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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Beer festivals are a great way to try beers from dozens of breweries in the space of a few hours and still be standing at the end. Usually, it takes breweries from all over the country to get enough beers to constitute a festival, but in Nelson, you just need to look locally.

Nelson is home to at least 13 breweries—and I might even be forgetting one or two. This anomalous number may have something to do with Nelson being the only region where hops are grown in New Zealand. Every year, a beer festival named Marchfest is held to celebrate the harvest of these hops, and this year 12 breweries participated.
Marchfest organisers task each participating brewery to create a unique beer for the festival, along a certain theme. This year’s theme was ‘revolution’, and each brewery created their beer with that theme in mind. There were too many beers on offer for me to mention, but there were a few standouts.

Sprig & Fern’s Marchfest offering is the same every year, and always manages to capture the essence of fresh hops. Sprig & Fern Harvest Pilsner (5%)—named Red Star for Marchfest—is a green-hopped lager. Green hopping is when hops are picked from the vine the day of the brew and tossed straight in the beer. This means every last drop of flavoursome hop oil is extracted into the beer. This year’s Harvest Pilsner shows off the big, fruity, floral aromas of Riwaka and Nelson Sauvin hops. It’s so fruity many comparisons have been made to a Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Stoke Brewery brought along Smok’n Guns (5.5%), a smoked lager. With my previous experience with Stoke beers I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. The smoked-bacon aromas and flavours of beech smoked malt shone through, with a pleasantly rich body. Hopefully Stoke can one day translate this beer to a full sized batch for everyone to enjoy.

The beer which created the most fuss was 8 Wired Brewing’s Uber Pils (7%). Only 100 litres were made for the festival, and it was only available once an hour for 5-10 minutes. Every hour, at the top of each hour, dedicated fans queued up for a chance to try this truly revolutionary beer. Uber Pils has taken the flavour of a classic New Zealand pilsner (a la Emersons Pilsner) and amped up every aspect. Big passionfruit aromas wafted from the glass, which then showed up in the flavour. A rich and rewarding drink, it is worthy of a large scale brew so all can enjoy its unique experience.

Keep an eye out for other brewery’s offerings popping up in Wellington in the coming weeks. Leftover Marchfest beers from Renaissance, Moa, Sprig & Fern and possibly more are on their way as we speak…

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please contact me at or tweet at me @davethebeerguy.

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  1. Sam says:

    Good Times Dave thanks for your hospitality!

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