Book review – The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl, by Bartlett and Corfe

By BeertownNZ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 National

Here’s four dozen pubs you can visit from the comfort of your favourite chair.

The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl: a lively journey through New Zealand’s most colourful pubs is one of those ideas you wish you’d thought of yourself – touring the length of New Zealand, going to the pub, and getting paid well for your efforts. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl visited 48 pubs from Russell’s Duke of Marlborough to Stewart Island’s South Sea Hotel. Many of the pubs are resolutely rural (Kaihu Tavern, Whangamomona Hotel, Lake Ferry Hotel, Cardrona Hotel); others are urban (The Birdcage, Thistle Inn, The Bog); a few are crafty (McLeod’s Pizza Barn, The Hop House, Good George Dining Hall, Little Beer Quarter, Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Tavern, The Twisted Hop, Fork & Tap).  At least three are the oldest pub in New Zealand, and there’s pub dogs, cats and ghosts.

There are some common themes. A typical lifecycle starts with logs hewn from the bush, then legends of pioneering man-giants. Rural decline is followed by gangs and violence, turned around by entrepreneurs diversifying the booze barns and delivering good food and wine. With lots of characters and lies. Look out for: “burnt down in ____”; “where they genuinely feared for their lives”; “wondered what they’d taken on”; “wood-fired pizza oven”; “the story turned out to be crap”.

With only 48 pubs in this edition, it must have been a tough choice deciding which went in and which stayed out. There’s a good chance your favourite won’t be in here, but a second volume looks likely – and a big hint comes from the photos of pubs which have been left out of this volume. Perhaps the biggest gap is the West Coast. The Formerly the Blackball Hilton is included, but none of the notorious West Coast town/fisherman pubs are included. I know of at least one which swept away in a flood, the kerosene lamps burning and the piano playing as it floated out beyond the river bar (the story turned out to be crap).

It’s not a guidebook. You won’t find phone numbers, menus, beer lists, number of taps, number of hand pulls, toilet reviews – if you want the kind of thing you can find out by visiting the pubs on your own pub crawl.

And that’s the point. The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl isn’t about beer and food and buildings. It’s about the communities that make the pubs viable and the pubs that make communities viable. It’s about providing sustenance, shelter and impromptu company. It’s about coming out of the pub better informed, better connected and just better.

Bartlett and Corfe have been beer bloggers in the past. Ned Bartlett has served many beers and made many friends at the Volstead. They are excellent company in person and the same applies in print. Corfe’s chapters on the Hurunui Hotel and the Duke of Wellington are hilarious – he’s easily the successor for Ronald Hugh Morrison in enjoying the small, intense dramas of Kiwi life. I hear he’s working on a novel.

The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl is hardcovered, substantial and gorgeous. It’s made to be given away and written to be visited at leisure, like a good pub. See you there.

The Great Kiwi Pub Crawl, Ned Bartlett & Jono Corfe, Random House, RRP $60.00, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-77553-845-5. To be released Tuesday 1 November.


Martin Craig

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