Monday, December 31, 2007

Pickled Eggs

If there is one thing that makes my friends who have lived in the UK go glassy eyed and reminisce about their time in the Motherland it’s the mention of pickled eggs. Pickled eggs are a bar snack that divides people sharply, a love hate situation where many of the haters are so reviled by the idea that they never let the delicacy pass their lips. I on the other hand was fascinated by the prospect, I love eggs and I’m partial to pickled foods so I set out to pickle my own.

After a bit of research I decided on a recipe of vinegar, habanero chilli, cumin seed, black pepper, and cardamom. After 2 weeks in the solution the eggs are rich, tart and spicy, perfect with a pint, even better in a sandwich with crisps and mayo. I’m a fan.

Marstons Don’t Compromise…

And neither does Stonch it seems. Back in October Stonch ran the Sophie’s Choice Poll asking the question if you were in a pub where the beer selection ran to GK IPA, standard draft Guinness, Wife Beater, Carling, John Smith Smooth, and Marston’s Pedigree which would you choose? Not surprisingly Pedigree romped in. Mr Stonch then promised to seek out a pint of the famous Burton pale ale and review it. But so far it hasn’t happened.

Pedigree was a common visitor to these shore a few years back as was the Old Empire IPA, however in recent years Owd Roger is all that has graced our shelves. The other day I noticed a shipment of Pedigree, I decided to do what Stonch seems reticent to do and pour myself a pint…

Marston’s Pedigree 4.5%abv

Pours a light copper with a fluffy white head. Aroma features the expected perceptible sulphur character, but also a complex range of fruit esters , apple and pineapple, with the tropical notes becoming more prominent as you work down the pint, also a crisp malt note. On the palate the apple and pineapple is continued with a firm minerally mouth feel, a touch of caramel before a flinty dry and moderately bitter finish.

Overall a pretty subtle but moderately interesting pint, not for those who cant stand sulphur as the “Burton Snatch” is certainly there adding to the experience. I certainly would take this to a pint of Wife Beater…

Sunday, December 30, 2007

This Years Gifts

Sometimes it’s hard buying gifts for the beer enthusiast. It seems on the face of it an easy task, an impressive bottle of lager from the off-license, a novelty bottle opener or a gimmicky slogan t-shirt. All of the above are pretty common under the tree, however once in awhile something special turns up. This year in addition to a couple bar towels to go on the wall in the bar I was given something very special.

I collect bottles and prize of place in my collection sit a full bottle of 1940’s Bulldog Guinness and a full bottle of 1940’s Pilsner Urquel, I also have a full bottle of 1960’s Dominion Breweries Lager. This year my Grandfather added to my collection 2 full bottles of Burridge’s Invalid Stout dating from 1950 or before that he found while cleaning out his liquor cabnet. Burridge’s owned the Eagle brewery in Masterton, a traditional regional brewery that was eaten in the wave of takeovers that characterised the brewing industry in the post war years. I have been able to find out that the brewery was closed in 1950 after being taken over. However I don’t know whether it was New Zealand Breweries or DB that bought and closed the Eagle Brewery or anything else about the company, if anyone has any information I would appreciate it.

It seems that more recently there was a micro operating in Masterton by the name of Burridges, no doubt referencing the brewing history of the area.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day Brew

What better way to spend a wet rainy Boxing Day than drinking the left over Landlord and Broadside, brewing a batch of O.S.B. and watching Midsomer Murder dvd’s?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Thursday Drinks

On the Thursday before Christmas we generally tie a few on at the bar in my house. While the ritual of Thursday night drinks usually attracts a varied and revolving cast of ladies and miscreants the Christmas edition tends to get friends who wouldn’t usually come along.

This year due to some of the events of the last couple of months I had no draft beer ready so everyone brought along ‘riggers’ (plastic containers) of Emerson’s Bookbinder along which were then poured into a keg and served through a beer engine. The communal ‘people built’ keg appealed to my lefty nature.

For the toast I pulled out a 2006 bottle of Emerson’s Taieri George, a 6.2%abv spiced ale that’s released for Easter each year and is often described as tasting like liquid hot cross buns, it could equally be described as tasting like Christmas cake. With a year and a bit of bottle age on, the spices had mellowed and blended perfectly, a fantastic tipple for Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cheese of the Month December: Linkwater Cheddar

With the silly season upon us I thought I should choose a cheese that will sit well on a board next to the traditional dried fruit mince pies and Christmas cakes of the moment. It’s an oddity of living at this end of the world that due to our European heritage we end up eating rich warming cakes and puddings while the mid summer sun beats down on us.

Linkwater Cheddar is a brand created and owned by my employer, Moore Wilson’s. The cheese is produced in industrial blocks like almost all cheddar in this country, however unlike most cheddar we aged the cheese for at least 3 years, our current stock sitting at about 3 and a ½ years old.

With this level of aging the cheese develops crunchy ‘eyes’ where minerals and lactose crystallise into salty deposits. The cheese is rich, savoury and almost meaty while also being sharp and tangy.

I have enjoyed linkwater with strong bitters, old ales and imperial stout, for the photo above I cracked a bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale. The fortified vinous fruit flavours contrasted with the richness of the cheese and matched the Christmas Mince pie perfectly.

Monday, December 17, 2007

SOBA Homebrew Fest

On Sunday we ran the first SOBA Homebrew festival, which also happened to be the first beerfestival run by our organisation. It was a fantastic success, all our worries about liquor license infringements, violence and assorted other troubles proved to be unfounded. On offer was a range of craft brewed beer and one cider, and homebrewed beer. There were six beer engines in action which I suspect is more than were employed at the recent Hops and Glory Real Ale festival. There was even a pin of Twisted Hop IPA sent up from Christchurch for the event. I served my Chilka IPA, while other highlights included Brendan’s Smoked Porter, Stu’s American Stout and a very popular Automotivly themed Belgian ale from organiser Rob Owen.

The festival served as a prize giving for the recent SOBA National Homebrew Competition. The competition gathered some outstanding entries including a barley wine which had 10 years of bottle age on it. I took out best in class English style IPA with a silver medal for Chilka IPA.

A great day and a lot of hard work for a good cause, great beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Ultimate Summer Ale?

Last night we ducked into the Malthouse after work to recover from the horrors of working in retail during the massacre that is Xmas. After a somewhat ropy pint of handpulled keg Tuatara IPA (odd woody medicinal character that didn’t make for ease of drinking) we ended up drinking Rodenbach Grand Cru. It fit the hot muggy night perfectly , the acidity was incredibly refreshing with the fruity flavours hitting the spot perfectly. It got me thinking about beers for summer. This summer has already seen a itched legal battle between DB and Lion with the former seeking to secure the term Summer Ale as a trademark for its ginger and honey flavoured lager, a ‘beer’ I would not wish on my worst enemy, while latter wanted to use the term Summer Ale for a rather toned down but inoffensive blond lemon grass flavoured beer. Lion won and right fully so, a style should not be trademarked. However I don’t think either beer from the big two has much to do with the English Summer Ale style.

Of course Rodenbach has little to do with that style either but my word it hit the spot on a sweltering night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Simple Pint from a much Maligned Brewery.

It’s a contradictory time of year for me at the moment. I seem to be writing and reading winter and experiencing high summer. I’m not big on summer, my ferments become difficult to control, I can only tap one corny at a time as there is only room for one in the cellar fridge and my stout build seems far more adept at keeping southerly gales at bay than handling heat waves. And hot it is at the moment, with official temperatures in the high 20’s my house has been venturing way into the 30’s.

So it was yesterday when I came upon a bottle of Shepherd Neame Master Brew. Shepherd Neame get a fair bit of flack for producing less than interesting beers, bar the much celebrated seasonal porter. Their bottled beers are hindered by the inexplicable decision to use clear bottles. All in all I’m not a huge fan of the brewery but when I saw a bottle of Master Brew sitting at Rumbles I couldn’t resist, partially because it would constitute a tick in Protz 300 and partially because the heat was making me want a simple pint to slack my thirst.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew 4%abv

Pours a light copper with a tight dense head. Aroma features citrus, lemon and lime fruit essence, a touch of nutty malt and a touch of light strike. On the palate the lemon lime character is continued, a slight caramalt character, and a decent bitter finish. A light quenching pint, would be better from the cask

Over all Master Brew was what I expected, a simple quenching pint, or as I said to Adam when he got home, not as bad as it could have been.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Session – Winter Warmers

This Session posed something of a problem to me as it demanded a post about winter when here in the Antipodes it is in fact summer!. What was I to do ? imagine it was winter and write a piece on strong milds, pokered ale and firesides? It all seemed a little fake, just a bit staged until it struck me, I had a task ahead of me in preparation for next winter which was perfect to document for The Session.

Ever since the first time I leafed through Michael Jackson’s 1988 ‘The New World Guide to Beer’ , incidentally that occurred in mid winter beside an open fire, I have been captivated by Russian Imperial Stout. I travelled to Auckland in an attempt to try the Romanov Stout brewed at Galbraiths by the Australis Brewing Co, only to find the beer retired and my first ever pint of real ale waiting to change my life forever. I scoured bottle stores searching for Sam Smiths version, I eventually had to travel to Melbourne Australia before I got a chance to try it, I sent a shopping list with a friend who was visiting the UK and back she brought me a bottle of Pitfield’s version. Of course with these extensive breaks between drinks it became clear that I had to brew one my self, and so Merchant of the Devil was born.

I try to brew 2 vintages of The Merchant a year, its not a light undertaking as the brew day tends be at least 12 hours long, sometimes more, maturation time prior to bottling tends to last at least a month, tying up precious kegs and then there is the monotonous task of bottling to be carried out. There is however no question as to whether its worth it.

I use a multiple mash method to achieve the 1100 plus original gravity required for this intense ale. This means that first a grist of pale malts is mashed and the wort from this is then used to strike a second mash containing a mix of pale malts and roasted malts. It’s a time consuming method dictating a 4.30am alarm call but it results in unique rich enveloping malt character.

The recipe calls for a base of marris otter pale ale malt with a touch of pilsner malt with large amounts of roasted barley, dark crystal and chocolate malts providing the roasted coffee chocolate, leather and tobacco character that makes this style so special. There is a huge amount of New Zealand Super Alpha hops added all at the 60 minute point of the boil providing plentiful bitterness but leaving the malts and yeast to dominate the aroma and flavour of the beer.

5/11/07 Day beforehand prep. Grist for the first mash is weighted out and put through the mill.

6/11/07 Brew Day. 4.30 am and the gumboots are waiting.

First mash completed. Second and third dark mash's to follow.

The finished product. OG 1106 first kettle, OG 1094 second kettle.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Not only did we win Beer Options tonight, but we did it by a very healthy margin, The destiny of our passionate squad has been forfulled, raise the pewter pint!! come sunday we will be drinking from the cup...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Pint of Lager

Recently on John’s Blog I took part in a discussion on his attempts to brew a lager. I have never had the desire to brew lager, and I have little in the way of desire to drink them. When the boys and myself go away on road trips, the beers are always counted and categorised into either ales or lagers and at the end he who has drunk the most lager is proclaimed lager boy and presented with some derogatory trophy, the rights and rituals of the modern man eh?

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not one of these chaps who only thinks of lager as a pint of (insert what’s relevant to you Fosters-Export Gold-Budweiser-VB).

While I haven’t been to Franconia or the Czech Republic I have tried a wide range of styles, I have judged lagers at two international beer competitions and I have been to many tastings dedicated to bottom fermentors.

So why don’t I like Lager? My biggest issue with lager fermentation is that is sets out to avoid the rounding fruity esters that ale fermentation ideally produces. For the same reason I am often less than wild over the use of American ale yeasts which also strive to be neutral and clean of esters allowing the assertive American hops to reign. I like fruity esters, I like the complexity that ale fermentations create.

The other night while thinking of this post I decided to taste 2 lagers and one rather odd English beer that I suppose would fall into something of hybrid class.

Wanaka Beer Works Brewski 4.8% ABV New World Pilsner

Brewski is my lager, it’s the one bottom fermented beer that I would regularly part with cash for. I bought a bottle for this tasting and while it was good it wasn’t great or nearly as fantastic as it usually is. Instead of using the medioca tasting notes I have decided to use the ones I wrote when I tasted it at the brewery.

Tasted at the Brewery feb 06 - Pours a bright golden with a healthy white head. Definite but also subtle spicy fruity hop aromas that beguile the nose, hinting at berry fruit and grass but never giving it all away. Fresh malt also makes an aromatic flash. On the palate there is an outstanding balance between fresh sweet malt, fruity hop notes and a satisfying moderate bitterness. Top stuff. To leave such an impression on a non lager drinker it must be good.

Daleside Blond Lagered Ale 4.3%ABV Blond Hybrid

This beer took my interest in large part due to the curious things that were mentioned on its label. The beer was advertised as a lagered ale which seemed to explain pretty well how it had been produced. However then the blurb went on to say “Both beer and lager drinkers will enjoy the complexity of a traditional beer with the mellowness of a premium lager.” As much as I dislike lager even I have to admit that it is in fact beer, oh well on with tasting.

Pours a light brilliant gold with a fluffy white head. The aroma features a tangy light struck note, sweet candi esters, and a touch of resiny slightly oxidised hop. On the palate there is sweet grainy malt, a slight touch of corn, confected fruit, fading to a gentile bitterness. Not the greatest English blond I have ever had but perhaps it would be better fresh and not bottled clear.

Emerson’s Organic Pilsner 4.9% ABV New World Pilsner

This beer could probably be considered the star of NZ craft brewing scene. Its Richard Emerson’s biggest selling beer and a good entry level beer to those who are used to more mainstream lagers. I have never been fond of this one but I must admit it was tasting pretty good the other night.

Pours a light gold with a fluffy white head. Aroma features grainy pale malt, a touch of sweet fruit, but is dominated by a bready character. On the palate there is sweet malt, a grassy character similar to sauvignon Blanc or my granddads garden shed. Ends on a lingering grassy bitterness. Certainly not Richards best beer, but his biggest seller and I can see why that is so.

Right now for a pint of bitter…

Will victory be ours?

This Thursday Beer Options, the final event of the Regional Wines and Spirits beer tasting calendar, rolls out. Beer Options is a huge beer quiz where beers are served blind and multiple choice questions are asked about the beer in your glass. Teams are formed and rivalry is rife!

Last year my team had two training sessions and went in with high expectations, our goal was to beat local drinking personality Tosh’s team. We achieved that but not much else.

This year we have a slightly altered team, in part due to substitutions, in part due to players being overseas. Wednesday we have a training session where I’m sure the strength of the squad will become clear, wish us luck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Pint and a Book , marriage made in heaven.

“The yeasty fruitiness, suggestion of sweetness in the Pale Ale malt and the hoppy acidity attain a height of complexity”

That’s how the late Michael Jackson described a cask conditioned English bitter when the cask is at its peak. Well that’s exactly how I would describe the pints of O.S.B. I drank tonight while reading the new book from Mr Jackson, the “Eyewitness Companions Beer”.

This corny-cask of O.S.B. is just coming to the end and its tasting brilliant. The hops are just starting mellow, there is the faintest touch of sour acidity, the malt sweetness is just peaking through on the palate, before a firm bitterness begs another sip, and then another pint. The changes from when the corny was first tapped are staggering, this is the magic that turns perfectly normal people into real ale obsessives.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bar Edward- My Lost Local

Every now and then the topic of the local arises on beer blogs. When ever this happens I feel a tinge of sadness that the best I can do is the bar in my lounge, now this of course isn’t all bad, friends come round on Thursday nights, and the bar is used by flatmates for drinking and eating the rest of the time, the beer is pretty good and if its not there’s only myself to blame and at the end of a session I have a treacherous 5 metre journey to my bed. It is however not the same as a real local where you have the potential to meet new people and rub shoulders with those you wouldn’t normally.

I did used to have a local, one of the best in the country. Before buying my house in the hills I used to live in Newtown, a formally working class suburb of Wellington that over the years has experienced some gentrification and now boasts an ethnically diverse melting pot of students, council tenement residents, young professionals and mental patients. In the middle of all this fusion sits Bar Edward, a free house pouring a wide range of beer from New Zealand’s top independent breweries. I returned to Bar Ed last night for the monthly Society Of Beer Advocates pub meet, it felt good to be back.

When I first moved to Newtown Bar Ed was just finding its feet, but already Emerson’s Bookbinder was on tap along side the characterless national Montieths brands from DB. Soon the number of taps was increased and the DB beers disappeared. Today you can walk in on any given day and find beers from Emerson’s, Tuatara, Founders, and Invercargill Brewing Company on tap. The bottled selection includes several vintages of Thomas Hardy’s Ale, a range of Belgians and many bottled New Zealand beers.

Beer alone of course doesn’t make a local. Bar Edward has a chilled out atmosphere most the time where people come for a drink and a chat, or just to watch a big game in the company of ones neighbours rather than in the solitude of the lounge.

After walking up to the Rice Bowl Chinese Takeaway last night for my post session sweet and sour, the sky erupted in monsoon like rain and thunder and lightning, I couldn’t help but think had I still lived around the corner I would have been dry in bed by now.