In a bit over an hour, I can walk down the mean but tidy streets of Thorndon, along the scenic Wellington waterfront, past the bars and eateries on Courtenay Place , and up into Cuba Street with the comical bucket fountain, tattoo parlours and assorted hipsters. Part of Wellington’s charm is its sheer diversity within a (comparatively) compact modern city.
There are parts of Wellington I rarely visit – Johnsonville (I’m a Tawa boy and can therefore be legally hunted in J’ville), Lyall Bay (too far away), Mitchelltown (mainly because I did not know there was a Mitchelltown in Wellington until five minutes ago) and, it must be said, Aro Valley.
My historical aversion to Aro Valley is probably ideological – the Aro Valley polling booth holds the record for the highest number of Green party votes at a general election with 619 in 2011. This beat the previous record of 586 at the Aro Valley polling booth in 2008. Tories have rarely been welcome in the Valley and, for much of history, most of us found little reason to go there.
That all changed with the opening of the Garage Project brewery at 68 Aro Street. It is a thriving craft brewery and cellar door inside an old petrol station next to the park. The owners correctly note it is pretty hard to miss. Garage Project is the brainchild of Pete Gillespie and Jos Ruffell with help from Pete’s brother Ian Gillespie and they have always done things a little differently. 
For a start, one of their first acts in brewing was to make 24 new beers and release them one a week over 24 weeks. This was in defiance of the conventional wisdom about doing a couple of relatively simple styles and getting them right before slowly expanding the range. Garage Project released more than 40 beers in their first year - even they seem a little hazy on the exact number.
Malthouse is currently pouring three beers from Garage Project. Designed to be a “really nice sessionable caramel blonde ale”, Garage Project Hapi Daze is hoppy but not a hop bomb by any stretch. The emphasis is on balance and drinkability. It was the eighth beer in the 24/24 project and built on the work of Hazy Daze A and Hazy Daze B – the fourth and fifth beers respectively. There is a story and/or in-joke behind the name  with Hapi being the Maori word for hops.
Each batch has been slightly different but I’m expecting a floral hop nose, firm malt backbone, citrus and grapefruit and a clean finish. It is the Garage Project beer I’ve probably drunk the most of since it was launched.
Now on the handpull is Garage Project Trip Hop IPA. It was the 2nd beer in the 24/24 line up and was voted one of the most popular by the drinkers filling in their comments on special coasters. It is not the most creative or boundary pushing beer in their range – that is a highly competitive category – but it is my favourite, at least for a Garage Project beer when I want to have a couple of pints.
As the name suggests, Trip Hop uses three New Zealand hops (and plenty of them) over a solid malt base. There is a hint of caramel and honey under the heady notes of passionfruit and orange. This batch has lower carbonation so that it comes out of the handpull smoothly and not in a mess of foam. Malthouse usually has two beers on handpull and this is a chance to try an India Pale Ale served the traditional way. The “Oxford Companion to Beer” tells the story of the beer engine or hand-pump or hand-pull:
“Invented in the early 1800s, the beer engine, or hand-pump, allowed the dispense at the bar of beer stillaged in the cellar below. Before this time, casks sat either on the bar or behind it, and the barman simply opened the tap to dispense a pint. A version of the beer engine was patented by the prolific British inventor, locksmith and hydraulic engineer Joseph Bramah in 1797. The modern beer engine has changed little since the early 1800s; it consists of a simple piston attached to a long sturdy handle. Check valves assure that beer flows only in one direction, up from cask to glass.”
The third leg of the Garage Project trifecta is the Garage Project Aro Noir Stout. This strong and dark  hoppy stout showcases notes of plums, raisin, sultana, coffee, pepper and a touch of spice. It was the 13th beer in the 24/24 project and was originally brewed to mark the coming of spring. The brewers note “I think there’s a perverse pleasure in celebrating the arrival of spring with a really nice inky black stout.” 
Many of the Garage Project crew are currently over in Melbourne – along with around half the Kiwi craft beer scene judging by Facebook – for Good Beer Week and the 2013 Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular event. Garage Project will be launching Death from Above – an Indochine ale made with mango, chilli, Vietnamese mint, lime juice plus a lot of Chinook, Centennial, Citra and Amarillo hops.
With no time to set down some test brews, they went full scale (2,000 litres) straight up and seem very pleased with the results. There will be a lot of interest in securing this beer in New Zealand after the launch, if there is any left of course. The name and branding drew a little manufactured criticism from the media but I think most people saw through it. I had my say (and much more) over at the Beer and Brewer blog and the link is included below.
Live music Sundays continue. This weekend’s star is yet to be confirmed but current rumours  include Kim Potter, the angry one from ‘N Sync and/or DJ Jazzy Jeff. The artist will be announced on Malthouse social media once everything is confirmed but whoever is booked will have their work cut out to follow Adam Page’s barn-storming performance last Sunday when he kept the Malthouse rocking for hours.
Finally, it is time to announce another of the beers which will be available for the Darkest Day Dark Beer Celebration on 21 June 2013 at Malthouse. It will be Garage Project Aro Noir. How handy!
Next time, we drink because we are New Zealand cricket supporters.
 I am informed that it is apparently possible to walk past a craft beer bar without going in but I’ve never managed it…
 You can say they “brew to the beat of a different drummer” which explains the title of this post (hopefully).
 There usually is with Garage Project beers.
 The brewers said “this beer absorbs light like a black hole in a glass”.
 I refer you to the comment about “doing things a little differently” above.
 Disclaimer: I just started those rumours with that sentence, to be scrupulously fair.
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Garage Project Brewery - http://garageproject.co.nz/
Garage Project Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/garageproject?fref=ts
Neil’s Beer and Brewer Rant about Death from Above and other “Offensive” Beer Names - http://www.beerandbrewer.com/_blog/Neil_Miller/post/taking-offence-at-beer-names/
Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine - www.beerandbrewer.com/