Beer Diary Podcast s04e01: Friend of the Show

Back for our fourth season — which promises to include several Very Special Epsiodes, but more on those in due course — George and I quickly re-tell our Origin Story for new listeners, return briefly to the topic of our first-ever show (so-called “grey market” imports), before catching up on the beer festivals that happened while we were on hiatus. I also rave about keeping a Beer Diary (since it turns out I’ve been doing so for a decade), and we finally formalise what it means to be a ‘Friend of the Show’.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunes. George and myself can also both be reached on the Twitterthing, or you can leave comments here or on the Bookface. Cheers!

Beers Of The Week (My house, 16 June 2014)

Beers Of The Week plus fancy glassware

Semi-professional Beer Enthusiast (My house, 26 July 2014)

Semi-professional Beer Enthusiast (and big dork)

Rogue 'Brutal' Bitter (Hashigo Zake, 25 August 2009)

Rogue ‘Brutal’ Bitter — way back in 2009

Diary entry #159: Rogue 'Brutal' Bitter

Diary entry #159: Rogue ‘Brutal’ Bitter

The Royal Exhibition Building (Melbourne, 3 June 2012)

The Royal Exhibition Building, site of GABS

Behemoth's 'The Tits' & ¬Matariki Programme (Hunter Lounge, 14 June 2014)

Behemoth’s ‘The Tits’ & ¬Matariki Programme

Non-free-form Beer Diaries (My house, 26 July 2014)

Non-free-form Beer Diaries

Vicki Treadell's bookcase (Homewood, 5 June 2014)

Vicki Treadell’s bookcase

Billy B's Golden Apple Beer (Two Row, 26 May 2014)

Billy B’s Golden Apple Beer

— Show notes:

  • (0.45) It has been a while. George has a better excuse than I do.
  • (1.50) I really did make my own ‘business cards’, colossal dork that I am. They’re really mostly for festivals and such, and created in the spirit of never assuming anyone’s memory to be less crap than my own.
  • (4.10) Beer of the Week #1: Rogue ‘Brutal’ IPA. Imported by Tuatara, an arrangement they announced here with some fanfare, but which has since lapsed.
  • (5.00) Hashigo is coming up on five years old, having opened September 2009.
  • (5.50) For easy access to nostalgia: here’s our first episode.
  • (9.00) ‘The vampire film’ — i.e., What We Do In The Shadows — was buckets of fun when I saw it, in a nice coincidence of timing, last night.
  • (12.40) Festival Roundup: GKBF — a great big lovely day in the park.
  • (17.10) Cont’dGABS — just “GABS”, a genuinely Australasian affair.
  • (19.00) Hugely recommended: Storm in a Teacup.
  • (22.50) Cont’dThe Festival Formerly Known As Matariki — which shows you that we recorded this a while ago, per tradition.
  • (29.30) Yeastie Boys’ Spoonbender series is described here. Predictably, I rather mangled the winemaking technique details. (Meanwhile, I can’t help but be reminded to recommend a dose of James Randi.)
  • (30.10) I still haven’t made it to a wine tasting, despite good intentions.
  • (32.00) Beer of the Week #2: Oscar Blues ‘Ten Fiddy’. (Thanks, Tim!)
  • (36.30) Beer Diaries, themselves. Please excuse the clumsy foley.
  • (41.00) If we were going to switch themes, I’d only ever suggest that we go for the insanely catch one Last Week Tonight uses. But they got to it first. And Coconut Monkeyrocket’s track really does suit us somehow. Yay for Creative Commons.
  • (41.30) Friend of the Show, defined. We now have reason to believe that Wil did get his beer, meanwhile; I’m still working on a few of the others.
  • (44.10) Cont’d, and awarded to: Vicki Treadell — the departing British High Commissioner to New Zealand, beer lover and exemplary party hostess.
  • (46.00) SOBA’s Pursuit of Hoppiness is available online as well as in the pub.
  • (49.30) Recommendations: Er… We’re at a bit of a loss. You should read Scott’s Buzz and Hum blog, though. And try ParrotDog ‘DevilBird’. Then — after surreptitiously checking my Diary — I completely fail to do the beautiful madness of Billy B’s Golden Apple Beer any real justice. But generally: Smith Street.
  • (57.40) The Beer Diary Podcast: Live! — at Beervana, twice: Friday evening from 8pm and Saturday evening from 7pm.
  • (59.30) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.
Posted in Podcast episodes | Leave a comment

Station Ident: Out To Lunch

Emerson's Sunday Lunch (LBQ, 20 July 2014)

The set-up for a fantastically decadent Emerson’s Sunday Lunch at Little Beer Quarter, about which more soon

It seems I inadvertently supersized my GABS-related sabbatical and wound up taking two months off this here blogthing.1 Such as happens from time to time, I suppose — and such as is probably warranted and wise. But that’ll do. It’s dawned on me that it’s less than a month until Beervana, that Season 4 of the podcast is overdue for its début, and that I have a lot of half-finished rambles and things to talk about sitting around on my laptop. There’s no shortage of wonderful things happening in the beer business that deserve celebrating, and (let’s face it, even after a healthful break, I’m still me) plenty of temper-spiking, rage-inducing bullshit in dire need of calling-out, too.

Some Technical Difficulties were holding me back a little, as was an Obnoxiously Lingering Winter Lurgi; both now seem on the rapid wane, at last. A few exciting new projects and Very Special Podcast Episodes are coming together, too, and will get fanfared in due course. So the lunchbreak — both metaphorical and literal, as I write this at work — is over.

1: I kept myself vaguely occupied on Twitter and on Beer Diary’s Facebook page, meanwhile. If you’re after more short-form spur-of-the-moment stuff from me, those are always a good start. 

Posted in Going meta | Leave a comment

Station Ident: Sabbatical

Frankie's Pizza taplist (Frankie's Pizza, 20 May 2014)

Taplist at Frankie’s Pizza — and a sign indicating that my dinner was yet two orders away

I’m over in Australia again for a bit of a break and the damn-near-obligatory pilgrimage to the Great Australa— let’s just say GABS, shall we? A few days in Sydney has been buckets of fun, and (despite the FOMO) it’s been nice to have a blank time a few hundred kilometres removed from the Way More Awesome Good Beer Week Things Than I Could Ever Afford Let Alone Endure. I managed to visit a few more of those small bars that have sprung up recently: the sublime Frankie’s Pizza, the charmingly mad Spooning Goats, Baxter Inn (for a whisky) and Barbershop (for a gin) — though I also had a beer at the latter two; huzzah to the humble Boilermaker, I say, forever and always.

And so tomorrow down to Melbourne, and then all-damn-weekend at the festival. In the spirit of Full Disclosure, the organisers included me on their apparently-rather-generous (and generously-defined) Media Pass list, so I get a ticket to each session and (I think) a handful of tokens. Which is delightful and hugely appreciated, of course, but also worth explicitly saying for completeness’ sake — and not just as a humblebrag — since I’m otherwise here own my own dime and as Me From This Thing You’re Reading Right Now, rather than the “me” from my day job (nor various of the non-day jobs that fund holidays like this one). Granted, I’m already looking sideways at them over this nonsense with Moa and Shane Warne, so it’s hardly going to colour my ‘coverage’, but still.

I’ll be posting various bits and pieces on the usual short-from outlets — you can find me on the Twittermachine, the Bookface, Google+ (in the unlikely event it ever takes off), and logging my drinks that in that great beer-related memory aid, Untappd — and will try to get something up here either during or shortly after. At GABS itself, I’ll be sitting down with Luke & Dave of the ‘Ale of a Time’ podcast at some point during Session One on Friday; we’ll let you know when and where when we do. Otherwise, I’ll be wandering the Hall and the City in general, almost certainly wearing a nerdy (non-beery; something of a 2014 Festival Resolution) t-shirt and an interrobang badge: feel free to say Hi if you’re around and you spot me. It should be a lovely long weekend — and may yours be, also.

Posted in Going meta | Leave a comment

Monteith’s “American Pale Ale”

Monteith's "American Pale Ale" (My house, 18 March 2014)

Monteith’s “American Pale Ale”

Over the decade I’ve been taking handwritten notes of my beer-drinking experiences, I have inevitably developed an idiosyncratic Style Guide.1 Broadly — though there are exceptions early on as the pattern developed, and sporadically throughout as I either forgot my own practice or thought of some now-lost rationalisation for a variance in some particular case — it’s like this: beer names are all capitals in the pen-and-paper form for easier cross-referencing, but otherwise just regular Title Case, with single-quote marks around a beer’s name when it’s a name, in the proper noun sense rather than a style descriptor. So Epic Pale Ale, but Epic ‘Mayhem’, if you follow. But this one, the latest in Monteith’s white label Brewer’s Series,2 necessitated I reach for the double-barreled scarequotes instead.

Objectivity is hard to find — and usually not worth looking for — in the beer world (or any other sensory pursuit), but I think I can comfortably say that this is no American Pale Ale in any sane sense of those words. Beer writer Neil Miller got a freebie in the post3 and Tweeted that it’d come with a package of Citra hops. The obvious jab — “Hey Monteith’s, the hops go in the beer…” — swiftly ensued, but turned out truer than anyone could’ve known: the beer has damn-near zero aroma or hop flavour, and certainly none remotely in the ballpark that “A.P.A.” would entail and require. I was instantly put in mind of the pale ale in Lion’s ridiculous ‘Crafty Beggars’ range4 — both smelled more like an empty glass that had previously held beer than one which currently did. It was insipid, incredibly boring, and what extra flavour did manifest itself as it warmed up a little and I grudgingly proceeded down the glass was not the kind that was welcome. The 40 I.B.U. — “International Bitterness Units”, a doomed-but-useful way of trying to measure the palate-punch of hops — on the label implies a relatively easy-going pale ale, sure, but this was so insubstantial as to amount to a cruel joke.

Because the problem here is that this kind of massive mislabeling cuts both ways. It’s not just that beer nerds and brewers should feel affronted to see a venerable and popular style being so poorly aped, it’s that anyone who likes this could well be horribly surprised if ever they buy a true-to-style American Pale Ale. Everyone would be better served if this was marketed as Heineken Trading As Monteith’s Brand Fermented Product Number Sixteen, instead; as it is, no matter how much you know about the words on the label, you know nothing about the beer inside — and vice versa . That it comes from the same sprawling conglomerate who’ve long abused the term “India Pale Ale”5 on a sweet and caramelly brown lager, as well as selling a “Radler” that isn’t a Radler, should put them firmly On Notice. It could always be pure incompetence and ignorance — and we are supposed to presume cock-up before conspiracy — but it’s so consistent that it looks more like deliberate piss-taking and deception. It’s as if Tony Mercer, the putative head brewer, is channeling Tony Soprano, running around the style spectrum and trying to ruin people’s idea of what each variety of beer can really be — much like the latter drove all over Jersey to meet with all the best divorce attorneys just so his wife couldn’t hire them later. A company of this scale could be a properly-wonderful provider of accessible ‘gateway’ beer and fridge-friendly stuff for the masses however nerdy or not, but sadly they seem to prefer wallowing in nonsense and pretending to be all kinds of things they aren’t.

Diary III entry #12: Monteith's "American Pale Ale" (another awkward photo, since the scanner is still unwell)

Diary III entry #12: Monteith’s quote-unquote “American Pale Ale”

Original notes: Monteith’s “American Pale ” 18/3/14 @ home. 5.7% “40 IBU”, freebie from a retailer perhaps best left unnamed. I really want them to join the real world and start playing ball. They could be such great gateway providers. But no. They’re either taking the piss, or are just totally incompetent — or, I suppose, marketing is one and brewing is the other, each doing their share. This is damn near free of aroma. It’s like that Crafty Beggars Pale was. An empty glass. Bland, slightly buttery. Utterly boring, until it warms and worsens. Just horrible. That this is labeled “APA” is a problem for everyone. Are they Tony Soprano-ing all the beer styles?

1: “Decade”? Crap. I missed my own note-taking anniversary. Probably because I have the kind of memory issues that necessitate note-taking in the first place. “Inevitably” because the Diary started just after (my first round of) University finished. 
2: Paging Dr. Freud, meanwhile. A “Brewer’s Series” does seem like a strangely-blunt admission that the main range is dictated more by the marketing and accounting departments, doesn’t it? 
3: Almost certainly both because I am a notoriously grumpy bugger, and I am not a proper professional writer, I tend not to get sent samples. Indeed, a stickler in my own weird ways, I would (and have, on occasion) usually turn them down. Notable exceptions, though, are the bottle of Epic’s ‘One Trick Pony’ IPA that Luke Nicholas generously sent me on each version’s release (because I helped name the series), the couple of bottles Moa sent me (before I could get around to telling them not to; I’ll find a home for those soon…) — and this, which came from a bottle store who were somewhere between mystified and outraged by it, and wanted to share the experience around. 
4: I hear a rumour that the Crafty Beggars brand has failed to meet expectations, and will be axed. The big breweries sure are fickle with their new ideas. Meanwhile, I am still happy calling the whole experiment “ridiculous”, with the proviso that the everything in its right place principle did render one of its members worthwhile on a very specific occasion. 
5: Occasionally, you hear a minor defence of D.B. along the lines that they appended the “East” to IPA and thereby made up a nonsense new style and so technically aren’t bullshitting anyone. Sadly, that fails on two counts: “East India Pale Ale” really is the original style term, and D.B. explicitly (and very, very wrongly) link their product to the Usual History of IPA

Posted in Diary entries | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Beer Diary Podcast s03e09: 2013 Year in Review

It’s time again, at last, for our Year in Review: a look back at 2013, a pondering of its best beers and beer-related-things, and contemplation of what kind of ‘theme’ the year developed as it went. Our traditionally unhurried approach to these things (we’ve recorded all these episodes in March) met a few additional delays this year, but here we are. Plans are already underway for some Very Special Episodes in season four, but first let’s wrap up our third year — and thank you all for coming along for the rambles.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on the Twitterthing, or you can leave comments here or on the Bookface. Cheers!

Tuatara Helles / Lager (New World Chaffers, 11 Jan 2014)

Tuatara Helles / Lager

Moon Dog 'Black Lung III'  (Hashigo Zake, 31 August 2013)

Moon Dog ‘Black Lung III’

Panhead 'Blacktop' — the first, inexpertly photographed on actual film (Matariki at the Hunter Lounge, 20 July 2013)

Panhead ‘Blacktop’

Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta' (Golding's Free Dive, 17 October 2013)

Teacup Gunnamatta

Bridge Road 'Aurora Borealis' (Tallow's Beach, 15 March 2013)

‘Aurora Borealis’

Rex Altercation (Table Top Day, 30 March 2013)

Rex Altercation

— Show notes:

  • (1.40) ‘The Flat of the Axe’ is George’s Cold Chisel cover band, he informs me.
  • (3.30) Apparently, it is officially Ride of the Valkyries, but “Flight of ~” seems a common-enough mistake / mutation that I forgive myself.
  • (3.50) Beer of the Week #1: Almanac Honey Saison. My apologies for the lack of a photo. You’ll all just have to seek out an Almanac, Left Coast, or Speakeasy beer (all imported by the nice folk at Beer Without Borders) to see the gorgeousness.
  • (6.20) Blog of the Year: The Beerhive, says George, and The Bottleneck, says I — with a mandatory Read More Pete Brown caveat, and an honorable mention to Jason Gurney’s two efforts. Also, I have submitted my bin for judgment; please hold.
  • (10.40) Useful Digital Thing of the Year: Feedly, because there really is a ridiculous wealth of good (and of interestingly / usefully not-good) beer writing in the world. My intermittent Sunday Reading posts try to keep up.
  • (12.50) George lasted nine minutes with a saison; easily a new record.
  • (13.50) 2013, Year of the x: The Homebrewer, says George, which possibly ties into my less-elegantly-phrased Commercial Realities Settling In, in several different ways, ranging from subtle to not at all subtle.
  • (23.20) Beer of the Week #2: Moon Dog ‘Black Lung III’.
  • (26.20) Beer of the Year — which one day we won’t have to explain in such detail anymore, but until then: Panhead ‘Quickchange’ XPA, for George — with honorable mentions for Baylands Red Ryder, and 8 Wired’s ‘Semiconductor’. And for me — after a fair amount of (now traditional, but this time with a vague evidence base) faffing around — it’s ParrotDog ‘Otis’. (Meanwhile, I wonder if the Panhead ‘Days of Thunder’ George remembers from Beervana has morphed into ‘The Vandal’, an IPA of notably-similar style and strength.)
  • (31.00) Year of the x prediction for 2014: Moral Panic. (Maybe with fringe benefits.)
  • (34.30) Glass of Beer of the Year: Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’, for George, which we shared over some Big News — with a silver medal (“Tasting Glass of Year”, perhaps) to Garage Project’s Triple Day of the Dead. My shortlist stretches into a longlist: my (one) Crafty Beggars ‘Wheat As’, Moon Dog ‘Black Lung III’ sitting in as Antipodean Gonzo, Bridge Road / Nøgne Ø ‘Aurora Borealis’, Renaissance ‘Elemental’, and Yeastie Boys / Lobethal Bierhaus ‘Wendy’. But: Yeastie Boys ‘Rex Attitude’, on the inaugural Table Top Day, playing Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs. Accidentally.
  • (41.00) Seriously, though: Planetary. And Transmetropolitan. George and I couldn’t recommend each highly enough.
  • (47.30) My apologies for not getting this up in time to warn you of Table Top Day 2014. Join in for 2015, maybe. And anyway: play more games. Meanwhile, the Call For Help is sincere — if any one can be a Beer Mule to California for us, get it touch.
  • (48.50) Stone’s “City Tap Takeover” was buckets of fun, as previously reported.
  • (52.00) Beer of the Week #3: Rodenbach Grand Cru. Easily “Recommendation of the Year”, if we had one; Jono’s suggestion for this and fish ‘n’ chips has changed lives.
  • (54.00) Pleasant surprises / Miscellaneous bouquets: A surprise ParrotDog ‘Otis’, and a Garage Project ‘Beyond the Pale’ — though Em points out that if it’s just hibiscus flowers, it’s more tisane than “tea”. A mutual shout-out, also, to Luke and Dave’s ‘Ale of a Time’ podcast — Alternate Universe Us, perhaps. And a bribe / beer, for Tim Foster who provided some excellent feedback and earned himself a Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty’, which I should get into his possession any day now.
  • (1.01.15) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.
Posted in Podcast episodes | 5 Comments

Stone’s ‘City Tap Takeover’

Stone 'W00tstout' — in collaboration with Drew Curtis and Wil Wheaton (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)

Stone ‘w00tstout’ — a collaboration with Drew Curtis and Wil Wheaton, and therefore mandatory

Late-breaking news that beers from Stone, a legendary but rather isolationist Californian brewery, would be available “legitimately” in this part of the world was greeted with some surprise by local beer geeks. Stone have never exported to New Zealand (nor even to all parts of their own country) and Greg Koch, co-founder and figurehead of the brewery, is famously opposed to “grey market” imports and goes out of his way to encourage that the consumption of beer be “fresh-and-as intended, or not at all”. And indeed, plenty of the incredulous reaction was vindicated; in the end, it transpired that an announcement of impending distribution was a tragic (and strange) miscommunication. But what we Wellingtonians did get — and what Melburnians soon will get — turned out to be a super-sized, double-venue’d, fairly-freakin’-serious tap takeover. There was a subtle lingering awkwardness in that the night’s hosts — Malthouse, and its younger brewpub sibling, Fork & Brewer — have always dealt in the kinds of mainstream offerings and parallel-imported beers1 that Greg so righteously rails against, but still. The result was a shining example of How To Pub:2 the beers I had were only uniform in their excellence, and the mood in both bars was wonderful to partake in.

One of few real criticisms of the night was that each venue’s beer lists weren’t published anywhere and you had to fall back to scouring Untappd / Twitter / Whatever for clues, if ping-ponging between bars seven hundred metres apart seemed inconvenient. But just before leaving work, I spotted (somewhere online) that Stone’s new sessionable ‘Go To’ IPA was on at the F&B, so I headed there first. I did technically already own, waiting for me at Malthouse, a glass of the ‘w00tstout’ Stone brewed in collaboration with Drew Curtis (of and Wil Wheaton (of, well, Plenty Of Awesome Things) having stopped by the bar earlier keen-bordering-on-paranoid not to miss out on it but equally conscious of its over-ten-percent punch and the work I had left to be done — including driving a delivery van. In any case, starting with an Imperial Stout doesn’t often bode well, so thankfully the unexpected prospect of a midstrength hoppy pale was enticing enough to distract me.

Stone 'Go To' IPA (Fork & Brewer, 13 March 2014)

Stone’s relatively-new ‘Go To’ IPA

After an alarmingly-shaky start a few years ago (in both the brew~ and ~pub departments), the Fork does seem to be finding its feet. Co-hosting events like this — and doing so rather well — can only help to demonstrate that. Meanwhile, ‘Go To’ was delicious and exactly what I felt like: a properly thirst-smacking lush golden body with a massive hop aroma hurtling up the nose to shock a fading brain back into alertness — and also to cut through the worty wafts of a brewpub in mid-brew. The Americans in general have a reputation for their superboozy beers (lacking a ramping-up excise tax regime to discourage them), so it was gratifying to see a sub-five-percenter go against the trend — and then to spy another (the ‘Levitation’: a maltier, smoother and calmer affair, utterly perfect for pint #2) and to have that, too. I then wound up helping a friend work his way through a flight of tasting glasses, having sips of four much-madder beers — white wine barrel-aged ‘Cali-Belgique’; Matt’s Burning Rosids,3 brewed in honour of an employee killed in an accident at the brewery; Perfect Crime; and Vertical Epic 11.11.114 — which were all well put-together, diverse, interesting, storied, and at least a few leagues North of merely “good”; great fuel for sipping and rambling.

But my w00tstout kept calling from down the road, and didn’t disappoint once I retrieved it. I think I spent a full hour with it, a massive thing of madness and deliciousness with plenty going on — the collision of two of my own particular kinds of geekiness in such a lovely beer made for an utterly sublime experience. A few more tasters from the relatively-bonkers end of the spectrum followed — a white-wine barrel aged saison called ‘The Tiger Cub’; and the red wine barrel-aged version of the ‘Cali-Belgique’ I’d previously tried — which both just went nicely with more sipping and rambling with regulars and colleagues from my Malthouse days. I switched back to having pints of the saner stuff, afterwards, and found the everyday Pale Ale and IPA both to be buckets of fun and just as worthy as the weirder ones, in their own ways. The bar was in absolutely fine form, and despite the critical eye that a former staff member would naturally have, it probably still hasn’t been equalled when it really gets a run-up and goes in for full-noise beer events.

Stone Takeover taps (Fork & Brewer, 13 March 2014)

Stone Takeover taps

Stone Takeover taps (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)

Stone Takeover taps

The beers were all good. They were stupidly and consistently good, forming a range of genuinely impressive scope with properly skillful execution. But one of the surprising lessons learned from having a cross-section of such legendary things in front of me was that we’re doing pretty damn well, here. It’s one thing to leap at the chance to try them, to let yourself be blown away by them, and to drift blissfully through a fair few glasses — but don’t despair that they’re not more-readily available down here. Even with only a token factoring-in of scope and history, the local (and here I mean “Australasian”) breweries are easily pulling their weight.5 Damn right I’ll be visiting Stone whenever I find myself even vaguely in California’s orbit, but as these beers were running out one by one last week, I wasn’t mourning; I’m not even close to done learning about the things within reach to worry very much. ‘Go To’ was great — but so are Liberty’s ‘C!tra Junior’ and Panhead ‘Quickchange’, just for example; I could go on.

'Fizzy yellow beer...' (My house, 14 March 2014)

“Just what I feel like right now” is — I relatively-humbly submit — another good ending for a sentence that starts with “‘Fizzy yellow beer is…”

Close to midnight, I went in search of a suitable nightcap, and found it in the form of Stone’s 2010 Imperial Stout; a giant velvet exclamation point to end a lovely evening. Epic Brewing’s Luke Nicholas6 was commandeering the sound system (for better or — occasionally — worse), as he does, and Greg Koch jumped up on the bar for some old-timey-style evangelism, which was kind of adorable and awesome but also put me back in mind of a few misgivings. I’m all for broadening peoples’ notions of what beer can be, but there’s an uneasy inconsistency in Stone’s off-and-on-again absolutism about some things: Greg’s fanatical anti-grey-market stance is awkward standing in front of a fridge featuring more than a few such bottles, and preaching about the unenlightened “on this very street” is a little strange in a bar that will happily — and rightly — sell them a faux-import Heineken right now. The event could’ve been staged in collaboration with (if not at, for reasons of scale) Hashigo Zake, for example, if moral purity was a paramount concern. And against all that reaching-out rhetoric, something like “Fizzy Yellow Beer Is For Wussies” clashes horribly. Not least because of the simple fact that several of the Stone beers on offer that evening were objectively-speaking both a) fizzy and b) yellow — nor the even-better point that, with everything in its right place, even the simplest, blandest, most-unfashionable and “mediocre” beer can be just the thing for the moment. The real problem here is a simple breach of the Ethics of Comedy: the Fizzy Yellow Beer line makes fun of the mainstream drinker, not the often-duplicitous producer, and amounts to the sin of “punching down”. If we’re going to be evangelising — and please, let’s — we’d be better off not trying to snark and smile at the same people simultaneously. Beers as good as these actually do very well at speaking for themselves, anyway.

Diary III entry 11a: City Tap Takeover

Diary III entry 11 part 1: City Tap Takeover

Diary III entry 11b: City Tap Takeover

Diary III entry 11 part 2: City Tap Takeover (cont.)

Original notes:7 City Tap Takeover 13/3/14 @ F&B, to start. 1) ‘Go To’ IPA 4.5% just as Colin, Luke + Greg arrived. The place is jumping — but very worty as Lester is still going. Fucking delicious, hugely hoppy, golden + fabulous. Massive, uppy, but not angry. Gorgeous. Nice to see this place crammed with happy — if starstruck — nerds. 2) ‘Levitation’ 4.4% Another session beer spied, and therefore ordered. Really nice comparison; vastly maliter, less hoppy, less spiky + fizzy in presentation. Glassphemy, too, in a Coopers glass — sure sign of a busy bar. Loads of good people + good vibes. (Helping with Kit’s tasters: Cali-Belgique (White Wine) 8.8% Matt’s Burning Rosids 10.5%, Perfect Crime 6.8%, and Vertical Epic 11.11.11 9.4% Just shows a great breadth. 1) is like unpuckering Funkonnay, says Kit, and he’s on to something. 2) is like a jasmine bonfire, serious but lovely. 3) more forgettable after just a sip, but you quickly get that in a crowd. 4) Holy hell, #freshisnotbest. Big explosion, despite its age. Spicy, which might help it on that front.) 3) @ Malthouse, now. W00tstout! @wilw’s beer, among others. I bought one at 2pm, out of sheer FOMO. Which wasn’t necessary in the end, but totally worth it. The only plausible case for insurance, really. So good. Tonnes of smooth, boozy flavour. Pecans evident but not obnoxious. Just sublime. It took over an hour, and it was marvellous. Then two little tasters: The Tiger Club (White Wine) 8.9% and Cali-Belgique (Red Wine) 8.8% — And, fuck it, a pint of the flagship Pale 5.8% Everyone’s having a grand time. The staff are in their element, and the bar is — as it always did — kicking arse in Beer Event mode. The a Stone IPA because why not. Greg’s on the bar, and Luke’s on the sound system. It’s vintage Malthouse, and it’s bliss. And then, while I was looking for a nightcap, a sour-face-inducing Gueze came out, for the VIPs, I guess. 6) Imperial Stout 2010. There we go. That’ll do.

Greg Koch and me, barely (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)

Greg Koch and me, just barely — I was taking photos in the bar when he borrowed my camera for an impromptu selfie, with the settings evidently way out of whack for such a thing

1: And rightly so I hasten to add, for reasons that flow from their physical locations, market niche, and from the fundamentally-usually-rather-overblown nature of the anti-grey panic in the first place. The scare-quotes are very firmly only “legitimately” in this post’s first sentence because, despite Greg’s fevered use of words like “illegal black market” (see the footnotes of the above-linked entry), the sale of his beer here has always been legal under NZ law whether he likes it or not — and whatever the valid concerns there might be with the practice. (Also, to pre-emptively split hairs, I’m not certain that the F&B stocks / stocked grey beer, but they definitely trade in mass-market stuff.) 
2: Without meaning to imply that there’s only One Way, of course; I just had a surpassingly wonderful very quiet-and-civilised night at Golding’s, drinking plural Panhead beers, eating delicious pizza, and watching the Cosmos re-make. 
3: It turns out that the Rosids are a group of flowering plants, including — no surprise, in context, once you learn the first half of this sentence — our friend the hop. 
4: One of those joyful-and-t00-rare moments when the Americans’ maximally-stupid middle-endian month-first date notation won’t drive me mad. 
5: I’m fairly sure it was Luke Robertson who nudged me into keeping this in mind, but I can’t remember if he did so on the Twitters, his blog, or in his podcast. I recommend you follow all three. 
6: Who must’ve been a contributing cause to this event happening in these places, friend and collaborator of the manager — and fellow oddball hophead to Greg Koch — as he is. 
7: I’m on to my third actual Beer Diary, but the power cord for the scanner has fritzed out, so I’m having to make do with somewhat-difficult-to-stage photos, for now. 

Posted in Diary entries | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunday Reading

The Void Stares Also (Wellington harbour, 20 February 2014)

And when you gaze long into the fog, the fog gazes also into you. (Or something like that.)

Well, I’m compiling them on Sunday, anyway. Unless you live in a very-tardy timezone or wait a while, I guess you’re not actually reading them on one. It’s been a couple of rather overwhelming weeks here at Beer Diary HQ; busy, distracting, exhausting and gradually restoring — all in ways both good and bad and bit-of-both-actually. Wellington itself has been all over the place, too, so I haven’t felt alone. The above was a few days ago; fog so thick you nearly forgot the City existed just there and sights around the harbour were awesomely transformed as everything took on more of an Edge Of The World feel. Today, conversely, was another do-some-gardening and jump-off-a-pier day.1

George and I will be back shortly with the season-finale Year In Review episode of the podcast — now’s the time to send in memory-jogging / two-cents-having suggestions for your Beer Of The Year and Glass Of Beer Of The Year,2 plus any general feedback you might have on format, distribution, and all that. There could well be a beer in it for you. Meanwhile, though, there’s this:

  • The Bottleneck Awards 2013: Speaking of years-in-review, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite. Dylan’s got a wonderful knack for pointed rambling, and y’all should be reading him regularly.
  • That’s a paddlin’: A charming account of a (minor) part of gearing-up to homebrew. Which I still haven’t gotten myself around to, somehow. Jase’s previous project — the Beer Money blog — was a great ride, and his latest seems to be coming along nicely.
  • Beer & Gender in baby steps: There’s been a little soul-searching (and back-seat soul-searching) about CAMRA lately, and I thought this was a nice sketch of some super-simple little things that the organisation could do to help the cause of equality. And, generally, if you can help, you should.3 And there are ways every person, business, organisation — or thing — can help. And sexism in the beer industry can get fucking grim and sad. So let’s all help, please.
  • Guests of BrewDog: Three dispatches appeared this weekend — from Martyn Cornell (him of the indispensable myth-busting beer history), Adrian Tierney-Jones, and Peter Alexander (a.k.a. Tandleman; someone who often curmudges a little hard even for me — see, e.g., his objections on the above beer-and-gender piece) — after a writers’ trip to BrewDog HQ and environs. They’re all worth reading, but I can’t help but be a little sad at how credulous they all are. Admittedly, I’m (now) firmly skeptical of those self-styled “punks”, but those pieces all soft-pedal the authors’ prior concerns (most hiding them in hyperlinks, rather than acknowledging them more directly) and come with shamefully piss-weak disclaimers4 that the trip — a significant value in travel, accommodation, goodies and access — was all on BrewDog’s dime.
  • Kippers, etc.: Speaking of BrewDog, you’d do well to also (or instead) spend your minutes with Luke and Dave’s Ale Of A Time podcast. The most-recent episode, among other delights, spends a good while on ‘Hello, My Name is Vladimir’, one of those marketing stunt beers the BrewDogs are so fond of, which — in Luke’s estimation, and with which I completely agree — just horribly misses the mark.
  • On conflicts of interest, kind of: Local theatredude Uther Dean5 on the many weirdnesses of “criticism” and review, the tension (but inevitability) of having people who both create and critique,6 and the elation and despair that producers subject themselves to when they read responses to the work. It’s not even vaguely about beer, but it could so-easily be.
  • Diversity of response: The latest round of The Session mandated non-traditional “reviews” (i.e., not reviews) of beer, and there’ll be gems for all tastes among the roundup (which came in two parts) — on which I’m only really just getting started. I didn’t manage to participate, but it’s probably obvious that I’m not hugely fond of traditional beer reviews — the kind that end in stars, numbers, or bottlecaps…
  • Catch One-point-eight Million: This is why brand loyalty sucks. They — by which we presently mean “Tui” (i.e., D.B., i.e., Heineken), but it extrapolates out perfectly — foster it in you at your expense for their sake. It would’ve been perfectly possible to run the ‘Catch a Million’ promotion at-or-close-to cost, and it’d have been just as brand-building and just as fun. But no, they can’t help extract wodges of extra cash from their “fans” on the way, showing a cynical and weirdly hateful fundamental approach. [Late-breaking update, a few hours later: see the comment below for the additional relevant fact that you could apparently get a t-shirt for free, which alters the math substantially. I'll have to re-visit this particular case, but brand loyalty is generally still bad for you.]
  • Cellaring, accidental or otherwise: The Beerhive’s other half here offers so thoughts on cellaring beer — with my dodgy memory, I’m particularly blessed in the “forget about it” department, which has led to some amazing aged beers deep in my Stash. You can see that Kieran7 recommends ‘Bigfoot’, tempering the “don’t age hoppy beers” conventional wisdom with the reality that these things just change — it’s up to you and the sensory subjectivity of your own brain whether that’s a good thing. (But as a tangential side-note, can we please end the practice of Googling for vaguely-related images and just slapping them in an online piece without attribution? See @PicPedant on the Twittermachine, for one person’s heroic struggle towards that worthy end.)
  • And finally, an irrelevancy: Because I’m a big believer in the primacy of handwritten originals, and a massive natural selection nerd — though equally much a Wallace fan as a Darwin one.

†: Well, that’s when I started. Let’s ignore that it’s “now” Monday evening; time is an illusion, self-imposed deadlines triply so. (To borrow again from Douglas, and to merge and mangle his quotes.) 
1: By which I mean it was, for the most part, sunny and warm. Which is just different from rainy and grey, not “better”. I’m all for diversity and subjectivity, after all, and am only lately myself really starting to ‘get’ summer, and find a way to fit myself properly into it. 
2: That might seem an obtuse doubling-up, but it’s a distinction that’s served us well for the last two years, and we’re (probably) sticking to it. Meanwhile, recording our Year In Review in March was never the explicit plan, but it seems now to be cemented as Tradition. And I like it; too many Best Of Last Years seem blatted out to meet deadlines. Nuts to them, and to that. 
3: See, e.g., Spiderman
4: I don’t quite know which is worse; one is all-too-subtle and just inline of the main text, the other two are at the end (past a good number of readers’ scroll-bothering, I’m sure), and dropped down significantly in font size — one even vaguely slagging off the mere idea of a disclosure. I’m sorry (n.b.: not actually sorry), but disclosures are utterly fucking mandatory, and need to be front and centre — and not just of the text, I’d argue; they’d do well to remain in the tone. It’s not difficult. 
5: Who directed an utterly fuckin’ excellent adaptation of The Trial, just by the by. 
6: Though I’m often thinking of the potential conflicts and always trying to navigate them, I do hasten to point out that I’m no “creator” (of beer), despite working in a brewery — I’m a functionary, not a decision-maker; a bureaucrat rather than a stakeholder. But I do make words and whinge about words, so his points nonetheless resonate — and, if you ask me, some of our best sources of words-about-beer do also brew the stuff. 
7: Friend of the show and no fan of the summer months, which nicely brings me back to fn1. 

Posted in Interesting finds | Tagged | 3 Comments