Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Beervana 2011: Part Two

Now that's what I call real ale
Ta-Iti (Peak Brewery, 4%) - Now, that's a real ale! Low-carbonated hand-pulled tastiness.

Stu-dious drinking
Best Bitter (Cassels & Sons Brewing, 4.3%) - Surprisingly grassy and lemony for a bitter - if this were a wine it would be sauvignon, and it's not that far off as a beer, either. The tasting notes include the words 'gooseberry' and 'zesty', which isn't really what I'm after in a beer.

Hop Hog (Feral Brewing, 5.8%) - An American IPA that boasts a look of golden oranges and a smell of citrus pine needles. This tastes a lot better than it sounds and makes a refreshing drop. It's a quirky little Festival number - a short story in a glass.

Fat Yak (Matilda Bay Brewing Company, 4.7%) - Another American Pale Ale made in Australia, resulting in a malty fruity mix. I could taste cinammon and cloves but in more of an apple pie than a wheat beer sort of a way.

More random comments from discerning drinkers - "I'm impressed with the Australian beers; they seem to be smoother and more subtle - not a word I usually associate with Australians"; "Extremely bitter on the tongue and into the aftertaste, drowns out any other flavours" (Dusty Gringo, Deep Creek, 6.8%); "Drink more water!"; "Seriously, try the Boris - this is my third; it's brilliant!" (Boris, Feral Brewing, 11.5%)

Pretending we know what we're talking about

It's got a good nose, apparently
The Crown Prince (Ad Lib Brewing Co, 5%) - spiced pumpkin ale. Interesting. It really is bright orange, but it's got a delicate flavour, and is sweet and dry with lots of body. This is a fabulously intriguing beer of contradictions - a surprising favourite of the night.

South Island Pale Ale (Golden Eagle Brewery, 5.5%) - hoppy and malty, darker than the others and quite bitter. I would like to drink more of this, but have never see it anywhere.

Black Emperor (Golden Ticket Brewing, 4.6%) - I decided to move to the dark side but didn't want anything too strong just yet so thought this scharzbier would be a good choice. And I was right - bitter and black with very little sweetness - probably not for everybody but I enjoyed it.

Bennett's Classic Black (Bennett's Beers, 5%) - I've had this before but I knew I liked it - like a cold alcoholic coffee. I was trying to get some of the Garage Project's Manuka Dark, but there wasn't any, and the person behind the Wellington bar was short on advice and information.

Welcome to the dark side!
 iStout (8-Wired, 10%) - Imperial Stout that is creamy tasting without being actually creamy. It is black and tasty; those long imperial nights must just fly by with chocolate, malt, coffee and this.

Random comment update - "I am most impressed by the Aussies - I have to drag myself away from their stall"; "Good. Mmmm. Very good." (Old House ESB, Townshend Brewing Company, 5.3%); "Very deep, dark, smooth chocolate taste, recommended by J.C." (Doppelbock, Sprig & Fern, 8%); "A bit of liquorice - like a muddy puddle but without the grit" (Festivus 2011, 8-Wired, 7%); "Bugger, they've run out of Boris. What shall I do now?" (Boris, Feral Brewing, 11.5%)

RSB (The Emerson Brewing Company Limited, 5.2%) - An amber, fruity bitter. This is definitely a session beer, with a strong berry flavour, like a fruity cough medicine or a strawberry chupa chup.

Black Bruge (Sprig & Fern, 5.4%) - created as a festive brew, I'd like to try this again. It was drinkable and I thought it tasted a bit like cake with a warm spicy flavour - more cakes and ale, please. I think I may have had too many other similar, because I found the taste didn;t stand out as much as it might.

Black Op (The Emerson Brewing Company Limited, 8%) - Nice and tasty, piney and lovely. I enjoyed this very much - a wonderful end to a perfect evening.

mike's Imperial Porter (mike's Organic Brewery, 8%) - ooh, I liked this. It was full of yummy black goodness. Another one that I would drink again. That probably doesn't narrow it down too much, does it?

The Two Marks - like The Two Ronnies, but different
It's hard to compare different styles, and obviously there was a lot of the dark stuff - which I happen to like. I wasn't exactly conducting a scientific experiment or anything, but my top three would have to be Black Op, iStout, The Crown Prince, Ta-Iti, Fat Yak. Oops. That's five, isn't it? Oh well, it was a big night!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Beervana 2011: Part One

Gathering on the Westpac Stadium concourse
As we entered the Westpac Stadium, Weevil was asked to show ID and then given a red bracelet to wear. She thought it might be so she could go down the hydroslide, but was told it was so she wouldn't get asked again. Being as she's over twice the legal drinking age, she thought it unlikely she would be, so refused to wear the bracelet. Him Outdoors thought it was very amusing - I was not so amused, as no one asked me!

We exchanged our hard-earned cash for beer tokens - I like this concept. The tokens looked like play money we had as kids and indeed, we had fun with them as adults. Our wrist-bands confirmed that we were 'licensed to drink responsibly' and so we did. The glasses held 200ml and the tastings were approx half a glass so there was enough to gauge the flavour without getting smashed. Although you could have full glasses if you wished, I stuck to the tasting size all night so I could sample as many as possible.

The atmosphere in the concourse of the stadium isn't exactly convivial and doesn't lend itself to a relaxed evening of drinking and talking. Many people were wandering about looking for somewhere to sit and the lack of cloakroom facilities was annoying - it's very hard to take notes (let alone photographs) while standing up and clutching a bag and coat.

Stu Yeastie proudly displaying his wares
I wasn't particularly impressed with the layout either. Although you could occasionally spot a brewer if you knew whom to look for, brewers weren't necessarily serving the beer so you couldn't ask them about their products as you have been able to in previous years. The pump handles didn't display the breweries' emblems but just had hand-written signs so it was difficult to tell what was available - some beers were 'saved' for later in the session due to a limited number of pumps.

The beers were divided by region, so one bar sold 'The North' while others were 'Central', 'Top of the South', 'Canterbury', or 'Southern'. The Australians were out in force and Wellington had its own bar selling Bennett's, Garage Project (although none was on at the session I attended), Tuatara, and Yeastie Boys, amongst others. There were 'style bars' such as a real ale bar, a cider bar, and one for festive brews - the theme of this year was 'let's go... Black', which apparently "pays homage to a certain sporting event taking over New Zealand this year."

The Southern boys and girls look thrilled to be here
Mash-Up (NZ Craft Beer TV, 6%) - I have heard a lot about this beer through a pretty astute advertising campaign. It's an interesting experiment, blending elements from 44 craft breweries around the country to create a 'sample' NZ beer of the moment. They say you can't please all of the people all of the time, and I don't know who is pleased with this, but it isn't me. I found it to be a bit dry, a bit hoppy, slightly citrusy and a touch too fizzy; neither one thing nor the other. Although this was only my first beer of the night, I knew it wouldn't be my favourite. Keep it in the lab.

Him Outdoors appears to be enjoying something
Cock and Bull Common Beer (Steam Brewing Company, 4.5%) - I liked the name. Honestly, with a list of over 200 beers to choose from, it's a bit like picking a horse. I liked the beer too, which is clearly a bonus. It was a golden coppery session-style brew. The tasting notes suggested you'd be able to smell mint. 'What a load of bollocks' I thought, but I stand corrected. I definitely got a whiff of minty goodness - perhaps the first breath-freshening beer? It was like a Goldilocks beer - not too bitter; not too sweet; just right.

Minimus (Hallertau, 3.7%) - a breakfast pale ale, apparently, and why not? I've heard of people putting champagne on their cornflakes; why not a dry, bitter, hoppy drop to kickstart you with your porridge? Okay, time to move on from the Goldilocks theme...

Manuka Magic (Naturale, 4.6%) - I thought I would try something different (the tasting notes proclaimed this was 'unique, adventurous, delicious'). I noted that it was floral and inoffensive. Unfortunately, while trying to juggle my coat, notebook and wallet, I spilt half of it all over the floor (hence the earlier gripe), but didn't like it enough at first sip to need to return for more.

Some of the random commentators. And I mean random.
Random comments from fellow drinkers - "It's a bit rough at the end but it went straight down my spine" (Porter Noir, Hallertau, 6.6%); "It's a bit heavy, but it's not wee heavy" (Tuatara XI, 10.5%); "Have you tried the Boris? It's bonkers!" (Boris, Feral Brewing, 11.5%) "Isn't that Fabio Capello?" (No)

Some bloke who isn't Fabio Capello