Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This weekend the judging of the 2010 SOBA National Homebrew Competition takes place. I will be flying to Hamilton to help judge over 300 beers in two days. This is a pretty staggering task, at the pro brewing competitions I have judged at we would usually do 60-80 beers a day , even with three tables working independently we will have to be knocking off far more than that a day.
I always look forward to judging the NHC (even if I didn’t really want to this year as I wanted to enter!) as the range of beers on offer is always far more interesting than in pro comps. The overall standard might be lower but the standard rises each year. Several years ago the most common fault was bacterial infection with some absolutely intense infections still featuring in some judges nightmares, however more recently it has been the more subtle faults of the sort you find at commercial competition. The best beers are always absolutely fantastic and a tribute to the standard of homebrewing culture that is developing in this country.

Good luck to all who have entered and wish us judges luck in the task ahead!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pub Jukebox

Ok this is revolutionary stuff, after posting nothing since September now I’m going to deliver two on the same day as I’m laid up with a chest cold on a cold stormy Spring Monday. This one os vastly less serious than the one before.

So here I go jumping on the current beer blog band wagon. Firstly I would like to say that I am sceptical about pub juke boxes. I don’t trust my brother man and sister woman to select music that won’t put me off my pint that said this is all about my ultimate listing so I can certainly live with my own choices!

For me The Pogues exemplify everything that is exciting and appealing about setting out on a session with friends. Yes in reality the band (including Shane himself) ended up glamorising the hopeless alcoholism of MacGowan but the music is fantastic and booze soaked nature just seems right with a pint in your hand.

Hell yeah! The soundtrack to that single malt at the end of the night that you will regret tomorrow! Mr Waits is a musical genius, and stars in the best jukebox scene ever in jim jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes”

A stomping crooning solid catchy glorious crescendo of a song. I remember playing this at O-Street during Thursday Night drinks.

MacGowen meets Cave , beautiful.

Takes me back to a wonderful night at the Mean Fiddler in Nelson. Great drinking music and when you find an Irish pub that goes past the plastic paddy bollocks and captures something of the essence of a proper community boozer (and when you can find one with something better than the blackstuff to drink! ) it’s a very good thing.

Not exactly PC but pure genius and incredibly good. Yep another Cave track, hell why bother with the Juke Box let’s just put all his albums on the CD player on shuffle! (Ipod, what is that?)

I’m a sucker for a fiddle played right, and on this it’s played perfect.

I guess I am ‘meant’ to be embarrassed about liking blue grass but I’m not. I like Mild to. At least others in the pub might recognise this one from the movie.

Another film track. It’s always good to take in some salvation as you sin, I find it saves time that way.

The greatest rock band on earth, no question, and very much where my musical roots lie. I started out drinking beer to this and it still sends shivers down my spine. Classic.

Are we importing the wrong beers? - IPA not really a traveller

With the current big thing in the NZ craft beer scene being heavy use of hops it’s hardly surprising that imports of big hopped craft beers from overseas are on the rise. Big hopped IPA’s and Double IPA’s from America, England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway and Japan are increasingly popping up around Wellington. I’m as involved as anyone in the import of these beers through my position at Regional where I range these sorts of beers and direct importers to source them. However recently in private I have started to wonder if these sorts of beers are really the best ones to ship the length of the earth.

What’s that I hear you say? But IPA is historically a travelling beer style?

Well there are two issues here. Firstly while the IPA’s of the India trade used to make the arduous journey to India they most likely bear precious little resemblance to the beers we call IPA today. While Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson are better qualified to talk about what historic IPA’s were like, I think I can safely say that the beers we call IPA today, heavily late hopped with modern resinous hop varieties, are a far cry from the IPA’s of the colonial era.
Late hop characters (i.e. flameout, whirlpool, and dry hopping) create striking aromas and flavours which are wonderful when experienced fresh, however these un-isomerised hop characters are moments in time. These beers fade really fast, they fall out of balance quickly as the stabilised hop compounds fall away and the considerable malt that was required to balance the hops is left sitting bold and prominent, the hop compounds oxidise and turn minerally leaving acrid unpleasant flavours.
The second consideration when thinking about IPA’s being a travelling style is that once the beers of old reached their harsh tropical destination the expectations were probably significantly low, any ale that didn’t resemble vinegar was probably hailed as a success and worthy of fetching a premium price. Today in an environment where we have some very good fresh locally produced options and are paying a premium price for these beers our standards are and should be higher than the ‘doesnt resemble vinegar’ threshold.
So often when I taste these modern imported IPA’s they are either heavily oxidised, or pleasant enough but obviously shadows of their former selves when compared with reports of them from their countries of origin.

What’s the solution?

I don’t know. I’m not suggesting we stop bringing these beers into the country, there is a market and it will be supplied one way or another. There are brewers who attempt to prevent their beers from being exported, Stones Greg Koch for example but to little effect considering despite his best efforts I could buy 7 of his beer brands right now if I wanted to. Small scale imports that will move through quickly are also a good idea but this often prevents the economy of scale that helps these imports work financially.