Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Seventh Blackhurst Beer Festival (Part Two)

Beer Number Six - Arrow Brewing Co, Tobin's Ale

The Arrow Brewing Company (launched in December 2008 by five ‘craft beer enthusiasts) was as good a reason to return to Arrowtown as any. The brewery is approximately 1.3km from door to door which is particularly handy. This is a traditional English style ale with strong hop characters. I like it and have drunk a lot of it already to make my point.

Big taste; malty; oven roasted
Time and micro-organisms were involved
Single malt
Strong hop-flavoured bitter
Bitter with lots of anti-bacterial hops – eeuuw
Aha, proper beer – pleasing maltiness; very drinkable
Amber nectar
A well-rounded little number with a beautiful amber glow
Lightly flavoured; will keep well
Bile vile; extremely bitter with malt undertones

I like this beer a lot so was personally disappointed that it only came 7th with 34 points. Oh well, I can't force people to like the beer that I do...

Beer number seven - Green Man Best Bitter (4.5%)

The Green Man Brewery in Dunedin is named after the Green Man, oddly enough; an old folk-fertility symbol, said to represent the essence of nature itself. Hedonistic and ritualistic, the pagan figure dies each year in November and is reborn on 1st May. The brewery website claims, ‘He is found in the spirit of the trees, and his presence can be felt around you, in the bush… He is in orgies on the hillside, riots in the street, the celebrations of plenty, and the privations of crop failure. He is in inebriation, orgasm, trance and possession. His eyes typically do not focus, and his image is part comforting and part worrying, like the force he represents.’ Sounds like a drunken old hippy to me – hurrah!

Brewed to strictly organic standards (with no additives, sugar or isinglass – a fish product often used to clear beer), the Best Bitter is even suitable for vegans! It is crafted after an authentic English style of ale with deep copper colour, intense hop character and lingering bitterness. The brewers boast that “Green Man Best Bitter is the taste of Olde England.” Start waving those hankies and shaking those bells!

Celtic – aaaaargh!
Would go nice with beer
Dark mutterings
You Northern monkey!
Harrington’s malty something?
Malty moderate texture
Something darkish, a bit bitter and a tad malty; Speight’s Distinction?
Sweet and malty with hops
Classic beer; fresh on the front palate with a brave aftertaste

A reasonable score for this beer on the night - 43 points put it in fourth place.

Beer number eight - Tuatara India Pale Ale (5%)

The mission statement of this brewery is to “reclaim beer values”. In all their beer they insist on using traditional methods and authentic malts. They believe that craft beer is endangered and, as such, the tuatara is a fitting motif: “We relate to the little guy; he’s gone along doing things in his own deliberate patient way – and has so far outlasted all his bigger relations by quite a few million years.” Tuatara brewery has a long way to go, with only eight years of brewing, but is already building up an impressive reputation.

In 2008 Tuatara won Best Brewery at the Brew NZ Awards. They also won best IPA. The brewery is located just north of Wellington and their beers are always on tap at The Malthouse (which was our local when we lived there – can you detect a theme?). When I last saw the head brewer he had just singed off his eyebrows by experimenting with too many hops for his kiln. They must be the only brewery in the modern world not to have a website. They do their marketing by word of mouth. I like them.

I’m at a loss for w...
Like my last wife; works well, slightly rubbery, or is that my lips?
Hoppy and a little bitter
Hopsy strong aftertaste
Bitter with lots of anti-bacterial hops – am I repeating myself?
This is the nicest one so far
A lot hoppier on the nose, handier in the hand and kind to the mind
Guess – pure guess; Celtic – wrong?

This was our silver medal beer, coming 2nd with 48 points.

The sky continued to glow as the beer continued to flow.

Beer number nine - Dux Brewing Company Nor'wester (6.5%)

I’ve forgotten many a Christchurch afternoon on this stuff. It’s a traditional strong ale that is aptly named after the strong warm winds that turns all Cantabrians just a little more mad than they already were.

It’s strong with lashings of malt, hops and fruitiness. Glengarry (the magazine of the wine and beer retailer) describes it as ‘the Michelin Man of ales’ as in ‘balanced, fully flavoured and artfully constructed.’ Not as in made of tyres and tasting of rubber, then.

Speight’s Porter?
They are getting better
You malty wee thing
Sweet and malty
Full flavour and smooth aftertaste
This one smells nice – sweet and malty
If it were a dog it would be a spaniel
Malty stuff; almost barley wine-ish
A beautiful bitter with a well-rounded flavour and spicy aftertaste

With 56 points, this beer was a clear winner and topped our voting table. I have incidentally noticed that this happens a lot with this kind of beer - is it that it is stronger, slightly sweet, or just served near the end of the night?

Beer number ten - Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (4.9%)

Renaissance Brewery Co sits in the heart of Marlborough’s wine growing region (Blenheim) so it must make damn fine stuff if it’s going to compete, and it does. It’s got that fancy label thing going on as well.

Made with real cocoa beans and organic rolled oats (plus malts and other stuff that goes into beer) this stout is one way to get your oats (and your chocolate). It was the brewery’s decadent spring release and Regional Wines and Spirits (my spiritual home) voted it among their top six beers of 2009. Beer writer Kieran Haslett-Moore writes, “Craftsman is the ultimate beer for any chocolate lover packed full of spicy dark chocolate and espresso flavours and aromas with a nutty rich moderately bitter finish. Try it with red meats or a dark berry based desert.” May I recommend pie and peas anyone?

Like being pistol whipped by a belligerent troll but worse (incidentally, the person who described it thus rated it as their second favourite beer of the night - yes, I've got some odd friends...)
Speight’s Old Dark
Old Dark, Harrington’s or Monteith’s, and slightly bitter
Long dark number
Malt and full on
Chocolate and coffee
Eeeeeeeeuuuuw! Marmite
Molasses overtones with a chocolaty finish
Match with pudding

The chocolate beer was quite a popular wee number and was voted third overall with 46 points.

So there we have it; a fine night was had by all, much beer was consumed and much nonsense was talked, which is afterall, the true purpose of such functions. The Blackhurst Beer Festival has successfully completed it's seventh year, and we are looking forward to the next one already!

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...