#365 Liberty – 365

Name: 365
Brewery: Liberty
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Source: Galbraith’s Alehouse

I’ll admit there have been times over the year when this project seemed insane. The days where I had “twenty-five posts to write” for example, or as I forced back beers while every cell in my body protested.

But every hangover, every dollar spent and every hour passed at my laptop seemed suddenly worth it last night.

Aside from a momentary panic that I could be “peaking” at 26, the end of blog party was probably one of the most enjoyable nights of my life. Thank you so much to everyone who came down to Galbraith’s to celebrate with me. It was so lovely to have all my family and friends – beery and otherwise – gathered together in my favourite pub.

And the beer. The beer! 

As Phil pointed out, it would have been p r e t t y awkward if I hadn’t liked my final beer, although with Liberty in charge there was never any real danger of that. Still, I’m happy to report that  – I’m going to annoy my parents one last time by swearing on the blog – it was fucking delicious.

To make “365” a hoppy Imperial Red Ale was a genius decision by Jo. Looking back over my year, the beers I first fell in love with were huge, highly-hopped IPAs, and then I steered away from them in favour of malt mosters. Eventually I decided I loved both, just so long as they were balanced.

I might be a total fluke, but “365” encompassed this journey perfectly. The fresh, fruity New Zealand hops were the perfect partner for the mouth-filling toffee malt, and it succeeded in being both rich and endlessly drinkable. It finished on a lip-smackingly crisp note – but without that lingering harshness that puts me off so many hoppy beers. Did I mention also that it was 8.5%? I’m pretty sure that made the party 85% more fun.

Plenty of clever sods have pointed out that this was a leap year, and so technically I should be doing 366 beers. Quite right, and that’s why Kate Jordan, Richard Jack and I brewed “Stickler”, a hoppy American Stout which we gave away at Galbraith’s last night. I saved a little to drink tonight, although I won’t be blogging about it because surely you’re sick of me by now.

I am actually going to write one last post in the next week or so, which will be a reflective, epilogue type thing. For now, I just want to say a ginormous, magnum-sized THANK YOU to everyone who has been with me on this journey. Your comments, tweets and even just page views were what motivated me to pick up the next bottle – so both the success of this blog and the possible failure of my liver are on you.

Oh God, I’m actually getting a little bit teary as I realise this is the end. My workmate is looking at me funny and I’m trying to pretend I’m just yawning. It’s OK – I have an emergency-sized can of DAB under my desk. I’m going to open that, and we’ll just say goodbye for now. I’ll see you next week at Beervana!

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm  Comments (17)  

#364 West Coast – The Artist

Dave Kurth Barley WineName: The Artist
Brewery: West Coast Brewing
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10%
Source: Dave Kurth

Today is a momentous day! Do you know why?

I mean sure, the history books might remember it as Curiosity’s first full day on Mars. And yes, the newspapers have chosen to prioritize Tongariro’s eruption – but if you cut science out of the picture (and really, who needs it!) then what are you left with?

The 365th day of Beer For a Year!

I should warn you that I’m too excited to sit still, and have consumed nothing but coffee (two) and cupcakes (three) today.  As a result of my hyperactivity, this post may not be 100% cohesive.

I drank The Artist at my dining table last night – the same place I’ve enjoyed the majority of the beers on the blog so far – and realised as I photographed it that this was the last time I would perform this little ritual. I got a bit sad and melancholic for a minute, but then I had a sip of this 10% beer and felt great!

On the nose I got sweet, fruity flavours of dried apricots, barley sugars, toffee and a little savoury hint of something like marmite.

In the mouth it was sweet and mouth-filling, with all those fruity toffee malt flavours blossoming into something epic, before being curtailed at the last second for a bone-fry finish. I never intended to drink the whole thing myself – but somehow that’s exactly what happened.

Dave Kurth sent me The Artist a few months ago, and it was supposed to be released soon. Sadly the brewery went into liquidation in May, and so he and this beer are just stuck in limbo for now. I really hope it does eventually get released – because apart from the fact it’s bloody nice, the most beautiful label has already been created for it:

West Coast Barley Wine "Elephants in the Atmosphere" by Jo Cringle.

“Elephants in the Atmosphere” by Jo Cringle.

Today’s thanks goes to my Dad. When I first told Dad about the blog his exact response was: “You will get very fat young lady!” but it didn’t take long for him to become almost more enthusiastic than me. He’s since bought me loads of fancy beers I could never have afforded myself, ventured into the wonderful world of homebrewing with me, and like Mum become a total craft beer enthusiast (bordering on geek) himself. Dad is even flying all the way up from Wellington today to drink my final beer with me. Thanks Dad!

Finally – in case you somehow missed it on here/Twitter/Facebook – I will be drinking my 365th and final beer at Galbraith’s tonight. I had considered doing some sort of  live blog type thing, but as the beer will be 8.5% I think spelling could prove a challenge. If you’re in Auckland, please join me. And book Wednesday morning off work!

Published in: on August 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm  Comments (13)  

#363 Cock & Bull – Monk’s Habit

Name: Monk’s Habit
Brewery: Steam Brewing
Style: IPA
ABV: 7%
Source: Cock & Bull Ellerslie

Of all the beers I’ve had so far, this one was definitely the saddest.

You see, this was not only my first taste of Monk’s Habit – the Cock & Bull’s multi-award winning flagship beer – it was almost certainly my last.

*Cue violins*

The chain of pubs, which has been around for nearly 20 years and sells its own range of iconic beers (produced by its brewery arm, Steam Brewing), has recently been bought by Nourish Group. You’d think this could be a good thing; Nourish Group owns a few swanky restaurants about the place and is partly owned by celebrity chef Simon Gault, so a bit of a spruce up and better food could be expected. Sadly, and completely bizarrely if you ask me, Nourish have signed an agreement with Lion and will be discontinuing the Cock and Bull beers.

I didn’t fully register how tragic this all was until I visited the Ellerslie branch last night. It was busy, verging on rowdy, and it had that cosy English pub feel that patterned carpet and wooden joinery provides. The music was crap and there were too many TV screens for my liking, and yet I felt a sharp pang of regret for not coming here earlier. The fact that I could get good beer here, beer that I couldn’t get anywhere else, made all the difference.

The Fuggles, which I loved and wrote about here, is already gone. The Monk’s Habit, which seems to be the one the beer community will miss the most, is nearly all gone. Newmarket have definitely sold out, and I’m pretty sure Ellerslie were on their last keg.

And that’s a goddamn shame, because it really is a delicious drop.

With a name like Monk’s Habit you’d expect something Belgian, but in actual fact it’s a bright, gorgeous IPA.

On the nose it was bursting with American hops – grapefruit marmalade and pine resin, with a underlying toffee sweetness. In the mouth it was super crisp, with fresh green hoppy bitterness balanced by rich caramel malt.

If this has been around since 2005, and Google suggests it has been, then it must have been one of the first really hoppy beers ever produced in New Zealand.

Nourish Group – you are crazy (and frankly, a little cruel.) It’s true these beers will be more expensive to serve than Mac’s Gold, but they are what makes the Cock & Bull great. The thought of another chain of gastropubs (how I loathe the word) serving boring beers with overpriced Salt n Pepper squid: it’s enough to make a grown woman weep.

I guess the best thing we can hope for is that Steam Brewing (who brew beers for Epic and Croucher, among others) can keep making the Cock and Bull beers to sell through some other outlet. To simply let these beers dissapear just seems like a terrible waste.

On a happier note (*cease violins*) today’s thanks goes to very important person – my Mum. Mum has been cheering me on from the get-go; buying me beers, texting invaluable feedback (like “stop saying you’re drunk and can’t remember the beer”), and naturally becoming a total craft beer convert herself. Thanks for everything Mum, see you at Galbraith’s!

Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm  Comments (6)  

#362 Yeastie Boys – PKB Remix 2010

Name: PKB Remix 2010
Brewery: Yeastie Boys (Ak/Wgtn, NZ)
Style: Black IPA
ABV: 6.8%
Source: Yeastie Boys

Ask the Yeastie Boys when the ideal time for a bottle of PKB is, and they probably won’t say “11:30am – with Chinese food.” Still, I can hardly think of a bad time to drink PKB, and if there is then Yum Cha isn’t it.

The reason I drank this at Yum Cha (after first lying and pretending it was wine, then pleading with the waiter after he read the bottle and found me out) was that I wanted to share it with some fellow beer lovers.  This wasn’t any old bottle of beer – it was Stu’s last bottle of PKB Remix 2010, and one of his favourite Yeastie Boys releases. It was a real privilege to be able to drink it, and one worth breaking all the rules (acceptable drinking times, permitted BYO beverages) for.

Like a molecular gastronomer who presents soup as a mousse, or turns a savory dish into an ice-cream, the PKB was delightful in that it completely messed with my head.

On the nose it was pure American IPA – juicy tangerine, citrus peel and pine hop aromas, perhaps some berries as well. If I’d sniffed it blind I’d be sure it was a much paler beer.

In the mouth though, all that fresh happy citrus met dark roasted malt flavours; cocoa and a little coffee, a hint of toasted wood. It was complex, yet had the balance of an expertly mixed Long Island Ice Tea, in which all those potent ingredients come together in – excuse the awful cliché – perfect harmony.

For a while I sat at the table with a dreamy smile and faraway look in my eyes – sipping the beer and idly shoveling barbecue pork into my mouth – and thinking this – this right here is perfection. What an incredibly lucky lady I am.

Today’s official thanks goes to SOBA Auckland, who have done all sorts of useful things over the year – from helping me to meet other local beer geeks, hosting cool events like The Hop and City of Ales, and reminding me of all the beer launches, tap takeovers etc that I’m terrible at remembering myself.  And now that I’ve FINALLY paid my subscription fees, I can say without hypocrisy that all Auckland beer geeks should support a good cause (the cause being good beer) and sign up. Thanks SOBA!

Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 9:51 am  Comments (4)  

#361 Hallertau – Porter Noir

Hallertau Porter Noir Name: Porter Noir
Brewery: Hallertau (Kumeu, NZ)
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.6%
Source: New World Vic Park

The beer community, like any other, loves a good scandal. The best ones can make heroes of craft brewers, get beer into mainstream headlines – even cause boycotts of certain brands if someone’s really been naughty.

This particular beer is at the centre of the latest saga. To quickly summarise –  DB has named a new Monteith’s beer “Porter Noir” – the same name Hallertau coined and gave to this pinot noir barrel-aged porter.

I can see a non-beer geek reading this and going “Whoop-de-fuck, why do we care?”, and fair enough – the thing is Porter Noir is not a style, it’s a name like Hop Zombie or Rex Attitude or Santa’s Butt Porter (real). What’s more, it’s a bit arrogant for DB to be stealing names from craft breweries after the ‘Radler Fiasco’, in which they pissed everyone off royally by trademarking a name that actually was a style.

Anyway – that’s all fairly old news now and I didn’t drink this so that I could talk politics (although if that’s your bag go read Phil’s excellent post on the matter), I drank this because the whole thing reminded me that I’d never actually tried this beer! (Another upshot of beer scandals – they can be great for business.)

I’d heard Porter Noir was good, but when I sniffed it got the best surprise a gal could ask for – brettanomyces! I did not know Brett was going to be at this party, and I had the silly thought for a moment that he’d come uninvited, possibly on the coat tails of Funkonnay. I did quick Google and found that no, the pinot noir barrels this is aged in are (deliberately) infected with brett, which contributed to this wonderful complex aroma of musty oak, sherbert, berries, and definite pinot noir.

In the mouth it was dry, light and slightly sour,  with red wine-like tannins, chocolate , and funky fruit from the brett. I really liked it, and only wish it came in smaller (cheaper) bottles so that I could drink it a bit more regularly.

Today’s thank you goes to someone I’ve never actually met – regular reader Matthew Searle. Matt’s a Kiwi beer lover living in Canada, and has spurred me on from afar by leaving loads of enthusiastic and encouraging comments over the year. He also sent some awesome beers back from Canada with his parents to try, and has promised to join our celebrations on Tuesday night by drinking a bottle of Big Smoke at the time the party starts (thankfully 11pm in Canada, so not too ungodly). Go Matt!

PS – I think the outcome of the “Porter Noir Saga” was that Monteith’s agreed to change the name once the first batch runs out, and Hallertau are now trademarking all their names quick sharp. And that reminds me – I better make an application for “Old Cock Ale” before Monteith’s try to swipe that.

Published in: on August 5, 2012 at 9:13 am  Comments (2)  

#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)  

#359 Epic – Message In a Bottle

Michael, the book, the beer and I.

Name: Message In a Bottle
Brewery: Epic (Akl, NZ)
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.5%
Source: O’Carrolls Freehouse

On Wednesday night I attended the loveliest, rowdiest book launch I’ve ever been to – the unveiling of Michael Donaldson’s “Beer Nation” at O’Carrolls.

Telling the story of beer in New Zealand, and that’s what this book does, is a heroic task if you ask me.  I get nervous of getting some fact wrong and upsetting somebody every time I hit Publish, so to put out an entire book which covers so much and will be scrutinized by plenty of beer geeks – that takes balls.

And while I’ve only had time to read passages, it seems Michael nailed it.  It gives in-depth (yet easy to read) coverage of both the history and the current state of beer in NZ, and is loaded with lovely old photographs of brewing legends (with bonus comedy moustaches!), breweries, newspaper articles and advertisements. Beer geeks will love it, but so will anyone with an interest in New Zealand history.

(And because this blog happened to coincide with Michael’s research period, I even made it into the Women in Beer chapter! It seems I said some strange things when he interviewed me last year, like “women drink beer differently to men” and “I try not to eat too much junk food”, but I was glad to see a great quote from my Mum made it in, immortalized in NZ beer history forever.)

In my experience, most book launches serve sauvignon blanc or Heineken with brie, but clearly that wasn’t going to fly with beer people. For this one Epic brewed a special beer – to Michael’s brief – which is based on the beer Kiwis brewed “before industrialisation, prohibition-pleasing law reform and rationalisation turned beer into a one-dimensional mass-produced commodity”.  Apparently that was based on the IPAs being shipped over from the UK, and so we have a slightly meta situation of a beer based on beer based on beer.

I  think Luke did a great job. I didn’t actually take notes because I was too busy yakking, but I remember it had a subtle hop aroma, an almost burnt caramel, roasty malt flavour with quite a lot of hop bitterness at the finish. It came across as really well-balanced, super drinkable and totally secretive of its high ABV.  I don’t expect it will be as popular as Epic’s massive hop-forward IPAs, but those who prefer English style IPAs might like it best of all.

Today’s thanks goes to Epic’s Luke Nicholas. Luke not only increased my initial pageviews by about a million times by putting this blog on the Realbeer site, he’s had me at the HQ for some incredible tastings, agreed to be my Beervana Media Brew partner… Even arranged my one-time awkward stint on TV. Thanks Luke!

Buy Beer Nation here. 

Published in: on August 3, 2012 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

#357 Wigram – Spruce

Wigram SpruceName: Captain Cook Spruce Beer
Brewery: Wigram Brewing Company (Chch, NZ)
Style: English Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
Source: Vic Park New World

Historical brews are just about my favourite thing ever right now, and are tipped (by me) to become trendy after the upcoming sour explosion (also tipped by me) simmers down. I’m very much looking forward to this period – just as I look forward to a time when balaclavas are acceptable winter accessories and bacon-based desserts are a thing.

Like the slightly more famous Captain Cooker, Spruce Beer is based on Captain Cook’s original 1770 beer recipe and is flavored with rimu (spruce) and manuka. I reckon this must taste a lot better than the OG version, or else New Zealanders would have been far too advanced to ever drink anything like Tui.

At the risk of seeming exceedingly lazy, I think the best way for me to describe this beer is to simply show you my notes:

“It’s so fuckin weird I feel like I’m eating ferns” was Olivia’s contribution, and in some ways that sums it up quite nicely. What perhaps doesn’t come across in this list though, was how totally and weirdly nice it was. All those complex “bushy” flavours were carried by lovely sweet malt, balanced by a little bitterness at the end, and it was actually totally quaffable. Perhaps a touch more bitterness might have improved it for me, but then it wouldn’t have been so historically accurate now, would it?

Today’s thank you goes to Olivia (my sister, in case you missed that), who has been my number 1 sidekick since day one of the blog. She’s embraced beer with the same level of enthusiasm that I have, and will be  the person I geek-out about beer with long after the blog has finished. Thank you Livy!

PS – If you want to get ahead of the historical trend, might I suggest brewing a Harry Potter themed buttered beere based on this 1588 recipe and then instagramming the shit out of it. Also send me some, because I’ve been fantasising about drinking that since I was 12.

Published in: on August 1, 2012 at 10:36 am  Comments (7)  

#356 Dr Hops – World Pale Ale

Dr Hops World Pale ALe Name: World Pale Ale
Brewery: Dr Hops (brewed at Invercargill Breweries)
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Source: Dr Hops

I was nervous that things might be getting a little stagnant by this stage – that I’d be scraping the barrel with Export Gold or those obscure Russian beers you find for $2 each on K Rd – but looky here: a brand new pale ale from a brand new New Zealand brewery!

I didn’t know who Dr Hops was until she Tweeted at me a few days ago, enthusiastically replying “drink me!” when I asked for beer recommendations. Obligatory Alice in Wonderland jokes were exchanged, and a few days later a bottle of her World Pale Ale arrived in the post.

Part of me wonders if I’m not meant to celebrate the fact the brewer behind Dr Hops, Nicky Claridge, is a woman – because I’m so PC that it’s not even a thing – but really that would be silly. The brewing world is still very much dominated by males and I do get excited when I see women at the helm of craft beer, especially when the beer is as good as this.

I was punched in the nose by passionfruit, with plenty of zesty citrus and sweet caramel in the background. In the mouth I got toffeeish, almost roasty malt, countered by a bitter citrus finish that lingered for ages on the tongue. It was refreshing, clean, and seriously tasty.

Hooray for “women in beer” and, more importantly, for a cool new presence on the NZ beer scene. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Doc, and await plenty more good things to come. No presh.

Today’s thank you goes to another woman in beer – Kate Jordan – who is the editor of the Soba newsletter, Pursuit of Hoppiness, and author of the sporadically updated but always interesting blog “Beer“. Kate has been generally cool and supportive, and welcomed me  into the Auckland beer geek circle when I first came knocking on its door, unannounced, last August. Kate has three hours left until she ends her Dry July campaign, and I look forward to buying her a beer (and then watching her inject it into her veins) when I see her next.

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

#355 Three Boys – Aftershock

Name: Aftershock
Three Boys (Chch, NZ)

It’s the final countdown!

There are just 10 days and 10 beers left until I complete Beer For a Year, and I promise to make each one count. No more of this Budweiser, Pirate BS – we’re looking at pure gold from here on in. *looks at empty beer cupboard nervously.*

Like the Twisted Hop’s ‘Red Zone Enigma’, Aftershock is a one-off by-product, if you will, of the Christchurch earthquakes. In this case, the Boys were at some crucial stage of brewing their Golden Ale when a violent aftershock cut the power off. Rather than freak out and cry-eat like I would, they quickly improvised and turned the brew into a different beer entirely.

Each bottle of this limited release beer was sealed in wax and adorned with a little piece of brick from a fallen building. Unfortunately my brick fell off and got lost, but the upshot was that it wasn’t so much of a collector’s item anymore and I didn’t have to feel bad about drinking the beer.

It’s been almost two years since this was bottled, which seems like a long time in the life of an IPA. I was half-expecting it to have lost its mojo, but actually, I reckon it just might have been hitting its prime.

It was interesting to look on Ratebeer.com and see other people describing grassy (and in one case, oniony) hop aromas in 2011, when I got masses of grapefruit and toffee (essentially marmalade) with a touch of pine. Did the flavours change over the extra year, is my nose just rubbish – or is it a little of both?

In the mouth it was really elegant, with firm sweet malt, citrus pith bitterness and just the right amout of bite. The balance was perfect – it was refreshing despite it’s reasonable ABV, smooth yet fizzy, and neither too bitter nor too sweet . It was incredibly well made I think, and remarkably so when you consider the circumstances in which it was conceived.

Today’s little thank you note is going out to Finn (can I get an “awwww”) who hasn’t had a whole lot to do with the blog itself, but has tolerated the hundreds of hours over evenings and weekends that it has taken up without complaint. He’s also given me countless rides home from Galbraith’s, and happily finished every single bottle of beer that I couldn’t. Now that’s love.

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm  Comments (1)