Archive for June, 2009


Eternal Sunshine of the Puritanical Mind

June 17, 2009

Eric Crampton has the latest on his fisking of the BERL research being used by the Law Commission to recommend an increase in excise duty. Along with researcher Matt Burgess, Eric provides a comprehensive re-working of BERL’s figures, the way it should be done. Those boys deserve a pint. There’s also a discussion thread on the issue at Kiwiblog (Warning: includes some comments along the lines of ‘I would love to just ban alcohol altogether’).

Tomorrow night on TVNZ 7 you can watch a Made in NZ documentary called Great Kiwi Pubs. The blurb reads: They’ve been plagued by fire, chastised by puritans, and neutered by prohibition but a few of the Good Ol’ Kiwi Pubs are still standing.’ Thursday 18 June, 10:10 pm


Death of a yeast cell

June 16, 2009

This blog is a celebration of the amazing yeast cell and the sweet, sweet beer it quietly produces for us. But what happens when the beer party is over and we cast aside our worn out little friends? Marmite – that’s what!

A vastly inferior, Aussie yeast-extract that I won’t name has recently had some publicity – see here and here (though, I now see that this second example is actually fairly generic) – so it seems only fair to even the score.

To the brewer, yeast autolysis (commonly understood as yeast death, suicide or sex-act-gone-wrong) is a bad thing, imparting a number of nasty flavours into the beer as the cells destruct. Yet it’s this same process that gives Marmite its delicious taste. The process is triggered by adding salt to a suspension of yeast, which causes the cells to shrivel and triggers autolysis. Throw in some heat, remove the cells walls, add some other bits and pieces and then you have Marmite.

Marmite began in 1902 at Burton upon Trent – the famous English brewing town, with the waste yeast coming from the Bass Brewery. It wasn’t until the 1930’s when we Kiwi’s decided that we didn’t like the engine oil qualities of British Marmite and started playing with the recipe. Thanks to Sanitarium, we now have the true Marmite we know and love today.

Beer, bread, Marmite…is there anything yeast can’t do?


Beer roundup

June 11, 2009

Scientific American reports on a 9,000-year-old brew hitting the shelves this summer. Unfortunately it’s not a robust brew that has aged been aged for this ridiculous length of time (by which point it would probably be nothing more than oxidised dirt anyway) but rather an ancient recipe consisting of an intoxicating blend of rice, honey and fruit – sounds like a breakfast cereal ad!

The article discusses Dogfish Head Brewery and their penchant for crazy beers. I haven’t yet had the privilege of trying any of their beers but have enjoyed a library book called Extreme Brewing by brewer Sam Calagione. The book is great inspiration for the home brewer looking to experiment. While some of the beers look out-of-reach for the beginner, the recipes provided are at an intermediate level and should be easy enough to try, once the basics have been mastered.

Geoff Griggs continues the great standard of beer articles featured in the Marlborough Express with his introduction to NZ beer. He features the Dux De Lux’s Nor’wester Pale Ale – ironically I spent around 8 years in Christchurch sipping on Dux Lager and only discovered how great this beer is now that I no longer live there. Luckily you can now purchase it in bottles here in Nelson.

Speaking of Pale Ale, I had an afterwork pint tonight and think I’ve had my first craft beer failure. I took a lucky dip and tried Tuatara’s APA.  Aroma was like a boy’s changing rooms after PE class and the taste was packed with phenols – for the unfamiliar, these taste like delicious burnt plastic and sticking plasters. I’m not trying to rag on Tuatara – this is only the second beer of theirs I’ve tried and I really like their Hefe. Rather, I had previously been suspicious when people say they’d had a bad NZ craft beer as all mine to date had been fine.


My first Lager

June 10, 2009

Now that winter has turned my abode into an ice cave, it’s the perfect time to try my hand at home brewing a true Lager. The first step was to purchase a glass carboy for secondary fermentation which will allow the beer to cold condition over several weeks without introducing oxygen. These aren’t cheap with the current exchange rate but I figured it would be a good investment to improve all my beers through secondary conditioning and dry-hopping.

After lots of reading on Lagering, I settled on a plan that would utilise the temperature around the house rather than a temp-controlled fridge which I don’t currently possess. The plan was to initiate and undertake primary fermentation around 10 degrees (spare room), increase to around 20 degrees for a 48 hour diacetyl rest once primary is complete (hot-water cupboard), then transfer to the carboy and lager at around 4 degrees for several weeks (icy water bucket).

I also decided to do a 11.5L half-batch in case things don’t work out. Experimenting is great but hasn’t been entirely successful lately – the sleepout cupboard is full of dodgy wheat-beer and pale ale. The latest is a batch of mouth-puckering, bitter pale ale thanks to my over-zealous addition of too many Super-alpha hops.

The malt-kit I selected is Mac’s 1.7Kg ‘Late-hopped Lager’. I tried this a few times several years ago in my first home brew phase. The taste was pretty good but I had some over-carbonation problems, including a couple of exploded bottles when I arrived home after a few pints on the town one evening. It wasn’t until a few years later that I tried brewing again. I figured with increased knowledge and different yeast, I could avoid the bottle grenades.

For my yeast I used the dry S-23 strain as it’s readily available and seemed like a good place to begin. There’s some debate over dry yeast being capable of true bottom-fermenting lager brewing but this variety has reasonable reviews. I made a yeast starter the day before brewing to ensure an adequate pitching rate at low temperature.

The kit goes on about how greatly hopped it is but by my definition, it’s probably pretty tame so I added some Super-alpha and Nelson Sauvin for bittering; Motueka, Pacifica and Nelson Sauvin for flavour / aroma and will be adding these 3 varieties again into the secondary for dry-hopping. I don’t have a wort chiller so the hops were boiled in water, cooled and then added with the malt and cold water into the primary fermenter to quickly reach a low temperate before pitching the yeast starter.

I was a bit nervous but things started bubbling after about 16 hours. Now it’s time to sit back and wait. Hopefully I’ll be enjoying my first crisp lager around spring-time.


Protect your pint

June 5, 2009

An online petition has been set-up to tell the NZ Government to ‘bugger off’ with their one size fits all alcohol tax review. Follow the link to add your signature:

Online petition – Support New Zealand’s craft beer brewers

Pretty sure this video has nothing to do with this post but it’s Friday so who cares:


Who wants to hoe my garden?

June 2, 2009

Just picked up some Hoegaarden white beer on special – it’s been a while since I’ve had one of these fantastic brews. I’m not going to review it as most people will have tried it at some stage already. Instead, I’m going to have a rant about pronunciation. This brewer of this beer is pronounced ‘who-garden’ – not ‘hoe-garden’! For those of you still struggling, listen to this (or this if you want add a Dutch accent).

Unfortunately, this is one of those words where the wrong pronunciation is more widespread so if you try to lay-down your beer boffinry upon some ignorant friend or barperson – they’re likely to ‘correct you’ – ‘oh, you want a hoe-garden?!’ and you’re left looking like a newsreader doing an item on Lake Taupo. Grrrrrr!! This ignorance won’t be fixed overnight but if we all do our bit, we can make an importance difference to countless lives.

Update: Here’s a great resource to improve your beer vocabulary.