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.
IN July I wrote about the launch of Yeastie boys Rex Attitude, the
world’s first beer to be brewed with 100% peated distilling malt. I
thought the beer would change significantly as it aged. I suggested that
the volatile peaty character would meld and develop in the bottle.
As I wrote that column I decided I would put some of that first batch
into the cellar and compare it with a younger example later in the year.
A few weeks ago I used the return of a friend who has been living in
Liverpool as an excuse to open the two examples and compare the golden
peaty contents. The first batch poured a hazy gold with healthy head,
while the younger example poured a brilliant much clearer gold with the
same white fluffy head.
Aromatically the older example offered up Rex Attitude’s characteristic
heathery smoked kipper character, autumnal bonfire notes and a
suggestion of charred timber. The newer example displayed the same
heathery smoked note but also an earthy, raw, gamy character and a
medicinal note and a spike of ashen flavour.
Tasting Rex Attitude is always a complex experience. Many are put off by
the first taste and never let their palates acclimatise to the peat and
pick up the complex range of flavours that are present in the beer. The
older example presented sweet malt, mellow smoke and a hint of
earthiness while the younger example was much rawer and bolder with
medicinal notes, earthy smoke and tropical fruit hop flavour all vying
for attention. The aged version had mellowed significantly with the
peat character maturing and rounding out much as it does in the single
malt whiskeys that usually slumber for years in wooden casks before
being sold. The compromise has been that the wonderful tropical fruit
hop character that features in the younger version has been lost as the
Last week the Yeastie Boys released an imperial version of Rex Attitude
which they brewed to celebrate the Morton Coutts Award for Brewing
innovation that they won at the Beer Awards this year. Named xeRRex
(pronounced x-rex, as far as I can work out) this 10%abv version of Rex
is ironically a far more drinkable beast than its smaller brother. Sweet
malt, earthy smoke, and warm bonfire aromas give way to rich rounded
sweet malt, complex smoke and a hint of tropical fruit. xeRRex strikes
perhaps the perfect balance between complexity and drinkability. There
are also rumours that there is a chardonnay barrel filled with some of
the first batch of Rex Attitude slowly aging up. This may at some point
come out as a super limited edition beer although I have also heard from
a reliable source that it may be destined to become a ‘Directors
Reserve’ and all be consumed by the Yeastie Boys themselves.
I used to get into
the British blogging scene end of year wrap ups, (the pre blog days of the
beerpages.com forum seem a long time ago now) but haven’t recently. As my new year’s
resolution will be to give this blog some more love and Stu has kicked off
doing it in the Antipodes I thought I should do one to.
Best Local draught
beer:Emerson’s Brownsville Brown . An American brown ale with the perfect
rounded soothing malt profile to back up the US Hops.
Runner up Townshend
Sutton Hoo, an awesome blend of New World Amber Ale and English Best Bitter.
I have to say that
with conflicts of interest accepted Emerson’s RSB 2011 would be a very strong contender for me to.
Best Local packaged
beer: Twisted Hop Red Zone Enigma, great story but more importantly an
outstanding beer that most definitely did improve from its enforced conditioning.
Runner up Yeastie
Boys xeRRex, the perfect execution of a totally bonkers idea that will most
certainly divide people into lovers and haters. I’m a lover.
packaged: Fullers Past Masters XX Strong Ale. Rich, hoppy, fruity and
fantastic. That Ron has achieved influence to get historic beers produced is proof
that there can be justice in the world.
Runner up Coronado
Islander IPA. A unique American IPA that
manages to differentiate its self and be interesting in a style that all too
often is boring and uniform.
Beer: Such a hard one to answer. I had a wonderful and rare bottle of Westvleteren
12 and while the context perhaps has influenced me it was profoundly wonderful.
Another contender would be the genius Emerson’s Tawny Mild from the handpump at
Albar, fruity, malty, complex and amber and at 3.2%abv I could drink it all
Pumpclips: My vote goes to Parrotdog who although are one of the newest
and youngest brewing crews around were together enough to supply me with a
pumpclip as they delivered the kegs to me, brewers NEVER do this. The actual
pump clip was pretty sexy to.
Best NZ Brewery:
again conflicts of interest accepted I really can’t go past Emerson’s. They not
only turn out large volumes of tasty well balanced craft beer week in week out
but they also manage a range of fantastic seasonals, draught only limited
Brewers Reserves, and small pilot brew releases. They are doing exciting things
on multiple levels and the brewery does sometimes feel a little like the Willy
Wonker’s of beer.
Runner up for me
would have to be Yeastie Boys, interesting diverse beers, sometimes challenging
, sometimes just bloody fantastic.
Best New Brewery:
From a parochial stance I have to vote The Garage Project. Brewing returns to
the Wellington CBD which is cause to celebrate. Pete brings diverse experience from
Brakspear, Hepworth and James Squire to the table and the result is
experimental, unorthodox but almost always quality. I can’t wait for the full
plant to go in.
Brewery: Fullers. My desert island brewery. Awesome house yeast, awesome
beers, and a great diverse range. They do what many family brewers should, keep
Pub/Bar of the
Year: Albar, if I wish I lived at Galbraith’s then I would want Albar as
my neighbour. Runner up is tie between The Hop Garden and LBQ. Both new this
year and both have given Wellington something different in terms of places to
drink craft beer.
Beer Festival of
the Year: Beervana, bigger, different and ultimately better than ever before.
Supermarket of the
Year: Island Bay New World. Maurice’s groundwork continued.
Independent Retailer of the year: I would
have to say Regional. I think we are doing a good job.
Online Retailer of
the year: I would have to say Regional again. But then I would wouldn’t I
Book/Mag: Amber Gold and Black Martyn Cornell. Ok so it didn’t come out
this year but I have read it several times this year.
Best Online Brewery
Presence: Epic, Luke and Kelly are masters of E-Communication.
Food and Beer
Pairing of the Year: Emersons Pilsner and Oysters at Beervana, genius.
Best event of the Year: I reckon it
would be the Galbraith’s Great Brewer Cask Ale Series, even though I haven’t made
it to one at all. In fact I haven’t visited Mecca at all this year which is a
What I'd like to do in 2012: I have many plans ,
some of them may even happen.
Back in September Sarah was in England seeing her family, I was knocking around the Mason's with Rosie for company brewing watching DVD's and subconsciously making mess that would later get me in trouble with the returning Mrs :-). One night however Rosie and myself were joined at the bar by Phil and George from the excellent Beer Diary blog. The result was a podcast which hopefully people find entertaining. It's probibly the first time I have heard my voice recorded and not cringed, either my accent is improving or my maturing years are causing me to be happy in my skin. Check it out here or direct mp3 download here.
NEW ZEALAND hops are gaining a reputation around the world for the exotic and unique flavours and aromas. New Zealand hops have long been valued around the world because of the low levels of insecticide and fungicides used in their production and the high levels of alpha acids that they contain. Alpha acid is the element in hops which gives them bitterness. The more alpha acid a hop contains the less a brewer needs to use to achieve the desired level of bitterness. For mainstream brewers who primarily want to inject a moderate level of balancing bitterness rather than flavour and aroma from their hops, high alpha hops are highly prized. Craft brewers on the other hand tend to value the original and exotic flavours and aromas that different hop varieties can offer. It is this second use of hops in brewing which is really driving the demand for New Zealand hops at the moment. Craft brewers in Australia, the United Kingdom, Continental Europe and North America are all waking up to what New Zealand hops can offer. Now and then beers brewed with New Zealand hops make their way back to New Zealand. A couple of months ago I wrote of the Buxton beers from the North of England which are now available in NZ, (brewer James Kemp uses a lot of NZ hops in his beers). Occasionally we get the seasonal hoppy Southern Hop Harvest Ale from California’s Sierra Nevada Brewery which uses air freighted New Zealand hops fresh from the harvest. Currently on the shelves around town we have Humming Ale from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewery. Humming Ale is an American Pale Ale which combines a big Nelson Sauvin hop character with a very American pale biscuity malt profile. I’m always intrigued to taste how brewers from other countries use our hops and this is a particularly good example. Aromas of citrus, passionfruit and melon give way to a zesty palate and a lingering grassy bitter finish. Humming Ale is a seasonal beer which is brewed to commemorate the opening of Anchors current brewery which they moved into in 1979. I suggest grabbing one and comparing it with any of the locally produced beers that highlight New Zealand hops. Cheers
EARLIER this month Wellington hosted a Belgian brewer now based in NZ. Dave De Vylder from East Flanders in Belgium trained as an electrical engineer and served in the army before retraining as a brewer. He met and married Kiwi teacher Susan Kiener who was doing her OE in Europe. The couple lived in Switzerland until an opportunity presented itself that meant they could move to NZ. Dave Gillies had been running Wanaka Beer Works single-handedly producing three tasty lagers for many years. He had helped to create the New Zealand Pilsner style when he launched Brewski, a pilsner beer that was packed with NZ hop varieties. Brewski went on to become the Champion beer of NZ in the year 2000, inspiring many of the other NZ hopped pilsners that have followed since. The brewery was put on the market, and the De Vylders jumped at the opportunity. The De Vylders took over in July. The core range of Brewski, Cardrona Gold and Tall Black will be continued while Dave has drawn on his Belgian and Swiss brewing background to create a range of seasonal brews. In Wellington earlier this month he launched the spring seasonals with a tasting. My pick of the bunch was Miere. Described as a Golden Honey Dubbel Miere is a strong golden ale that has had an addition of Lake Hawea manuka and clover honey added. The result is a full bodied golden ale with a hint of spicy honey on the nose , a hint of fruity hop and floral honey in the mouth and a crisp refreshing finish. Kauri is described as an Old Flemish Dark with an infusion of kauri wood flavour. The result is a steely dry dark ale with a hint of tannic woodiness and a long roasty finish. Finally Miner Galore is described as being a Swiss style Doppel Bock with Rosehip. The resulting beer was fruity and mellow with some lovely rich malt, bright hops and a hint floral rosebud. All three beers are interesting and although a little surprising for those of us who expected the Belgian brewer to produce some big Belgian style beers. The next three seasonals are due soon and will revolve around the wheat beer theme with spices and fruit coming into the equation! Cheers
DESPITE being neighbours we see very little Australian beer in New Zealand. As in New Zealand, Australia has undergone a beer renaissance with independent brewers popping up all around the sandy continent. Increasingly New Zealand brewers are seeing Australia as a lucrative market for their wares. Epic, Yeastie Boys , 8 Wired , Invercargill, mikes and Renaissance are all exporting beer to Australia. The flow of beer has been decidedly one way with until now very little Australian micro-brewed beer coming into NZ. While it’s great to see medium sized breweries like Coopers, Matilda Bay and Little Creatures in NZ, many of us in the beer world have wanted to see more small interesting independent brewed Australian beer crossing the ditch. It seems this might be beginning to happen. Stone and Wood Pacific Ale is a new style defying brew that will soon pop up on shelves around town. Stone and Wood is a craft brewery located at Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales. Head Brewer and partner Brad Rodgers was formerly the head brewer for Matilda Bay and has been a regular judge at New Zealand beer competitions through the years. Pacific Ale is a cross between a cloudy wheat beer and a hoppy golden ale combining the dry quenching qualities of a Belgian Wit beer like Hoegaarden and the bright hop character of a pale ale like Little Creatures. The beer is clearly designed for the hot Australian climate and is extremely refreshing while also being relatively complex and flavoursome. Also on the horizon from Australia, the core range of Little Creatures beers is due to arrive in NZ any day. Lion Nathan have imported Little Creatures Pale Ale for years but have finally been convinced to bring in the filtered Bright Ale, the sessionable amber ale Rodgers and the breweries take on the Pilsner style. All four Little Creatures brews will be at home next to the BBQ, conveniently they should be here just in time for the first steak to hit the charcoals. Cheers!
THIS month two beers are being released to honour the Flying Nun record label. Emerson’s Tally Ho! is making a return to taps around town after first appearing in February this year. Tally Ho! takes its name from The Clean’s debut single and forms part of the Dunedin brewer’s annual ‘Dunedin Sound Series’ of seasonal beers which first appeared last summer. Brewed in the English Golden Ale style, a type of pale fruity ale pioneered by English brewers in the 1980’s to compete with the golden lagers that were beginning to gain in popularity, Tally Ho! is fruity and complex with earthy herbaceous English hop notes, a hint of orchard fruit from a characterful fermentation and a rounded malt backbone. Also out this month with a Flying Nun theme is the official 30 Year Ale from Epic. 30 Year Ale was brewed to be served at the Nunvember Anniversary gigs that are going on around the country throughout November. Epic brewers Luke Nicholas and Kelly Ryan set out to create a beer that would be accessible to Flying Nun fans who wouldn’t necessarily have drunk craft beer before but would still be identifiably an Epic beer. Much like the Emerson’s brew Epic have crafted a golden ale with a sweet malt backbone, however unlike Tally Ho! Epic 30 Year Ale is packed with loads of New World dry hop character. Brewed using a blend of American hops, Liberty, Cascade and Falconers Flight, and a New Australian hop called Galaxy. 30 Year Ale certainly has an assertive ‘Epic’ character to it. The aroma is full of lemon, tropical fruit and a big earthy ‘hopsack’ note. In the mouth the resiny earthy hop character dominates with some sweet malt just managing to cushion the hop attack before a resiny but not particularly bitter finish. 30 Year Ale certainly manages to identify itself as an Epic beer and will no doubt go down well with the hophead crowd, however I suspect it might prove too much for many of the non craft beer drinking music fans it’s been brewed for. I hope I am proved wrong. Tally Ho!
IN the midst of last month’s kerfuffle over the oval ball a new type of beer festival made its debut. The Pacific Beer Expo brought together a range of beers from around the Pacific rim highlighting beers from Australia, California, Japan and NZ. Organised by cult beer bar Hashigo Zake and held at The Boatshed the festival focused on the beers that Hashigo Zake import and some from their favourite local brewers. The festival had a great social vibe and presented the perfect environment to enjoy some characterful beers. My picks included the new hoppy amber ale from Wellington contract brewers Parrotdog, the citrus scented Islander IPA from San Diego’s Coronado Brewing Co and the sessionable vanilla flavoured porter from Hamilton’s Brewaucracy Brewery. Launched at the festival was a new barley wine from Renaissance Brewing Co called Tribute. Word has it that the beer narrowly avoided having its name changed after a misguided official took issue with a beer displaying the word wine. History has a way of repeating itself as American brewers across the Pacific faced the same petty objections when they first started to brew the style of beer 35 years ago. In America a compromise was achieved that resulted in the clumsy term ‘barleywine style ale’ being adopted. Here in NZ it seems a more sensible approach has been taken. The beer in question clocks in at a warming 10.8%abv with rich sweet malt character, with hints of toasty nut and treacle, a fruity orchard fruit note from the fermentation and a firm bitter finish. Tribute Barley Wine will age well and I think it might hit its straps in three or four years time, that said, it’s drinking well now and would make a great accompaniment to a nice wedge of Stilton cheese. I recommend grabbing a few for the cellar and one to drink now, when you toast calling a spade a spade! Cheers
A few weeks ago a very special beer found its way onto the market. Most beers pass through the production process smoothly with the result more or less as the brewer intended. Under normal circumstances the worst a beer might face would be an equipment malfunction proving a hassle for the brewer and the possibility of being detrimental to the finished beer. However the February earthquake in Christchurch has created some very extraordinary circumstances for the city’s brewers. When the quake hit, the staff and customers of Christchurch’s legendary brewpub The Twisted Hop, had to flee the building. The kitchen staff left with their pizza ovens still roaring, the punters left their pints unfinished on the tables, and the brewing staff left this year’s vintage of Enigma barley wine conditioning in a tank. It would be months before the staff and owners would be able to return to The Twisted Hop as it was stranded within the red zone. On May the 8th owners Martin Bennett and Stephen Hardman managed to return to the bar for an hour after gaining entry via the boudoirs of a neighbouring brothel. It took until August before they were able to access the brewhouse conditioning tanks and get the barley wine out. The beer was taken to Harrington’s Brewery where it was bottled and distributed around the country under the name Red Zone Enigma Barley Wine. Barley Wine is a strong malt accented style of beer that tends to benefit from age. The enforced ‘cordon aging’ has given the beer an rich smoothness and integration that I have never found in Engma before. The hop character has mellowed into a lovely marmalade character while the rich malt profile has increased in complexity. The label bears the line “Christchurch and The Twisted Hop will rise again, of that we’re certain. So if you need something to raise a glass to we hope that will suffice.” I can’t think of a better beer to toast Christchurch’s future, get some while you can as it won’t last long! Cheers
NEW Zealand brewers have played a part in two of the most exciting and innovative English breweries to emerge in the past five years. First Kelly Ryan helped build the Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire up to become one of the most innovative and high profile breweries in the UK. Kelly was then joined at Thornbridge by long time New Zealand resident James Kemp. James is a classic ‘ping pong pom’ having been born in the UK and then raised in New Zealand before returning to England in his 20’s where he had the enviable job of Quality Control at Fullers Brewery in London. He then returned to NZ where he became the Champion Homebrewer of NZ at the S.O.B.A National Homebrew Competition. He moved back again to the UK where he joined Kelly at Thornbridge, although now he is working as head brewer at a small Peak District brewery called Buxton. Since James’ arrival Buxton has earned itself a reputation as a brewery to watch with many English bloggers and commentators expecting big things. Last month my partner Sarah returned to her native Sussex in the south of England to visit friends and family and brought home several of the Buxton beers that James had packaged specially for me. Buxton is part of a new wave of English brewers who are increasingly looking to America, and New Zealand for inspiration, brewing hop accented beers with big new world hop characters, restrained malt characters and clean neutral yeast profiles. James skilfully uses primarily NZ, continental and English hops to create big unique hop characters that grab you by the nose as soon as you open the bottle. Interestingly James does not use a lot of American hops despite the obvious American influence on his beers. My picks from the range would be the hoppy golden ale SPA, the robust India Pale Ale Wild Boar and the rich rounded Imperial Stout Tsar. SPA combines a zesty clean exotic tropical hop aroma with a lean supporting malt body and a zesty fruity finish. Wild Boar presents with a big tropical fruit bowl aroma, some lightly nutty malt notes and a firm bitter finish. Finally Tsar is a dangerously drinkable Imperial Stout with a complex aroma of chocolate, espresso, berry fruit and caramel , a restrained balanced palate and a long smooth finish. A range of Buxton beers are available in NZ but James warns that they have travelled down the globe in less than ideal conditions and are not likely to be the best representation of his work. The best way to experience them would be in a Peak District pubs. Keep it in mind next time you are up that way! Cheers
A fortnight ago it was announced that the Australian brewing giant Fosters was to be sold to London based South African Brewing giant SABMiller. This has caused considerable consternation across the Tasman where it is being heralded by some as a sign of ebbing national identity. Here in NZ our two major brewing companies are both internationally owned, Lion by the Japanese Brewing company Kirin who is in turn owned by Mitsubishi Motors, and DB which is owned by the Singaporean Asia Pacific Breweries who are in turn owned by the Dutch brewer Heineken. When ever one of these companies is sold there is always a lot of nationalistic toned hyperbole and wringing of hands. There are local brewers who seem to think that the nationality of ownership is important with customers with some stressing their local credentials. For me the beer in the glass is always more important than any surrounding issues and inordinate talk of ownership sets alarm bells off in my head in the same way as brewers who talk more about their water than beer. However that’s not to say that ownership doesn’t matter. At an independent craft brewery level a sale to a major brewer often results in a dumbing down of the beer and an increasing reliance of style over substance. There are exceptions. A prime example being the Mac’s beers which I would argue have increased in character under Lion Nathan ownership. For me the most important thing is what influence the owner exerts on the beer being produced rather than their nationality. This latest sale does form what is becoming a concerning trend towards larger and larger brewing giants. There are already plans by the world’s largest brewer AB InBev to purchase SABMiller something that would mark the biggest cash take over in history and result in one company controlling a huge percentage of the world’s beer production. As far as the Fosters sale goes it doesn’t look like there will be much in the way of practical change as far as we are concerned. Of the Fosters beers imported into New Zealand the lightly hoppy Matilda Bay Fat Yak would be my pick. I would love it if the change meant the introduction of the more characterful Matilda Bay Alpha Male Pale Ale but I won’t be holding my breath. Cheers.
HERE in New Zealand there is precious little of our brewing history left to see. New Zealand was once littered with breweries many of them grand and ornate. Before rail and road networks made distribution of beer easy every town and many villages had their own brewery. In Dunedin the Lion Nathan owned Speights Brewery still operates in an impressive pre World War One building. In Mangatainoka a 1930’s tower brewery sits empty and somewhat forlornly over the modern Tui production brewery. In Wellington the grand old Staples Beehive Brewery can still be visited, however these days it sells a range of beers alongside the veges, baked beans and bacon trading as Thorndon New World, it was once the main regional brewery for Wellington producing the fondly remembered Red Band Beer. The situation is rather different in England where many historic breweries are not only still there to be seen but are still actively brewing beer and in some cases they still use equipment that dates back 100 or more years. The Hook Norton Brewery in the village of Hook Norton, Oxfordshire is a classic example. Late Victorian breweries like Hook Norton are often known as Tower breweries because they were built high using gravity instead of pumps to transport beer around the brew plant. The Hook Norton beers are available in New Zealand and represent a slice of traditional English brewing. Old Hooky is a 4.6%abv best bitter combining rich complex caramel and toffee accented malt with a fruity fermentation note and a hint of earthy hop flavour. Flagship is a classic English IPA combining a pale nutty malt character and a vibrant zesty English hop character. My third pick from the range is the roasty fruity Double Stout that combines flavours of espresso, chocolate and toast with a tangy stone fruit character. Cheers
OUT of conflict arises creativity, well at least that’s what happens when the world works the way we would like it to. Earlier this year a group of Nelson brewers, hop growers and publicans decided to join forces and promote Nelson as a beer destination. They decided to call themselves Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand, and started working towards trade marking the term. With the Radler verdict fresh in people’s minds the prospect of another controversial trademark led to many in the beer world, myself included, raising concerns. For us Wellingtonians the prospect of Nelson having a monopoly on a term that clearly better suited our own fair city didn’t sit well. As a result of the negative reaction the Nelson group renamed themselves Craft Brewing Capital referring to the fact that Nelson has the highest number of breweries per capita in the country. Craft Brewing Capital of New Zealand launched several weeks ago with pamphlets being produced in order to attract visitors to Nelson during the Rugby World Cup. The debate had however sparked the imaginations of several Wellington beer businessmen. A plan was hatched in conjunction with the Wellington City Council to take the lead from Nelson. A collective of beer retailers and bars was set up to promote all the fantastic beer related stuff that goes on in our little capital. Craft Beer Capital stickers will start to appear in the windows local beer bars and retailers, the website www.craftbeercapital.com has been launched and an advertising campaign has started on radio stations around the country. You can also check out Nelson’s Craft Brewing Capital at www.craftbrewingcapital.co.nz . One of the outlets on the Wellington Craft Beer Capital map is the newly opened Fork and Brewer in Bond Street. The very originally decked out bar is open however the brewery is still on the water coming from China. Former Mac’s brewer Lester Dunn has been employed and the beer should be pouring by Christmas.
BACK in 2008 Invercargill brewer Steve Nally made history by releasing New Zealand’s first ever widely available smoked beer. At the time Smokin Bishop was truly revolutionary and in some ways ushered in the era of boundary pushing extreme brewing that has since brought us smoked, coffee infused, shellfish flavoured, spirit barrel aged and most famously 100% peated malt beers. Smokin Bishop is a New Zealand take on the traditional Rauchbier style that originates in Bamberg Germany. Rachbiers are made with malt that is cured over wood fires creating a complex blend of smoky campfire bacon like notes in the beer. Smokin Bishop takes this concept and gives it an NZ twist by using manuka to smoke the malt rather than the German beech wood. What we didn’t know back in 2008 was that Steve was already preparing another move that would be equally pioneering. Six hundred litres of the 2008 vintage of Smokin Bishop were run into a tank and tucked away at the back of the brewery. Steve had read about how the Alaskan Brewery holds vertical tastings of their famous Alaskan Smoked Porter and thought he would really like to see how the smoke changed through the years. This year the 2008 vintage Smokin Bishop was bottled and has been released alongside the new 2011 vintage giving drinkers the perfect opportunity to see exactly how cellaring effects the beer. Today the cellaring of beer by brewers is almost unheard of and I am sure this is the first time a New Zealand brewer has released two vintages of the same beer at the same time. This is a fantastic opportunity for those who lack the will power to run a beer cellar to experience a cellared beer. The 2008 vintage has been notably smoothed its long slumber in the world’s southernmost brewery. The smoke character has mellowed and integrated with the rich complex malt character of the beer. The lightly fruity hops that usually share the aroma with the earthy smoke have retreated leaving a very rounded highly drinkable beer. The 2011 vintage on the other hand has a much more pronounced earthy heathery smoke aroma, alongside berry fruit hop notes, and some rich malt. In the mouth the beer is notably lighter in body, with fruity hop flavour vying with smoke for attention. As is always the way for small artisan producers the differences between the two beers are not just due to age. The process of smoking the malt is far from standardised and variations occur every year, also Steve tweaks the recipe every year in his pursuit of perfection. This year the malt bill was altered slightly to lighten the body a touch, something that I think has ended up emphasising the hop character. Both beers will make a fantastic accompaniment to salty antipasto foods, or if you want to compare the differences just try a glass of each with a little water in between to clear your palate. Cheers!
IN a former life I played bass in a hardcore band. During the late 90’s early 2000’s Wellington was home to a thriving underground punk, ska, hardcore music scene with Thistle Hall on the corner of upper Cuba St and what was then Arthur St, playing host to many legendary gigs. The scene was about music but it was also about left leaning politics and social justice. I bring this anecdote up not because of the beer we used to drink at gigs, which was certainly not of the sort that I would usually write about in this column, but because a new Wellington beer has just been launched that brought these memories flooding back. Wellington homebrewer and beer writer Brendon Mackenzie has just launched Wellington’s newest contract brewing company, Revolution Brewing and has named his first beer @ntifa. @ntifa refers to the antifascist movement and was a patch that would often adorn leather jackets at the gigs I attended. @ntifa is a diverse mash up of a beer that takes the malt character of a malty red Vienna lager, the yeast profile of a clean crisp Altbier and the hop character of a fruity American amber ale. The end result is a clean fruity red ale that combines a rich malt backbone with a big hop aroma and clean balanced finish. A perfect beer for spring and one which will pair beautifully with barbequed meat from the first intrepid BBQ’s of the season. Naturally Revolution Brewing have a manifesto which sets out what they are aiming to achieve and what form future beers might take, check out http://revolutionbrewing.co.nz/ to read it. Cheers
THE rather wonderful cold blast of the past fortnight has got me thinking about winter warmers. Winter warmers are not a style of beer, or a category that has any defined boundaries but when we talk about them we know what is meant. Winter Warmers tend to be accented towards rich malt character rather than aggressively hopped, they tend to be relatively high in alcohol to provide a fortifying warmth and also often have a comforting quality that encourages sipping by a fireside rather than session drinking. Through the worst of the cold snap I enjoyed several beers that I would class as winter warmers. New from 8 Wired, The Sultan is a Belgian style Quadruplel with a difference. Quadrupels are an abbey style of beer made in the tradition of the beers made by Trappist monks. A Quadrupel is a strong amber coloured ale with a spicy Belgian yeast character and a warming note from the high alcohol. The Sultan takes this style and gives it a twist by incorporating a large dose of sultanas. The Sultan is truly the tawny port of the beer world. From Mike’s this year’s vintage of Whiskey Porter has been released and is less spirity than past years with a fantastic balance of oak, alcoholic warmth and chocolaty porter. Finally I have been enjoying the classic strong dark wheat beer from Germany, Schneider Aventinus. It is a warming cocktail of clove, banana , caramel and mocha that turns most peoples idea of a wheat beer on its head. The winter warmer concept can be taken a step further by mulling beer. There are several traditions of mulling beer around the world. In the midlands of England ‘Poker Ale’ was a traditional winter tipple where rich malty old ale was heated with a poker from the fire. Try it with Marston’s Owd Rodger if it’s your game. In Belgium the Liefmans Brewery used to produce a spiced fruit beer called Gluhkriek that was designed to be heated gently before drinking. I recommend blending the very sweet Liefmans Fruitesse with the slightly tart Duchesse De Bourgogne and heating gently with a little cinnamon and anis. Cheers!
TRADITIONALLY America has been known for producing incredibly light bodied, pale, scantily flavoured lagers. More recently beers like Epic Pale Ale and Tuatara APA have introduced the American Pale Ale style to NZ drinkers and the realisation has dawned that America is responsible for some seriously hoppy full flavoured pale ales. Imported American beers are increasingly available in bars, bottle stores and supermarkets around town. Terms like American Pale Ale, American India Pale Ale, and Imperial India Pale Ale have entered the New Zealand drinker’s lexicon. America has, however, given the beer world more than just highly hopped pale ales. In 1975 the iconic Anchor brewery in San Francisco produced a strong rich malt accented beer with a notably American hop character based on the barley wines that owner Fritz Maytag had tasted in England. Maytag took the English style of barleywine, which tends to be rich and malty with a notable vinous fruity character from the use of character English yeast strains and supercharged it with a healthy dose of grapefruit accented American hops. Old Foghorn used a more neutral yeast strain to allow the fruitiness of the hops to shine through. A new style was born. Old Foghorn was followed by Sierra Nevada Bigfoot in the 1980’s and thousands of others since. Old Foghorn combines rich toasted caramel malt flavours with an aroma of stone fruit and citrus and a long rich complex balanced finish. If you want to compare it with a more traditional English style barleywine try Fullers Golden Pride which showcases Fullers distinctive marmalade accented yeast strain alongside a rich English malt profile. Both make an ideal accompaniment to strong crumbly blue cheese. Cheers
LAST week on the eve of Beervana the brewing industry gathered at the town hall to celebrate excellence in brewing. In the week leading up to the event a judging panel made up of Australasian brewers, and the odd beer specialist like myself, judged our way through 468 beers from around New Zealand and the world. Notable results this year included trophies going to Tuatara for Ardennes and Hefe, Emerson’s for Oreti Red and their festive brew Black Op, Harrington’s for Pig & Whistle, Three Boys for Oyster Stout, McCashins for Stoke Amber, Epic for Armageddon and 8 Wired for The Big Smoke, and Barrel Aged Big Smoke. I had my own success achieving a Silver medal for Emerson’s Regional Special Bitter. Champion Brewer this year was a very close call with 8 Wired just edging out Emerson’s Brewing Co to take out the over all trophy. This is a huge achievement for 8 Wired Brewer Søren Eriksen who was a home brewer three years ago and has since built up an impressive range of intense and flavourful beers that he contract brews at his employer Renaissance in Blenheim. Søren was visibly stunned and later posted on twitter that winning was surreal and that words failed him. This years results show a New Zealand brewing scene that is rich in diversity both in the beers brewed and the types of companies that are producing them. I for one will be raising a glass to that. Cheers! Full results can be found at http://brewersguild.org.nz/
Radler is a style of German beer. It is Germany’s answer to the English shandy, and was originally a blend of lemonade and lager developed for German cyclists who didn’t want to drink full strength beer for fear of falling off their bikes. In 2003 DB was granted a trademark on the term Radler by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, known as IPONZ. The beer that is sold under the Monteith’s Radler name is in fact a full strength lager with a dose of lime flavouring rather than a diluted low strength beer. New Zealand was left in a situation where the only beer that could be sold as a Radler was in fact not true to the Radler style! In 2008 the Green Man Brewery launched a beer called Radler and DB protected its trademark and forced the beer to be renamed. The next year consumer group the Society of Beer Advocates, known as SOBA, launched an action to have the trademark revoked on the basis that it was a beer style, and that IPONZ had been incorrect to register the trademark in the first place. A fortnight ago IPONZ ruled that IPONZ was correct in granting Dominion Breweries the Radler trademark as there was insufficient evidence that Kiwis knew what a Radler was in 2003. A cynic might say that a case where the judge, jury and defendant are one and the same has a predetermined outcome! I think that the trade marking of beer styles is not only wrong morally but is also potentially counterproductive to the industry as a whole. Imagine if one winery had owned the exclusive rights to the word Sauvignon Blanc for the last 35 years? Would Kiwi’s have known what a Sauvignon Blanc was in the mid 1970’s? Where would that industry be now? It’s not only Kiwi consumers and intellectual property lawyers who are up in arms about the ruling, the Federation of German Brewers are up in arms as well. NZ Beer Blogger Martin Craig summed it up when he wrote that it is the equivalent of a German company trade marking the word Hangi because German’s don’t know what a Hangi is, and then using it to sell Kangaroo Burgers. That would be wrong, just as IPONZ ruling was wrong. Kieran Haslett-Moore is a founding member of SOBA and a former committee member, writing his own opinion.
IT seems like this year is the year of the Saison. Saison is a tart dry spicy type of Belgian farmhouse ale that was originally brewed by farmers to preserve grain and pay farm workers. So far this year we have seen Invercargill Brewing Co’s interpretation, several classics from Belgium, and now a characteristically original take on the style from the Yeastie Boys and a characteristically hoppy one from 8 Wired. This is definitely a case of feast after famine as there have been precious few examples of the style around town. The Yeastie Boys take on Saison comes in the form of this year’s Her Majesty. Each year the Yeastie Boys release Her Majesty and His Majesty in 750ml wine bottles. Each vintage is a completely different beer but His Majesty always takes a more muscular approach while Her Majesty concentrates on more subtle yeast accented styles. The Yeastie Boys seldom create beers exactly to style and this year’s Her Majesty takes the malt recipe of a German Märzen Lager and blends it with a Saison yeast and a dose of Nelson hops. This year’s Her Majesty has a complex aroma with plenty of orchard fruit, citrus, exotic spice and an interesting creamy almost cheese note that I really like even if it sounds rather strange! In the mouth it is incredibly dry yet at the same time richly malty with loads of complex malt flavour, spicy fruit and a tart finish. A very clever and beguiling beer. 8 Wired’s interpretation comes in the form of Saison Sauvin named after the exotically fruity Nelson Sauvin hop variety. Saison Sauvin came from brewer Søren Eriksen’s experiments with using a Saison yeast with his popular Hopwired IPA recipe. The beer that resulted from that process is very different from those early experiments but it is definitely a good deal more hoppy than most Saison’s would be. Aromas of fresh zesty tropical fruit, lime and melon , and exotic spice give way to a fresh dry fruity palate and a dry tart finish. Both these new saisons are food friendly and make an outstanding accompaniment to fresh spicy Thai or Vietnamese food. Also out this week is this year’s Regional Special Bitter the beer I brewed with Richard Emerson. This year’s beer is a refinement of last year’s recipe and I’m extremely pleased with it. It’s a tap only release and will be at Beervana at the start of next month. Cheers