Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Seventh Blackhurst Beer Festival (Part One)

Last weekend, it was time again for the annual Blackhurst Beer Festival. Due to various restrictions on importing beer, excise tax and lack of decent distributors down south, we changed the format slightly this year to include ten beers from New Zealand rather than from around the world. The results were equally interesting, however.

Beer number one - Steinlager Classic (5%)

This is New Zealand’s “top-selling premium beer” and the biggest beer export. Firmly aligning itself with yachting and rugby, it is best known for its advertising. It proclaims itself as New Zealand’s finest beer, and is ‘best served cold’ (remember – flavour surfaces at room temperature). It may be considered to be a triumph of marketing over matter; the New Zealand equivalent of Budweiser.

Some people like it, however, and claim it to be a good party beer for those who don’t like microbreweries. The beer itself has a distinctly grassy note with earthy overtones of biscuit and skunk.

Golden colour lager; easy drinking
Freshly squeezed marsupial
Sprightly, light and easy to drink on a summer’s day
Honey tones with a whisper of grass
A good bead; titillating on the palate
Racy little number

It came home in sixth palce with a total of 36 points (out of a potential 70).

Beer number two - Monteith's New Zealand Lager (5%)

Brewed especially to export to the UK where half of the Kiwi population lives in London, this lager is a rival to the other one in the clear green bottle. It’s described as a ‘spicy and slightly fruity pilsner lager with a late hop aroma and a refreshing bitterness.’

The award-winning bottle design is embossed with a silver fern, and a black and silver label features an upright shovel reflecting its roots in the gold mining period of the 1800s. Launched to the cockwis in 2007, the original annual shipment of Monteith’s New Zealand lager sold out in three months. They’re obviously homesick for some things.

Not the same as the first
Quite flavoursome; got some bite
Bitter aftertaste
Manuka nose; sweet, smooth and light; Burmese cat wees
Smells like the cheese aisle in a French supermarket
A lovely golden hue; some honey and apricots
Hoppy as a kangaroo; improves with each sip; needs a good steak

Slightly preferred to the other lager, this garnered 38 points and was 5th overall.

Beer number three - Harrington's Lazy Summer Sunday Lager (5%)

When we arrived in New Zealand in 1996 this Christchurch brewery (which had been going for five years at the time) was our only link to real ale. Gosh, how times have changed in the thriving multicultural city. Christchurch has a few more pubs too. But I digress...

Tangelos, coriander and crushed ginger... this is a Kiwi summer lager (Monteith's Summer Ale; Speight's Summer Harvest; Mac's Sundance). You either like them or you don’t; apparently it’s beer for people who don’t like the taste of beer and is very popular among women. Harrington’s makes 20 styles of beer so there should be something for everyone; this may or may not be it.

Summer ale
Is that flavour that’s confusing my buds ginger?
Tastes like ginger fizzy drink
Smells like the dental clinic
Fairy liquid; suitable for Biffa Bacon’s mutha
Some fruit and ginger and spices; delicious on the nose, especially when you find yourself in it face-first
Floral, fruity lager; excellent with a Thai curry

This beer was eighth on the night with a total of 29 points.

Beer number four - Mac's Great White (5%)

Mac’s version of the Belgium witbeir has the best tasting notes I’ve read so I’ll let them tell you that their beer “imparts aromas of bubblegum, banana, Turkish delight and rose petals. However, you can also obtain rhubarb and custard from the warming glass not to mention an eccentric raspberry and aniseed combination, orange peel, mandarin and a floral note from the coriander.” Sounds like it’s got bite – geddit? I’ll get my coat...

Mac’s Great White won a gold medal at the 2008 Australian International Beer Awards, which is awarded to ‘an outstanding beer that displays the correct balance of taste, aroma and appearance appropriate for the style and excellent technical merit.’ Mac’s Brewery in Wellington used to be a favourite haunt, but Lion Nathan have now moved the brewery to Christchurch and and are going down the route of those ghastly themed brewbars à la Speight’s and Monteith’s – boo, hiss.

Tastes a bit like Hoegaarden
Bottom notes of soap
No one could possibly build this beer by design
Very mild – doesn’t taste like beer
Wheat and water; don’t like it much
The Ford Sierra of beer
Clearly cloudy – oh no, that’s a contradiction in terms
Slightly sour
Not nice to the nose – Rawleigh’s ointment
Ferret’s piss no. 5
If it was a wine it would be chardonnay

Definitely not a favourite on the night, this beer came 10th with 22 points, and that was even with one person voting it their favourite - what a crazy, diverse world we live in - well, he does anyway, as you can see.

Beer number five - Emerson's Weissbier (5%)

One of Dunedin’s finest exports. Only available in summer, an especially imported Bavarian yeast strain gives this beer it’s authentic German character. Fermented in the bottle, it is cloudy with a sweet bready aroma and notes of banana and sherbet; it is spicy and tart with grainy sweetness – sounds like a fun night out.

Richard Emerson sampled several local ales overseas and on his return to New Zealand (in 1993) he was disillusioned with the standard of beer – obviously. Now his mission is to provide “a quantum leap in the flavour of our beers.” This noble aim is clearly appreciated as Emerson’s won the New Zealand Champion Brewery at the Brew NZ awards 2009.

Better than the last one but not much
Horrible; a great failure of the home brewer
Fizzy taste, more body, easy to drink
More bitterer than the last one
The Ford Mondeo of beer
Much nicer than the last cloudy beer
Mateus rosé?
Purely for medicinal purposes only

Obviously our drinkers are not fans of this style of beer (with one noteable exception) as this beer received a not so grand total of 28 points and came 9th.

We did pause to admire the sunset - waxing more lyrical about it as the evening (and the alcohol) wore on.

 To be contined in next post...

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