Often found at Goldings Free Dive, Phil Cook is a beer blogger, normal-cloth-wearing cyclist and all-round lovely guy who will happily talk beer in all it’s forms with you for as long as you want to listen.
All right, let’s do the basics first: name/what you do when you’re not working?
I’m Phil Cook, and I’m a beer blogger / podcaster, a naturally-nocturnal person, a recreational cyclist (the kind who doesn’t venture out in Special Clothes), a budding gardener (unable to resist a pun), and general geekish type.
What’s an upcoming project that you’re jazzed about?
Our Beer Diary Podcast is entering its (arbitrary and self-imposed, but still) fourth season, and really hitting its stride. We’ve got plenty of ideas for new episodes already — and a truly gratifying list of people keen to join in. I’m a lifelong fan of Good Radio (and obviously this isn’t “real radio”, but it fills some of that niche, in the mad modern world) and of rambling with interesting people over a beer or two, so it’s great that they combine so nicely.
You’re heavily involved in the local craft beer scene, what would you say is the biggest shift over the past year in Wellington?
The ubiquity. It’s been ratcheting up for a while now, but every year it surprises me all over again. Good beer is increasingly just there. I love going to a specialist venue, unsurprisingly, but I utterly fucking adore just finding something great to drink in whatever cafe, movie theatre or restaurant I’m in when I find myself feeling like one. Long after instant coffee and cask wine were rendered unforgiveable, it’s finally being recognised that a set of damn-near-identical pale lagers (most of them probably pretending to be imported) just doesn’t amount to a credible offering.
What do you wish people knew about beer?
The sheer mind-bending diversity of it, really. It’s a thing made with a relatively-small set of simple ingredients, but combinatorics set in and the result is vast. I really struggle to understand what people even mean if they say they “don’t like beer” — how would anyone know? I’ve been doing this semi-professionally for years and I’m still discovering whole new species of the stuff and I really do believe there’s a beer for everyone, for every occasion — and vice versa.
Where do you take visitors to Wellington?
Always to the top of Mount Vic, for an overview and an appreciation of how pocket-sized we are. You can point out the landmarks — and how surprisingly walkable the distances between them are — and tell the (rather neat) local creation myth. It’s an excellent introduction, and often comes with a nicely grounding dose of Southerly. But then: to Fidel’s and/or Maranui, to the Bot Gardens, to generally wander the streets — doubtless stopping in at a beer bar or two — and perhaps to dinner somewhere Cuba Street-ish, depending on how flush we feel: maybe Scopa, Olive or Ombra.
A recent discovery?
The beach. And the coastline, more generally. Which sounds mad, I’ll grant you. But I’m a City Boy at heart and never properly appreciated the City’s watery edge until I re-took-up cycling a few years ago, for the Zen of it, and was surprised by how gorgeous it all is, in its own way, from the inner harbour to the South coast. I’m also traditionally more of a Winter Person, but this recent summer I feel like I’ve started to ‘get’ (and properly enjoy) warmer weather. The water is just right there, here, without the distance — physical, or social and financial — that other cities have.
What’s the best piece of advice ever given to you?
The only real ‘advice’ I keep coming back to came (by implication and example, never explicitly) from my parents and siblings: to be your own damn self. There’s really nothing worth tolerating if it starts to take too much of a toll on your sanity and calmness of mind — no job, no amount of money, no one and no thing. As a super-trite but useful example, I’m fond of applying it to the beer world to keep subjectivity in mind and to resist snobbery, which usually boils down to trying to dictate how someone else should value things.
Where’s your favourite spot in Wellington?
Right here — he says, at home, at his keyboard — is pretty great, I must say. There’s also a spot on Awa Road that’s great to reach on my bike: just after a brutal hill-climb up from Karaka Bay and just seconds before a totally brilliant downhill into Miramar. But if you’re after something vaguely beer-related — and I sense that you are — then I have to pick a seat at the bar at Golding’s. With the greatest of love to my other favourite bars (they know who they are), Golding’s has become my de facto ‘local’; its location (between work and home, but also bordered by good pizza, coffee and chocolate) and its mix of gentle madness and superlovely people suits me damn near perfectly.