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

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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. 

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Station Ident: Exhale

Cult Beer sign from Hashigo's portable bar (X-Ale at ParrotDog, 21 April 2012)

Cult Beer sign from Hashigo’s portable bar at the inaugural X-Ale

It’s Sevens Weekend here in Wellington and that makes for a massively-stressful couple of days for a lot of people in this town, unfortunately. What could be a genuinely excellent two-day tournament has descended into a dress-up party that involves depressingly-much obnoxious behaviour, street harassment, and general carnage. A lot of it will get blamed on the booze, of course,1 but I’ve seen too much crap even in the a.m. before the pre-loading can really kick in and I subscribe to the Bartender’s Hypothesis: no one really acts any different when they’ve been drinking — they just act more. It’s not the drinking that makes people behave like dicks, it’s probably their own underlying dickishness — which gets let off the chain even more in the anonymity of a group costume. And I worry about how much we exacerbate the myth that alcohol causes bad behaviour the more we freak out about the drinking of badly-behaved people, anyway. But I still owe you all a long-form piece on the Moral Panic, and I’ll get back to that another day.

Because — as we mentioned in the most-recent podcast — George and I are heading to the relative sanctuary of Hashigo Zake’s X-Ale mini-festival. The bar will be closed off for a tickets-only tasting session of some pretty weird and (hopefully) wonderful beers, which will skew strong enough (as is the trend, still) that it’ll probably count as a “binge” drinking session in the hysterical technical parlance. But this is Beer Geek Church; gross behaviour is unlikely, and wouldn’t be tolerated if it arose. Just as appalling dickishness is possible when stone cold sober, so is it possible to enjoy a heady dose of incidentally-intoxicating and delicious beverages and still remain fucking civilised. It’s really not the chemicals, it’s the character and the surrounding culture — as I, and several-dozen others, will hopefully demonstrate today.2 Consider it my own little protest.

1: Then there’s the grotesque double-dealing and hypocrisy wherein the media celebrate the event, laud its “vibrancy”, use pictures of costumed groups to sell papers and garner pageviews, and pimp the (seriously dubious) economic benefit — only to wring their hands about the “excesses”. Plus the fevered misdirection of blame at the bars in town when the Stadium itself features a level of carnage that’d see any other venue lose its license. 
2: And then I’ll probably just retreat straight home, because — former Courtenay Place bartender and all — I think I’ve seen more than my share of the post-Sevens mess. Though it is tempting to head back in to town and see how the universal 4 a.m. close goes… Yikes. 

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Beer Diary Podcast s03e08: What We Did On Our Holidays

For our first recording of 2014 and the penultimate episode of Season 3, George and I sat down for a post-holiday catch up over two beers he’d brought back from his travels and one we’d been meaning to share for a while. Somehow, we also talked about Canada a lot. We offer our traditional recommendations and observations — and also take the chance to make a more-explicit-than-usual call for listener feedback (and suggestions for Year In Review gong-winners), backed-up by a sincere offer of a bribe in beer form…

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!

Mash Collective 'The Old Persuader' (Sydney, 26 December 2013)

‘The Old Persuader’

Celis White (Emma's house, Sydney, 26 December 2013)

Celis White

Muskoka bottlecap (George's house, 19 January 2014)

Muskoka bottlecap

— Show notes:

  • (1.00) Lore Sjöberg’s current site is Bad Gods, and there’s a working archive of his early Brunching Shuttlecocks (from the golden age of When I Learned To Internet).
  • (1.30) Alternate titles: End Of Year Clear-out, What Survived Christmas In My Fridge, We Got Canada All Over the Place & Yay The Wombles For Not Being Parochial.
  • (2.00) Beer of the Week #1: Dave Wood’s ‘Beetnik IPA’. Which is also one of very-few homebrewed beers ever to appear in my Diary. And a full-size batch is in the works, Baylands-brewed indeed, and set for a Hashigo launch February 18 soon. (Updated Feb 13: In his weekly email for the bar, Dave noted — with understandable regret — that Beetnik’s first public outing has been delayed due to a technical hitch in the brewing. It’s been re-brewed, and so should be out in a month or so.)
  • (7.50) Super-slick Coromandel tourism website for foreigners. Or just use the Googler.
  • (8.40) Hot Water Brewing. Turns out George and I fittingly had ‘The Artist’ (his West Coast Brewery era barleywine) as part of this season’s opener.
  • (13.40) Good George’s localism is funny enough not to bother me. Much.
  • (15.10) Beer of the Week #2: Hot Water Brewing ‘Walker’s Porter’Beer in cans, in general, kicked off s03e04 — and the naffness of the Boundary Road one we had haunts me still.
  • (20.20) The LCBO (and The Beer Store) are deeply weird things. I bungled the history a bit, but the sense of confused outrage is about right.
  • (23.10) Steam Whistle brewery looks seriously bike-friendly, which I like.
  • (24.40) The Wombles are more awesome than you remember. And Orinoco pre-dated the Fourth Doctor by a half-dozen years.
  • (27.10) My small-bar infatuation was written up here, but is now giving way to Moral Panic rage — he says, shaking his head at NSW, and NZ.
  • (30.10) A perfect grade on his homework for Adrian Pua (one of the Sessionable Podcast team), who followed Jono’s suggestion from last time to the letter — while watching the aforementioned tennis.
  • (31.50) Apparently, Neil Finn himself considers Crowded House “a Melbourne band”, so I’ve softened my long-held stance on this point.
  • (33.20) Pre-emptive recommendation: Kererū ‘Moonless’ Stout.
  • (34.40) Call for submissions: As well as your own nominations for (Glass of) Beer of the Year, per our now-cemented tradition, we thought it high time to explicitly invite just general feedback. You can do so here (in the comments below), on Twitter (I’m @phil_cook, George is @GeorgeLanglands — his more-obscure surname not needing an underscore), on the Facebook page, or via the Contact Form Thing on here.
  • (35.40) I’d link to the Sherlock run-down, but it’s so very spoiler-ific indeed.
  • (38.00) Beer of the Week #3: Muskoka ‘Twice as Mad Tom’ IPA. The chairs are apparently better-known by their American name — and the beer must be strong, because neither of us correctly pronounced “Angelina Jolie”.
  • (41.30) This is another instance of Matt Kirkegaard and I spookily synching up.
  • (43.05) xkcd’s ‘What if?’ on the lake of tea. And my trivia fu was strong: in Star Trek there indeed was / will be a prison and a journalism school here. The Queef Of Queen Street seems to’ve been splatted by the copyright police or similar. Sigh.
  • (45.00) Beer news / events: Hashigo’s X-ale refuge from the madness of Sevens is this weekend and is genius — though the prospect of getting there and back through the throng is a little stomach-turning. Session beers continue to appear with delightful regularity. And “little bars who do something interesting” are doing well. Huzzah.
  • (48.30) Recommendations: The Moonless, again; Gunnamatta, always. And Cassels & Sons Pale Ale. And (further in): Northend Hoppy Wheat. Music recommendations, just because I have to: The Tragically Hip — maybe start with ‘Bobcageon’, and see how you go. And cross-train; The ‘7 Steps’ article is here, though the last tip is obviously way over the top. You can see three of my various diaries, here, too.
  • (54.30) Canada all over the place. Anyone else nostalgic for Due South? No, just us? Oh, and I gardened instead of putting down the homebrew. Sorry, Jono.
  • (55.40) We’ll buy a beer for: Kieran Haslett-Moore. Friend of the show, and Wizard of Fermentation. He’s on the Tweets, and blogs for (one of) his job(s) (see, for example, his nice little “I make beer for drinking” introduction of his Amber Ale — Capital Times columns are archived at his (other) blog, but the Magazine isn’t properly online. His Stone-&-Wood-Pacific-inspired Hoppy Wheat is just bloody lovely, too.
  • (58.30) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket.
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Sunday Reading

They treated the rest of that day as though it was a Sunday, that is to say what you should expect of a Sunday. You need time for big and complicated new concepts to shake themselves down in your brain slowly, without damaging what is already there.

— Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth

Pretty Things 'Jack d'Or' (My house, 15 December 2013)

Pretty Things ‘Jack d’Or’ — on a Sunday, just not this particular Sunday

I’ve got a few longer-form and more-detailed ponderings on the go at the moment — a catch-up on All Things Moa in the year-and-some since their infamous IPO, and an attempt to build a bulwark against some of the more-annoying and more-absurd bits of the recent Moral Panic around beer (too-often standing in for “booze in general”) and the reflex to restrict its availability. But it’s a Sunday, and they never feel like the occasion for such heavy-lifting — except perhaps in the garden — so I’ve instead happily been going through my pile of Interesting Miscellaneous Things To Read.

Back when I was a paperboy, we relished January as a month of lighter-than-usual deliveries thanks to the end of holiday advertising a the general Slow News Month. In the beer world, at least, it seems there’s no such effect:

Kerbal Space Program: A unfortuantely-doomed attempt at orbit

Kerbal Space Program: An unfortunately-doomed attempt at orbit

1: Speaking of which, as I mentioned the other day when writing up my own (at the time accidental) manifesto on the same, I also hugely recommend Matt Kirkegaard’s recent radio ramble on that point (while pimping a Brisbane beer festival). His recent ‘Tao Of Beer’ musing is also absolutely worth a look — and interestingly also clipped the same Hipsters Love Beer video that The Wireless illustrated my piece with; it seems that satire also struck a chord, or even a nerve (as it should). 
2: Something that my day job also just succumbed to
3: Which reminds me: welcome to the fold, Buzz and Hum — a very promising new blog on one man’s love of good beer and good music. Exactly what I was in the mood for after the Jono Galuszka podcast

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