#351 Schipper’s Beer – Bohemian Rhapsody

Name: Bohemian Rhapsody
Brewery: Schipper’s Beer
Style: Vienna Golden Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Source: Niels Schipper

I was outside my work during a fire drill on Monday, when Niels showed up on his motorbike and handed me an unlabeled brown bottle. I’ve no doubt this looked exceedingly dodgy to my colleagues who were gathering outside the building, and I hastily stuffed into my bag.

He asked me to keep the beer upright, but as a modern day Woman-On-The-Go who carts beer around in her handbag and occasionally runs for buses, the instruction might not have been 100% adhered to.

It gushed at first (my fault, obviously) then poured a cloudy orangey gold, with a finger of white head. On the nose it smelled great – I got sweet bread dough, caramel and banana – a bit like a Belgian pale ale.

In the mouth it was medium-bodied and slightly creamy, malty and with not much hop flavour but a bitter finish. The only slight problem for me came at the very end, when there was an astringent note a bit like raw alcohol. It wasn’t anything major, but because the other flavours were quite delicate it was noticeable. (Sorry to pick holes, but that’s why people give me beer, right?)

Dad has often made suggestions for the blog over the year – some of which were horrible (“why not review my cider?”) – others which were not. One of the better ideas was that I start rolling out thank yous now, one per post, rather than doing them all at the end.

So, at the risk of trying to inflate this blog to Oscar-level importance, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the talented homebrewers who have been kind enough to give me beer over the year –  Niels Schipper, Douglas Horrell, David Ball, Stu Harwood, Dunc Blair, Martin Bridges, Zane Ralph, Richard Jack, Raffe Smith, and Dan Wilson. They’ve been the most fun beers to drink and in some ways the trickiest posts to write, but I have been seriously impressed by all of them. Thank you.

*Cue orchestra to play me off *

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 11:37 am  Comments (1)  

#332 Kowhiti Brewing – Archer’s Ale

Name: Archer’s Ale
Brewery: Kowhiti Brewing (Wellington, NZ)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 8%ish
Source: Dad

Archer’s Ale is Dad’s first crack at a Barley Wine – which incidentally is the only style of beer his Granddad used to drink, apparently. (This doesn’t surprise me – they’re all  total lushes on that side.)

It pours a beautiful clear amber, and smells fruity (plums and apricots), vinous, and strongly of toffee malt. In the mouth it’s much lighter than I’d expect for the style, malty and alcoholic but without much depth. He only bottled it two and a half weeks ago so it think it just needs more time to develop. On the other hand, my grandparents thought it was just gorgeous as it is (lushes, I tell you, the lot of them!).

Speaking of Kowhiti Brewing, the other day me and Dad finally got around to making Ye Olde Cock Ale. This is something we’ve talked about doing ever since Dad came across this page in this book by C.J Berry, detailing a recipe originally from “The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened,” 1677:

How could anyone  read a recipe that began “Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better” and not immediately decide to make it? Exactly. So that’s what we did.

For our cock ale we used a clone recipe for a scotch ale called Old Jock Ale, combined it with this historical above (made slightly more modern here), and added a few extra bits and pieces (raisins, dates and treacle) to make it our own. It looked a little something like this:

The base was British 2-row pale malt, plus a little British crystal and some other I can’t remember…

There weren’t a lot of hops, but we used Target, Willamette, and East Kent Golding.

Yeah I know this looks effing gross but it’s just chicken, parboiled and soaked overnight in whiskey and wine to kill any bugs. That’s raisins and chopped dates underneath.

Unfortunately this won’t be ready in time for me to include it as part of my 365, but I promise to come back and update this post with the verdict. For now though, I’m quietly confident that it’s going to be the finest (and sure, also the only) cock ale that this country has ever seen!

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (2)  

#321 & #322 Niels Schipper – GP & SA

Name: SA100811
Brewery: Niels Schipper
Style: Strong Ale
ABV: 7.8%
Source: 6.57%

Much as it pains me to admit this, you’ll soon see (unless you skip this post – in fact why don’t you skip this post?!) that I sort of botched things up with  these two beers, the latter in particular. And even though I suspect people secretly like it when I stuff up, I feel bad for Niels that his beers have become victims of my own rampant disorganisation.

Enough beating around the bush though. The first beer, catchily named “SA100811”, was a strong ale, which I drank while having dinner with my boyfriend’s parents a couple of weeks ago. Because I was eating dinner I felt it rude to pull out my phone and make notes, so only managed to punch in “rich toffee malt, grapefruit pith” under the table.

That’s OK though – I remember I really liked this, as did Maggie and Jeff who had a sip each. The main flavour was of sweet toffeeish malt – like a blue Mackintosh – but there was a nice dry bitterness  at the finish (probably a combo of hops and alcohol) that stopped it from being cloying. Neils said to me in an email later that he wasn’t sure if me made a Strong Ale, but I reckon he most definitely did. In fact it reminded me quite a lot of the Yeastie Boys’ Hud-a-Wa.

Now the second beer, the GP011111 (seriously Niels what is with these names?) this is where I really stuffed up. Somehow I inexplicably managed to lose both the photo and the notes, even though I swear I took both.

I do remember it had a really spectacular head, just like the Strong Ale, and it was quite a hazy golden orange color. It had a fruity aroma, possibly citrus, and I think it was quite malty and soft for a pilsner with a lightly bitter finish. I know I could be describing every single beer on the planet there, but to elaborate would be to fabricate, and that would be ever worse right?

*Reluctantly clicks Publish and hides under desk*

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 11:26 am  Comments (1)  

#319 Richard Jack – Cherry Lambic Stout

Name: Cherry Lambic Stout
Brewery: Richard Jack (homebrew)
Style: Cherry Lambic Stout
Source: Richard Jack
ABV: 7%

When Richard Jack told me he had brewed a Cherry Lambic Stout that had been aged over bourbon oak, I immediately decided that this was to be my favorite beer style of all time. I hadn’t actually had one before, but I pictured Russian River Consecration and Old Rasputin making a baby and was immediately sold (and frankly, a little turned on).

In hindsight this was probably setting the bar a bit high. While I imagine my Consecration/Rasputin lovechild is probably out there somewhere, to expect it to come from a homebrewer (even a very very good one) was asking a bit much.

On the nose I didn’t get obvious cherry, but there was what some beer writers might term “a suggestion”. What I did definitely smell was the bourbon barrel the beer was aged in, though luckily not too much because the smell of bourbon makes me sick now (blame my youth/Kentucky Gold). It was a woody, slightly smoky smell that  complimented the toasted chocolate and espresso aromas nicely.

In the mouth there was a slight plum-skin like tartness, flavours of milk chocolate and slightly bitter roasty malt, and a dry slightly hoppy finish. It wasn’t as sour or as lambic-y as I was expecting, but it was a tasty and complex stout, and a really good homebrew.

Aha! I just sent Richard to ask him if it was really really a lambic, and he tells me that it’s more of a “more of a bastard, low born, kiwi-not-knowing-what-he’s-doing lambic.”  Basically it started life as a stout, then he chucked some cherries in that had been wild fermented with the bugs around his house, and then he “recklessly” decided to add charred oak sticks from his bourbon aging carboy.

This all came as a bit of a surprise because I thought of Richard as a very precise homebrewer, rather than a “reckless chucker-inner” – but it sounds like he may be beer’s answer to Jamie Oliver yet.

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 11:27 am  Comments (2)  

#311 & #312 Dunc Blair – Golden Fleece & Fresh Hop APA

Name: Golden Fleece
Brewery: Dunc Blair (homebrew)
Style: Golden Smoked Ale
ABV: 4.8%
Source: Dunc Blair

I keep telling myself I won’t be putting any more homebrew on the blog, but then someone goes and utters the word “smoked” and “fresh-hopped” and suddenly all bets are off.

As you can see from the awkwardly jumbled title of this post, I’m putting Dunc’s two homebrews (which I drank on consecutive days) together. It’s definitely not the case that Dunc’s beers weren’t worthy of a full post each, I just really need to catch up.

Dunc is what I’m going to call a super-homebrewer (a term I don’t use lightly, I can tell you!), because he grows his own hops for making beer. I don’t think I’ve ever tried beer with homegrown hops before, although I hope that in a few years, once the hop plant I bought dad has taken over the garden, I’ll be doing the same.

I had the pohutakawa-smoked beer first, which I’m happy to report was the closest thing I’ve ever encountered to liquid bacon. The aroma was of bacon, bacon and more bacon, with perhaps a hint of Rashuns. It was so good!

In the mouth it was crisp, dry, and still singing with those campfire-cooked bacon flavours.   I thought there was a little hole in the middle of the palate where perhaps it needed more bitterness or sweetness, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

Dunc’s other beer (a 5% fresh-hopped APA) was made with the hops he grew himself. The aroma was great – definetely more ‘Aotearoa Pale Ale’ than American I thought, with notes of sticky ripe pineapple, orange marmalade and sweet biscuity malt. In the mouth it was well balanced, with those sweet fruity notes leading to a dry pithy grapefruit finish, bitter but not too bitter, just right for me.

Thanks for the beers Dunc! And as a side note – when I was little we used to call my Dad (also a Duncan) Dunc the Funk. If you ever brew a funky Belgian ale you can have that name for free.

Published in: on July 5, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  

#294 Richard Jack – Identity Crises

Richard Jack's Identity CrisesName: Identity Crises
Brewery: Richard Jack (homebrew)
Style: Wheat/Fruit Beer
ABV: 5%
Source: Richard Jack

Hey guys, remember how in the last post I was saying that I’m starting to think I might actually like wheat beers, and how it’s making me question everything I ever thought I knew and my own place in the universe and stuff? Well now look. Another wheat beer that I really liked and it’s called… Identity Crises.

Dun dunnnnn.

I think Richard  – who you may remember from such Beer For a Year posts as #287 – Figaro –  named it as such because it’s a Raspberry Wheat brewed in the American Style with English Yeast  (now that’s a beer that’s going to need therapy), but it’s also very befitting of my own personal wheat journey.

Now, I’m in a rush as I have heaps of posts to catch up on, so I’m just going to be lazy and post a photo of my notes:

Sorry to a) cut corners and b) force you to decipher my handwriting, which never actually developed after I turned 12 and started using computers instead of pens, but so many beers and so little time. Another great beer Richard, thank you!

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm  Comments (1)  

#291 Stu Harwood – Dessert

Name: Dessert
Brewery: Stu Harwood (homebrew)
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 7%?
Source: Stu Harwood

This was a really sophisticated beer that I watched in front of a really unsophisticated, terrible movie. So terrible that I can reveal the title – Jawbreaker – without fear of reprehension because I know none of my readers are stupid enough to have seen it.

Stu’s Russian Imperial Stout provided a wonderful contrast to Rose McGowan’s acting (which would have seemed awkward even in a porn)  and nearly made me forget about the absurd and hole-ridden plot. In short, it was everything Jawbreaker was not – deep, complex, and you know… good.

It poured almost pitch-black, with no head whatsoever and only the loneliest bubble battling it’s way through the gloop. It smelled strongly of roasty malt, dark fruits, coffee and toasted wood. In the mouth it was thick and smooth, with sweet flavours of caramel and vanilla being eventually overridden with roasty bitterness. Good God I love Imperial Stout.

Coming up on the blog: beers with labels that you can obtain yourself from a shop!

Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm  Comments (2)  

#290 ePICO – Broke Black Mountain

Name: Broke Black Mountain
Brewery: ePICO (Auckland, NZ)
Style: Stout?
ABV: 6.7%
Source: Epic beer

I’ll keep this brief, because I know that only a sadist would want to read about tasty beers they can’t try.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few bottles of ePICO beer, only really because I was in the right place at the right time. (The place being Epic’s headquarters, the time being several hours after Luke’s first bottle of IPA).

They didn’t come with any descriptions, just a little label over the lid with the hops (Kohatu in this case) and the ABV, so I’m actually not sure what the style was – but I guess some kind of stout. It was ten days ago that I drank it so my memory’s not so hot, but I remember a really distinct taste of tinned or poached plums, as well as cherries, warm spices, wet wood, and a hint of smoke or ash.

This was one of those wonderfully complex beers that I could write about for ages (especially if my memory was fresher), but only drink for so long. In this case I had about half of it which, to be fair, was still 250mls, before handing the rest over to Finn. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the beer – it was great – I just got sort of full, y’know?

Drinking this reminded me that I wish Epic would make some more dark beers. How good was the Thornbridge Stout? And the Portermarillo? Everybody chant with me now! EP-IC POR-TER EP-IC POR-TER….

Published in: on June 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm  Comments (4)  

#287 Richard Jack – Figaro

Name: Figaro
Brewery: Richard Jack (homebrew)
Style: Stout
ABV: 7%
Source: Richard Jack

This last week has been awash with homebrew (well, I had three bottles) and I still can’t get over how good it all is. I mean obviously people aren’t sending me bottles of their diacetyl-ridden kit brew to write nasty things about, but honestly, it’s a shame it’s so tough to make a proper living out of brewing because it seems there is some serious talent out there.

(Then again – I still don’t actually know how to pick diacetyl so perhaps I’m the wrong person to judge.)

This bottle of fig, coffee and oatmeal Stout came from Richard Jack, an Auckland beer geek who I met at Galbraith’s a few weeks ago.  He’s originally a spirits guy, but more recently turned his hand to beer and has a really fancy homebrew setup in his garage. He also built his own cider press, so I guess you could call him a Jack of all alcohol. Pun intended!

The beer was so so good – and I don’t use the double ‘so’ lightly. Flavour-wise it had the usual coffee stout stuff going on – bitter coffee beans (derr), a hint of chocolate, raisins, roasty malt, dark fruit (figs?) – it was the mouthfeel that really did it for me though. It was so full and velvety smooth, like it actually could cure tonsillitis or at least a sore throat. At 7% it would probably make you feel happier, at least.

I’m trying to limit the number of homebrews I post as I get down to the final 50 (there are just too many commercial brews I want to get through yet), but I am going to have to write about another of Richard’s – a sour cherry stout. Doesn’t that just sound like the best beer ever?  I think so!

Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm  Comments (4)  

#271 Raffe – Bibliotheque

Name: BibliothequeHomebrew saison
Brewery: Raffe Smith (homebrew)
Style: Saison
ABV: 6%
Style: French Saison

“bready yeast, sweat, flowers,
lemon, delicate, crisp, soda water finish.
They say saison is for farmers, but this tastes too posh – like a summer cricket refreshment.”

That’s not me trying to write a Haiku, it’s just I put my notes directly into a wordpress draft when I drank this last week, and looking at them now I think they convey the vibe of the beer well enough as is. Am I lazy? Maybe. Sick of writing “The aroma was of”? Definetely.

This is the first home-brewed Saison I’ve ever had and I really thought it was marvelous. It was just so clean and lovely, – like a dry champagne or a breeze-dried white sheet. It was as if you could drink it all night and never get a hangover, although of course this is probably untrue. (Raffe, can you confirm?)

Remember at the beginning of the blog when I was all “Saaayzon? What is this I don’t even-“ ? Well, I am pleased to confirm that I am  80% sure I know what a saison should taste like, an much more importantly, I know I think they’re swell.

Published in: on May 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm  Comments (1)