Reflections on beer from an advocate, retailer, brewer and drinker.
I am the Beer Specialist for Regional Wines and Spirits one of the most comprehensive and unique liquor retailers in New Zealand. My background is as a cheese monger and I have an all round passion for fermented foods. I have a particular passion for English beer styles and I run a 60 litre real ale home brewery.
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!!.
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
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.
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.
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)