Beervana – one of the crown jewel events in the annual Visa Wellington on a Plate festival – exceeded attendance expectations this year.
“More than 16,000 tickets were sold – 50.1 percent to people outside Wellington city,” says Festival Director Sarah Meikle.
They tasted the wares from more than 50 brewers, who brewed more than 350 different beers for the two-day event.
It's a far cry from 2002, when the festival began as “Brew NZ”, run by the Brewers Guild of New Zealand in the Wellington Town Hall, and had an attendance of 200.
Since then it has moved to the bigger capacity Westpac Stadium, where there is more room to roam for the discerning taster. It has also pushed the boundaries of beer styles, how to present and pour beer - with brewers getting more and more creative - and the entertainment keeping pace.
As well as attracting people from outside Wellington city, the festival is drawing punters from across the ditch, Meikle says.
There were 506 Aussie beer fans in attendance this year.
“Australia has its own selection of good beer festivals, which shows how much pulling power Beervana has.”
Steve Henderson, founder of Queensland’s Rockstar Brewer Academy, was one of those who made the trip across the Tasman.
“I’m an Australian brewer and beer geek and it's been about four years since my last Beervana. It sure has changed for the better, now encompassing the entire Westpac Stadium concourse.
“The biggest decision of the festival was whether to say ‘yeah nah’ and head clockwise or say ‘nah yeah’ and head anti-clockwise.
“The beers were pretty grouse! Beervana is a beer festival that's choc-a-block full of amazing froths for the discerning beer geek. Well worth going!”
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says that he’s particularly proud of the festival’s success - being a homegrown event that celebrates two of Wellington’s greatest strengths; its food scene and creativity.
“Beervana and our Matariki celebrations are showing what a fun place Wellington can be in winter,” the Mayor says.
“Beervana’s growing popularity means it is now one of the bigger events on Wellington’s calendar. The people behind it have found the right ingredients and have worked really hard to turn it into a shining example of the capital’s creativity.”
WREDA CEO Lance Walker says culinary tourism helps fuel Wellington’s $2.6 billion visitor economy, and Visa Wellington On a Plate shines a spotlight on the region’s best and wildest food and drink experiences.
“Unlike some other parts of New Zealand, people don’t just come to Wellington for outdoor experiences. They also come here for our culture, creative vibe, and they definitely come for our amazing food, drink and friendly hospitality."
Walker says winter is the ideal time for Visa Wellington On a Plate. “It gets people out and about, having fun, enjoying the festival spirit and supporting the local economy while they’re at it.”