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Suburban swappers

May 26, 2010

Every few months – tired of the ‘same-old’ every night – groups of people meet in suburban garages, spare bedrooms and even on outdoor decks to swap their most prized possession after chatting on an Internet forum. And so  it was on Saturday that nine Nelson home brewers gathered at my house for an afternoon of mashing, tasting and beer swapping.

I’m a bit biased but I think everyone had a great time with some very tasty beers on offer. These gatherings are a great opportunity to share knowledge and hone your brewing skills, plus simply drink some good beer and have a chat about the weather! The unofficial godfather of Nelson home brewing – I’ll call him the Big D – also brought round his gear so two newbies could have a go at a ‘mini-mash’ brew.

Being relatively new to the game myself, the Big D left his gear at my house so I could have a go at all all-grain brewing on Sunday. I chose to brew one of my favourites – NZ pale ale – and stole a recipe from the Yeastie Boys, which was pretty easy as it’s just sitting on their website. Everything went pretty well until transferring into the carboy at the end, which got a bit messy. It was an enjoyable experience but quite different to what I had expected. It turns out brewing can be bloody hard work and after my nearly six-hour brew I was exhausted. Of course, you learn a lot on your first try and there are many things I would refine next time round. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be drinking my first all-grain beer – which I’ve named ‘Attack of the Nerdherder Clone’ – can’t wait!

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Vote Beer

May 20, 2010

I was looking on the Treasury website this afternoon for Budget 2010 documents and came across the appropriation for Vote Racing. After my initial thoughts of ‘why the hell are we spending public money propping up the Racing industry?’ I had the brilliant idea – why not also steal use some public money for Beer!?! Naturally, I would become Minister of Beer and this would be my 2010 appropriation for Vote Beer:

  • $250,000 for research project into viability of nuclear-powered, chilled tanker to ship cheap and fresh Budvar from the Czech Republic to New Zealand.
  • $10,000 to lock up Doug Sellman and other Healthists in a beige room and be fed nothing but strained peas to a soundtrack of Enya as suggested by Eric at Offsetting Behaviour.
  • $20 to implement new excise rate on all alcohol of $0.00 per Litre.
  • $50,000 for Social Networking initiatives to promote Epic beer.
  • $2,000,000 for compulsory Home Brewing courses at all Tertiary Institutions.
  • $700,000 to promote voluntary malt quota of 100% amongst mainstream brewers. Catch phrases include: ‘All Malt: Yeah Right’; ‘Less Advertising , More Malt’.
  • $1,000 for all-grain Home Brew set-up for the Minister of Beer.

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Beer and Food Matching Mastery

May 18, 2010

Those sophisticated big-city folks keep talking about this crazy new phenomenon which involves matching beer with food. Apparently, there’s great enjoyment to be had from carefully matching the right culinary delights with your favourite brews. Not one to miss out, here are my top tips for food and beer matching:

1. Salted, Roasted Peanuts: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

These salty, crunchy little snacks are a great counter to unsalty, uncrunchy beer.

2. Crisps or Chips: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

Ideally choose some chips made from potato with a sprinkling of salt. The potato and salt really work with the beeriness of the beer.

3. Pie: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

A pie with a meat filling is best. The carbonation in the beer, assisted by your teeth will really cut through that meaty goodness.

4. Pizza: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

Skinny, Italian base or big, fat, giant loaf of bread base – anything is fine as long as your pizza base thickness * ∏ = the abv of your beer. Otherwise the beer Gods are gonna be real pissed.

5. Cheese: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

Choose some kind of cheese made from milk. The fat in cheese goes great with the magic fairy dust in beer.

6. McDonald’s, KFC or Burger King: Matches best with Lager, Pilsner, Bock, Wiezen, Bitter, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout.

Best consumed late at night after a big drinking session when your faux-moralistic aversion to ‘not eating that crap’ has well and truly disappeared.

7. Curry: Lager.

The owners of your local Indian Restaurant have done all the thinking for you and selected an outstanding range of uninteresting pale Lagers – surely this must therefore be the best match with a spicy curry.

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Picture credit: http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/

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And just to prove how amazing this new phenomenon is, I even have a recipe utilising beer for you to try – that’s right, food with beer in it!!

1. Take any recipe containing liquid.

2. Substitute liquid for the same amount of any beer of your choice.

3. Continue with recipe as normal.

4. Eat!

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Will the real Pilsner please stand up?

May 12, 2010

Virtually everyone knows that lager is the biggest selling beer in the world ever since taking the Universe by storm all those years ago. This ubiquity, particularly of cheap, mass-produced products that all taste the same (and popular with the masses) means lager is generally not highly regarded amongst beer snobs. Sick of all those Euro lagers all made under licence in Auckland with added sugar and boring hops yet?

In this context, it’s easy to forget just how damn amazing original Czech Pilsner really is. Yes, I’m talking about Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar! While all the imitators are obviously from a similar genre, there really is nothing that compares to the originals. It hits you as soon as you take the first sip and it’s like your taste buds tasting beer again for the first time after years of over use. And yet these aren’t novel and therefore particularly interesting flavours – rather they’re extremely well-balanced and display distinctive Czech flavours with their floral Saaz hops and sweet, Moravian barley.

For my money Budvar it just that little bit more balanced than Urquell and not much else compares to coming home on a hot Friday evening in summer and chopping several of these green babies! Of course it doesn’t hurt that they were on a multi-week special for $11 a six-pack. Anyway, rather than bore you with beer history that you’ve probably already heard – I simply implore you to go forth and spread the word about the real Pilsner!

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MARCHFeST 2010

April 20, 2010

[UPDATED]

Well, this blog is almost a year old so it’s time to end four months of no blogging due to laziness and get things going again.

Saturday was Marchfest here in Nelson and you’ll probably have guessed by now that it’s not actually in March anymore. Aprilfest just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? I imagine this is better timing for the brewers to prepare their harvest beers but means a bit less sunlight for the punters.

Let me state first up that I had a great time at the festival but I was a little disappointed in comparison to last years event. The addition of brewers talks and cider and beer making demonstrations this year was great, even though I ended up missing them all due to beer drinking commitments. This year the main venue was in the large field at Founder’s Park rather than in the ‘Energy Centre’ and surrounds, which didn’t seem to work at well though the view of the Park and wider region was great. This centered around a giant tent with the music at times crowding out conversation even outside. Last year you could sit inside the energy centre where the beer was being served and get down to the serious matter of beer drinking without the distraction of music! The queues were massive at times and dominated the inside of the tent and the free movement of punters. Perhaps a separate area to buy drink tokens or separate lines for each beer would help? There was some good outside lawn with picnic seats but access to these was restricted by the railway, food carts or the tent. It’s the small things and maybe I’m getting too fussy about service but these issues are easily solved and you expect a certain level of service for your entry fee.

This was the other problem with 2010 – the ticket price has increased; it didn’t include a first drink + the half pint serving size increased from $5 to $6. Inflation rises are inevitable at some stage and obviously keeping the beer prices in whole dollars is easier to deal with, but when you take the full increases over the night into account that is about $20 extra compared to 2009 for what didn’t feel like any extra value – far more than inflation. I imagine the huge tent and Don McGlashan bulked up the costs this year and as you can probably tell by now, I’m happy to keep things basic – I’m there for the beer after all.

Anyway on to important things – the beers, which featured 10 new brews from Top of the South craft brewers.

Sprig and Fern: De-Vine Inspiration: A kiwi pilsner with Riwaka hops. Stangely enough it tasted just like Emerson’s Pislner! Love that buttery NZ pils taste.

Moa: Blanc Resurrection: A Belgian Wit. This was quite unusual and complex. Clear with a nice wheat background + hops. Some phenolic funk character.

Townshend: Roger Parks IPA: Nicely sweet and intense – malt driven but balanced with some nice hops. One of my favourites of the night.

Totara: Ninkasi Green: Green hopped, amber / IPA-ish. Nice enough but finished far too short on both the malt and hops.

The Mussel Inn: Missing Linx: Marzenbier? Definitely an NZ interpretation. Complex with some nice smoked malt and Manukasimilar to a lighter Captain Cooker at the end of the day.

Lighthouse: April Fuel: Nice enough amber ale. That’s about all I scribbled.

Founder’s: God Knows Best Bitter: Pretty similar to Mac’s Sassy Red – a bit less sweet and smokyer. Nice.

Renaissance: Funkelryesen: Spiced Rye beer. Unusual and complex – lots of floral liquorice notes. Big points for using Southern Cross hops and mentioning these in the tasting notes!

Golden Bear: Liquifaction: Golden Bear seem to excel at strong beers and this was the business. Stunningly rich and smooth with NZ hops plus some Styrian Goldings coming through with a British punch at the end.

Monkey Wizard: Golgotha Porter: Sweetish Porter, not much complexity in the malt but it does take a rather good dark beer to impress me.

A final whinge before I go – if you’re a food stand at a beer fest serving curry, make sure you have enough rice cooked for the night and if you serving German small goods, have all your products grilled and ready to go!

Update – Marchfest organiser Mic Dover responds:

FYI the Marchfest ticket price has been $25 in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and no Marchfests have ever featured a free 1st drink. You are getting confused with Nelson Beer Fetes which are small events with low overheads.

A small minority of people constantly make this mistake so we are looking at how we market the events differently in future to avoid the confusion.

BTW The increase from $5 to $6 per drink is the first price rise in 3 years.
Cheers, Mic

My reply: Thanks for your response Mic – my recollection is that the early bird price was $15 in 2009 and $20 in 2010. After purchasing my early bird ticket last year I won an entry pack – this included a free drink ticket. I thought this was part of the general entry as the drink tickets were in the glasses at the door but perhaps these were just for prize winners / VIP’s etc. As I said, it’s inevitable that beer prices rise and I’m sure that the decision wasn’t made lightly – I was probably just expecting that the prices would remain the same as those at pubs considering the rate at which you’d turn over a keg but then I don’t know much about the economics of running a beer festival. I hope my comments don’t take away from what is essentially, an excellent beer event.

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Best Beers of 2009

December 23, 2009

Another years almost up – it’s been a big year of beer for me so I thought I’d do the obligatory ‘best of’ list. I couldn’t really come up with a simple list of 10 or put them in any kind of order so here’s simply a list of the New Zealand beers that I enjoyed most (South to North):

  • Boysenbeery (Invercargill Brewery)
  • Emerson’s Pilsner (Emerson’s, Dunedin)
  • Emerson’s Weizenbock
  • Emerson’s Dunkelweiss
  • Brewski (Wanaka Beerworks)
  • Sauvin Pils (The Twisted Hop, Christchurch)
  • Challenger (The Twisted Hop)
  • The Rogue Hop (Harrington’s, Christchurch)
  • Porter (Three Boys Brewery, Christchurch)
  • Golden Ale (Three Boys)
  • Nor’Wester Strong Pale Ale (Dux Brewing Company, Christchurch & Queenstown)
  • Dakota Dark (Wigram Brewing Co, Christchurch)
  • Hophead IPA (Brewmoon, Amberly)
  • Fair Maiden (Founder’s, Nelson)
  • Fat Lip (Founder’s)
  • Cathcarts NTA (Townshend, Rosedale)
  • Old House ESB (Townshend)
  • Able Ale (Monkey Wizard Brewery, Riwaka)
  • Easter Bunny (The Mussel Inn, Onekaka)
  • Marlborough Pale Ale (Renaissance Brewing, Blenheim)
  • Märzen (Moa Brewing Company)
  • Gabriel (666 Brewing Co., Blenheim)
  • Pot Kettle Black (Yeastie Boys, Wellington (brewed by Invercargill Brewery))
  • Brewjolais (Mac’s Brewery, Wellington)
  • Solstice (Mac’s)
  • Hefe (Tuatara Breweries, Waikanae)
  • Mike’s Mild (White Cliffs / Mike’s Organic Brewery
  • Epic Pale Ale (Epic Brewing Company, Auckland)
  • Epic Armageddon

Everyone needs a number one however, and this goes without a doubt to Renaissance’s Marlborough Pale Ale – I’m pretty sure this is the best beer I’ve ever drunk. Weighting in at a hefty 8.5% abv and single-hopped with new NZ hop variety – Rakau – this is a stunning beer, displaying a great balance of American and NZ hop characteristics; chewy, puckering bitterness; and sweet, rich, toffee-ish malt. Please guys, if you’re reading this – you have to brew this again in 2010!

Have a great Christmas & a happy New Year!

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The Christmas Spirit

December 18, 2009

When I first started reading this article on stuff.co.nz, I thought the Heathists had finally grown a sense of humor – but as I read on about this study published in the British Medical Journal, it became clear that they are serious (or it is very well-done satire designed to enrage bloggers like me).

Santa Claus has been accused of acting in ways that could “damage millions of lives”.

As the mythical man in red zooms around the planet delivering gifts, he is an unwitting promoter of obesity, unhealthy products, disease and even drink driving, according to an Australian academic.

Read the whole thing and weep.

Update: Eric @ Offsetting Behaviour has a response from the author – it is indeed tounge-in-cheek.

Hat tip for today’s clip: The Malthouse Blog