Last Saturday’s SOBA Winter Ale Festival was another reminder of the rapid growth in interest in craft beer in New Zealand.
All 500+ tickets sold out in a few days. Last year’s event was also at full capacity but took longer to sell out, while 2014 attracted 380 visitors.
SOBA dropped its plans to run two sessions this year, partly due to its reliance on volunteer labour. The team of 23 volunteers was busy staffing the taps and keeping things moving efficiently.
Every year, the outstanding feature of SOBA Winter Ale Festival is the party atmosphere inside the Hunter Lounge. To me it always feels like a catch up with friends over some new and warming beers, even if you haven’t seen those friends since the last Festival.
Hunter Lounge is a spacious venue, with lots of seating, natural light, and plenty of room to move around and meet people. The happy crowd is a reflection of the place and the history of the event – this year was its seventh.
The Festival is clearly run on a shoestring – the $50 ticket includes entry to the five-hour event, eight serves of beer (some up to 13% alc), plus a $5 food voucher. That’s ridiculously good value, as the fast sell-out proves.
This year featured 31 beers, many brewed specifically for the Festival. Brewers were creative with the fermentation process this year, with many entries featuring saison and/or Brettanomyces and/or lacto ferments. Barrel-aged entries were popular too.
The people’s favourite, though, was a classically grunty winter warmer with distinctly hot alcohol notes – Lord Almighty’s Rum-oaked Ursus (13%). It was followed by 2nd-equals Kereru Imperial Moonless Stout (10.7%) and Tiamana Bockenstein (8.1%).
If you missed the Wellington Festival, don’t despair – Christchurch’s Mid-Winter’s Ale Festival will be held in Rolleston on Saturday 25 July, 11.30-7. Tickets from $30 are still available here – this event will sell out too.
Beertown.NZ attended the Winter Ales Festival as a guest of SOBA. Cheers, and thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors who made it possible.