Friday, October 30, 2015

Hellooooo Wisconsin

Milwaukee over looking Lake Michigan
Leaving Hawaii was a bit of a bummer, however we were headed to Milwaukee to attend our good friends Matt and Sarah's wedding. These two had met only a few years earlier in a slightly arranged manor. Sarah and Amy met in New Zealand when they were both there studying. They became good friends and have stayed in touch and if you've followed our blog for awhile, you'll remember Sarah came to visit us in CT in 2012 and then again came to visit us out in Colorado in 2013. Low and behold, while she was visiting, she and my mate Matt hit it off like a house on fire. Now due to our involvement in their coming together, we were treated like we were celebrities, getting multiple mentions in wedding day speeches, one even requiring us to stand as everyone toasted to us! Throughout the night we kept being thanked by everyone for introducing them, and Amy even got cornered in the bathroom by a gaggle of girls.

Amy, Thomas, Matt and Sarah
Their wedding was a very well put together affair. With the ceremony at a local church followed by an impressive reception at Turner Hall, a historic Milwaukee venue. The grand building has been some what restored to a structural level however the design and decorations have been left as original. Flaking paint, cracks in the walls and wonky floors, the place had so much charm and character. Cupcakes and pretzels caped off the reception, before the party headed of to a local bar. 

The Milwaukee skyline, on a very windy day.
We had nowhere to go and nowhere to be, so we sort of house and cat sat for Matt and Sarah while they honeymooned. We took full advantage of the situation we found ourselves in. We biked everyday on the city's lakeside paths, played Frisbee golf, practiced AcroYoga and explored the expansive but sleepy historic city. Our usual nights entertainment was finding ourselves immersed in the rich beer heritage, new and old that the city is know for. Lakefront Brewery, MKE Brewery, Water Street Brewpub and the giant MillerCoors. Along with the breweries there in the city, there were also countless establishments serving the regions finest ales and some more of those giant pretzels. There was a definitive Germanic atmosphere to the region, with the Germans being the predominant settlers back in the day. 

Where beers come by the pair and the pretzels are pizza sized. 
One interesting outing we had with Sedge, Matt and Sarah's flatmate, involved a pub crawl with the Pedal Tavern- a large 12 person, pedal powered bar. BYO and legal to drink while aboard, with a sober driver manning the steering wheel, we pedaled in the rain to multiple bars. It was a tad bit bizarre, but great fun, sorry to all the traffic we held up, though. And those infamous Milwaukee cheese curds, I had to mention them somewhere, yummy, we had a good few!


With Matt and Sarah back in town a week later, we were back on the couches, but their lovely cat Arthur kept us company. Their honeymoon was over, but we were still on holiday. We continued to enjoy the fine autumn weather, and particularly the use of their indoor swimming pool and spa. Beers and catching up in the evenings, it was good to spend some time with old friends after the madness of their wedding was over. In the end, I told Amy she was right. Two of our best friends got married to each other. How could we have missed that? 

Back on the road again.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Aloha Hawai'i

Sunset at Waikiki Beach

A stopover in Hawai'i on the way back to mainland America, yeah why not? In reality for me, I was hoping it was going to be the first and last flight to America. Ever since we started the visa process, I have said to everyone that we are moving to Hawai'i. My visa got accepted and straight away we booked our flights there, with no further connections. I wanted to make our way to the windsurfing mecca of Maui and never leave. Well, I couldn't quite twist Amy's arm for right now, so we did end up booking connections on, however it is still firmly a goal of ours to one day make the Hawaiian life happen!

Haleiwa Beach, the real Hawai'i
Our time on the Island of Oahu was not your standard resort vacation, but are ours ever? We were staying with Amy's mum's goddaughter Corinne, her husband Brett, who is an officer second in charge of a submarine, and their two adorable daughters Veronica and Cecilia on the Naval base Ford Island at Pearl Harbor. There they lived in modern 1950s style housing set out in an odd fashion which ensured the 'historic concrete', runways etc. containing bullet holes from the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, was not built upon. We had special access passes and had free range of the whole island which is restricted to tourists. We could wander to the Aviation Museum and the memorials of the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. The complete center of the island was open and set aside, the site of the runway strip creating such an open and sun-baked walk when heading anywhere. Here we enjoyed their company with family outings, dinners, nighttime walks and even a board game or two. The girls quickly warmed to us, referring to me as "Thomas the Train" and wanting Amy to teach them to play the ukulele. 

Historic concrete

Besides the pink eye that I somehow obtained during the 8 hour plane ride from Auckland, we had a fantastic time with the family. They packed in activities for us. One day we were taken to a private military beach and got a good vibe of the good life that those posted there would have. Corinne and I got out with some surfboards while Amy and the girls had fun in the waves and sand. On another family outing, we were brought to the Hanauma Nature Preserve where there was some great snorkeling to be had and a mandatory video upon entrance, encouraging safe practice on the reef. A bit bizarre, but doing what they can to help the fragile ecosystem and probably protecting themselves from a lawsuit, too. This cove was absolutely stunning. The water everywhere on the island was crystal clear as you would expect, so mild and doused in swell. There were little fish darting around everywhere you looked. 

Hanauma Nature Preserve
While the girls were at school and the parents at work during the week, we managed to get out on our own a bit. We were a little disappointed with our day trip into Waikiki Beach which started with a bus ride in from the naval base. We passed through overdeveloped neighborhoods with strip malls, poverty, urban degradation and multi-lane highways that the great American legacy has left on the southern part of the Island of Oahu. It was disappointing to say the least. Once we were on the promenade in Waikiki, there was more of an image of wealth and tourism. To top it all off, we weren't even impressed with the Waikiki Brewpub. But one can still understand the draw for many. With 30+ story hotels right on the beach, shopping to the hearts content, all the good fast food and oh yeah that crystal clear Pacific Ocean is still right there, not much sand to sit on though.  

Looks miserable, right?
My favourite little adventure of our time in Hawai'i was a refreshing day trip to the North Shore. Despite suffering an arduous multi-hour bus journey with transfers to make the seemingly short trip over the mountain, it was paradise. As soon as we stepped off the bus in Haleiwa, it was obvious we had arrived in true Hawai'i. A few friendly locals struck up a conversation with us as we were getting lunch from a food truck and invited us to eat with them nearby in the gardens of an eco-sanctuary that they manage. They were such warm company and so happy to have us as their guests. Afterwards, one of them insisted that she drive us across town so we could get a couple of Maui Brewing Company beers and walk back through the quaint town, ending at the beach and the bus stop.  We did that, also grabbing some famous Matsumoto Shaved Ice along the way. It is well worth the hype. We camped ourselves down on the beach for the afternoon enjoying the surfers and having a beer, which this time, DID impress us. Very much so.

The girls had a particularly hard time saying goodbye to us the next morning, as did we. Although we wish we had more time to explore the islands properly, we are thankful that we got to catch up with Corinne and her family. It was just a quick taste of Hawai'i and we are ready to head back there soon. For now, we'll take the pink eye medication and our tans on to the mainland, where the adventures continue. 

North Shore Paradise

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The End of NZ

Kaikoura - Pure NZ
There was a fast paced change coming for us, our little life in Christchurch was coming to an end. We had been working toward getting my green card for America for the whole year and all of a sudden it was all finalized. Amy's New Zealand visa was expiring in 10 days, our friend's Matt and Sarah were getting married in 16 days in Wisconsin and I had a little adventure up to the U.S Consulate in Auckland and just like that, I had a permanent resident's visa for America. We booked flights and set upon packing our bags. 

It was obviously quite the relief to get the big 'yes' from the Americans. We were growing very tired of the process and at the time it was looking like there was the possibility that I may not have been accepted. My trip to Auckland was smooth accept for one little mess up I made with my hostel booking. On arrival at the YHA I didn't have a booking for that night and they were full! I had booked my bed for a few weeks later somehow! So along with a German fresh off the plane, we walked across the CBD and found alternate accommodations. It was quite the introduction for the young man walking down Queen Street at midnight, there were a few creatures out for sure.
Hole 13 of disc golf.
We definitely kept busy those last days. I invited people over every night, not that I didn't normally do that anyway. We had beer to drink and things to catch up on, and goodbyes to say because unfortunately we likely won't see many of these friends for some time. We enjoyed a few final Crazy Mountain Nitro Rye's at the new Dux Central as well as a pint at our other favourite bars and breweries. Finishing up at work was very sad for both of us. We had truly become members of the 'whanau' at our places of employment. We had a nice dinner out with my boss Paul at Cookin' with Gas and Amy got thrown a 'Red, White and Blue' America themed going away party at the preschool and a bit of a bigger extravaganza out on the town with workmates from the restaurant. She had also recently won the first inaugural staff member of the week at Mexico, with an embarrassing photo framed by the door and all. 

We had gone a bit rugby crazy the last while in NZ. We had the world cup starting soon, so I made sure we went to a local game before the RWC kicked off and we got rugby fatigue, but you can be sure that that never happened. As it turned out I also got given some more Canterbury tickets and we went to another game right in the middle of the RWC. On that day I believe I woke up watched a couple of delayed games on TV, we went to the live game and then watched another one or two games that evening. RUGBY!!

We had been practicing AcroYoga for a few months and with good weather about, we practiced in the garden, experimenting on any friends that were willing to try it out. One obliging person was our good friend Henric from Sweden who made himself at home on our couch on and off for a few weeks. He was a fast learner! Knowing that I would not see a crappy fish n chips establishment in some time, I really lived off shark and potatoes for my last days. But plenty of frisbee golf and cycling kept me in balance, not sure what offset the beer though. A trip up to Kaikoura was the icing on the cake to our end of our year in New Zealand. It is depressing to think that in over a year we nearly hadn't even made it there. A place we both truly love, where the mountains meet the ocean and the empty beaches are raw but breathtaking. Being able to dip my toes into the freezing turquoise ocean after a day of selling the finest alcoholic beverages to a willing audience at the 'Kaikoura Seafest' was a perfect sendoff. Until next time NZ, ka kite ano, we will see you again.

Thomas and Paul proprieting. More like, 'give me your glass and I'll fill it quick.'

Monday, October 5, 2015

Crazy Mountain Rye Pale Ale

Thomas' creation, Thomas' design, Thomas' baby 

The best part about working at Wigram Brewing Company was the true opportunity I have had to play a large role in how the company takes direction over the near future. I found myself as the third in charge, as there is only three of us. The learning I experienced goes far beyond just brewing practices. I took over a part time sales role and had established several new customers, aiming more for the younger hip bar scene, where Paul the owner has successfully utilised my endless passion for craft beer. I have established a presence in social media and have pushed the idea of creating a new vibe for the business.

Sparging Crazy Mountain Rye in the Mash Tun.

My main driver to create this buzz was getting some new beer in the line up. Paul was easily convinced over my Rye Pale Ale and I brewed a 600L batch of it to be released at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival in March. I also wanted to test the grounds at dispensing the beer via nitrogen rather than the traditional carbon dioxide. We did this at the beer fest despite it pouring a tad foamy. Fair try for the first attempt. 

From Avenues Magazine, Thomas pouring the first Crazy Mountain Rye

Now we have installed a Nitro beer tap at our favorite beer bar, the Volstead Trading Co. on Riccarton Road and the first beer to be dispensed was our Crazy Mountain Rye. This was received with much excitement, as it's the first Nitro tap dispensing craft beer in Christchurch. Having already established a solid following since being dispensed on the traditional hand pump, it's quite amazing that the one beer served on the three different formats: CO2, Nitro and hand pump shines in each it's unique ways. I will drink any of them any day, everyday!

One of my arty Facebook posts, kegs loads of Crazy Mountain Rye.