In “Our Favourite Places” feature, the Jesuit acts as editor for a series of short reviews of bars, breweries and beer drinking venues from across the archipelago.


Cult beer bar

 photographs and text: the Jesuit

Location: 25 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand
– just behind and immediately below Zibbibo. This location has been home to a number of venues of varying degrees of longevity, most recently we believe The Monkey Bar (circa 2000-07/08). However, Hashigo Zake has occupied the premises for just over two years and looks like staying, despite or perhaps because of a recent influx of competition.

Ambience: They’re clearly going for some version of understated Japanese elegance and more or less bring it off. This aesthetic is most evident in the area immediately around the bar and the tables in the northwest corner. The lounge that occupies most of the southern half of the premises is somewhat more cosy, or slightly divey (in a good way). In any case, the low ceilings – a reminder of the space’s origins as police cells.

The music selection tends towards unobtrusive Indie and there’s a video display that not only lists all the current tap beers but also tells you what you’re listening to at any given moment.

Beer:  With eleven frequently changing taps, including a couple of hand pulls, and dozens if not hundreds of bottled beers from throughout the world, Hashigo Zake can easily claim the widest selection of any Wellington venue. Only the venerable Malt House is even within striking distance. What’s more remarkable is that the owners achieve this status without recourse to the numerous mass market lagers that infest almost every other specialist beer pub in the city. They even have a certificate near the front door proudly declaring themselves a Heineken Free Zone. Cop that one, St. John’s Bar!

More to the point, Hashigo Zake has been in the forefront of bringing beers from as far afield as Denmark, Norway, Québec, Brazil, and Japan to Wellington. Not to mention lots of great stuff from the States and the cream of New Zealand’s craft beer crop. It’s almost guaranteed that even the most well travelled beer aficionado will find something novel on every visit.

Food: By their own admission, Hashigo Zake has a tiny and barely serviceable kitchen with the result that their food offer is confined to a few Japanese themed bar snacks and a range of spicy hand made pies. On special occasions they have been known to extend themselves as for example during this year’s Super Bowl when they offered a particularly enticing Chilli con Carne.

Staff: The staff are generally friendly but always well-versed on their inventory. If they don’t have a particular beer in stock, they’ll gladly offer an alternative selection that’s as close as possible to what you were after and sometimes even better. As with any good beer venue, they’ll happily provide samples of anything on tap and will often provide insightful commentary.

Clientele: Hashigo Zake has always been a bit blokey although the number of women patrons has been increasing noticeably over the last year or so. Aside from the odd suit (myself included), most of the regular punters are endearingly anorakish, the kind of studious types that other parts of the world might devote themselves to spotting trains or sifting through bins of rare vinyl (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Summary: The Thirstyboys are somewhat divided in our appreciation of Hashigo Zake. For some of us the range and variety of the beers on offer is more than sufficient to offset a few minor quibbles, such as the limited food offer. For others, the close confines of the space make it less attractive to stay for an extended time. On balance, if you regard drinking beer as an end in itself and value the adventure of discovering the exotic and unknown, Hashigo Zake provides broader stretches of unexplored territory than any  comparable venue in this country.

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LINK: hashigo zake website www.hashigozake.co.nz

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6 thoughts on “OUR FAVOURITE PLACES – Hashigo Zake

  1. karorifryup says:

    I once had a rant on HZ over what I considered a poor pour. Credit to HZ for replying, but I stand by my comment that the head was too big for a $10-odd beer and settled far below a 5% minimum I’d have expected for an ale. HZ tweeted to me that I should have raised it. I tweeted back that I shouldn’t have to. If you put yourself out there as serving ‘no shit’ on tap, then you shouldn’t serve a shit pour. And no, I don’t like having to ask for a ‘top up’. But then I don’t expect I should have to in the first place. Please mr barman, don’t try and be a smart-arse ****[edit].

    But you can’t fault Hashigo Zake for adding to Wellington’s craft beer scene. The selection really is fantastic. It’s worth crediting HZ for the fund-raising efforts for the Japanese tsunami, Christchurch earthquake and benefiting mental health. It’s worth mentioning their support for the local craft scene. They support local brewers, SOBA and of course run tastings. And finally I’d recommend, that if you’re here reading this, and you don’t yet read their blog, then you should subscribe. http://rungsontheladder.blogspot.com

    • Thanks for finally clarifying what you meant by your obscure tweet about us “not pouring a good pint”. To this day we’ve been mystified about what you were complaining about. I’m not kidding. You may have thought it was clear but we are regularly asked by customers to make sure that there is plenty of head on their beer. These are people who understand that allowing a certain amount of CO2 to come out of solution during the pour is necessary to release aromas. In most countries the amount of head we put on a beer would be considered laughably low, but New Zealanders are renowned for being more obsessed with the perception of value than the aesthetics of their beer pour. That’s also why we specifically refer to our 474ml glasses as holding 440ml.

      But more importantly, you need to learn to communicate civilly. Anonymous tweets (are we really supposed to know who karorifryup is?) with vague complaints are no more constructive than foul-mouthed insults like “smart-arse ****[edit]”.

      Dominic Kelly
      Hashigo Zake

  2. Thirstyboys says:

    Our editorial policy is to take a light approach to the moderation of comments, However, we don’t support the use of abusive language….

    Dominic what did you think of the review? (Eds)

    • Guys, since your review was based on honest impressions and didn’t include any contestable points of fact, I don’t think it’s my place to offer an opinion.

      But keep up the good work.


  3. Greasylightbulb says:

    Aaaah the healthy sound of the gloves coming off for some vigorous manly debate, Socrates would approve. Except he died before “Headgate”. Only just before mind, it was that long ago. Luckily Karorifryup has recently had a fit of valediction and declared that he could let it go. Now that a barwoman at the F&B dared do you-know-what he has another nemesis anyway. Sadly the thorn on this conciliatory rose is that it denies me the anthropological challenge of deciding whether the whole kerfuffle was more a result of clashing cultural ideals of beer presentation, or a damning insight into the perils of inadequately defined etiquette in our increasingly diverse social media. It’s a shame if one tiny thing can sour the otherwise apparently perfect relationship between a beer vendor and a beer drinker. I had a horrible pint that I was sadly unable to rectify at The Malthouse one Saturday night and must admit it upset me at the time – Receiving disappointment is all the more disappointing when the disappointee loves the disappointer so much! (Deep, I know). But maybe no one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly…and as a proportion of all the pints I’ve had there that one was insignificant, and quite a lot of the others caused exceptional contentment. So that’s Ok then.
    Interestingly I note a comparable tweatalogue between buzzandhum and forkandbrewer is actually happening as I type. He didn’t like his London Pride today apparently. Go there now and see what happens next……

    Oh yes, the review….
    Hashigo does divide opinion a little doesn’t it? I do find the premises a little confining and feel the lack of natural light is a shame. Though strangely both suddenly become qualities when a) walking is suddenly a bit difficult and b) you’re drunk in the daytime. I also wonder if that is the reason I find it hard to get non-beer friends to come there more than once. I find their range of beer ALWAYS interesting, and I love that their overseas imports make my local New World such a happy place to shop. Conversely their support for local brewers like Garage Project and ParrotDog should be applauded and marks them out as a driving force behind the Wellington craft beer upsurgance. On top of that Dom is now gifting us the Pacific Beer Expo featuring a line up suggesting he has some freaky direct psychic access to my beer dreams. Hopefully he can’t access the other ones. I think Hashigo has suffered from occasional offish, snobby and actively unfriendly staff in the past, but not recently, and although it does sometimes feature clientèle that make it look like a role-playing convention, I can live with that….. I’m among friends.

  4. […] Whitney is a bar manager and tasting specialist at Hashigo Zake Cult Beer Bar in Wellington, New […]

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