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Craft beer is growing in popularity in New Zealand, and nowhere is that more visible than in the capital, Wellington.
The city is fairly small, with a compact CBD, making it easy for drinkers to get around on foot. Within a few blocks of my hotel there were at least a dozen great places to drink awesome beer, making it one of the most densely beer-populated cities in the world. I tried to get to as many as I could, but even then, there were plenty of bars that I missed. Here are some of my favorite places to drink craft beer in Wellington.
Little Beer Quarter (LBQ)
Little Beer Quarter was my first beer stop in Wellington, since it was right around the corner from my hotel. Like many good bars, it was located in an alleyway.
I visited a couple of times. It’s a chill spot with great music. The beer selection was nice, with about dozen taps, a couple of hand pulls, and a large bottle selection.
The bar snacks were also good. I recommend the calamari. Little Beer Quarter is a spot for connoisseurs, based on the number of Untapped check-ins I saw. There are a lot of beer geeks here. The bar closed early since it was a Monday night, otherwise I would have stayed even longer on my first visit, but that just let me try new places.
Hashigo Zake is another craft beer bar that I visited a couple of times during my time in Wellington. The bar is a major beer destination, featuring a mix of New Zealand, American, and Japanese beers.
Hashigo Zake call themselves a “cult beer bar”, and they certainly take their beer seriously. There are about a dozen taps, but the true depth is in their bottle selection.
The vibe is cool, with all three cultures melding in one dark basement. The food is a mix of local favorites & Japanese snacks such as takoyaki, which harkened back to my beer drinking times in Tokyo & Kyoto.
The bar also has the best WiFi I encountered in New Zealand, and they even print the password on the menu, which saves people from having to pester the bartenders. Oh, and in case you were wondering “Hashigo Zake” is a Japanese phrase that roughly means “bar hopping”. A genius name for a genius bar.
The Malthouse is one of the older places to drink craft beer in Wellington, but it hasn’t been left behind, as is what happens with some older bars.
The selection here is simply massive, featuring about 25 taps of the best New Zealand & European beers, plus a huge bottle selection, many of which are difficult to find. I was only able to make it in for a couple of drinks, but I could have easily spent several days at The Malthouse. This is a true gem for local beer fans in Wellington.
Golding’s Free Dive
Golding’s Free Dive is kind of a dive in both senses of the word. Inside, it’s dark, with a seaside diving theme.
Should you want to enjoy some sunlight, there’s also an outside patio. It’s another bar that is a bit difficult to find down a side street, but once you do, you’ll want to stay a while.
Despite being in the middle of a busy area of Wellington, Golding’s Free Dive manages to maintain a neighborhood feel, featuring both New Zealand & American beers.
Garage Project was the sole brewery that I visited in Wellington, and based on everything else I had to drink during my trip, it was my favorite in New Zealand, which is an impressive feat since there are so many great breweries there. The brewery started in a garage in Wellington’s Aro Valley (just south of the CBD) which you might have surmised by the name.
These guys are huge beer geeks, constantly experimenting to make new, unique beers. You’re not going to always find the same limited range of beers here. Their brewery doesn’t serve pints, only growlers, bottles, and cans to go, however you can do as many tasters as you’d like.
I tasted everything available, plus I then brought a couple of cans of their beers that I hadn’t yet had in New Zealand to take back home. I hope that Garage Project’s international distribution continues to grow because they make fantastic beer.
Garage Project Tap House
Oh, you thought I was done with Garage Project? Across the street & about a block to the west from the brewery along Aro Sreet, the Garage Project Tap House features even more of the brewery’s great beer.
When I was in Wellington, the bar had only been open for about 2 months, but it’s a great spot to relax and try more Garage Project beer. The bar features 18 taps, plus 2 casks. I’ve never seen this before, but at each tap handle they had a small bottle of each beer. This is a great way to get some idea of what style the beer is, if you only like dark beers, light beers, or IPAs. Plus it just looks cool.
They were still working on the food menu a bit, but they had good snacks & sandwiches. Whoever was responsible for the music that day was also doing a great job, as they were playing The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The National, and MGMT. I’d planned on visiting/revisiting some of the other Wellington craft beer bars after going here on my final evening in the city, but I ended up just staying here. My favorites were Cabbages & Kings, an oyster stout, and Mecha Hop, a face-melting strong beer that was made purely from hop & malt extracts.
These were all of the craft beer bars I managed to visit during my three days in Wellington, which was not nearly enough. I certainly need to go back someday to visit other highly-rated places such as Rogue & Vagabond (which I tried to visit, but was closed for the holiday), Crafters & Co, The Third Eye – Tuatara, The Hop Garden, Bebemos, Black Dog Beer Co., Capital Craft Beer Co., and Southern Cross.
With all of these beer bars so close together in central Wellington, you might find yourself needing the facilities. Don’t worry, the city has you covered with large, reasonably clean public toilets located in Te Aro Park.
If you’re looking for even more craft beer in Wellington, or if you want to gain an accomplishment while you’re drinking your way through the city, Wellington has put together a Craft Beer Capital map with stamps. If you visit all 20 places, which includes the places I’ve mentioned, as well as Meow, Fork & Brewer, D4 on Featherston, Sprig & Fern, Moon, Basque, Bin 44, The Bruhaus, & Kelburn Village Pub, you can get a certificate & a t-shirt. While I didn’t do this because I only had a few days in the city, plus some bars were closed for the holidays, it looks like fun & a good way to get to know Wellington through the bottom of a glass.
With an amazing amount of craft beer breweries and bars for its size, Wellington truly is the craft beer capital of New Zealand, and a must-visit destination for any beer geek.
Do you love craft beer? Check out more of my recommendations for the best craft beer around the world!
Read below for all of my posts about my trip around the Pacific Rim!
A trip around the Pacific Rim – Introduction
OneWorld Business Lounge Los Angeles LAX review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Boeing 777-300ER Los Angeles LAX to Hong Kong HKG review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330 Hong Kong HKG to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Street markets & Petronas Towers
Cathay Pacific Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Plaza Premium Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL satellite review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Auckland AKL review
Air New Zealand Economy Class Airbus A320 Auckland AKL to Queenstown ZQN review
Queenstown Motel Apartments – Queenstown, New Zealand review
Queenstown, New Zealand – A Lord of the Rings tour
Day trip from Queenstown, New Zealand – Milford Sound
Queenstown, New Zealand – Skyline Queenstown
Craft beer in Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown to Franz Josef, New Zealand by bus
Hiking to Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Franz Josef to Nelson, New Zealand by bus
Fellworth House – Nelson, New Zealand review
A beer & wine tour through Nelson, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Nelson, New Zealand
Nelson to Wellington, New Zealand by bus and ferry via Picton
A nerdy day at Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand
Exploring the museums & parks of Wellington, New Zealand
The best craft beer in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington to Auckland, New Zealand by bus
New Year’s Eve in Auckland, New Zealand
A rainy New Year’s Day at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
A rainy day at the Auckland Art Gallery & New Zealand Maritime Museum
The best craft beer in Auckland, New Zealand
Emperor Lounge Auckland AKL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Airbus A330-300 Auckland AKL to Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur review
A layover in Kuala Lumpur – Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia & Jalan Alor
Malaysia Airlines Golden Regional Lounge Kuala Lumpur KUL review
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Boeing 737-800 Kuala Lumpur KUL to Hong Kong HKG review
A visit to Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong for dim sum
A rainy day in Hong Kong – Science Museum & Kau Kee noodles
Hong Kong – Victoria Peak & more great food
More dim sum in Hong Kong – Din Tai Fung & Dim Sum Square
A day trip to Macau from Hong Kong
Grand City Hotel Hong Kong review
The best craft beer in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific The Cabin Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific The Bridge Business Class Lounge Hong Kong review
Cathay Pacific Business Class Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong HKG to Osaka KIX via Taipei review
A layover in Osaka – Ramen, sushi, & exploring the city
JAL Sakura Lounge Osaka KIX review
JAL Business Class Boeing 787 Osaka KIX to Los Angeles LAX review