Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Looking North

So hot on the heels of a post about enjoying what you have I’m off to spend a weekend enjoying what I don’t have, a pub serving real ale. I’m off to Auckland, our large northern city. It’s not a place I particularly like but there are some gems hidden within its ill thought out sprawl, chief among them is Galbraith’s. Galbraith’s Ale House is in my opinion the best pub in the country; it includes a sizable brewery (for a pub) which turns out a fantastic range of 4 regular real ales, 2 lagers and a Belgian Abby style ale, there are also seasonals. Amongst this range is my desert island beer, Bob Hudson’s Bitter brewed with Golden Promise, crystal malt, and Styrian Goldings hops it comes out something like Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Apart from copious pints and meals at Galbraith’s I will also be attending the Hallertau Brewbar Hop Harvest Festival. I have never been to Hallertau before but have been told it’s a classy joint (its website informs me that it has bottles from the sizable English micro Bath Ales which I have never had before) and the Fraulins and Umpah band should be ‘interesting’. During my trip I hope to meet with ex-pat Englishman Martin, A gentleman I used to bump into on the beer-pages message board who now resides in Auckland. I also hope to meet with Ian, the brewer at Galbraith’s, Barry of SOBA Homebrew fame and will definitely be catching up with Greig and Alex who will graciously be playing taxi to get me out to Hallertau.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Enjoying what you have…

I spent the weekend at a bach up the coast at Waikanae. It was a good chance to remember that while I may pine for the cask ale and English pubs of mother England there are some good things to be had here to. Riggers of Emerson’s Bookbinder and 1812 IPA slipped down nicely with Thai fish curry and venison burgers between walks on the beach.

A bach is a small holiday home usually by a beach or lake, in the south island they are referred to as cribs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Regional Rivalry

You will notice I have started to split my tasting notes into north/south distinctions. Any student of English culture will notice that the English in the south count them selves as being very different from the English in the north and vice versa. Like the exchange between Barry the Baptist and Lenny in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Barry “Fucking northern monkeys!” Lenny: “I hate these fucking southern fairies!”) the world of beer is not immune from these rivalries, in fact it’s a hot bed. Sparklers, swan necks and hopping levels all cause debate. In the beer blogging world we have the northern camp firmly represented by Tandleman, in the south we get Paul Garrard saying all sorts of controversial things about Yorkshire bitters and then there is Stonch, a northerner living in the south who seems to get represented as a southern fairy more often than not.

My own ancestry is all from the south, one side London the other Devon, add to that she who must be obeyed is from Sussex and my allegiances are clear. I do enjoy beer from Yorkshire though. Right I’m off to prance in my fairy wings…

Strong Bitter Showdown- Southern Round

Beer enthusiasts in Wellington have a wide range of bottled and draught beer available to them from off licenses; the on license situation is less rosy. While the lions share of the credit goes to Regional Wines and Spirits, Rumbles and Island Bay New World both source and stock beers sometimes not seen anywhere else in the country. Every now and then I make a point of visiting Island Bay New World to see what’s on offer; invariably there is something I have never had before. New World is a major chain of supermarkets which allow a certain level of freedom to owner operators in regards to ranging. The Island Bay store is owned by Maurice Bennett, beer enthusiast and more notably toast artist (as seen in Billy Connolly’s ‘World Tour of NZ’).

I was in Island Bay World the other day and amongst other things I picked up a bottle of Shepherd Neame 1698 the strong bottle conditioned bitter from a brewer who I have criticised in the past. I decided to taste it off against Royal Oak the fruity malty strong bitter formerly from Eldridge Pope now brewed by Ohanlons.

Shepherd Neame 1698


Dark Copper with a disappearing white head. The aroma features fruity citrus and berry fruit notes, a touch of caramel malt and minerally note. On the palate there is toffee malt, fruity and earthy hop, a peachy note, firm mouth feel, leading to a lasting bitter finish. Best Sheps beer I have ever had.

Ohanlons Royal Oak


Dark Crimson with a pillowy enthusiastic white head. Aroma features rich toffee malt, complex fruit, strawberry, ripe plum, an over all effect like that of sniffing a roses chocolate box. On the palate there is chewy sweet malt, a profound fruit medley of strawberry, peaches and apricot leading to a firm bitter finish.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Festival Gold

It was a 5 am start today. Today is the last brew day for the late summer ales fest in march. I mashed in early so I can be all cleaned up, home and hosed in time to have a wee poke around and tasting session at Shed 22 Macs Brewery this evening. I’m brewing a new beer today, Festival Gold is a single varietal brew combining Golden Promise pale ale malt and copious amounts of Goldings hops. I think it will be a cracker.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Early results from the Corny ferment

I racked the summer ale that I fermented in corny kegs today and had a sample glass from each fermentor while I was about it. The early verdict? The ale is very clean and considering it was fermented with us-05 it was reassuringly clear. The only complaint is it does seem a little under attenuated. All in all I’m rapt, this will be my method from now on.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Battle of the Bests- Northern Round

As those who have been following this blog will know, I am a big fan of the Saltaire Brewery in Yorkshire. Tandleman recently wrote of a negative experience with the breweries products so when I saw a new shipment of Saltaire XB had landed I had to have another try. As always I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to the world of English beer blogging as I only get to experience these beers from the bottle which have travelled a long and tiring journey.

I also picked up a couple of bottles of Theakston XB which I had never tasted before and had myself a bit of a taste off between the two Yorkshire best bitters.

Saltaire XB

I think this is my favourite Saltaire beer , when I first reviewed it back in August last year I commented that it might be “a little more balanced if served through a sparkler in the Yorkshire tradition”, I have changed my mind I love the serious bitterness it packs.

The late Michael Jackson described the Challenger hop as giving ‘quinine bitterness’ to beer. This beer perhaps better than any I have ever had presents that uncompromising Challenger bitterness in an enormously satisfying way.

The label lists dark crystal malt and crystal rye malt no doubt contributing to the complex yet dry malt flavours in the beer. This one certainly still rings my bells.

Saltaire XB (second tasting feb 08)

4.3% abv

Pours a rich copper with a tight white head. Aroma features spicy earthy hops, anis and perhaps berry fruit present, with a pleasing hint of iodine. On the palate dry caramel malt flavours blend with a militant early hop bitterness, unidentifiable fruity notes and that massive bitter ‘quinine’ finish but also lasting nutty malt flavours. It is certainly a classic ‘so bitter you better have another sip’ kind of beer.

Theakston XB

Apart from the famous Old Peculier which I enjoy, this is the first of the Theakston beers I have tried. Theakston is a family brewer who after stumbling into Scottish and Newcastle ownership and inspiring the establishment of the Black Sheep Brewery next door, reclaimed their independence .

Theakston XB certainly had an identifiable house character which can also be identified in Old Peculier. Ultimately this example was very tired and not really in fit state to do battle with the young upstart from Saltaire, however I do think that the Theakston XB would have been a far less interesting example of a Yorkshire best even in its prime.

Theakston XB

4.5% abv

Poured a dark gold with a white creamy head. Aroma features crisp nutty malt, a fruity earthy note and a oxidised character. On the palate there is creamy sweet malt, tussocky hops, a peachy note, oxidised hops and even a little cardboard, leading to a balanced finish. Not in great nick but probably a sound but unexciting beer when in condition.