Sunday, August 31, 2008


The biggest annual NZ beer event, BrewNZ, goes down this week, with both the competition and a 3 session beer festival Beervana . Due to a last minute vacancy I am now judging which will pretty much take up my time, this months Session on how much I hate German beer might have to wait, as will the cheese of the month post I was hoping to resurrect. Still I am rapt to back at the Judging table.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cheers MJ

A year ago the renowned beer writer Michael Jackson passed away, I wrote about it here. A year on and Geoff Griggs and Regional Wines and Spirits ran 3 memorial tastings celebrating MJ’s life by exploring some of his Desert Island Beers, next month Regional Wines will hold a tasting celebrating his favourite Whiskeys.The beers included Pilsner Urquell, Marstons Pedigree, Coopers Sparkling, Schnieder Aventinus, Orvel, Duvel, Rodenbach Grande Cru, Traquar House Ale, and Thomas Hardy’s Ale. I attended the Thursday tasting and then afterwards I enjoyed a beer I’m sure MJ would have appreciated Emersons Smoking Gun, a 7% abv smoked beer that certainly hit the spot,

cheers to Mr Jackson.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

But for the length of the earth …

Today my blog turns one, or is it tomorrow? It gets so confusing when bloggers date is set somewhere in the northern hemisphere and I am very much in the south. Timing is not the only problem with running a blog concerned with English beer that isn’t based in England. The tyranny of distance means that often I end up writing about my own homebrewed efforts, or bottled products when what I really want to be writing about is the cask, and the pub. Oh well enough with the grumbling, life here is pretty good, the sun is shinning, there is a cellar full of beer, a closet full of fermentors, and a bar in my lounge.

Hopefully over the last year I have presented a different perspective on the world of English beer, I have certainly grown my beard and my belly in the process. The year to come promises to be exciting with a trip to the UK planned, the building of a dedicated brewery on the side of the house and possibly a bar above it thus freeing up the living areas of the house for more domesticated uses.

Cheers and good health!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wassail Brauhaus- Beer, Bed, and Breakfast

I first stayed at the Wassail Brauhaus last year while on a beer hunting road trip with the boys. Last week I returned with Sarah to celebrate her birthday. Wassail Brauhaus is a unique entity in New Zealand, a home stay that includes an attached brewery which produces a range of strong English ales which are provided complimentary with your night’s accommodation.

The Brauhaus is the creation of George and Marline Busby. George originally wanted to run a small scale professional brewery that would pay for his homebrewing and allow him to scale up. After George investigated the ‘red tape’ it became clear that it would be easier and cheaper for him to give the beer away for free than to comply with the requirements for a professional brewing operation.
The result is the Wassail Brauhaus a stand alone holiday chalet where each night George and Marline open up the bar in the wall between the living area and the brewery, put on an antipasto platter and everyone enjoys a few beers and each others company.

On my first visit I was privileged to sample the very last of an outstanding batch of smoked porter that had aged for a couple of years and was quite simply the finest smoked beer I have ever tasted. Alias due to its required long maturation time it seems never to be repeated. George regularly has a Pale Ale, an E.S.B. and a Dark Ale in the Stout/Porter ball park. All tend to be relatively strong partially as that’s what the Busby’s like but also in order that the beers last through out the summer once the brewing season ends. I didn’t take any tasting notes as that’s not really what its all about but the Dark Ale was probably my pick of the bunch with a lovely chocolaty dark malt character, the E.S.B. was rich in crystal malts and with a very notable character imparted from the yeast (Saf US-05) and the Pale Ale was malty and fresh.

The accommodation its self is of an extremely high standard, the bed is extremely comfortable with dramatic views of the Mountain (the picture above was taken from the bed!) and surrounding farmland. I highly recommend booking a stay, 2 nights weren’t enough.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Three Pints of Bitter

There is nothing like a freshly tapped bitter shared with those that count. Brooklyn Water, Maris Otter, Crystal , Sugar, Fuggels, Goldings, Styrians, a touch of yeast and a whole lot of contentment.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Townshend’s Brewery Rosedale, Upper Moutere

In May I was in the Nelson region judging at the New Zealand International Beer Awards. While I was down there Sarah, Craig Bowen and myself visited the Townshend real ale Brewery and Cider Press, undoubtedly the most farmhouse brewery I have ever visited, and promised to write a piece on it on my return. Stupidly I left my camera at the hotel and as a result took photos on Sarah’s cell phone; Luddite that I am it has taken me until now to work out how to download them.

Townshend Brewery is situated in Rosedale, a rural area outside of Nelson. The brewery is the work of English ex-pat Martin Townshend and is situated next to his family home tucked away in a wooded valley. The brewery fits into an eclectic mix of businesses the Townshends run which stretches from running the village chippie to raising seedlings. In addition to the fantastic spontaneously fermented cider that Martin ferments each year the brewery produces a range of English style real ales and a continental style wheat beer. The brewery is housed in a shed to the side of the house, with fermentation occurring in an old commercial chiller unit. Bottling and cellaring occur in a shipping container down the bank.

Martin's beers are all session beers designed for draught consumption, however with the change in ownership of the Prince Albert there is no outlet at present that will take his beers in cask conditioned form. Accordingly all the beers are presented bottle conditioned and in large part thanks to Craig Bowen's distribution are available in certain outlets. The tasting notes below are for the beers I was given for review and from those that are on sale at Island Bay New World (good old Maurice). The most notable omission is for the No 9 Stout which took out the Stouts and Porters Class at the NZIBA this year. I tasted it at judging and it was superb, however I don’t remember enough to rehash a tasting note.

Its an interesting and I think positive development in the NZ beer scene that truly small breweries like Townshends are opening up and finding a place in the market.

Cheers Martin!

Cathcarts NTA 3.8%avb

Pours a hazy burnished gold with a thick creamy head. Aroma features berryfruit, red apple, and a sweet rich crystal malt note. On the palate the over all impression is of a fruity, malty character. Red apple, and berries are joined by plum, and caramel leading to a balanced dry finish. Good stuff.

Dinner Ale 3.8%abv

Pours a deep copper with a slight haze. Aroma features crystal malt, restrained earthy hops, a touch of wood and a hint of apple fruit. On the palate there is sweet nutty malt, berry fruit, citrusy hops and a medium bitter finish. Perhaps a little more subdued than the description suggests, decent session beer that could probably use the dial being turned up a touch.

Weston’s Best 5%abv

Pours a clear deep amber with a creamy ’soft’ head. Aroma features earthy zesty hops, a hint of red apple and a nutty bready note. On the palate there is rich nutty malt, a little like whole grain, a powdery chocolate note, a slight stewed malt character, a touch of astringency leading to a firm bitter finish. Smart ESB, with only perhaps a little bit of malt astringency letting it down.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Sarah and myself are off to the Taranaki next week to celebrate her birthday. We are going to stay at the Wassail Brauhaus, a beer bed and breakfast run by George Busby. George decided some years ago that he wanted to take his home brewing a step further but not deal with the hassles of full blown commercial brewing. As a result he has set up a fantastic home stay where you pay for your nights accommodation and the corny-cask conditioned ales that flow from his brewery are complimentary. I have bought a new camera after drunkenly dropping my last one (one of the reasons my blogging has slowed significantly recently) so I should be able to do a good piece on it when I get back.