my life was missing. And anyway, what is there to look forward to in the winter time here? The best part of winter back home is Christmas and New Years. So you're telling me that winter just sucks, period? Not looking forward to that.

I hope you guys all had good Christmases, whether snowy or not. I still had fun with friends, and watched plenty of Christmas movies. It just didn't feel like Christmas. I'm glad it's over though so I can just think of it as summer and nothing else.

Safe travels!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Weird Kiwi Food

After being here for over two months now, I feel it is finally time for me to discuss the food that is different than what we have back home. Most of it is delicious, some of it is weird, and other stuff is just not anything that we have in the States at all.

Let's start with sweet stuff:

- Feijoas:

Also known as a guavasteen. I've not actually tried one of the fruits (not in season yet), but they have feijoa juice, which is... an acquired taste I think. I'm not fond of it, but I've also been told that the fruit is better than the juice, so I will try it. Maybe.

- Hokey Pokey:

This is a delicious brittle toffee sort of thing. Think of Crunchy bars. They put hokey pokey in chocolate, ice cream, or just eat it. I think there needs to be more hokey pokey in my life, and unlike the feijoa, I am happy about having this around.

- Afghan biscuits:

YUM. I'm bringing this recipe back to the States with me because they are that good. Afghans are a chocolate biscuit with an interesting texture because they have corn flakes in them too? I don't get that, but it's yum as, so that's ok. They come with a chocolate frosting and walnut, and I could probably eat them every day. Good thing that I don't though...

- Pineapple Lumps:

These are supposedly super Kiwi. Upon receiving his NZ citizenship this week, my flatmate also got these from my other flatmate as a gift of reaching full Kiwi-ness. They're made of some weird Laffy Taffy like substance with fake pineapple flavor, covered with chocolate. It's not for everyone, but that's ok. I'll stick with my hokey pokey thanks.

- Boysenberry flavored everything:

Tip Top is the main ice cream brand in NZ. 
Rather than having a lot of raspberry flavored stuff (ice cream/sorbet/muffins/etc), like we do in the States, Kiwis have boysenberry flavored things. I'M SO OK WITH THIS. It's delicious and a nice change from raspberry. I sometimes miss my raspberry, but boysenberry ice cream is hella delicious.

Now for the savory stuff...

- Cranberry-brie Combination:

I have seen cranberry and brie on chicken sandwiches, burgers, and pizza options. I don't understand who came up with this combo, or why. But it's everywhere. I still haven't tried this, but I feel like I should. We make sandwiches at work, so maybe I'll try one. For me, cranberry sauce is a fall/winter thing, but Kiwis apparently eat it year-round. I mean, it is delicious. But with brie??

- Meat Pies:

I understand that these are not a strictly NZ thing. We just don't have meat pies in the States at all, so for the Americans who have not experienced these before, you need to try them (unless you're veg, of course). But yum. Savory pies are one of the things I miss when I'm in the States. I started eating them in the UK when visiting family, so finding that they're all over the place in NZ was a very happy find for me.

- Condiments:

Ketchup does not exist here. They have tomato sauce. But it is NOT ketchup. Fries come with tomato sauce and aioli in restaurants. For the kiwis reading this, there is a BIG difference between ketchup and tomato sauce. I can't explain it, but it's better. I want my ketchup back. Heinz, preferably (Pittsburgh, represent!) More often than not, you can get aioli with your fries, which is fine with me. I prefer aioli over the mayo that Europeans have with their fries. But tomato sauce is not ketchup, and I'm sad. Fish and chip places also don't have vinegar here. Malt vinegar is not a common fish and chips accompaniment. I guess they put tomato sauce on that too... Blasphemy.

And then there's the coffee.

- Flat Whites and Long Blacks:

Flat White
 Flat whites seem like lattes with me. They taste the same, they use the same process, but they are apparently different. Wikipedia says that it uses the micro-foam from the bottom of the steam pot rather than the regular foam from the top or middle of the steam pot. (Sorry for the non-baristas reading that, it probably didn't make much sense). But really, it's still practically a low-foam latte. Long blacks are basically Americanos with less water... Ok. Whatever. Oh, and for Americans reading this, there isn't drip-coffee here. So if you're at a cafe, you will only be able to order espresso-based coffees. It was the same way in the UK, but it is definitely something to get used to. Just order Americanos if you want a coffee. Basically the same concept.

If you are reading this and can think of anything else, leave a comment!! Happy travels all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Kiwis Are Actually Hobbits

Or at least in one way.

It is socially acceptable to not wear shoes sometimes in public. What. Is. This. Shenanigans? I have noticed this too many times to count-- whether in a store or just on the street, you are guaranteed to see people not wearing shoes. Sometimes they have them, and are carrying them, sometimes they don't appear to have shoes at all. And these are not homeless people, or people whose feet are killing them from wearing high heels. They just did not want to wear shoes... I don't get it. I've even seen this in the city center, where you would think "Certainly one must wear shoes here. City streets are gross, but respectable places where shoes are worn all the time," but you would be ever so wrong. Kiwis just don't seem to mind the lack of shoes. There are no signs along the lines of "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service." I don't understand this freedom of the feet. Why the need to go shoeless? Probably to air out their hobbit feet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Pt 2

I just thought I'd put up some pictures of our Thanksgiving feast. Enjoy.

The 4 of us who moved from the States together; Kate, myself, Silvana, and Alexa
Someone brought the pavlova- its not a feast in NZ without one. It's basically meringue, whipped cream, fruit, and chocolate. Not bad.
Figuring out how to carve a turkey via internet. Useful.
Successful feasting!
But wait, there's more!
Instead of going around, saying what we're thankful for, there was a board to write on. I thought it was a good idea.