The British & Irish Lions are returning to New Zealand for the first time in 12 years, bringing the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Around 35,000 ‘barmy army’ supporters are expected to arrive en-masse with many following the ten-match series around the country in a convoy of camper vans.
The DHL New Zealand Lions Series includes three fixtures in Auckland on the following dates:
- 7 June - Lions vs Blues
- 24 June and 8 July - Lions vs All Blacks
Central Auckland will be abuzz with the lilting accents of excited international rugby fans and we're hoping to walk them around on foot. Like bangers and mash, mushy peas and perchers, the British and Irish also love their pubs. So it’s likely that sampling a brew or two will be on the itinerary of Lion’s rugby supporters when they arrive in Auckland.
Aucky Walky, being hospitable souls, have developed a self-guided crawl of Auckland’s classic city pubs and brew bars, some dating back to the 1860’s when Auckland’s population was a mere 13,000 hearty souls.
All of these classic pubs promise warm Kiwi hospitality, free-flowing ale, and hearty pub fare even New Zealand specialties like kumara chips, home-made saussies and spare ribs. So before the games, here’s an enjoyable way for rugby fans, both local and Lions alike, to mix and mingle in the pubs and streets of Auckland.
Start in the mid-city at historic Vulcan Lane - once home to Auckland’s blacksmiths and their stoking-hot furnaces (how else would one slake their thirst than with a cool refreshing ale?) There’s three classic bars to choose from here. The Vultures Bar for craft beer brews, The Lobby (originally the Queens Ferry 1865) and The Occidental (where once the law-makers drank).
Then stroll across Queen Street to The Bluestone Room (1861) in quaint Durham Lane. One of Auckland’s oldest buildings, it still houses Auckland’s first deep- pure water well, a visible feature inside. This gastro pub serves up great food and modern craft beer.
Wander uphill to the Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery on 61 Albert Street - home to the country’s first ever brewery in a pub. It offers eight available beers on tap, three of which are brewed in house, a range of pizzas and a sausage of the week made on site.
Amble over to The Albion of Auckland built in 1873 for a classic Kiwi experience. It’s how men of old used to drink - with the pub serving up big bottles of Lion Red and Waikato Draught with no fuss or frills. Their BBQ ribs are the star attraction - cooked for three hours then smothered in a Jack Daniels sauce. Lip-smacking goodness.
By now you’re probably feeling quite happy. So bounce down to The Empire Tavern, a pretty Victorian styled pub (1875) on the corner of Victoria and Nelson Streets, with one of the best city outdoor courtyards. For $10 ( and a drink purchase) you can buy a scotch fillet (dressed with a peppercorn sauce) with fries and slaw. For $5 enjoy a meringue-filled creamy Eton Mess (if you can fit it in). Now that’s great host responsibility.
But wait it’s nearly game-time! Get to the park and soak up the crazy atmosphere with the world’s most passionate rugby fans. Even if you block your ears, you'll still hear those Lions roar!