Saturday, February 5, 2011

CT Column 2/02/2011 :Europa, Rapture and Tally Ho!

GOLDEN ales are a relatively young style of beer dating from the early 1980’s. Independent English Ale brewers decided they needed a style of beer to compete with the pale lagers that were becoming increasingly popular with the masses. They devised a beer that was pale, and hoppy with a rounded fruity note from the ale yeasts they employed. These beers were ultimately a far more interesting and satisfying proposition than the mass produced lagers they were trying to rival. Today, both in the UK and here in the Antipodes, golden ales are increasingly being seen as a crucial element of the perfect summer, or at least they are a crucial element of my perfect summer! Over the next few weeks there will be three seasonal golden ales hitting the local taps.
Never ones to do things by halves, Wellington’s own Yeastie Boys are releasing two golden ales. The beers will be identical apart from the yeast that has been used to ferment them. Both beers comprise a very simple recipe of pale malt, wheat malt, and Nelson Sauvin and NZ Cascade hops. The first of the two beers is called Europa after a Blondie song although there have been whispers that it may in fact also be a reference to New Zealand’s local and now defunct oil company. As descendent of a former Europa employee I side with this far less likely theory! Europa has been fermented with a clean crisp Kolsch yeast which has highlighted the subtle malt flavours and lightly fruity hop aromas. At 4.2%abv it makes for a fantastic session beer offering just enough fruity hop character and nutty malt flavour to keep the drinker interested. Rapture which is most definitely named after a Blondie song has been fermented with the Belgian Abbey Ale yeast strain that originated at the Chimay brewery. It will be released early Feb, and is sure to be an altogether spicier more peppery proposition than Europa.
The new Emerson’s Brewers Reserve has been named ‘Tally Ho!’ after The Clean’s 1981 single. Tally Ho! is a golden ale that has been brewed with NZ pale malt, caramalt, English grown Challenger and East Kent Golding Hops and a fruity English yeast strain. At 4.9% Tally Ho! is a little stronger than the Yeastie Boy offerings but I’m sure it will be equally drinkable.
All these beers are sure to start popping up at the now considerable range of good beer outlets that Wellington is blessed with. Keep an eye out for all three at Hashigo Zake, Malthouse, The Hop Garden, Bar Edward and Regional Wines and Spirits.

CT Column 26/01/2011 :Sacred vows

Last week I was very kindly given two very rare bottles of beer from the Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren Abbey in Belgium. In the low lands of Europe there are seven beer brewing Benedictine abbeys where the monks are known as Trappists. While at first the image of monks brewing beer might seem somewhat strange, Benedictine Monks are in fact expected to support themselves and their charitable activities ‘by the works of their hands’, and this tends to take the form of brewing, wine making, liqueur production or cheese making.
While some of the Trappist beers such as Chimay and La Trappe are well known and readily available at supermarkets at this end of the globe, the Westvleteren beers from Saint Sixtus are intentionally produced in very limited amounts and their commercial availability is actively discouraged by the Monks that brew them. The beers are only officially available from a serving hatch in the wall of the abbey on certain days through the month with only one type of beer being available at a time and a limit on how many cases each customer can take. If all that doesn’t sound un-commercial enough customers are required to book in to purchase the beer by phone prior to queuing at the Abbey wall. The beers themselves have no labels and are identified by different coloured caps. All these discouraging practices are aimed at limiting the production of the brewery so that it serves the Monks needs but does not impact upon their monastic way of life. Despite all customers to the Abbey being told that the beer is not to be resold a healthy black market has developed around the world no doubt fuelled by the fact that the beers are so hard to come by and thankfully taste fantastic. The beers are identified by a number that refers to an old way of calculating strength. All the brewery’s beers are brewed from pale malt, and northern brewer variety hops with the dark beers that I tasted having a healthy dose of Belgian ‘candi sugar’ added to provide colour and flavour. Westvleteren 8 was exceptionally fruity and warming with a suggestion of plum brandy, toffee and a long dry hoppy finish. Westvleteren 12 offered up a rich complex aroma that reminded me of a fine ruby port, with a rich velvety malt character and a smooth rounded finish. Both beers scream out for a cheese board of pungent washed rind cheeses and dried fruit. While a certain NZ beer retailer does have black market Westvleteren 12 for sale at a black market price those wanting to respect the Monk’s wishes and try something similar should try the Rochefort beers from the only slightly less reclusive Trappist Abbey of St Remy. St Remy Abbey survived pillage and plunder during the Eighty Years War, The French Revolution, and a large fire in December of last year. Rochefort 10 offers up a whole range of ripe fortified fruit and rich malt aromas and flavours and is available with the Monk’s blessings from Regional Wines and Spirits

CT Column 19/01/2011 : Beer from the wilderness

I’ve become reacquainted with a beer that has been out forging its own stylistic path for the best part of the last decade. Moa Methode is a very original beer which starts its life as a zesty fruity New Zealand style pilsner before it is bottled with an addition of priming sugar and champagne yeast, the alchemy that then occurs in the bottle turns it into something completely unique. When champagne yeasts are used in beers and ciders they create spicy fruity aromas and flavours that are reminiscent of the character you might expect to find in Belgian ales. When young, Moa Methode is brimming with aromas of tropical fruit with a hint of Christmas spice and rich nutty malt, as the beer ages it becomes drier and more peppery and spicy.
The Moa brewery was developed by Josh Scott, son of Marlborough winery owner Allan Scott, and has always used wine making methods in the production of its beers. It’s easy to see where the inspiration came for using the champagne style bottle conditioning process on the Moa beers. While the brewery has long used the contacts of its sister wine company to gain access to export markets a recent investment of both money and expertise from Geoff Ross, the man originally behind 42 Below Vodka, is sure to catapult the brand to a new level.
Moa Methode is available in both its bottle fermented incarnation and in a champagne yeast free keg version offering the drinker to opportunity to compare the two and taste exactly what effect the yeast has. Look out for keg Moa Methode at Bar Edward, Pollux, Regional Wines and Wellington’s newest beer outlet The Hop Garden. The Hop Garden is the latest venture of James Henderson, the man who brought good beer to Newtown in the form of Bar Edward. Situated in the funky premises that used to house the Greek Taverna in Pirie St, The Hop Garden will be offering a great range of local and imported craft beers, a relaxed atmosphere and some great beer friendly food. Most importantly to me it will be exactly 350m from my office. The Hop Garden will be open from Friday 21 January.
See you there!