Saturday, May 29, 2010

Big Weeks

It’s the end of a pretty big week and I’m shattered. Having coordinated and attended one and worked the other of the 2 monthly tutored tastings, organised and catered the Belgian in-store beer festival and made it out for a couple of late night beers I’m feeling it today.

The theme of tutored tastings this month was Back from the Best comprising a slide show and tales from Geoff Griggs experiences at the WBC and his travels through America and England before and after. We showed pictures taken while touring both the water wheel powered Donnington Brewery and the shinny new Thornbridge, quite a juxtaposition! English brewing in variation!
The Belgian Beerfest yesterday was a huge success, with me turning out platters of Moules Escargo and Pommes Frites and Aioli all day. The beers were tasting good, particularly La Chouffe, Chimay Blue 06, and the Steam Brewing Wit Bier.

Today I will chill the two fermentors holding last weekend’s parti-gyle bitter brew (1/2 Berhampore Best ½ O.S.B.) ready for them to be racked into conditioning tomorrow. Then it’s a short week before a long weekend in Auckland with Sarah. I haven’t made it up to our dirty metropolis for about two years now (apart from a quick day trip for the Cheese Awards last year) so I’m seriously looking forward to some quality time at Galbraith’s with Sarah (and two or three of my all time favourite beers of course! Bob it’s been way to long)

Then I’m back for a fortnight before heading down to Dunedin to brew with Richard, back to host next month’s beer tastings and then hitting the kitchen to cater food for the SOBA Matariki Winter Ales Fest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CT Column: Belgian brilliance

This weeks Capital Times Column:

BELGIUM is responsible for some of the most original and idiosyncratic beers in the world.
One very unusual characteristic of the Belgian brewing industry are the six Trappist Monasteries, which brew and sell beer to fund their abbeys and the charitable works they undertake.
The largest of these Trappist breweries is the Bières de Chimay at the Scourmont Abbey in the south of Belgium.
Chimay brews three beers for sale and as is customary amongst the Trappist Brewers one low strength beer for the monks to drink.
The three that the outside world get to drink are identified by the colour of the label. Chimay Red is the ‘small’ beer of the pack clocking in at 7%abv and offering up berry fruit aromas and a peppery yeast note.
Chimay White is a pale beer with a bright hop character and the spicy Chimay yeast note clocking in at 8%abv.
The most interesting beer of the range is the Chimay Blue which clocks in at 9%abv and is intended for cellaring.
When young, Chimay Blue has the classic peppery fruity aroma from the house yeast and a sweet malt accented palate.
As the beer ages, the fruit character deepens and rounds out taking on port-wine-like raisin notes with an incredibly smooth finish.
Chimay also produce washed rind cheese which makes a perfect match to the Blue. Try it with Over the Moon Galactic Gold or Kapiti Ramara from Moore Wilson’s Fresh.
I cellar my own Chimay Blue as I prefer the beer with some age on it, however for those with less restraint there will be a unique opportunity to taste and buy bottles from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Vintages at the Regional Wines and Spirits Belgian Beer Tasting on Saturday May 29th.

Kieran Haslett-Moore.

A Post in Praise of CAMRA and Food for thought for SOBA

There has been a fair bit of criticism of CAMRA in the blogosphere recently. Pete Brown has had a crack over his perception of the opening ceremony of the Brewing Centre in Burton, Greig has packed in his membership citing political differences, and others have weighed in with comments. Others like Ed have also made a point of looking at the positives. Roger Protz has come out in defence making sweeping statements that probably weren’t the wisest.

My CAMRA membership lapsed a year or so ago when it no longer became possible for me to renew my membership online, from memory it had something to do with having to enter your county branch as a log in or password and obviously as an overseas member I don’t have one and the disappearance of a web support email address. Anyway there was no political or theological falling out between me and the campaign. I have finally got around to signing up myself and Sarah with direct debit using Sarah’s UK bank account.

From my vantage point on the other side of the world much of the criticism of CAMRA seems somewhat unfair. The worst being that the organisation has a culture of entitlement. It seems to me that the Campaign as a whole amasses large amounts of volunteer labour on a regular basis in the interests of cask conditioned beer. Thousands of CAMRA members regularly donate time in the interests of the cause, that there will be some members who don’t and expect some of sort of payback for simply being a member shouldn’t outweigh the thousands that do. I think a big part of this is how the Campaign presents itself. This brings me to the second main criticism levelled against the campaign which is that it narrowly campaigns for cask conditioned beer rather than craft beer in general. I think this one is pretty much nonsense. CAMRAs core reason for being is cask conditioned beer, it’s like criticising the SPCA for not campaigning on Child Poverty. I of course am biased. I agree with Martyn Cornell when he says “nothing is capable of beating the best cask ale” and accordingly I agree with CAMRA.

As for some of the criticisms of policy there is probably more just cause. It would probably be good if the take it to the top campaign was quietly retired, from a New Zealand perspective it’s amazing how affordable good beer is in the UK. The super complaint against the tie seems dangerous as history seems to teach us that tackling the tie only ever results in unexpected often negative consequences.

The point of Greig’s post was that there are lessons to be learned for SOBA, in that, I suspect he is right. With new Memberships running at a rate of one a day we are growing and we will gather both members who want to contribute, those who won’t but still support the cause and those who just want a cheap glass of beer at Hashigo and a discounted rigger at Regional. It's up to the organisation to balance these kinds of members and preserve the image and intent of the organisation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Research: E.S.B

In the process of fine tuning my recipe for the Emerson’s brew I sampled a number of E.S.B.’s in order to confirm in my mind what I wanted from my interpretation of the style (As if I don’t drink them regularly anyway!). Extra Special Bitter is a style that sits in the gap between session beers and strong beers. While in the alcohol fuelled world of New World craft brewing between 5 and 6%abv often gets classified as session beer in reality beers of this strength are not designed to be drunk all night by the pint. However they are also not strong enough to wow with huge alcohol supported flavours and aromas that stronger beers might provide. The style does provide the opportunity to present a lot of character in a reasonably drinkable format. The reason I chose my E.S.B. recipe to brew on a larger scale rather than one of my lower strength session beer recipes was that it has more chance of presenting well from the keg where as I think it’s a lot harder to get a bitter or best bitter show its character chilled and fizzy.

Here are the E.S.B’s I tried over the last 2 months

Founders God Knows Best ... Bitter
A very malt accented interpretation of the E.S.B. style. Aroma features complex cara/munich malt characters with bready, light cocoa biscuity notes and a very clean neutral fermentation profile. In the mouth the beer is rich and malty with more light cocoa, sweet caramel and a touch of fruity hop character before a finely balanced finish. Over all a decent beer, would love to try it fermented with a characterful English yeast.

Titanic Captain Smiths
A great strong bitter with a very firm bitter finish. Aromas of caramel malt, dark fruit (plum), and earthy hops. In the mouth the beer presents a big crystal malt character with toffee and caramel which is more than balanced by a big earthy fruity hop flavour and a lasting bitterness which demands another sip. Good beer.

Charles Wells Bombardier
Aroma features burnt sugar, dark toffee, a hint of dried fruit and a hint of zesty earthy hops. In the mouth the dark toffee burnt sugar character is pronounced with a mid palate flash of hop flavour and a dry toffee bitter finish. Decent beer but somewhat one dimensional.

Fullers E.S.B.
A complex aroma of bright fruity hops with some citrus and berry fruit notes, the trademark Fuller yeast note of Marmalade and warm malt. In the mouth the beer has a rich complex malt profile with nutty caramel and toffee, bright citrus, ginger cake, bight hop notes and a perfectly ballanced finish that displays hop bitterness lingering malt in unison.


So it seems I’m the only person involved in the New Zealand Craft Beer Industry who isn’t about to jet my way to Melbourne for A.I.B.A.
It sounds like it going to be a hell of a party and I’m certainly a touch sad that I won’t be there.
However the pint of Brooklyn Bulldog E.S.B. that I took from the last pilot batch of beer to be brewed before I do it for real at Emerson’s is making me feel better. I have just racked it into a keg to cask condition, and filled 3 bottles so there is a sample of the pilot for Richard to try on brew day. I think it’s one of the best beers I have ever brewed, certainly the best draught beer I have brewed. A good omen I think.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weekend Warrior

Every homebrewer has that moment when they nail their first successful ferment or their first smooth mash and run off where they fantasise about doing it for real running a real commercial brewery. Most small commercial brewers warn the fool hardy amateur off, saying it’s a hell of a lot of hard work and a good way to make a small fortune out of a large one. Then there are the well meaning yet totally clueless bystanders who taste your beer, like it and ask when you are going to go pro like it’s as simple as converting another stockpot or ten and buying in few more sacks of malt. Others like Stu McKinlay have used the contract brewing model to launch a pro career while still holding down the day job. For me I have found my own way into the beer industry through retailing, judging and writing, it’s a pretty good place to be and I only have to clean stainless when I feel like it. One day in a perfect world (and sometimes the real world can provide a little perfection) I would like to run an outfit like the Wassail Brauhaus where I could brew what I wanted and share it with people for a modest financial return towards the brewing costs, time will tell. Anyway I digress, every homebrewer dreams of doing it for real and next month I will get to play at being a real brewer. I will be flying to Dunedin and with Richard Emerson I will brew a version of my Brooklyn Bulldog E.S.B recipe on the 200 litre pilot plant at Emerson’s Brewery. To say I’m excited is to say the Popes a papist. The beer will be a strong English style bitter brewed with New Zealand Pale Malt, English Crystal and Belgian Crystal Malt, New Zealand Goldings and New Zealand Styrian Goldings hops and the Fullers yeast. It’s the sort of beer I want to see more of through the Autumn and Winter months, its also the sort of beer I love!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

That's Epic

My latest Column from

BACK in February I attended a very special tasting. Kelly Ryan, an ex-pat Kiwi and head brewer of English craft brewer Thornbridge, presented a range of his beers at The Malthouse. Having studied food science and brewing for DB in New Zealand, Kelly set off on his O.E. finally landing the job of head brewer at what is widely regarded as one of England’s most exciting new generation brewers. Thornbridge Brewery started out in an outbuilding at the Thornbridge stately home in Derbyshire. Now with production split between a larger new brewery and the manor house site, Kelly and his brewing team including ex-Wellingtonian homebrewer James Kemp, produce some fantastic beers including a spectacular New Zealand hopped pale ale, their hoppy aromatic flagship IPA called Jaipur, a black IPA which gives more than a nod to the Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black, a number of barrel aged imperial stouts, and my favourite, a strong chestnut honey infused dark ale called Bracia.
Unfortunately none of these wonderful beers are imported into New Zealand, however, thoughtfully Kelly dropped in on his mate Luke Nicholas from Epic before heading back to the UK and the two of them came up with a Stout for our winter. While Kelly often showcases NZ hops in the beers he brews in the UK, for this brew he and Luke used a lot of English ingredients. Weighting in at 6.8%abv Epic Thornbridge Stout was brewed with English Maris Otter, Brown, Crystal, & Munich malts, Roast Barley and English Target and Brambling Cross hops. Pouring a pitch black Epic Thornbridge Stout has a fruity zesty hop aroma with a hint of roasty malt, which continues in the mouth leading to a dry smooth finish. Epic Thornbridge Stout is available from The Malthouse and will soon to be available in bottles from Regional Wines and Spirits. Cheers