Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Drinks

Any regular readers in the area are invited to the annual Christmas drinks at the bar this Thursday. See you there.

Victory Ale

There is something very life affirming about drinking from the cup.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Condition, Glorious Condition

A week ago Nick Paige contacted me asking whether I would be able to lend him one of my beer engines and help him set it up in order to serve a firkin of Twisted Hop Challenger that he had shipped in for a workmates party, I was of course welcome to help in its disposal. Needless to say I jumped at the chance, even without the offer of free real ale I would have been there to have a crack at conditioning an actual cask. Unfortunately Nick had forgotten to ask for a tap and spiles so we decided to serve it on end by running a beer line through the keystone with a piece of wire attached to the end to keep the line clear of the lees. On Friday Nick and Dougie whose party it was picked me up from work we assembled what we needed and headed to Dougie’s kitchen which was doubling as the cellar. Martin from the Twisted Hop had told us that since we didn’t have spiles he recommended venting the firkin by piercing the keystone with a needle. We gently hammered the needle in and then slowly removed it with a pair of pliers…

Woosh we weren’t quite expecting the fountain of beer which erupted from the hole covering the kitchen ceiling with beer and raining back down on us, Dougies partner came to the door, looked on with a bemused grin and said in her fantastic Scottish accent that she had never been all that homely so it was fine (remarkable woman), his beagle just got stuck in drinking ale from the floor. We let the fountain subside a little before returning the needle to its hole reasoning that once we knocked the keystone out we would be losing condition out the tap hole around the beer line.

Last night I showed up at the party to enjoy the fruits of our labour, the party was fantastic with a good mix of people from different back grounds and ages , a mixture of regional council employees, neighbours and beer lovers, it was a little like a British Isles club b\meeting with Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Oxfordshire all represented. The BBQ was going, the ale was pouring and it was fantastic! There was a slight haze and the beer was perhaps just a little over lively but it tasted fantastic, it provided a healthy head without a sparkler, in fact it was so fantastic that we drained the cask in 3 hours. Cheers

One for the cheese fans

Ok so I have totally neglected my cheese of the month posts, its not easy living in two houses working 44 hours a week and indulging a brewing habit, I mean hobby. Here are some pictures of the new climate controlled cheese rooms and cabinet in our new Fresh Market at work. Flash flash flash!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

By a whisker!

But the trophy is returned to its rightful place.

Last night my team, White Rino successfully defended our title as Champions at the 2008 Regional Wines and Spirits Beer Options competition. Last year we romped in demolishing the competition, this year things were a lot tighter, until the last beer we trailed the leaders in a tight pack sliding between second equal and third equal. However on the last beer our training paid off, the beer in question was St Josephs, a sweet Belgian style triple from Moa, and it had been one of the beers we had trained on and we mounted a comeback like Fulham facing relegation.

Beer Options is an annual quiz where beers are served blind and multiple choice questions are asked about them. Gareth is a member of the team however he was on call and his pager went so he wasn’t there for the victory and photo.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


O-Street Bitter , 3.8%abv , English pale malt with a touch of crystal, English Fuggels in the kettle and New Zealand Styrian Goldings at flameout, S-04 yeast. Perfect.

See its not all whinging.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another pub bites the dust

I have just learnt that the Courtenay Arms which has been closed for renovations will reopen as a kiwi theme pub. What absolutely dire news. Not only does that mean that I lose my quiet pint with a paper each Monday as I wait for Sarah to finish work but it also means the Wellington loses its only venue serving Fullers London Pride, Porter and ESB on a regular basis. And why the hell do we need a Kiwi Theme pub!!? Why do pubs have to be themed at all?. Yeah the Courtenay Arms needed some work, the one armed bandits needed to go and the junk at the back next to the couch needed cleaning up, a few beers from NZ micros wouldn’t have gone amiss, but a kiwi theme pub!!!? Grrrrr!!.

Yep I’m officially a grumpy old sod!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bring back the old Beer

And the old What’s Brewing for that matter. Some months ago CAMRA decided it was time to revamp their publications What’s Brewing and Beer. It was decided that Beer would become a quarterly publication of a stapled semi-magazine nature rather than the monthly paper it had been and that What’s Brewing would be redesigned to bring it up to date. What they didn’t tell us is that the amount of time and money that was to be invested in the reformatting and design would be taken away from the content.
Now if I am honest I was never that keen on the idea of going from monthly Beer issues to quarterly. I used to relish the arrival of the two papers in the post each month and the thought of receiving only What’s Brewing didn’t actually make me want to jump for joy. However I hoped that as promised the new Beer would be so much better that it would make up for the loss. Unfortunately the exact opposite has happened, someone has obviously decided that Beer should be used to reach out to potential young members rather than aimed at existing members, and as such the content has been dummed down. It’s a real shame because many of the people involved in producing Beer are bloggers and writers who I really rate, and some of the concepts for content sound really good. For example the head-to-head where two writers are meant to debate an issue. So far we have had Jeff Bell and Melissa Cole tackle Gastro pubs and Jeff Evens and Zak Avery debate bottle conditioning. In both cases sadly all we have been treated to is the opening statements with the bemused and bewildered reader left to imagine how the actual argument might have gone in their heads!
It was however the Last Orders from the current edition of Beer that really left me scratching my head. Here we are treated to a piece from Dylan Jones an editor of trendy magazines recounting his recent conversion to cider, to introduce and get the CAMRA audience on side he makes clear that he has no truck with real ale

“its warm and appeared to taste of red wine mixed with marmite"

wow that does the campaign a world of good. Perhaps Decanter should feature some geezer who thinks all wine tastes of vinegar! Not only do I think this doesn’t befit CAMRA I’m also not sure it will win new members. Do we have to be dumb to connect with the average punter?

I realise I may be out on a limb with my opinion of the new Beer and What’s Brewing, the letters pages are flowing in praise from other members , selectively chosen mail or am I the only one to see that the emperor has no clothes? Well not quite

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Tyranny of Democracy

The late John Peel once recounted how he felt like a stranger in his own county as he heard the returning officers announce Thatcher’s election victory, I can relate. After 9 years of imperfect yet on the whole positive governance the nation has turned it’s self over to a self serving millionaire, backed by new right nutters and socially conservative rednecks, a nasty brutish little government. I can only hope their tenure is short. Riggers? I think I need whiskey.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Summer Drinking

Today the first corny of my summer ale, Somerset went on tap. The recipe has always been a cracker (if I do say so myself!) and this year is no exception. In fact I think it may be one of the best yet, perhaps the switch from imported Styrians to NZ ones wasn’t so bad after all. Also on tap is the pilot batch of the Peoples Porter, when it first went on last week it had touch of greenness to it, not full blown acetaldehyde but in that direction. Thankfully today its tasting very good, the espresso has blended with the malts nicely, and has given it a touch of acidity that reminds me of the Meantime Coffee beer. I’m off up the coast for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and try not to think about the possibility of a Tory victory, I might have to fill some riggers.

The Golden Ale Challenge

Through the years the topic of house characters has often come up for conversation around the bar. Each homebrewer who provides beer for the taps here has a unique profile that most of their beers conform to, we often said it would be interesting to brew the same beer in each brewery and see what happened.
The Golden Ale Challenge is my attempt at a highly unscientific experiment into the differences between each brewer. With a mind to serving the beers at next February’s Valley Summer Ales Festival I have contacted a range of homebrewers who will each brew a 1045 golden ale with Maris Otter Pale Malt and New Zealand Styrian Goldings and Nelson Sauvin hops.

The rules are as follows:

- Each brewer will formulate a 100% Maris Otter Grist that would normally result in a 1045 beer.

- They will then mash in what ever way they normally mash.

- Each brewer will be provided with 80g of Nelson Sauvin and 80g of NZ Styrians be added in what ever quantity and regime they want

- The brewer will ferment the beer with their house yeast (or if they don’t have a house yeast what ever they feel is right)

It should be a bit of fun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Booky in the Bottle

Emerson’s Bookbinder is an important New Zealand Beer. Not only is it the beer I most regularly order across the bar but it has also served as a ‘gateway beer’ for many people giving them the first glimpse that there might be more to beer than brown adjunct full lager. The beer has gone through many changes through the years and suffered for awhile when Emersons swapped to NZ pale malt from maris otter, thankfully it is currently back in great nic. The beer has always been available on draught only with riggers being the only take away format, that is until now. Emersons have finally decided to bottle Bookbinder, a risky decision as much of what makes a Booky fantastic on the tap is its fresh hop character and at 3.7% its not a beer designed to stand up to the rigours of bottled life. As I bought my first bottle I confided in the boys that it would probably be crap, thankfully I was very wrong!

Emersons Bookbinder 3.7%abv

From the bottle

Pours a sexy copper with a fluffy white head which stays right to the bottom of the glass. Aroma features melonfruit, a hint of lemony citrus and grainy whole grain malt. On the palate there is ripe melon, tangy grassy hops, a citrus note, a berry fruit/vinous character, sweet nutty malt, a minerally mouthfell leading to an assertive bitter finish. Great beer!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bringing Christmas to the People

When I lived in Newtown not only did I have a fantastic local pub in Bar Edward but I also had a top local fair trade coffee roastery in Peoples Coffee. I’m always keen on celebrating the local, you can see that in the names of my beers which almost all come from local place names. When I was living there I brewed a Peoples Coffee Porter and gave the boys a rigger of it to try. Memories of that beer have obviously lived on and the company have enlisted me to brew another batch to give away for Christmas this year.
I was meant to be brewing a pilot batch today however having run out of co2 and then finding that the depot had also run out (I use co2 to propel caustic and sanitizer through my fermentors) has left me catching up on my blogging. Not so bad, I was long over due

Former long time flatmate and O-Street beer consumer Dan now works for Peoples. The beer will be my current Hall St brown porter recipe with espresso shots added both to the end of the boil and into the conditioning vessel.

Yeastie Boys Are GO!

Last week I attended the launch of the first beer from the Yeastie Boys at Bar Edward, a new player in NZ beer scene. Yeastie Boys is the brainchild of fellow SOBA founder and Wellington Homebrewer Stu McKinlay and rate beer extraordinaire Sam "The Grandmaster" Possenniskie. They are currently contract brewing seasonal releases at Steve Nalley’s Invercargill Brewery. The first release is a highly hopped porter called Pot Kettle Black, which I’m told is a Wilco Song, musical theme here Beastie Boys, Yeastie Boys, get it? Despite not being a style I would normally get into it’s a damn tasty drop and was very good through the handpump, particularly once the sparkler was banished. The next release for Summer is a hoppy golden ordinary bitter, I cant wait.

Again Photos by Adam, cheers!

The Great Brett Project

Brettanomyces is a word that will often strike fear into the hearts of brewers and vintners alike. This incredibly hardy, some would say indestructible, wild yeast is the bane of many a brewer, it is often the death of pieces of brewing kit, but is also highly appreciated by some for its funky sharp aroma and flavour. In the modern era it’s more usually associated with the sour ales of Flanders and the spontaneously fermented beers of the Senne Valley rather than English Ales. However as Mr Cornell recently taught me in his piece on the history of yeast Brett was originally isolated from English Stock Ales and indeed its name is Latin for British Fungus.
While I would never be so foolhardy as to introduce Brett into any of my vessels, last month I came across a unique opportunity. At the annual Belgian Beer Tasting at Regional Wines and Spirits one of the beers we tasted was Lindemans Geuze bottle conditioned and in 250 ml nip bottles I couldn’t resist taking the bottles. I will clean and sanitise the bottles to the best of my abilities, despite treating the bottles with caustic soda and Sodium Percarbonate I don’t expect to remove the Brett. Then I will bottle some of this year’s Merchant of the Devil Imperial Stout and some of Alfred’s Stock Ale, a strong barley wine named for my late grandfather who was a drayman’s son, and see what happens. The nips will have their bottoms painted red so that the Brett bottles don’t end up getting mixed in with my ‘clean’ nips.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout

Last Thursday I brewed this years batch of The Merchant of the Devil , my own Imperial Stout. The brew went very well and despite suffering the only stuck mash I have ever had with my current mash tun set up I achieved an O.G of 1111, and was able to make a small beer of O.G. 1056 from the late runnings. That evening I celebrated by opening the bottle of Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout that Greig had brought me back from Sussex. Let me tell you this beer pushed my buttons, if only I had some cases of it.

Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout 2003 (9%abv)
2003 vintage, Pours a viscous pitch black with the faintest disappearing wispy head. The aroma features a stunning cornucopia of aromas. Dried fruit, raisins, prunes, figs, a distinctive sour fruit character reminiscent of the Rodenbach beers, Passionfruit, iron and a touch of saltyness blended a delicious funky brettanomyces character. Complex to say the least. On the palate there is luscious aged malt, a surprising level of body considering the sour/brett character in the nose, a salty note, some passionfruit and iron, a suggestion of sourness, roasty malt notes and a hint of autolysised yeast. Outstanding beer, my beer of the year in fact.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

BrewNZ and Beervana Photos

Ok, it’s been along time coming but I finally got round to salvaging the photos from my ruined camera. Here are some snap shots of judging at BrewNZ and the extremely successful Beervana Festival that followed courtesy of Adam as my camera was history by that point. Cheers

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beer in Restaurants

Recently I have eaten in a number of restaurants. They have ranged from the cheap and cheerful right through to the finer end of dinning. There has been one thing that has been common across them all, a blasé attitude to their beer stocks. In every one of the last 5 restaurants I have dined at I have been told that a certain beer has run out when I have ordered it. Is it so hard to stock a beer fridge? Does this happen with that wine? I suspect not.

Busy as F@#%

Sorry for the lack of anything here. Works busy , my second camera this year is broken ....blah blah. Normal service resuming soon.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


The biggest annual NZ beer event, BrewNZ, goes down this week, with both the competition and a 3 session beer festival Beervana . Due to a last minute vacancy I am now judging which will pretty much take up my time, this months Session on how much I hate German beer might have to wait, as will the cheese of the month post I was hoping to resurrect. Still I am rapt to back at the Judging table.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cheers MJ

A year ago the renowned beer writer Michael Jackson passed away, I wrote about it here. A year on and Geoff Griggs and Regional Wines and Spirits ran 3 memorial tastings celebrating MJ’s life by exploring some of his Desert Island Beers, next month Regional Wines will hold a tasting celebrating his favourite Whiskeys.The beers included Pilsner Urquell, Marstons Pedigree, Coopers Sparkling, Schnieder Aventinus, Orvel, Duvel, Rodenbach Grande Cru, Traquar House Ale, and Thomas Hardy’s Ale. I attended the Thursday tasting and then afterwards I enjoyed a beer I’m sure MJ would have appreciated Emersons Smoking Gun, a 7% abv smoked beer that certainly hit the spot,

cheers to Mr Jackson.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

But for the length of the earth …

Today my blog turns one, or is it tomorrow? It gets so confusing when bloggers date is set somewhere in the northern hemisphere and I am very much in the south. Timing is not the only problem with running a blog concerned with English beer that isn’t based in England. The tyranny of distance means that often I end up writing about my own homebrewed efforts, or bottled products when what I really want to be writing about is the cask, and the pub. Oh well enough with the grumbling, life here is pretty good, the sun is shinning, there is a cellar full of beer, a closet full of fermentors, and a bar in my lounge.

Hopefully over the last year I have presented a different perspective on the world of English beer, I have certainly grown my beard and my belly in the process. The year to come promises to be exciting with a trip to the UK planned, the building of a dedicated brewery on the side of the house and possibly a bar above it thus freeing up the living areas of the house for more domesticated uses.

Cheers and good health!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wassail Brauhaus- Beer, Bed, and Breakfast

I first stayed at the Wassail Brauhaus last year while on a beer hunting road trip with the boys. Last week I returned with Sarah to celebrate her birthday. Wassail Brauhaus is a unique entity in New Zealand, a home stay that includes an attached brewery which produces a range of strong English ales which are provided complimentary with your night’s accommodation.

The Brauhaus is the creation of George and Marline Busby. George originally wanted to run a small scale professional brewery that would pay for his homebrewing and allow him to scale up. After George investigated the ‘red tape’ it became clear that it would be easier and cheaper for him to give the beer away for free than to comply with the requirements for a professional brewing operation.
The result is the Wassail Brauhaus a stand alone holiday chalet where each night George and Marline open up the bar in the wall between the living area and the brewery, put on an antipasto platter and everyone enjoys a few beers and each others company.

On my first visit I was privileged to sample the very last of an outstanding batch of smoked porter that had aged for a couple of years and was quite simply the finest smoked beer I have ever tasted. Alias due to its required long maturation time it seems never to be repeated. George regularly has a Pale Ale, an E.S.B. and a Dark Ale in the Stout/Porter ball park. All tend to be relatively strong partially as that’s what the Busby’s like but also in order that the beers last through out the summer once the brewing season ends. I didn’t take any tasting notes as that’s not really what its all about but the Dark Ale was probably my pick of the bunch with a lovely chocolaty dark malt character, the E.S.B. was rich in crystal malts and with a very notable character imparted from the yeast (Saf US-05) and the Pale Ale was malty and fresh.

The accommodation its self is of an extremely high standard, the bed is extremely comfortable with dramatic views of the Mountain (the picture above was taken from the bed!) and surrounding farmland. I highly recommend booking a stay, 2 nights weren’t enough.