Sipping away the sunshine at Leigh Sawmill Cafe & Brewery

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As I sat soaking up the last rays of sunshine at Leigh Sawmill Cafe & Brewery, I realised I had forgotten how good a New Zealand summer is. We had arrived in New Zealand two weeks previously, and after being fried by the sun and finally getting a base tan layer I was really enjoying being home for the summer. This weekend I was away with the boys for a well-earned surfing and beer road trip north of Auckland.

This particular evening we had decided to pop into the acclaimed Leigh Sawmill Cafe & Brewery for a pizza and a beer. The Sawmill is about an hour north of Auckland on the east coast, and only five minutes away from the very popular Goat Island Marine Reserve. Beautiful surf beaches make up most of this coastline and the drive is simply stunning.

The Sawmill Cafe building is an old timber milling factory that was located near to the present site. You can see the old saw parts inside the restaurant and the whole place has a rustic industrial feel. The microbrewery opened in 2004 and produces some great beers that are sold in the cafe.

Credit: Leigh Sawmill Cafe

Credit: Leigh Sawmill Cafe

The beer & food

We had a tasting tray of the five beers the Sawmill Brewery produces on site.

At the Sawmill, the Pilsner is my favourite summer beer. It has a beautiful citrus aroma while still holding a bit of bitterness, and is really refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. The bitterness might be too much for some but I enjoy the slightly different flavour profile compared to a standard Pilsner.

I also liked the “12 Gauge” Strong Lager. This is a 6.5% beer that also has a strong fruit aroma, similar to that of an IPA. This beer is very hoppy and punchy with a whole lot of flavour. To me it has a hint of caramel flavours that linger in your mouth. If you are an IPA fan or are starting to get into your IPA’s this is a great lager to bridge the gap to the IPA style.

“The Doctor” Doppelbock is the Sawmill’s version of a dark beer. It’s a 6.5% beer with chocolate and caramel notes but is quite light on the palate compared to other dark beers that I’ve tasted. I prefer lighter beers in the summer but come winter this beer will be in my fridge. Unlike other dark beers it doesn’t feel like a meal in a glass, which is great as you can enjoy the flavours but not feel full of beer after drinking it!

The Brewery has an off-license so you can buy your favourite beers to take home.

The Sawmill Cafe has a great range of wood fired pizzas and meals to suit every taste. We enjoyed a pizza and a seafood platter. If you’re a seafood fan the platter was outstanding with ceviche, prawns, mussels, pan fried fish, salmon crostini, and locally-sourced snapper wontons (something I’d never had before and they were delicious!). I’ll be back again just to eat this platter and wash it down with a beer or two – of course!

We didn’t manage to catch a gig, but the Sawmill plays host to many New Zealand bands throughout the summer months. It’s a great venue with a sunny beer garden and lots of grass to chill out on and enjoy some local tunes.

Credit: Leigh Sawmill Cafe

Credit: Leigh Sawmill Cafe

While the town of Leigh doesn’t have much going for it, a fantastic day out from Auckland can be spent at Goat Island Marine Reserve (the snorkelling is incredible), or just a lazy day of beach hopping around this fabulous coastline. Either way, stop in at the Sawmill for lunch or dinner and a cheeky beer. You won’t be disappointed.

Shaun

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