Would you walk a mile – or two – for a good beer? I'm willing to put that concept to the test in Auckland, where a collection of craft breweries, pubs and bars in Auckland's Eden Terrace and Kingsland districts, south of the CBD, has led to the birth of the Auckland Beer Mile.
It's not really a mile; in fact at 3.2 kilometres it's exactly two miles from end to end. But with easy access to trains and buses, it's a pleasingly walkable stretch of places to drink. Over a couple of days, I visit six of them…
From the street, Galbraith's Alehouse is a grand old building with a green portico and purple Greek pillars. Inside is a warm pub vibe within a timber-panelled room, with the brewery tanks housed in an adjoining space. I take a perch at the end of the long bar, and chat to the barman. He confirms that Galbraith's makes all its own beers, including hand-pulled ales in the British tradition. I order an excellent Bellringers Best Bitter in a "Colonial" glass, which at 425ml is the same volume as an Aussie schooner. 2 Mount Eden Road, Grafton, see alehouse.co.nz
BROTHERS' JUKE JOINT
I find my next venue not far away and down a quiet side street. Brothers' Juke Joint is the polar opposite to Galbraith's, a sprawling industrial space with beer tanks, and lots of sofas that look salvaged from second-hand stores. There are 14 of Brothers Brewery's own beers on tap, complemented by American-style barbecue food: beef brisket, pulled pork, fried chicken and the like. I'm always happy with a bitter beer, so the Belgian bartender serves me the Fresh IPA, made from the freshest of the season's hops. 5 Akiraho St, Mount Eden, see brothersbeer.co.nz
The next afternoon I head to Churly's, picking up the Beer Mile again in the Mt Eden area. Outlet for the Behemoth Brewing Company's brews, its a no-nonsense structure that was once a muffler shop, and the staff wear blue overalls in homage. Another element of the old days is shelving made from roof beams. Out the back is a big open-air dining area. I can't decide on a beer from the long menu, so the waiter gives me tastes of three different IPAs – and it's Behemoth's full-bodied Something Hoppy that wins my favour. 1A Charles Street, Mount Eden, see churlys.co.nz
A short walk away across the railway line is Garage Project. The Auckland cellar door of a Wellington brewer, it has a simple interior with high tables and bar stools, and a row of 12 taps with a sampler of each beer in a bulb above them. The venue serves tasting flights and today my varied selection includes beers with names such as X033, Rose Kolsch, Ghost Light and One Day in March. However, my favourite is the Wildflower & Feijoa, a tart and unusual brew. "Maybe pair that one with seafood," says Ryan the barman. 357 New North Road, Kingsland, see garageproject.co.nz
Further west in Kingsland, Urbanaut Brewing Co is another industrial cavern with random sofas. It produces a lot of one-off beers, including such unusual drops as a cucumber and mint sour. "Those special release beers are huge for us, so innovation is a massive focus," explains co-owner Simon Watson. Urbanaut serves in-house tasting flights but I'm fascinated by their unusual "beer blenders", containing two cans of different beers which can be mixed, so I pick up a spicy ginger beer and lime juice sour duo to try later. 597 New North Road, Kingsland, see urbanautbeer.com
605 MORNINGSIDE DRINKERY
My final stop is a few doors down. Inside an old shopfront, 605 Morningside Drinkery is a bar with craft beer on tap and plenty more in the fridge. It's a friendly, intimate and slightly grungy "local" (the "People Drink Here" sign on the door says it all). It hosts live music at weekends, and serves bar food featuring chicken wings and fried potatoes. With the Morningside train station nearby, it's the perfect place to chill at the end of the Auckland Beer Mile before catching a train back to the city. 605 New North Road, Kingsland,see 605morningsidedrinkery.com
Qantas flies to Auckland, see qantas.com.au
Adina Apartment Hotel Auckland Britomart offers spacious accommodation in the Auckland CBD, from NZ$NZ178 ($A166) a night. See adinahotels.com
Tim Richards stayed in Auckland as a guest of TFE Hotels.