Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Ninth Annual Blackhurst Beer Festival (Part One)

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know how these things work. Ten beers; a group of friends; tasting notes; random comments. Let the reviewing commence!

Beer Number One - Hinano (5%, Tahiti)
Claiming to be ‘the official beer of Tahiti’, Hinano sponsors beauty pageants (the Miss Hinano contest) and produces calendars of ‘dusky beauties in bikinis’. In 1990 it also began sponsoring the Miss Tahiti contest while raising its alcohol content from 4% to 5%. The website concerns itself greatly with the design of the vahine (woman) on the label, paying particular attention to the size of her breasts, which are altered every couple of years, although I note she has only got four toes.

As for the beer itself, it announces that it is ‘brewed in Tahiti since 1955, using only the finest ingredients from Northern Europe. Hinano satisfies the most demanding connoisseurs with its freshness and quality.’ Those at respectfully disagree, although it is very popular in China. And, we presume, Tahiti.

Colour: Golden yellow
Nose: Malt; wet grass; sweet grain; skunk hop
Taste: Toast; cheese; cooked vegetables; slightly metallic; corn notes; light bitter finish

It’s alive!
Sharp and flowery in an insipid way – astringent flavours
Easy to drink – smooth but watery
Light, fizzy, cold, tasteless
Lovely oat colour/ lemon dishwasher on nose/ good hop mid palate/ steely – all a bit bland
Metallic aftertaste
Easy drinking – no specific taste

Despite being the name of a friend's dog, Hinano rated the not-so-grand sum of 45 points (out of 100)making it 7th (out of 10).

Beer Number Two - Coopers Mild Ale (3.5%, Australia)
Thomas Cooper was a stonemason in Adelaide in 1862 when his wife asked him to brew up a batch of ale from an old (Yorkshire) family recipe to help cure an illness. Like a good husband, he did so and, due to the fact that his beer was made from pure ingredients (malt, hops and water), the doctors were soon recommending it to all their patients – this could explain a lot about South Australians. Coopers is now the sole remaining family-owned brewery in Australia.

Coopers Mild Ale is very commercial and very popular with the Australian drinking public, and if you like it, you can make your own because the good people at Coopers have posted the recipe on their website. You can also make your own label with their label maker to stick on your own homebrew bottles and ‘impress your mates’... or not.

Colour: Red-gold
Nose: Grain; apples; grassy hops; cardboard; toffee; hint of banana; dandelion leaves
Taste: Minerally; hints of grain; apples; pears; bread crust maltiness; light caramel; metallic finish

No nose – does it have syphilis? There are many greeblies in it so it wouldn’t surprise me
Spaz’s socks after a long run – home brew?
After panicking slightly at the sight of so many floaties, I find this beer light on flavour
Smells like wet socks – tastes better than that though
Some spotty teenager’s wrung out and what I would imagine it would taste like if you licked them
Pineapple, little burnt scent on nose, nice mouth feel
Bland – low alcohol?
No smell, no taste, ‘Mr. Boring’

Clearly not a favourite from Coopers, coming in firmly in final place with 34 points.

Beer Number Three - Buxton Brewery, Kinder Downfall Golden Ale (4.3%, England)
The folk at Buxton Brewery name all their beers after Buxton and surrounding geological features (and to be fair, it is a very beautiful part of the world) with the exception of Old Big ’ead, named after Brian Clough in tribute to his services as manager of Derby County, Nottingham Forest and his brief but controversial spell at Leeds Utd. Ah, football and beer: a few of my favourite things (you can keep your raindrops on roses and brown paper parcels!) But I digress...

This golden ale is named after a waterfall on Kinder Scout in the Peak District of Derbyshire – over which I can only surmise unsupervised German children came a cropper. The beer is described as ‘a solid sessioner’ so perhaps people are understandably too busy drinking to worry about waterfall woes.

Colour: Golden yellow; creamy off-white head; clear but cloudy
Nose: Fruity, citrus, grapefruit; faint pineapple jelly; light malt; hint of honey; some dough; grass; sour gooseberry undercurrents; dandelion hop
Taste: Citrus: mellow marmalade; light white sugar; gentle earthy malt background; lemony jellied orange hops; lightly toasted grains; mild doughy bread; hint of grass; spicy; pepper; some glue; bitter finish

Smoked; hopped; it’s an IPA that’s gone nuts!
Dark exotic hints – I couldn’t drink more than one mouthful
Sweet, honey and orange on the nose, which I liked until I tasted it – way too hoppy for little old me!
Cloudy – phwoar; what a stink! Far out, that’s foul – bitter and hoppy
Jekyll and Hyde: all light and fruity and tra-la-la; then it turns round and rodgers you
Marmite, cocoa, molasses, cigar box, truffles
Hoppy – this is a big fat bunny; heavy tannins, metallic aftertaste
Hops and wee; was used to put out a house fire and then spooned back into the glass

Although I liked this beer very much (in fact it was my favourite of the evening), it seems I was in a minority among the group as it scored a measly 44 points to make it equal second last.

Beer Number Four - Nøgne ø Saison (6.5%, Norway)
‘The name Nøgne ø means ‘naked island’; a poetic term used by Henrik Ibsen to describe any of the countless, stark, barren outcroppings that are visible in the rough seas of Norway’s southern coast where the brewery sits. The founders gave Nøgne ø a subtitle – The Uncompromising Brewery – a plain statement of their mission: to make ales of personality and individuality. Brewing in traditional styles but thoroughly inspired by the boldness of American brewing, these Norweigan brewers fearlessly chart their own course’ – from the label.

For a while Saison beer (French for season) was an endangered style, but has recently become flavour of the month, particularly among American breweries. It was traditionally a low-alcohol pale ale brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia (the French-speaking region of Belgium) for farm workers to consume during harvest season. There was no particular style, as each farmer would brew his own and it was just a loose term for a refreshing summer ale.

In America, Saisons tend to copy the yeast used by Brasserie Dupont (whose Saison Dupont was named ‘the best beer in the world’ by the Men’s Journal in July 2005) which ferments better at warmer temperatures than the standard fermenting temperature used by other Belgian Saison brewers. They also tend to be brewed with an average range of 5% to 8% abv, although there are still plenty at the more traditional strength of 3.5%.

Colour: Hazy yellow
Nose: Paint; pineapple; lemon; wheat; sugary meringue; hay; horse dung; bready pepper; sour fruitness; floral; clover; light iron
Taste: Zesty citrus; tangerine; pineapple; spiced yeast; breadiness; sweet malt; mild hops; grass; banana tones

Hay – dry and grassy; tastes a bit chlorinated – unpleasant, like drinking out of the kids’ pool at the end of the day
Finally, a beer I like! Cumin and orange peel
Tastes a bit shandy-ish and a bit yeasty also
Cloudy, spicy – nice mixture
Honey, honey; one for the money
The smell of a dentist’s work room; pineapple and banana mostly
Flavoursome; light and hoppy – this is a smaller, lighter bunny
Carbonated horse wee with a little citrus

A slightly more favourable reaction for this one, totalling 65 points (which is the first over the 50% mark) and ranking 4th.

Beer Number Five - Mikkeller Centennial Single Hop IPA (6.9%, Denmark)
Two young home brewers from Denmark (probably fed up with the predominance of Carlsberg and Tuborg) wanted to make beers that “challenge the Danes’ taste buds with intense taste adventures”. Founded in 2006 in Copenhagen by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Klarup Keller, the brewery has gone from a kitchen hobby to international fame (Since August 2007 Mikkel Borg Bjergsø has run Mikkeller on his own). Mikkeller is possibly the world’s most productive brewery. In 2010, the good Danish beer folk launched 76 new beers – God bless them, and all who sail in them…

They take inspiration from all around the world, including the up-and-coming American breweries, which aren’t afraid to play and break the rules of brewing. Mikkeller Centennial Single Hop IPA is an American Style India Pale Ale, brewed and bottled by a Danish company in Belgium, imported to Minneapolis, USA, and then redirected to The Beer Store in Hamilton, NZ before finding its way to our back garden in Arrowtown. I think that’s what’s known as beer miles.

Colour: Vibrant orange, frothy, white head
Nose: Soft citrus: peaches; honey; creamy banana; sugar cookies; some mango; a little pine; smooth hopping
Taste: Citrus: grapefruit; orange; light to medium strong bitterness; fruity hops; elegant and floral; long bitter finish; full body and creamy mouthfeel; juicy profile

Uplifting! The bitterness at the end is vaguely resinous and fruity – an orchard in a pine forest
The bitter big brother of the previous one – probably has a criminal record
Bitter and twisted – smells of wet earth
Pithy bitter
Air freshener masking public toilet smell... blocked my nose and tasted fizzy caramel
Macintosh toffee on the nose; peaty, yeasty, marmitey marmalade
No smell but strong aftertaste
Citrus; honey; malt; chocolate

Probably the most divisive beer of the evening - some loved it; others hated it. Only two tasters ranked it in the middle, but that's where it ended up - 5th equal with 48 points.

This is now becoming a very long post, so I shall continue in another one...

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday Five: Feline Lessons

As we work out the logistics of moving to Australia, Chester is a primary concern. He needs to be micro-chipped, have all his vaccinations up-to-date, and undergo a thorough medical check. He needs to clear customs and bio-security, pass through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and be exported as live cargo. This means his transport costs more than mine and Him Outdoors' put together.

It would have been cheaper (although illegal) to buy him a seat on the plane . He could have chosen his own movies (Puss in Boots) and selcted his own meal (not fish - he is the possibly the only cat in existence who doesn't like fish). And before you ask, no, it has not occured to either of us to leave him behind - he is part of our family. Besides, he entertains, amuses, and greatly benefits our general welfare (it is hard to be stressed when there is a streched out cat asleep and snoring gently beside you). He has also taught me a few lessons in life...

5 Things I've Learned from My Cat:
  1. There is no problem that doens't improve by sleeping - in fact, sleep is the great panacea
  2. It is important to keep your nails (claws) and nether regions scrupulously clean
  3. If you assume you are beautiful/ important, other people will too
  4. Seek out warmth in winter and shady spots in summer
  5. If something/ someone is unpleasant for any reason, just walk away

Monday, 16 April 2012

Quote for Today

"I've always written to read out loud - that's my reward for writing it. When you're writing, you're all alone in your room; when you're reading, you're getting attention. Plus you can sort out and fix things, you can speed things up and control how the characters talk. Sometimes the biggest laugh can come from a pause." - David Sedaris, as quoted in New Zealand Listener, January 14-20, 2012