Confessions of a Beervana volunteer

Like many other NZ beer fans, I spent much of last weekend at Beervana in Wellington.

I’ve been going to Beervana and its precedents for nearly ten years now, both as a punter and as a member of the news media. This year I also volunteered and spent the busy Saturday night session manning the Festive Brews bar.

Volunteering is a great way to get behind the scenes at our bigest beer event. Although you also get a free session, volunteering isn’t just an easy way to blag a free ticket. From my experience,it’s hard work, standing on hard, slippery concrete for four hours while pumping out prime craft beer as quickly as possible.

The theme for the Festive Brews was ‘Let’s Go…Black!’, to coincide with the forthcoming [MAJOR_SPORTS_EVENT]. Fittingly, most of the entrants were strong too.

This meant we were very busy when we opened, as visitors wanted to try the limited-edition Festive Brews before they ran out. We had a quiet spell in the middle as our high alcohol beers encouraged punters to pace themselves, then a strong finish in the final hour.

Some of the crowd favourites were Sale St Brewery’s Nana Bennett’s Xmas Ale, with its distinct Christmas pudding flavours; Goldent Ticket Brewing’s The Emperor Strikes Black (my favourite too); Three Boy’s All Black Balls Stout; and Tuatara’s XI which was quite possibly the strongest beer in the room at 10.5% abv.

8 Wired’s Festivus 2011 was the most popular beer at our stand, a fitting favourite as 8 Wired won the Champion New Zealand Brewery at BrewNZ (a very popular decision).

Other impressions:

  • About a third of Saturday night’s visitors were women, with many younger than 30. This certainly wasn’t happening at beer events five or ten years ago.
  • Brewers were less visible this year, possibly due to Beervana’s new business structure. This is a shame, as meeting brewers has been a highlight in previous years.
  • I sold a highly-collectable NZBeerBlog t-shirt! I might even get paid for it!
  • Beer is lovely stuff when its presented in a crisp clean glass. Otherwise it is sticky, slippery and very heavy.
  • No, we don’t have a lager.
  • A half-glass cost 1 token, and a full glass of stronger beers cost 3 tokens. No, I don’t know why. Yes I do know 1+1=2.
  • Fifty people wearing matching yellow t-shirts with big question marks look disturbingly like the Riddler’s henchmen.

Beervana will be around in its new format for a few years yet, judging from the obvious investment in new signage, furniture and bar fittings. Volunteer next year if you want to get involved and gain a behind-the-scenes view of the action.

Thanks to David Cryer for running the event and to Steph Coutts for her efficient volunteer co-ordination.


Copyright Martin Craig, August 2011. Reproduction with permission.
Twitter @nzbeerblog

8 Responses to “Confessions of a Beervana volunteer”

  1. not much of a confession! :-)

    Each beer token was worth $2 so a taste cost $2 while a full glass of strong beer cost $6, lower abv beer $4.

    The added value in getting tastes encouraged people to taste a range of different beers rather than have a session with full glasses.


  2. I really didn’t enjoy the venue and the format this year. It was only my second Beervana and I much preferred last year’s event. Many (most?) people I spoke to all agreed that the new format seemed to be more focused on revenue-generation rather than beer appreciation. I probably won’t go next year if it follows the same format.


  3. Thats a shame Stuart.

    It should be known that the event has made a loss every year it has run and this year was no different so an emphasis on revenue is perhaps understandible.

    I thought this year was easily the best yet.


    • It’s a shame that they’ve lost money each year, I would have thought it would be a lucrative event.

      What I liked about last year’s event was that you could talk to the actual brewers at their own stands, and they could talk you through the various beers they had on offer. Also, the town hall made for a more intimate event rather than the blandness of the Stadium.


  4. We had an absolutley awesome time. We went to the 3rd session which was a bit busy at the start but soon settled down.
    We came as a seven strong contingent – mainly from Auckland and the whole weekend was excellent with Beervana as it’s pinnacle – really well organized and planned out. I’m not a huge fan of the venue and it’s possible a better layout might have been for a longer area with the bars and food all along one side – but I’m no expert.
    We will definately be back next year. Well done to all those who organized it and worked at it.


  5. I thought you summed up the event really well Martin. It used to fun watching the Brewers struggle at their stands after a large night at the awards the night before. I thought the set up was fantastic & the venue worked well, but at the same time a central location would add to the event and result in more flow into our great Wellington Craft Beer Bars. Rather than losing a lot of the crowd to the trains.


  6. I should also mention Emerson’s Black Op, which was another popular beer at the Festive Brew stand. Black Op won the Festive Brew Trophy at the 2011 Brewers Guild Awards.

    Unfortunatley no one told us volunteers, and so we were unable to give Black Op its due at the event.


  7. Black Op wasnt actually even meant to be on the Festive brew stand we were meant to be exclusivly pouring it at the Emersons stand but somehow it ended up there anyway.


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