The stereotypical student bar is not for the weak of heart or faint of liver. The massive booze barns of the past literally poured cheap beer and dodgy spirits down the throats of the sweaty masses who were busy indulging in the kinds of behaviours which would get them banned from most normal establishments.
Such bars were not without their charm but it was difficult to properly enjoy yourself when you were wondering what was the ankle deep liquid covering the entire floor. This happened to me in Waikato University’s Wailing Bongo Bar and the answer is that you really don’t want to know.
The Mount Street Bar in the Student Union building definitely feels more like a café bar but student drinking habits and societal attitudes have changed significantly in recent years.
New managers Anna Wisepa and Mags Chalecka-Harris are looking to make some changes to bring people back to the bar after it had developed a poor reputation. Some students said it served the most expensive jugs of beer in town.
One of the main changes is to ensure that student demand for competitively priced (namely, cheap) beer is met. Certainly, Mount Street Bar serves $4 handles and $6 quarts of Tui, Speight’s and Export. There are $5 Heinekens for the law students and a number of $5 Monteith’s beers for people from the South Island.
Mirroring the national trend, Tui East India Pale Ale is the best seller followed closely by Speight’s Gold Medal Ale. Both are actually lagers but I saw a number of those big Once Were Warriors bottles heading over the counter during my visit.
The hidden gem of the Mount Street Bar from a beer lover’s perspective is the cheapest Tuatara in town. Tuatara has a fantastic range of local beers brewed less than an hour from the university (won’t somebody please think of the carbon miles?)
The Tuatara Pale Ale (5%) is a strong hoppy beer. This style of beer was designed to survive long sea voyages from England to India and the result is full flavoured beer with an imperial bitter finish.
As the weather closes in, the Tuatara Porter (5%) should become increasingly popular. This rich black beer is slightly creamy with lashings of malt sweetness, chocolate and some burnt Vogel’s toast notes. It is a satisfying drop.
The Tuatara Ardennes Ale (6.5%) is a robust and boisterous beverage. Based on a Belgian strong ale, it bursts with oranges, spices and the trademark funky Belgian yeast. A complex bitter fruity aftertaste rounds out this brew.
These world class beers are just $6 a bottle! For those who baulk at such ‘expense’, remember that the Ardennes is a burly 6.5%. You do the maths. I certainly can’t.
The balcony is nominally smoke-free but I saw more smoke there than the J-Day organising committee watching a Bob Marley marathon. Mount Street Bar has good prices and some very good beer on offer. Open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from noon, the atmosphere will pick up as more people come back to the bar. Try a Tuatara.