#360 Australis – Romanov Baltic Stout

Romanov Baltic StoutName: Romanov Baltic Stout
Brewery: Australis Brewing (non-operational)
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8%ish
Galbraith’s Alehouse

1998 was difficult in many ways. It was the year President Clinton would get caught with his pants down, the movie “Armaggeddon” would make non-Americans everywhere puke, and The Baha Men would enquire, over and over again, “Who let the dogs out?”

But there were things to celebrate, too, like the launch of Google, my silver Spice Girls backpack, and most importantly: the bottling of this Romanov Baltic Stout.

Yes, this beer is a very special one. It was brewed fourteen years ago by Keith Galbraith and Ben Middlemiss, who were then operating together under the label Australis. The label ceased in 2000, but all three of their beers have been immortalized in revered Beer Hunter Michael Jackson’s “The Great Beer Guide”.

I was lucky enough to try Romanov for the second time last night, after convincing Dave that my blog would be incomplete without it.

Dave poured it into jugs first, which seemed hilariously ironic given the swill I used to drink from such vessels, and I was surprised to see it still had a really decent head on it.

I was going to pretend I drank this whole jug but I thought Dave might get in trouble…

The aroma was predominantly of raisins – that’s the only thing I’d be sure of – but it also evoked sweet sherry, wet wood, old books, and a touch of something a little sour, like week-old red wine.

In the mouth it was velvety smooth and savoury, with bitter chocolate, a little Marmite, coffee and cola (not Coke). It was clear the age had eroded it; it wasn’t as full or sweet as it would have been, there was a hole in the middle of the palate and it dropped suddenly away as soon as I swallowed. Still, it was amazingly good for fourteen years old. This must have been an incredibly delicious beer in its day.

Of course today’s thanks goes to Galbraith’s Manager, Dave Scicluna. Dave has done heaps for me over the year, from inviting me in to try amazing beers like the Romanov, to agreeing to hook up a keg of me, Kate and Richard’s homebrew for Tuesday’s party. He’s also put loads of incredibly exciting beers on the Galbraith’s taps, many of which I’ve written about. Thanks Dave!

PS – As you may know I’ve become highly suspicious of Keith Galbraith’s existence of late – given the hours I’ve spent at the pub and the fact I’ve never seen him – but today he sent me an email which said he was 99% sure he would be there on Tuesday night. In the event he doesn’t show, he has promised a cardboard cut-out will be there in his place.

Published in: on August 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm  Comments (6)  

#346 8 Wired – Batch 18

8 Wired Batch 18Name: Batch 18
Brewery: 8 Wired
Style: Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
ABV: 12.5%
Source: Galbraith’s Alehouse

It’s hard to know where to begin when you’re describing a beer this delicious.

Perhaps with an apology, actually, because in the higgeldy-piggeldy mess that the blog became in about April (lots of posts building up and then months of “catching up” ) this beer somehow fell through the cracks. I went looking for my post on it yesterday to remind myself of what I had said – only to find that it wasn’t actually there.

And how the hell could I have forgotten to post about a beer that I had loved so much?

I drank it approximately two months ago with a new beer friend, Allegra, who I was meeting for the first time at Galbraith’s (where she now works). I was trying to impress her with our snazzy New Zealand beers, and buying a bottle of this was me “pulling out the big guns”.

Imagine biting into a cherry soaked in booze covered and in dark chocolate, and you have an idea of what a sip of Batch 18 is like. One layer of it at least – there were about a squillion different flavours lurking in the dark, syrupy depths –  including toasted woody, vanilla, coconut and roasty malt.

In the mouth, as you’d expect, it was full and oily, and slipped down my throat like warm milk. There was a hint of alcohol heat to remind me of the ABV, but still it was dangerously drinkable considering.

Allegra loved the Batch 18 as well, and our friendship was soon cemented with Twitter follows/Facebook adds and the rest of it. A beautiful story for a beautiful beer. 

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

#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)  

#252 Mikkeller – Black

Alice Galletly with Mikkeller Black Name: Black
Brewery: Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 17.5%
Source: Hashigo Zake

Everybody! It’s my birthday!

At least, it was seven days ago when I drank this beer, but lets just pretend I’m not the world’s worst blogger and a week behind on posting and that I drank it today. Happy Birthday to me!

Sigh. I wish it was still my birthday, if it was I’d be sitting in my Langham Hotel Suite (hot tip: journalists get a free voucher for joining their Press Club) and sipping the kind of beer I have wild fantasies about when I should be doing things like blogging.

Let’s go back a little further though, to the day before my birthday. I woke up in the morning and realised I hadn’t  organized anything special for my birthday beer, which was like waking up and realizing my bed was on fire: cause for serious alarm.

I hastily Tweeted my distress, asking followers where I could find special beer at short notice in Auckland. The answer that came back? Get it sent up from Wellington.

On the morning of my birthday a little care package arrived from Hashigo Zake, containing four beers that they had picked. The Mikkeller Black, one third of the Black Tokyo* Horizon collab I blogged a while back, was the obvious one to drink. At 17.5% it wasn’t just a beer, it was a super-beer, the kind of beer that says “Look out world, I’m 26-years-old today and I’m not afraid to get wasted.”

Everyone in the roam went “Woah” as I poured the thick black liquid into the glasses, partly because of the beer, partly because they were impressed with the bottle-opening iPhone case* I had used to open it.

The nose was heavy with espresso, chocolate, molasses, wet wood, and soy sauce. In the mouth those flavours came through with much more bitterness than I was expecting, with burnt malt flavours dominating the sweeter notes of raisins and cherries. The finish was sharp, and the bitter coffee aftertaste sat on my tongue forever, refusing to budge until I intervened with creamy blue cheese (an excellent match it turned out).  A warm heat as it left the mouth hinted at the ABV, but there was no raw alcohol burn and it was surprisingly smooth. That said, the intensity of the flavour meant there was no danger of quaffing it.

You wouldn’t drink this beer every day, much like you wouldn’t have your birthday every day (unless you could convince everyone around you to keep buying you presents and taking you out to dinner, in which case you obviously would), but it was just the kind of outrageous, indulgent treat I was looking for. Trust Hashigo Zake to come through with the goods!

*I realise this looks like weird product placement, but I don’t think it is because they didn’t pay me – in fact I have twice now been bought the Openacase as a gift. It makes my phone weigh a million tones but it makes me totally popular at utensil-light parties. (I presume). 

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  

#224 Mike’s – Imperial Porter

Name: Imperial Porter
Brewery: Mike’s Organic Brewery (Taranaki, NZ)
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.5%
Source: Mike’s Brewery

While I am definitely over it now, on Monday when I drank this beer the relentless Auckland rain felt quite novel.

Sure I got drenched to the bone on the swim home from work, having none of the necessary apparatus for staying dry (some kids actually pointed and laughed at me from the comfort of their mum’s SUV), and yes, my plans of an outdoor barbecue were quite literally washed away. But there was at least one thing to be pleased about: an excuse to drink strong, dark beer.

OK, so we all know that we can drink any kind of beer we like in any kind of weather, but there is something undeniably lovely about drinking dark beer on a cold night, preferably with the rain pounding the windows and a fire crackling beside the armchair. (In all honesty my flat has neither a fire nor an armchair, but I do have an iPhone app that makes the sound).)

This was not the biggest, bolshiest Imperial Porter I’ve ever tried, but I thought it was pretty nice nonetheless. It smelled delicious, like a cake I wanted to sink my teeth in, with predominant flavours of vanilla, licorice, and a little toasty wood coming through.

In the mouth it wasn’t quite as sweet or full as I’d been anticipating (it wasn’t a cake, basically), but it had a lovely velvety smooth mouthfeel and a nice lightly bitter finish. For an Imperial Porter it was a little on the watery side, but then that made it all the more drinkable. (And we all know that in cold weather, it’s much more fun to drink a whole 500ml bottle of dark beer than it is to have just one glass.)

Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

#174 BrewDog Nøgne Ø Mikkeller – Black Tokyo* Horizon

Black Tokyo HorizonName: Black Tokyo Horizon
Brewery: BrewDog with Nøgne Ø & Mikkeller
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 17.2%
Source: Hashigo Zake

Here it is guys – the most expensive beer on Beer for a Year to date, and probably the most expensive beer I’ll ever drink unless someone buys me something even fancier for my birthday. Which is in April. April 18th, FYI.

Obviously if you’re one of the elite crowd who has supped an End of History or Tactical Nuclear Penguin, then this beer will seem neither boozy or pricey to you. But for me? Spending $45 on a 350ml bottle seemed more than a bit extravagant.

I probably wouldn’t have bought it except that I was already phenomenally pissed when I did (I got it at Hashigo Zake – go figure), and it was actually a gift for my Dad’s 60th. He kindly followed my instructions not to open the beer without me, and bought it to the wedding in Greytown we were at on the weekend to share it.

It poured thick and black, with the teensiest little head – a bit like an espresso.

It smelled like molasses mostly, as well as roasty coffee, dark fruits and bitter coffee.

In the mouth it was sweet and syrupy, with more coffee, chocolate, and soy sauce and a really bitter, citrussy hop finish. The alcohol was well-hidden considering it was 17.2%, but there was a pleasing alcohol burn after it had slipped down my throat.

It was sort of evil somehow, but in a good way. We tried to share some with the rest of the family but they thought it was a bit much for midday drinking before a wedding (pansies), so we finished the lot. I wasn’t going to let a drop of $45 beer go to waste!

And here’s my glass afterwards, which had at least 75c worth still clinging to the sides:

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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#108 Nøgne Ø – Imperial Stout

Nogne O Imperial StoutName: Imperial Stout
Brewery: Nøgne Ø (Grimstad, Norway)
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%
Source: Galbraith’s Alehouse (Auckland)

Say it with me now: Nurg-nuh er. Nuuuuuuuurg-nuh errrr.

While it sounds as if I am trying to expel mucus from somewhere deep in my throat – what I’m actually trying to do is pronounce Nøgne Ø – the Norwegian brewery name that literally translates to mean “Naked Island.”

If you live in Auckland (and other places too, I expect), you will need to learn to say nurg-nuh-er. This is because there are Nøgne Ø beers currently for sale at Galbraith’s (you can even try the IPA on tap, if you’re quick), and believe me you don’t want to miss out simply because you’re too shy to get guttural.

I had this Imperial Stout at Galbraith’s on Thursday, as part of a tasting session with Nøgne Ø’s brewer – Kjetil Jikiun. Kjetil had flown over all the way from Norway (his ‘day job’ is flying planes, FYI) and Dominic from Hashigo Zake was taking him on a beer tour of NZ.

We tried around seven of Kjetil’s wonderful beers (maybe more, maybe less – things got a little hazy tbh), starting with a crisp, Belgiany Saison and climbing ever higher toward the big black beast that I’ve named this post after. For each one I took a photo thinking this would be my beer of the day, and then changing my mind when I tried the next one.

While we drank each beer Kjetil gave us a little run-down of how the beer came about and what they were trying to achieve etc etc, which looked a bit like this:


Now, on to this Imperial Stout.

As I said it was about the seventh beer we’d had so my memory is p r e t t y rubbish, but I do know that it tasted like Christmas and Easter and my birthday all at once. It was rich and boozy and perfectly bittersweet, and slipped down my throat like chocolate milk. I think there were flavours of dark chocolate fudge, raisins, a hint of espresso and sharp fruity hops… along with sugar and spice and all things nice. Obviously I’m trying to describe the indescribable… So just get to Galbraith’s and try it for yourself.

And remember: Nuuuuuuuurg-nuh errrr!

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

#25 8 Wired iStout

Hopwired iStoutName: iStout
Brewery: 8 Wired (Brewed at Rennaissance Brewing, Blenheim, New Zealand)
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10%
Source: O’Carrolls Freehouse, Vulcan Lane, Auckland CBD

Another day, another glorious beer that left me too drunk to write my post before bed.

I drank this at O’Carrolls on Vulcan Lane, and I reckon this may be my new go-to pub in the CBD. Sure the music is awful, but it’s unpretentious, blessedly devoid of suits on a Friday afternoon, and best of all stocked with great beer!

As for the iStout… My memory is slightly rusty (this wasn’t the only beer of the night) but I remember it being damn good. It glugged out of the bottle into my glass like syrup, almost pitch-black with no head whatsoever. It was rich, decadent and full of flavour. Beyond that I can only rely on my notes, which say: “strong, coffee, treacle, chocolate, bitter aftertaste, light carbonation, thick mouthfeel”.

The bitterness stops it from being cloying and makes it quite gluggable… but it’s a bit of a dumb thing to drink as your first beer on a Friday afternoon. Next time I’d eat it with a big wodge of chocolate cake for dessert… Or even just as a dessert by itself.

And now I’m off to see my mother who, bless her, has just arrived in Auckland with a big suitcase full of beers from Melbourne and Regional Wines for me. It feels like Christmas!

Published in: on September 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

#24 Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial PorterName: Gonzo Imperial Porter
Brewery: Flying Dog (Frederick, MD, U.S.A)
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 9.2%
Source: The Beer Store

I bought this beer mostly because it was brewed in honour of one of my favourite writers/journalists of all time, and because the bottle is adorned with an illustration by Ralph Steadman himself. It promised so much!

Gonzo poured thick and black like oil, with an orange-tinged tan head. On my first whiff I got chocolate milk, and a hint of metal which seemed to disappear as it warmed up.

It tasted… like Christmas.  There was milk chocolate again, a hint of coffee and mixed spice. There were raisins, currants, sticky-date pudding, and a hint of bitterness that arrived just in time. The mouthfeel was thick and smooth – almost oily, and left a pleasing alcohol heat at the back of my throat.

This is a lovely porter, but boy-oh-boy, you wouldn’t drink more than one! At 9.2% you should really sip it slowly, and probably drink it with food (she says, having done neither).

My only gripe with this beer – and it’s not even a gripe really – is that I just don’t see Hunter S. Thompson as a porter. I reckon he’d be something less sweet, less likeable, and more bat-shit crazy. A Rex Attitude perhaps?

PS – I really wanted to write this entire post Gonzo-style, but my first attempt was so bad it would have sent Mr. Thompson rolling in his grave if I’d published it.

Published in: on September 2, 2011 at 9:49 am  Comments (5)