Auckland city guide
Auckland is the largest urban centre in New Zealand. Just over 1.5 million people live in a city that sprawls across a central isthmus separating the Pacific from the Tasman sea.
Monday 20 January 2020
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Auckland is the largest urban centre in New Zealand. Just over 1.5 million people live in a city that sprawls across a central isthmus separating the Pacific from the Tasman sea. Most of the city’s commercial activities are based in the central business district (CBD) near the city harbour, and the rest of the city spreads out in neighbourhoods made up of low rise bungalows. Beer-wise, things are largely concentrated in two areas: the viaduct and harbour neighbourhoods adjacent to the CBD, and the Auckland Beer Mile, which groups together bars and breweries to the west of downtown Auckland and encompasses the Kingsland, mt. Eden, and Grafton neighbourhoods in one beery itinerary.
WHERE TO DRINK
Galbraith’s Alehouse (2 Mount Eden Road, Eden Terrace)
At the top of the Auckland Beer Mile, Galbraith’s is an institution. It’s one of, if not the only, bars in the city focused almost exclusively on traditionally English cask-conditioned beers with a menu featuring Bellringer’s Best Bitter, Bitter and Twisted ESB, and Bob Hudson’s bitter - all of which are brewed in the on-site brewery. Galbraith’s is the closest approximation to an English pub you’re likely to find in Auckland - carpets on the floor, wooden panelling and sepia-toned photos. The beer list isn’t exclusively focused on cask, and a rotating selection of taps throw up some more modern styles either from the in-house brewery (NZ Pale Ale, Kveik IPA) or from nearby breweries.
Save Ferris Craft Beer Parlour (224 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace)
A short walk uphill from Galbraith’s is Save Ferris, a self-styled amusement arcade and craft beer bar. As the name suggests, Save Ferris is dedicated to all things Ferris Bueller, and the 1980s. Think a projector screening Top Gun onto one wall of the bar, classic arcade games like Time Crisis and Street Fighter II (a word of warning - your button-bashing skills will be severely impaired by beer consumption), and pinball machines featuring Star Trek and WWF wrestling. The beer selection features breweries from across the North Island, including Auckland’s own Behemoth Brewing Company, Bach Brewing, and Deep Creek Brewing Co.
Brothers Brewery (5 Akiraho Street, Mount Eden)
Opposite the Mt. Eden train station on a residential street, Brothers Brewery is a proper brewpub. Tables sit cheek by jowl next to the stainless steel brewhouse that produces a lager, pilsner, pale, and an IPA, among others - all of which are served straight from brite beer tanks behind the bar. The place has a car-boot-sale vibe, with cutlery housed in repurposed Spam tins, recovered furniture with worn upholstery, and reused carpet rugs on the floor. The brewpub menu is standard BBQ fare - lamb, ribs, sandwiches, and so on. Their pastrami sandwich comes highly recommended. Brothers is a big barn of a place, expansive and open with plenty of room for families with children, and they have outlets elsewhere in the city, in the CBD and out in the suburbs in Orakei.
Behemoth Brewing Company (1A Charles Street, Mount Eden)
Auckland’s newest brewpub, Behemoth is set to open in a converted muffler shop just off Dominion Rd. in early March - all going according to plan. The company, which currently brews on contract at several other locations in Auckland and elsewhere, is launching off of the back of a crowdfunding campaign that brought in a couple of million NZ dollars, enough to build a 250,000 litre brewhouse, a 24-tap bar, nose-to-tail restaurant focusing on butchery and charcuterie, and a beer garden with space for 230. Behemoth’s “Me Time - Mosaic” IPA was awarded the best IPA in 2019 by the Brewers Guild of New Zealand.
Beer Spot (596 New North Road, Kingsland)
A useful terminus to the Auckland Beer Mile, The Beer Spot has a comprehensive tap selection. 41 taps in all, plus an occasionally-used handpull, are listed by style on a large chalkboard, identified by categories including “wheat as”, “hour of sour” and “pales into comparison”. It features the best of New Zealand’s contemporary breweries, including Hallertau, 8 Wired, Liberty and Sawmill - with one brewery selected each month as their “brew buddy”. Set away from the main street, the bar is split between a ground floor and mezzanine space above the taps, with a small covered terrace out front. It’s furnished in a classically craft aesthetic - exposed Edison bulbs, high stools, ironic paintings on the wall, and Fleetwood Mac on the sound system. They don’t do food in-house, but have regular street food vendor service.
Garage Project Kingsland (357 New North Road, Kingsland)
The Auckland outpost of the renowned Wellington brewery. It’s a cellar door, meaning they can only offer customers taster-sized glasses, usually served in flights. The beers rotate regularly, featuring their hop-forward IPAs and pale ales, and some of their more exotic beers, including schwarzbiers, cream ales, and mixed fermentation saisons. It’s a popular place, with a regular stream of drinkers passing through to fill up their growlers or buy six-packs from the two fridges stacked full of Garage Project’s technicoloured beers, natural wines, and ciders. Caleb behind the bar - of New Zealand parentage but brought up in the north of England - will set you right for beers.
Urbanaut Brewing Co. (597 New North Road, Kingsland)
A cellar door on a residential street near the main Kingsland thoroughfare, with the brewhouse on one side of the converted industrial warehouse and the sit-down area on the other. The bar offers a selection of Urbanaut beers as well as Yeastie Boys, brewed here fresh for New Zealand. You could also take a beer from the fridge, including the brewery’s innovative blending cans, which feature two micro cans of different beer styles but packaged together and paired with the intention of blending them together for a third, combined beer style. There’s a constant thrum of noise from the brewhouse competing with the bar’s speaker system, and the vernacular staples of arcade games, reclaimed furniture, and IPAs are all present.
The Brewers Cooperative (128-132 Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD)
On the other side of the Sky Tower attraction that dominates the CBD, and sited on the corner of a busy intersection. As well as an extensive beer menu, the bar majors on plates of fish and chips. The brewery list is similar to the rest of the city, standouts being a beautifully fragrant Alibi Chocka pale ale brewed with native Riwaka hops, and a bracingly resinous west coast IPA from McCleod’s. It’s a lively and bright place filled by the post-work office crowd, and the whole place is baked in the smell of frying fish, and there’s a distinctly nautical vibe in the decor.
Vulture’s Lane (10 Vulcan Lane, Auckland CBD)
Right in the middle of the CBD in the shadows of the surrounding skyscrapers, and often populated by the office employees that work within them. The bar is decorated in dark stained wood and faux stone fireplaces, with a basement room with couches and arcade games, and televisions broadcasting poker and NBA. When it comes to beer, there are two sets of 10 taps as well as two handpulls and a dedicated draught Guinness tap, the beer list leaning on New Zealand heavyweights - Sawmill, Garage Project, Epic - and a range of diverse styles. The food offering extends from burgers to toasted sandwiches and tortillas.
16 Tun (10/26 Jellicoe Street, Auckland CBD)
Down the hill from The Brewer’s Cooperative at the Auckland harbour, 16 Tun is tucked into the ground floor of a modern office block across the street from New Zealand’s America’s Cup headquarters. Knowledgeable staff will guide you through the extensive beer selection across 19 taps and two fridges full of bottles and cans from the likes of Zeffer cider, North End, and Epic, displayed on TV screens throughout the bar. The bar itself is richly furnished with black walls and a copper-panelled bar. If they have it on, go for The Fifth Voyage, a darkly sweet coconut porter from Ground Up Brewing.
WHERE TO EAT
Cafe Hanoi (Excelsior Building Cnr Galway & Commerce Street, Britomart)
In the centre of the CBD, opposite the Britomart train station. Cafe Hanoi puts a modern twist on north Vietnamese street food - bowls of pho, tiger prawns in Chile sauce, or beautifully smoky pork w nuoc cham. These are dishes made for sharing (but if you’re dining on your own, the staff will guide you towards the menu items better suited to just one person), in a pared back, vaguely oriental setting. The beer list offers South East Asian staples including Bia Saigon, as well as offerings from 8 Wired, Urbanaut and Bach Brewing.
Satya Chai Lounge (271 Karangahape Road, Auckland CBD)
If mouth-numbingly hot Indian food served with exceptional beer is your jam, then Satya Chai Lounge up on K’Road is unmissable. The brainchild of Swami and Padmaja Akuthota, Chai Lounge focuses on Southern Indian dishes alongside a superbly well-executed beer list. Come for the blisteringly hot Bang Bang Chicken (and remember to ask the staff for a complementary bowl of calming sour cream), and stay for a list that features a specially brewed Mango Sour Ale collaboration with Behemoth, taps serving Garage Project and Australian brewery Moon Dog, and a fridge list dense with 8 Wired, Garage Project and more.
Ralph’s (225B Dominion Road, Mount Eden)
Perfectly located close to Mt. Eden, for a post-hike feed. There’s beers from Hamilton’s Good George brewery (who you can also find down at the harbour in their own, self-named bar), cider, and a rotating tap selection. Ralph’s Sunday lunch menu leans towards Tex-Mex, featuring variations on nachos and tacos.
Lord of the Fries (179-189 Karangahape Road, Auckland CBD)
If what you need is an ethically greasy morning recovery breakfast after a heavy night out then you will likely end up at the Lord of the Fries burger chain. There’s an outlet on K’Road, serving your typical fast food - faux chicken and beef burgers, hot dogs - but 100% vegan. Go for the chicken and waffles breakfast burger.
WHAT TO DO
Blow off the jet lag by climbing the highest point in Auckland
Auckland is a lumpy town thanks in large part to the many dormant volcanoes dotted around the city. Mt. Eden is the tallest of the lot. And what better way to keep the jet lag at bay than a brisk hike up to the top. There, you can take in the whole city, spread out in low-slung bungalows into the distance, wedged between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a moderately taxing walk up a path that winds itself in loops up and around the hill.
Take in some sport, New Zealand’s secular religion
Not far from Mt. Eden, and visible from the top of the hill is Eden Park stadium, regular home to All Blacks matches and the beating heart of rugby in Auckland. The All Blacks are ever-present in the city, whether performing well or not. If you’re in town during off-season you can visit the stadium on a guided tour; otherwise, try and get to the see the All Blacks during The Rugby Championship, or the local Super Rugby team the Auckland Blues. If rugby isn’t your thing, then there’s football, cricket, and lots and lots of sailing.
Discover Auckland’s central place in New Zealand’s maritime history
Water is inescapable in Auckland, and wherever you might be in New Zealand, you’re rarely far from the beach, and, from the earliest exploration of North island by Polynesian settlers in the 14th century, to the colonial immigrants who made the bay their home in the 1800s, sailing and shipping have been important to Auckland. The National Maritime on the harbour essays this history, from the earliest Maori fishing vessels, to the ultra-modern catamaran used during team New Zealand’s successful attempt to win the America’s Cup in 1995.
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