Archive for July, 2009

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Pale Ale über alles

July 31, 2009

It’s my Birthday and what better way to enjoy such as occasion than road test two new NZ Pale Ales.

First up was Green Man’s IPA, a new addition to their permanent line up. Worth buying for the label alone – it looks like the Jolly Green Giant took a stash of Andy Warhol’s acid and ended up on the set of the Brady Bunch. The beer itself is quite light is colour and therefore, the malts are quite restrained. There is a nice, assertive hop bitterness and the beer is quite quaffable, though lacking the rich malts that I really appreciate in a pale ale.

Next up was Renaissance’s Marlborough Pale Ale – an 8.5% Imperial India Pale Ale showcasing of the new Rakau variety of hops. What an absolutely amazing beer this is – the hops are stunning, full of sweet tropical fruit flavours. Like all great beers, there are tastes that you recognise but can’t quite pin down – maybe some Juicy Fruit chewing gum. These hold nicely against the well balanced sweet pale malts and robust alcohol content.

To be fair to the Green Man IPA, there is a large differential in both price and alcohol content between these two beers – so it is understandable that these are two quite different products.

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Inspired by Pale Ale battles in other parts of the country – tomorrow night is the Nelson Pale Ale battle featuring my latest two home brews:

wreckinghop

Vs

Sauvinator2

It’s still cold so I recommend you get jerseys like these:

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Beers of our Lives

July 30, 2009

The Law Commission have now released their review of the Regulatory Framework for the Sale and Supply of Liquor – titled Alcohol In Our Lives. The full 279 page report is here.

I’ve had a bit of a read and looking at the press release talking points, things don’t look too bad – probably because they don’t mention excise increases. They instead mention a possible ‘tax reduction’ for low alcohol beers, though increases are discussed in the full report.

Looking at the following graph, you can see that beer consumption has been in steady decline since the mid-eighties, only starting to pick up a little in the last year – no doubt driven by the increasing popularity of craft and ‘premuim’ beer as regular sales have been flat.

consumption

The next graph shows the alcohol content of beer consumed – you can see the effect of the increasing popularity of ‘premium’ beers at 5% abv over traditional NZ beer at 4%. The Law Commission tend to want to make a bigger deal out of this than required by referring to the increase in consumption of higher alcohol beer several times. The growth is in 5% beer – 1 percent higher than average and the norm in most of the world. God knows what they think of wine at 13%.

abv

Anyway, this doesn’t indicate that people are looking to get more wasted – on the contrary it shows that people are becoming more interested in nicer, global beer styles and probably picking quality over quantity. So it is odd that they see a progressive excise tax to encourage the consumption of lower abv beer as a positive solution in this context. People are voluntary choosing to buy more expensive alcohol so why interfere with this?

Have a look at the report yourself. They’re encouraging public feedback via their forum www.talklaw.co.nz

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A history of hops

July 20, 2009

If you’re into your history and hops, you may be interested in an article I stumbled on today. The article is on a useful local website called ‘The Prow’ which details the history of the Top of the South region. It discusses the development of Nelson as NZ’s hop growing region from the plantings of early English and German immigrants to the tasty, NZ-bred, disease-resistant varieties of today.

This beats the hell out of School!

"This sure beats the hell out of School!"

mmmmmm...sticky buds

mmmmmm...sticky buds

I was given a bit of a tiki-tour of the hop-growing region by a local recently after a day tramp in the Abel Tasman. You can still see some of the old hop kilns about the place but around Riwaka it looks like apples are now the crop of choice (the top wires are still there above the apple trees). However, round the back streets of Motueka there are plenty of small plots – currently being mowed by sheep.

There’s more history on the Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ site, conveniently located in an article on Hops, Tobacco & Hemp.

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Get it while you can

July 16, 2009

I recently developed a bit of an interest in a drop called Thomas Hardy’s ale after reading about it in a beer mag. It’s an 11.7% Barley Wine that was first brewed in 1968 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of the novelist and poet. As such a robust brew, the ale cellars well and the local Fresh Choice recently obtained quite a stash of the 2004 vintage. While always intending to pick up a bottle, at $9.50 for 250mls I wasn’t in a huge hurry.

So this morning when I read Geoff Griggs’ weekly Marlborough Express column where he notes that the ales days are quite possibly numbered, I made haste for the Supermarket and picked up two of the remaining four bottles.

th ale

In addition, I got chatting to the beer guy and quizzed him about the availability of the soon to be released Epic Armageddon. The rep had just been in and there’s only one pallet for the South Island, which means only a couple of cases for Fresh Choice – looks like I better keep my eyes peeled for that one.

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The wall of beer

July 10, 2009

Nelson, far from being a regional backwater is filled to the brim with all kinds of great beer – the only problem being, which beer to choose? In no place is the problem more acute than at the wall of beer at Fresh Choice, Collingwood St – conveniently located just round the block from work. Many a lunchtime and Friday evening have I spent at the wall, eyeballing all sorts of delicious looking bottles – the English Ales, the Belgians and just about every NZ craft beer known to man. Fresh Choice also do a beer tasting every Friday at 4pm, though unfortunately, I’m usually otherwise occupied with a little diversion called work.

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One solution I like is to simply to buy more beer. I’ve had a hop craving all day and so tonight, Pale Ale was always going to be on the menu. I went for the Dux Le Lux Nor’wester which I developed quite a taste for on my last trip to Christchurch. This is the first beer of theirs that I’ve tried in the bottle after many glasses on location in the Garden City. I’d have to favour beer fresh from keg but this was still an enjoyable brew despite the lack of foam – rich and dark, the strong 6.5% abv is certainly evident. There’s a full malty sweetness upfront, followed by an enjoyable hop bitterness. This beer is mainly about the malt and the caramel/toffee biscuit finish completes this beer as a fine example of a New Zealand Pale Ale.

Few things in life could be more luxurious than Dunkel Weiss or dark wheat beer. After trying Emerson’s example a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try Green Man’s new Choc Krystal Weiss. This is obviously an entrant in Wellington’s Beervanva coming up in August as this is advertised on the cap. Like Emerson’s, I assume the same yeast as their regular Hefe Weizen offering has been employed in this beer – therefore comparisons can be drawn. And while Emerson’s was a fine conventional example, Green Man – like some of their other beers – is somewhat off-the-beaten-track.

The aroma is chocolate-chip muffins, spice and then unusually, a whiff of olive brine! The beer pours with a lovely creamy head. I wasn’t quite sure if this beer was filtered as the name suggests and thought I spotted some yeast in the bottom of the bottle which I swished with the remaining beer and poured into my glass. If there was indeed yeast it was minimal. For the taste there is certainly banana but what sets this beer apart is the restrained sweetness – standing out is an enjoyable chocolaty dryness, plus a slightly tart savoury finish. And yes, that unusual seawater/olive brine aroma is also evident in the taste.

I’m not sure what the Beervana judges will make of this – probably imperfect by the manual but I found this to be a unique and enjoyable  beer, plus it challenged my previous perceptions of dark wheat beer.

Call the craft beer movement a bunch of sandal and beard wearing boffins, but I had to laugh at this Victoria Bitter ad:

Update: By way of comparison, I just saw this terrible 33 Export ad on TV:

(almost as bad as the Air NZ Bare Essentials safety video with the naked, toupee-wearing flight attendant)

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I see a darkness

July 8, 2009

In case you didn’t notice it’s now the middle of winter (though I have to admit the last two days in Nelson have been pretty perfect) and that of course means – dark beer!

This weekend the Moutere Inn are holding ‘The Dark Side’ – a dark and winter beer showcase. This will of course bring up the common problem I experience in pubs these days – which beers to choose? On tap will be:

  • Emerson’s Brewers Reserve
  • Emerson’s London Porter
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black
  • Three Boys Oyster Stout
  • Harrington’s Wintertide
  • Moa’s Winter Ale
  • Green Man Strong
  • Plus local regulars – Townshend’s No. 9 Stout and ESB (a personal favourite) on hand pump.

Think I’ll have to try the slightly infamous Pot Kettle Black (hoppy and dark) and Oyster Stout (with real Bluff Oysters).

Another winter treat just out is Mac’s Solstice Winter Beer which I managed to sample this evening at The Vic Brewbar.

The appealing label is matched by an equaling appealing brew from a mixture of Pale, Vienna, caramalt, Dark Crystal and Chocolate malts resulting in a rich, nutty, aroma and taste with hints of Chocolate. Balancing this nicely is spice and bitterness from a mix of Southern Cross and Fuggles hops, plus something extra special in the form of the peppery native plant – Horopito. A fine, well balanced ale perfect for winter.

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East Coast reprezent

July 5, 2009

Meet Funkmaster IBU and MC LilGuy – collectively known as The Pain Relievaz – probably the greatest Beer-Geek Brewer Hip Hop band of all time.

With tracks such as ‘Check Your Gravity’, ‘I Got Busy with an A-B Salesgirl’ and ‘Brewers Bling Bling’, these guys really take their beer seriously. Sample lyrics:

“West Coast brewers your shit is played, I get more IBU’s from a batch of Lemonade. You sprinkle out the hops like it was paraphernalia. East Coast has got balls, you got female genitalia”.

When not in the club, sipping on a 40 – Funkmaster IBU (aka Sam Calagione) and MC LilGuy (Bryan Selders) can be found brewing their latest batch at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware.