Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CT Column 24/11/2010 :The whole package

I DON’T usually write about the packaging beer comes in; brewery marketing departments do more than enough of that for everyone. For big mainstream brands, innovation is often a new brightly coloured label or a slightly longer bottleneck. I like to use the opportunities that I get to write about beer to talk about what’s in the bottle rather than the bottle itself.
However, packaging does have a level of importance. As a beer retailer I know that the way a beer is presented can drastically influence its sales, and as a drinker I know the size of the bottle that a beer is sold in affects the situations it gets drunk in. There are many arguments for and against various sized bottles that retailers and brewers make, but really all that should concern you, the consumer, is what you like buying. For me personally, the 500ml bottle is optimum bottle size for ‘session strength’ beer while smaller bottles are better suited to high strength brews.
But recently there has been a move towards an even larger bottle for high strength beer. I recently realised that New Zealand craft beer had achieved a small record when I noticed I had six different New Zealand craft beers for sale packaged in 750ml sparkling wine bottles. Yeastie Boys, Hallertau, Moa, Golden Bear and mikes all have taken up the 750ml format for their strong special releases. Moa have actually gone one better and you can buy 1.5 litre magnums of their St Joseph Tripel. Yeastie Boys has adopted the 750ml bottle for its His and Her Majesty releases and the forthcoming PKB Remix.
Yeastie Boy Stu says that they chose the bottle because the size encourages sharing, and that the wine bottle makes them more likely to be put on the table with food. Another plus for the coming festive season is that beer packaged this way makes great gifts. I think the increasing numbers of beers packaged this way and the fact that they are selling is a sign that our craft beer culture is maturing and I will certainly drink to that!

CT Column 17/11/2010 :Weekend warriors

AT THE end of last month I travelled to Hamilton to judge the 2010 SOBA National Homebrew Competition. Organised and run by beer consumer group the Society Of Beer Advocates, the NHC is run each year to celebrate and improve the New Zealand home brewing community.
Home brewing in New Zealand is currently in vibrant good health with many home brewed beers rivalling the quality of those commercially produced. Gone are the ‘bad old days’ when most home brewing revolved around saving money by producing cheap beer from malt extract - many home brewers now brew to create striking characterful beers full of aroma and flavour. Home brewers now have access to all the raw ingredients that our professional brewers do. As a result, the division between home and pro brewing is increasingly blurring with brewers like the Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired scaling up home brew recipes and producing them commercially.
This year’s competition received 294 entries with beers entered in 68 of the 77 different style categories with 84 of them earning medals. For the second year in a row Dunedin’s Richard Pettinger took out the Champion Brewer Trophy as well as the Best Lager ward, Nelson’s Dale Holland took out Champion Beer with a Belgian Pale Ale while the Best Ale Award went to Richard Sherrit. Every year the prize for the Champion beer is that the recipe is brewed commercially at the Hallertau Brewbar in Auckland’s rural hinterland. Look out for an incredibly complex and well balanced Belgian Pale Ale under the name of Dale’s BPA that should briefly feature on the taps next year sometime.
Many medals headed back to the capital. Of particular interest was Hashigo Zake barman David Wood who took three bronze, three silver medals, and a best in class trophy for some very idiosyncratic beers that included a beetroot infused IPA and a fantastic intense chipotle chilli infused porter. Check out www.soba.org.nz for the full results. Cheers!

CT Column3/11/2010 :The New Vintage

IF YOU ask someone what beer is made of chances are they will answer ‘hops’.
While in reality malt, yeast, water and the processes the brewer uses are equally important to the herbaceous flowers of the Humulus lupulus vine, it’s the hop that has won the PR battle.
To the casual observer it might not seem it but in many ways hops are very similar to grapes. They both grow on vines, they both are susceptible to variations in climate, and they both get harvested as a vintage each year. As with grapes, hops will vary each year depending on how much rain and sun there has been. They also change their character as the vines mature.
This year the hop that has displayed the biggest change is the Nelson Sauvin variety. Nelson Sauvin was developed in the late 1990s by HortResearch and was named for its distinctive gooseberry and passionfruit aromas, which were likened to the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. Nelson Sauvin is gaining a serious reputation amongst craft beer drinkers around the world. Brewers in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, America, Australia, Japan and of course New Zealand have leapt at the chance to use this hop to create striking aromas and flavours in their beers.
This year’s vintage has seen a bit of a change in the Nelson Sauvin character. The variety has always been pungent with huge bold exotic fruit characters, but this year they seem extra tangy, with an over ripeness to the fruit character and even a hint of savoury green onion creeping in alongside the fruit salad! While this might sound odd we often talk of picking up herbal notes, asparagus, green pepper and perhaps even onion in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s perhaps not so surprising to pick it up in the Nelson Sauvin hop variety.
If you want to experience this year’s vintage, 8 Wired Hop Wired IPA, Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner, and Three Boys Golden Ale are all showcasing the 2010 Sauvin character well.

CT Column 27/10/2010 :Coals to Newcastle

HOPS are a vintage crop, which is harvested once a year in the autumn. Increasingly brewers are producing beers that highlight the harvest by producing green hopped beers, which use fresh un-kilned hops to create striking fresh hop aromas. Here in NZ we have several examples. Brewjolais from Macs has been the most high profile but there have also been examples from Emerson’s in Dunedin, Nelson’s Sprig and Fern and from Galbraith’s in Auckland. We will have to wait till next year to see whether the now Christchurch based Macs brews Brewjolais again after the closure of the Wellington Brewery.
Harvest ales are big in America. On the periphery of Americas west coast hop fields brewers seize the opportunity to pack the zesty pithy resinous character of green hops into their beers.
America’s largest craft brewery Sierra Nevada releases three harvest ales each year. Two of these beers are produced using un-kilned American hops. Northern Hemisphere Harvest is brewed using un-kilned American hops from Washington, Estate Harvest is brewed using hops from Sierra Nevada’s own hop garden situated in the grounds of its brewery in Chico California. The third Harvest beer Sierra Nevada brews uses New Zealand hops that are quickly flown from the hop fields of Motueka to California. Southern Hemisphere Harvest uses whole flower Motueka and Southern Cross hops. The hops are dried as un-kilned hops would not survive the trip across the Pacific without perishing however they are extremely fresh meaning they retain a lot of their ‘green’ character. Southern Hemisphere Harvest pours a golden red hue with an enthusiastic white head. The aroma features a good amount of tangy slightly grassy citrus, tangerine and mandarin along with a good dose of biscuity malt. In the mouth there is more fresh citrus, nutty malt flavour and a long tangy finish. In a classic case of sending coals to Newcastle Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest is now available in New Zealand at Regional Wines and Spirits and The Malthouse.
For those planning a traditional Christmas now is the time to make your Christmas pudding. Iconic English foodie Delia Smith has a fantastic recipe on her website www.deliaonline.com that uses barleywine, stout and rum instead of brandy. If you’re keen to try the recipe I suggest using Fullers Golden Pride and Invercargill Pitch Black. I have already sold my first bottle of Golden Pride this year for just this purpose. Cheers!

CT Column 20/10/2010 : The Taste of Spring

A FORTNIGHT ago I wrote about the beer writer Michael Jackson and the memorial of his life. Jackson’s writing was a huge influence on me as I learnt about beer. Michael always stressed how different types of beer suited different situations and different seasons. For spring Michael always recommended drinking the Doppelbock style as this is what the Germans would often drink in their beer gardens when they first opened after the worst of the winter frost had thawed but the warmth of summer was yet to arrive. Doppelbocks are a style of dark lager that combines a big rich bready, toasty malt character with warming alcohol and a smooth rounded note from a long cold conditioning period. These beers are warming, rich, hearty and smooth, making them the perfect style for drinking during the spring when the weather is uncertain. In fact, the Germans have a special name for the Doppelbocks they release in spring; Maibock named for May when the northern spring arrives. While down here in NZ we certainly have the uncertain weather, there is a distinct shortage of Doppelbocks. There are a couple of local examples including an unusually hoppy example from Christchurch’s Harrington’s Brewery and a roasty chocolaty interpretation from Nelson’s Spring and Fern. Tragically there are currently no regularly imported German Doppelbocks; however there is a very good one from the north of Italy.
Moretti La Rossa pours a reddish amber with a thick white head. Aromas of bready toasty malt and caramel blend with a hint of dark fruit and a hint of herbal hop. In the mouth the beer is rich and toasty with a sweet bready malt flavour and a warming rounded smooth finish. This style makes a fantastic accompaniment to aged Gouda cheese and muscatel raisins. I have served La Rossa with Meyer Old Gouda at tastings and the combination is absolutely stunning, Mr Jackson however mused that La Rossa might just be the perfect pizza beer, and that combination is pretty good too.

CT Column 13/10/2010 :Living the dream

BACK in 2004 I entered my first beer competition. That year the BrewNZ Festival included an amateur brewer section where homebrewers like myself could enter our beers and get feedback and, if we made the cut, the glory of medals. That year I didn’t win anything, but a gentleman called Paul Croucher from Rotorua took out the top prize with a Pilsner recipe. Buoyed on by his success, Paul decided to make his dream a reality and set about starting a new business and buying in the equipment required to brew commercially. Croucher Brewing was born.
Croucher has built up a strong following over the past six years but, like many small breweries, its beers have varied a lot with some batches being absolutely stunning and others missing the mark. When they are good they are fantastic and this was underlined when Croucher Pilsner took a Gold Medal and Best in Class Trophy at BrewNZ this year.
With demand for this medal-winning beer sky rocketing and new overseas markets beckoning, the Croucher team has, in its own tongue-in-cheek words, decided to ‘sell out’. From this month onwards the main Croucher beers Pilsner and Pale Ale are being produced at Auckland’s Steam Brewery. Croucher Hef will now become a seasonal beer.
Steam has a great track record for producing award-winning top notch beers, with the Epic and Cock and Bull beers being shining examples. The Croucher beers are still being brewed to the same recipes and under Paul’s supervision, while the increased batch sizes and the big shinny automated Steam bottling plant will add some much-needed consistency and extra capacity.
The original Croucher 600l brewery in Rotorua will still be busy brewing seasonal and special one-off beers that will show up on taps around town. A Black IPA under the name of Patriot is currently popping up at places such as Regional and Hashigo Zake.
The first beers from Auckland hit the shelves last week in new look 500ml bottles. The Pilsner is an indigenous interpretation of the style with a big aromatic NZ hop character. Aromas of melon fruit and mango give way to a palate that perfectly balances fruity hop and nutty pale malt flavours. The Pale Ale follows the American Pale Ale model but again uses New Zealand hops. Pouring a light shade of amber, the Pale Ale displays aromas of tropical fruit, a hint of nutty malt and a dry citrus tinged finish. Both will make a fantastic accompaniment to the barbeque this summer.

CT Column 6/10/2010 :One white glove

AT the end of last month along with Geoff Griggs I helped present a tasting that commemorates the life of one of the worlds most influential beer and whiskey writers. In the late 1970s Michael Jackson sparked the modern age of beer writing by writing about beer with respect to how it is made, its social context, and always with a good dose of humour. This humour often referenced his more famous American namesake; in his 1990 TV series The Beer Hunter Michael started the first episode with a piece to camera wearing one white glove.
Michael suffered from Parkinsons for 10 year up until his death in 2007. Every year since his passing Regional Wines runs a series of Michael Jackson memorial tastings during September and presents some of Michael’s favourite beers. The line up is always amazing and this year we came up with eight fantastic beers. At the end of each tasting those in attendance vote for their two favourite beers, when we do our job right it’s often very hard for people to choose.
In first place this year came Alaskan Smoked Porter. Brewed in Juno Alaska, Alaskan Smoked Porter is a remarkable beer in many ways. Juno is extremely isolated with all the raw ingredients for the brewery having to be shipped in by barge and then the packaged beer being ‘exported’ south to the mainland United States on barges. The beer is a strong rich velvety porter that is produced with Alder smoked malt giving the beer a delicious blend of smoky camp fire flavours and rich dark chocolate and caramel.
In a three-way-split for second was Orval, a hoppy slightly tart and wild Trappist beer brewed by Monks in Belgium, 3 Monts, a classic Biere de Garde from the North of France, and one of my all-time favourites the strong vintage dated Thomas Hardy’s Ale from the south of England.
During the tasting some exciting news was revealed. There is currently a feature film documentary on Michael’s life in production. The film isn’t due for release until next year but plans are already under way for a New Zealand screening that will hopefully raise money for the New Zealand Parkinson’s Society.

CT Column 29/09/2010 :Prodigal son returns

BACK in May I wrote about attending a tasting at The Malthouse hosted by Kelly Ryan, the New Zealand brewer at Thornbridge - one of England’s most exciting breweries. Thornbridge Brewery produces an exciting and varied range of beers including three, which are now available here.
Jaipur is a pale golden India Pale Ale that offers up an aroma of light mandarin-like hop with a hint of spicy vanilla. The beer has a rich, moderately sweet malt backbone that supports a range of spicy citrus hop flavour and a dry finish. Jaipur is the breweries’ flagship, quite remarkable considering it weighs in at 5.9 percent in a country where 4 percent is the norm. Halcyon is a stronger take on the India Pale Ale style that uses green un-kilned hops much like Mac’s Brewjolais did. Green hopped beers usually come from the new world and accordingly they usually use American or New Zealand hops. Naturally the Thornbridge team used English hops. Target hops from Mr Capper’s Herefordshire farm were overnight couriered up to the Thornbridge brewery in Derbyshire where they were used to hop the beer in the conditioning tank. The target hops give Halcyon a distinctive pineapple aroma that gives way to a slightly piney, tangy tropical fruit-laced palate and a long, smooth and expertly balanced finish.
The last of the three beers to make it down under is St Petersburg, Thornbridge’s take on the Imperial Stout style. At 7.7 percent, St Petersburg is relatively modest in alcohol for the Imperial Stout style that more often covers the 10 to 12 percent range. But as Ryan points out, the brewery sells most of this beer on tap in a country where people drink beer by the pint and 7.7 percent is about as high as they feel they can make it. St Petersburg offers up a hint of bubblegum fruitiness, a leathery note and some nice chocolate caramel aroma before giving way to a rich chocolate toffee palate. All three beers are available from The Malthouse and from Regional Wines and Spirits.
Last week Ryan announced that he is going to return to New Zealand to live and hopefully to brew, having been away since 2002. This is no doubt great news for his family but it’s also fantastic news for New Zealand beer drinkers as his skills may soon be producing something special to fill our glasses.

CT Column 22/09/2010 : Pint Sized Platinum

In 1979 progressive rock musician Mike Oldfield released the Platinum album with a track called Punkadiddle. The song was an anti-anti-establishment statement lashing out at the punk bands that Oldfield felt were robbing record company investment from the more serious releases from artists like him.
Taking some influence from this, the Yeastie Boys have released a seasonal beer called Punkadiddle that is designed to be everything that the big alcoholic, highly hopped beers currently in vogue are not.
Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay says he brewed the beer because he got bored with all the super-strength, über-hop beers that have hit the taps this winter. Of course, a cynic might point out that the Yeastie Boys were partially responsible for this trend with the tap release before Punkadiddle coming in the form of the massively hoppy Yakima and Motueka Monster beers. It’s very much in the post-modern avant-garde nature of the Yeastie Boys to set up a scene and then rip it down. Some might even say it’s rather punk!
Regardless of the context Punkadiddle is a really tasty session beer. At a modest 3.7% alcohol volume, Punkadiddle is brewed in the English bitter style. The beer is highly drinkable, has a subtle flavour and is really well balanced. The English Maris Otter malt has given the beer a nutty cereal malt character with some caramel and biscuit notes, English East Kent Golding Hops have leant a wonderful tangy citrus hop flavour and the yeast culture that originated at London’s Fuller’s Griffin Brewery has given the beer a rounded marmalade note.
This is a style that definitely needs to be enjoyed at about 13C with some of the carbonation released; drinking it cold and fizzy straight from the keg will mask everything that is going on in this beer. Punkadiddle is available on the fill-your-own at Regional Wines and Spirits and you might just catch it on the hand pump at Hashigo Zake, Bar Edward and Pollux.

CT Column 15/09/2010 :Tiger Balm and oysters

LIKE any cultural movement or scene the craft beer industry has gone through a number of phases over the years.
Much like music historians can trace the lineage of modern rock back through punk, garage rock and 60s Brit pop to delta blues, blue grass and traditional British folk music, people like me can look back across the considerably shorter history of New Zealand craft beer and identify the ancestry.
The first wave of craft brewing started in 1981 when Terry McCashin set up MacCashin’s Brewery in Stoke. Through the 1980s other pioneers followed with Gisborne’s Sunshine Brewery and Taranaki’s White Cliff Brewery being among the few from that period that are still around.
The second wave of craft breweries took off from the mid 90s to the early 2000s and the list of names includes some of the biggest in the industry. Emerson’s, Tuatara, Invercargill Brewing Co and Founders all date from this period.
In fact Tuatara, Invercargill and Founders all celebrate their 10th birthday this year: a considerable achievement for any small business. Since then we have had Americans bring big beers to Blenheim (Renaissance), Brits bring real ale to Christchurch (The Twisted Hop), contract brewers bring art house concept brewing to everyone (Yeastie Boys) and a “mad” academic who decided oysters could be brewed (Three Boys Oyster Stout).
Founders have been brewing since 1999 although the Duncan family who own the brewery have been brewing in New Zealand since 1854. To mark the 10 year milestone they have brewed their first barrel aged beer.
Anniversary Stout is a 6%abv sweet stout that’s been partially aged in whiskey seasoned pinot barrels. The resulting beer has a big rich soft mocha backbone, Juicy Fruit (chewing gum) fruitiness and a hint of spice that reminded me of Tiger Balm.
The beer has a level of balance seldom seen in barrel aged beers and is perfect for an anniversary toast. It’s available from Regional Wines and Spirits.
Fans of Three Boys, Harrington’s and The Twisted Hop will be relieved to hear that the Christchurch brewers sustained minimal damage in the big earthquake.
Luck or divine intervention? Either way I think we can all drink to that.

CT Column 8/09/2010 : The Best?

EVERY year I spend a lot of time after BrewNZ explaining how beer judging works.
People often struggle to understand the results and what they mean. With mainstream brewer DB being crowned champion this year there is more misunderstanding than ever. When beers are entered into competition they are entered in one of 95 different style categories.
The beers are then served blind to a panel of judges and are evaluated for their technical merit and for how accurately they adhere to style. The beers are evaluated once as to whether they are medal worthy, and then those that are medal beers are judged again by a second panel and awarded gold, silver or bronze.
The trophy is then awarded to the highest ranked beer in each category that is commercially available in New Zealand. This system means that beers are always evaluated for what they are rather than according to the subjective tastes of the judges.
There are styles to cover every type of beer imaginable from low alcohol, Gluten Free and New Zealand Draught right through to super strength barleywines, highly hopped double IPA’s and beers spiced with Manuka.
In short the most mundane of beers can achieve gold medal status when brewed well and entered in the correct style category just as the most flavoursome boundary pushing beers can.
This year, for the third time, BrewNZ awarded the Champion Brewer Trophy to the brewery with the highest scoring top three beers. For the last two years craft brewers have taken the trophy with Tuatara being followed by Emerson’s last year.
This year DB performed very well taking gold medals in the New Zealand Lager and Low Carbohydrate Categories and a Silver in the New Zealand Draught Category, the picture is of a mainstream brewer doing what it does well but is hardly an advert for imaginative or character full brewing.
Luckily there were plenty of other results to get excited about. Hot on DB’s heels was Christchurch’s Three Boys Brewery. Three Boys managed a stunning comeback from last year when they defied many expectations and earned no medals to this year where they took Gold and Best in Class Trophies for both Oyster Stout and their festive brew Pineapple Lump Porter, Silver for Golden Ale and bronze for Wheat.
Emerson’s kept up their enviable record with nine medals including the wheat beer trophy for Dunkelweiss.
Blenheim’s 8 Wired took a Trophy and Gold Medal for The Big Smoke Porter, Yeastie Boys took a Silver for Yakima Monster and a Bronze for Her Majesty, and Christchurch’s Twisted Hop took out the newly created Cask Ale trophy.
Go to www.brewnz.co.nz to see the full results.

CT Column 25/08/2010 :From Mild to massive

WHEN Michael Jackson the famous beer writer (not the moon walking one) toured New Zealand in the 1990s, one of the beers that captured his imagination was Mikes Mild Ale from the Organic White Cliffs Brewery in Urenui on the Taranaki Coast.
White Cliffs was founded in 1989 by Mike Johnson, since then it has passed through several owners and now is in the safe hands of the Trigg Family who emigrated from Zimbabwe.
The flagship product, Mikes Mild, has been rechristened Mikes Ale. Whatever the name the beer is a malt accented 4%abv session beer with a biscuit, lightly cocoa flavoured malt profile and a dry smooth finish that can be found around town in bars like Liquidate, Hashigo Zake or Plum Cafe (poured from Mikes own ingenious bar mounted mini keg dispensers).
The Triggs have expanded the White Cliff range which now includes a Helles lager, a Pilsner, a whisky barrel aged Porter and now perhaps one of the least “mild” beers in the country, a strong Imperial India Pale Ale.
Imperial India Pale Ale is the ultimate “hop head” style packing in as much fruity new world hop character as possible.
Mikes India Pale Ale is a 9%abv golden hued ale that packs in a considerable amount of resinous fruity hop flavour and aroma over a lightly biscuit and nutty malt body with a long fruity but not overly bitter finish.
Striking aromas of lychee, pineapple, citrus, passionfruit and melon give way to a tangy fruity cocktail of tropical flavours on the palate and a smooth finish.
Mike’s India Pale Ale is available on tap at Hashigo Zake, and in 750ml bottles from the Malthouse and Regional Wines and Spirits.

CT Column 18/08/2010 : A drop of Majesty

LAST year Wellington’s Yeastie Boys Brewing Co released their first bottled beer.
Named His Majesty, it was the first of two annually released bottled beers presented in 750ml champagne bottles. Last year His Majesty took the form of a strong hoppy India Pale Ale. This month sees the launch of the second part to the annual release, named Her Majesty, it forms a malty ying to His Majesty’s Hoppy yang.
Each year His and Her Majesty will be different, although His Majesty will always be a hoppy style while Her Majesty will delve into richer, softer more malt accented territory. This brand of “concept brewing” is exactly what we have come to expect from the Yeastie Boys who often take influence from the world of music for their names and branding.
Her Majesty is in fact the name of an album by one of Yeastie Boy Brewer, Stu McKinlay’s favourite bands The Decemberists.
Her Majesty 2010 is a style bending beer that combines the soft earthy toasted malt character of a brown porter with a Belgian yeast and the strength of a Belgian Dubbel. By my reckoning that makes it a Belgian Imperial Brown Porter or in other words unique.
Pouring a very dark brown with a creamy tan head, Her Majesty 2010 offers up aromas of earthy chocolate, orchard fruit and a subtle underpinning of spicy incense. In the mouth there is a prominent malty sweetness with a cocoa tinge, red apple fruit and a hint of Christmas spice.
Her Majesty is gloriously rich and soft making for a refreshing alternative to the massively hopped beers that are currently all the rage. In fact Stu jokes it is so “lightly hopped that I’ve advised some hopheads to seek medical advice before trying it!”
As a lover of rich malt accented beers I’ll drink to that.

CT Column 11/08/2010 : Let’s get festive

AT the end of this month Wellington will play host to Beervana: the biggest event in the New Zealand beer calendar.
On August 27 and 28 the Town Hall will be a bustling hub of activity as the country’s finest brewers, publicans and retailers combine to showcase everything that is fantastic about beer. Over 160 different beers will be on offer which you can either buy by the “tasting sized” sample or by the full glass.
Highlights will include special beers from overseas that may never be seen again in New Zealand, beers that seldom find their way to Wellington from breweries in far flung parts of the country and festive brews that have been brewed specially for the event.
This year the festive brew theme is “Lets go Native”. Brewers have been encouraged to use native or identifiably “Kiwi” ingredients that are not usually found in beer. Roll on the feijoa, Kiwi fruit and kumara ales!
The festival isn’t just about tasting, it will feature workshops on everything from beer matching with chocolate or cheese through to seminars about beer for women. This year Beervana will play host to Sam Calagione, one of the “stars” of the American craft brewing scene.
Sam is famous for having built up his Dogfish Head Brewing Company from an initial batch size of 50litres to the point where it now brews over 12 million litres a year. Sam is a proponent of beer and food matching and brewing with unusual techniques and ingredients. He will be running a seminar covering some of his history and looking at where craft beer is going in the future.
As a somewhat lesser attraction I will be manning the Regional Wines stand serving up my own beer, R.S.B. along side some rare beers from the cellar and some special imports. See you there.

CT Column 4/08/2010 : A Cup of Old Stingo

FOR the last 18 months contract brewing has been the leading trend in New Zealand craft brewing.
With the release of their first beer “Stingo”, the Malthouse has now entered the beer brewing game.
To modern ears Stingo might seem an unusual name for a beer however it’s a very traditional Northern English term for strong ale.
What is unusual about this particular Stingo is that it’s not all that strong. Malthouse proprietor Colin Mallon decided he wanted the first Malthouse brew to be in the style of the beers he remembered from his youth in Scotland.
Stingo is a malt accented light golden coloured session beer brewed in a Scottish style known as 80 Shilling. Colin says many people were surprised that he chose such a malt accented subtle style when big hoppy beers are all the rage at the moment.
Colin says he wanted to provide something different from his suppliers, the sort of beer he could drink all day.
Stingo has a nutty malt aroma with a hint of spicy hop. In the mouth there’s light caramel, sweet whole grain malt flavours and a firm drying finish. Stingo is limited release that only available from the Malthouse. Get a round in while you can.

CT Column 28/07/2010 : Great culinary experience

LAST week there were two events that celebrated how beer can have a place at the table. On Tuesday night I was involved in The Emerson’s Degustation Dinner at Logan Brown.
The event showcased just how well fine food and craft beer can work together. Logan Brown Head Chef Shaun Clouston, and brewer Richard Emerson worked together to match six of Shaun’s courses to six of Richard’s beers.
We happily eat and drunk our way through Oysters and Pilsner, Sauté Paua sweet braised Pork and Old 95, Maltose Roasted Duck Game Sausage and 1812, Porter Braised Lamb Shoulder Rack and London Porter, Black Pepper & Walnut Meringues Gorgonzola Cream and Taieri George, and Blackboy Peach Cobbler Salted Caramel Ice Cream and JP 2009.
The very first match, Marlborough Tio Point Oysters served in the ½ shell with Sherry Mignonette served with Emerson’s Pilsner proved to be one of the most amazing culinary experiences I have ever had.
This match was incredibly simple and yet so effective that Richard said he dreamed of it later that night.
The oysters were almost as fresh as if we were eating them on the wharf. The fruity passion fruit and citrus notes in the pilsner found a perfect zesty harmony with the fresh briny character of the oysters.
The other match that really stood out for me was the Sauté Paua with sweet braised Pork and Old 95, all the more amazing considering I don’t like pork!
The rich malt character of the Old 95 worked with the oily richness of the pork while the spicy Chinese sautéed paua found harmony with the bright orangey hop character of the beer.
The next day I continued the culinary theme. Richard, Geoff Griggs and I ran a Beer and Food matching master class for members of the Wellington hospitality trade at Crazyhorse in Willis Street.
We presented six courses each matched with one of Richard’s beers, and a wine that would typically be recommended as a good match.
The event sparked a lot of debate and got those in attendance thinking about how beer works with food in different ways to wine.
Many of those in attendance were not beer drinkers which made it all the more surprising and for me satisfying, that the final vote proved a landslide to beer as the better match to the food on offer. Cheers