Welcome back and Happy New Year, everyone. My profuse apologies for the inadvertent summer hiatus — it’s ordinarily a stay indoors and hide from the heat and sunshine kind of time for me, mostly, but this year it just rather got away from me. Not in a bad way, at all, but an unintended effect was that the podcast which we intended would be a nice lead-up to Holiday Season imbibing has been held back until now. It’s entirely my fault — George is a diligent producer and does hassle me on your behalf, I assure you.
So anyway, inspired by the impending holidays — impending, that is, when we recorded — we have a little bit of a ramble about Strong Beer (partially also to balance the ledger after our Midstrength Beer episode). There are a lot of ways to be a strong beer, and equally-many reasons to enjoy one. And then there’s a fair amount of silliness in the field, too. But the point remains: there’s a beer for every occasion that might otherwise bring wine or whisky to the front of your mind.
- (0.45) Well, it’s been a while for you now, too, as I pre-emptively apologised for, above. The timing of the Beer Diary entries are a frequent cause of puzzlement, so I’ve taken New Years Resolution-esque steps to make them a little more reader-friendly and a little less puzzling. They always made sense in my head, but many objectively-mad things often seem to do so.
- (1.50) Midstrength beer was a little while ago.
- (2.45) Winter beer was also a little while ago. Slightly moreso, in fact.
- (3.20) Beer of the Week #1: Liberty ‘C!tra’. A sure-fire giveaway of me being a rather-appalling typography nerd is that I occasionally call an exclamation mark a “bang” — partially because that old practice today survives mostly in the name of my absolute-favourite punctuation mark, the interrobang (which also serves as my Twitter avatar / general logo-thing), and the rather-awesome shebang from the world of programming.1
- (7.05) Martyn Cornell’s long-form history-dredging myth-busting posts are always a good read — if you’re into that sort of thing, and I am — and his one on Imperial Stout is no exception.
- (7.55) Epic’s ‘LARGER’ is the reference on my mind, here; its Wellington launch-party was in preparation as we recorded this. It turned out to be a real hoot — and not quite the absolute carnage that a suprisingly-drinkable 8.5% lager might imply.
- (8.45) Beer festivals, compared to ‘Midstrength beer’ and ‘Winter beer’, was not very long ago at all. But a while ago from here. See? Time is all sorts of relative.
- (10.20) ‘Strong beer’ and ‘expensive beer’ are fairly tightly correlated. Especially in a place like New Zealand, where the tax take is levied proportionately to booze, not just volume. But — and I say this as a member of a criminally-underpaid profession — one of the enduring charms about beer is this relative accessibility. Even the stupid-money end of the scale is much more within grab than the equivalent corners of, say, the wine or whisky markets.
- (14.50) To lift entirely a note from the Midstrength beer episode and thereby weirdly quote myself: “In New Zealand, beer under 1.15% attracts no excise tax; anything 1.15% – 2.5% is subject to 38.208¢ per litre of beverage; and all beer 2.5% and over is levied at $25.476 per litre of alcohol.”
- (15.00) Just to check in with Mr Google: “Imperial IPA” will get you more than a million hits, while “Imperial APA” brings in a relatively-poor 25,000-odd.
- (17.30) Inevitably, Martyn Cornell has covered this, too. You really should read him more often, if you don’t, whoever you are.
- (20.10) Garage Project’s American Barleywine, ‘Hellbender’, was a delicious thing, and a marvellous excuse for a good-natured nerdfight.
- (21.20) As a little tour of that particular corner of the Strong Beer world, I really do recommend that you punch out a whole Trappist Dance Card at least once in your life.
- (22.45) Beer of the Week #2: Twisted Hop ‘Red Zone Enigma’. I’m obviously way late for Christmas present recommendations, to the point where I’ve just clocked it and become way early. Myself and a few other local beer-people appeared in a short segment on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Summer Report’ where we raised the possibility of substituting-in a lovely big bottle of beer for the usual grape-juice-descended options — it’s difficult to directly link to, but filed under ‘Sparkling new beers may replace traditional bubbles’.
- (24.40) The iStout-through-a-Tim-Tam-straw suggestion came from a chap on the Twitters by the name of Dave Ellis. I only know him (so far; Hello!) in his Twittering capacity, but he’s clearly some sort of genius. George has got his Tim Tam History somewhat askew; a Chit Chat is a kind of knock-off copycat of a Tim Tam — but they were, themselves, apparently stolen from / “inspired by” a Penguin biscuit.
- (26.40) Adelaide beer blogger Aaron Caruana shares my Bletchley Park obsession — and, helpfully, went there recently and took lovely photos. Our brewing aspirations languished after a few dead batches. My moderate Canberra-based successes did not translate down to my Melbourne apartment, for some reason. Purple was definitely the Allied name for the Japanese machine, which actually carried the rather-marvellous name “System 97 Printing Machine for European Characters”. And Cryptonomicon remains my favourite novel, but does have a slightly memory-distorting effect (together with the Strong Beer), given its fictionalisations.
- (30.10) Three Boys ‘Aftershock’ was great on many levels.
- (33.30) My Christmas night BrewDog Paradox was sublime.
- (36.00) The German one, the name of which I couldn’t bring to mind / pronounce is Schorschbräu Schorschbock, the last (57%) edition of which was called ‘Finis Coronat Opus’. And really — though this may just be the inevitable prejudice you’d get from an English-speaker — BrewDog won this game, I think. Schorschbräu’s packaging and everything was just so po-faced and serious while the Scots were clearly taking the piss and having a laugh and bowed out spectacularly with End of History. And while BrewDog did recently announce that they’d walk away from the theatrics a bit, the campaign around Ghost Deer is pretty damn funny, too.
- (41.40) 8 Wired’s ‘Batch 18’ is fantastic, and still the as-far-as-I-can-tell strongest made here. Though there was some mention in The Pursuit of Hoppiness of him having plans to climb a few rungs higher on the boozeladder. But — I hasten to add, the day after publishing this and with great thanks to local good-beer-bar-frequenter David Wu — it turns out we forgot all about Green Man’s barleywine, ‘Enrico’s Cure’, which weighs in at 14.5%, and does actually crow about being “New Zealand’s strongest beer” (true for now), “probably the world’s strongest organic beer” (which seems likely) and “one of the strongest beers in the world” (which definitely isn’t true, except for insanely-generous definitions of “one of”).
- (43.50) Ngahere Gold turns out to be 7.2%, and I know it may seem a little harsh of me to knock it and then go on to praise Epic ‘Larger’ — but I’ll either just wear the hypocrisy or argue that the latter just had enough fun and funny about it.
- (46.00) I’m somewhat shocked that I was closer to the mark than movie-geek George, on this one. Bruce Wayne doesn’t buy the restaurant; he buys the hotel.
- (46.30) Midstrength News & Recommendation: Cassels & Sons ‘Beer’. Alice Galletly did a great little write-up with it on her blog — which, itself, counts as an additional recommendation if you’re not reading her already. And then there’s Epic’s ‘LARGER’, which has now been and gone from our taps but is now skulking around in bottles. Not seeing the pun turned out to be a hilarious Elephant trap, into which even Wellington’s daily newspaper happily blundered. Kelly Ryan’s typically-informative blog post on the making-of confirms my Southern Holiday Beer theory, too, and would’ve been worth a read even if he’d proven me wrong.
- (52.20) I still haven’t had my Renaissance ‘Tribute’. It’s here beside me on my desk. And I haven’t figured out quite-why the name, either. So that’ll be my homework.
- (55.00) We’ll do a Year in Review episode, next, rather than a Christmas one as such. That’d obviously leave you waiting ages, now. But for now, cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket.
Podcast episode recorded: 3 December 2011, nearly relatively-promptly uploaded (I swear): 14 December 2011, and then only actually-for-serious uploaded: 24 January 2012. Sheesh.
1: Note also that the url format for Twitter pages includes a shebang before the username. Double geek-happiness, there.