I’m not sure if any / many of you are sufficiently curious about this to actually push play — whether to eavesdrop on a tasting session, or just to have a sample of my peculiar untraceable accent (and occasionally-substantial lisp) — but we had buckets of fun doing this ‘Beer 121: New Zealand Beer for Americans’ thing, and so I’ll share it regardless.
Two of the attendees proved themselves deviously useful: Jessie (a Californian friend and the catalyst for the event) surreptitiously recorded the proceedings on her fancypantsphone, and George (who was learning to use Audacity for an upcoming beer-related podcast project we’re working on — about which more very soon indeed) edited the thing into beer-sized chunks, and pruned out the more extreme you-had-to-be-there tangents and irrelevances.1
The original post probably makes for something ranging between helpful and compulsory companion reading, since I used the space there to explain what was going on in my brain when I chose the lineup. I’ve also added ‘show notes’ to each beer here, to provide references / ramblings / corrections as required.
Hopefully-temporary note, 31 May 2011: Apologies for the absence of an in-post player. The whatsit that was generating those turns out to be conflicting with the whatsit that handles the gorgeous pop-up display doodads for my photos and Diary scans. As you can tell by the handwavey substitute-words, there, I’m not quite geeky enough to sort that out on my own, just yet. And since every post has pop-up images, but only this one had audio files in this format, something had to give. They should still work as downloads or as in-browser plays, though…
- Solid data is hard to come by — questionable brewery press releases or absurdly expensive market reports don’t really count — but us New Zealanders do drink masses of this stuff and its barely-discernibly-different siblings. I’ve never heard anyone outside of a state of enthusiasm-induced delirium suggest that craft beer accounts for more than 10% of sales.
- The ‘Six o’clock swill’ lasted longer than I thought: Pre-WWI to post-WWII. How unforgiveably dim that it spanned a whole generation.
- Tui is conspicuously sweeter than its otherwise-samey brethren (from my memory, at least), so I always believed the story that it was literally coloured-up with caramel. Hopefully they just use some sweeter, darker malt, but I doubt it — D.B. have conspicuously skirted the ‘sugar question’ on their website.
- Likewise, D.B. aren’t massively forthcoming on which beers continue to use continuous fermentation. Their ‘How Beer is Made’ flowchart just silently splits in half and doesn’t bother to say which beers take which route.
- The confused and depressing Tui ratings I mention can be easily found on RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com.
- And seriously, Penny-farthings are as fascinating as they are stupid.
— #2: Emerson’s Pilsner
- There was a “Germany” when Pilsner was developed (in 18-42, not 18-seventy-mumble), but it’s not the “Germany” we have now. European history is complicated and seemingly nowhere more so than Deutschland — but I’m told that Bavarians are basically still Bavarian first, German second, anyway.
- My ‘history and context of pilsner’ is roughly cribbed from Pete Brown.
- And I don’t mean to short-change this bloody-marvellous beer; we did talk a lot more about it (I feel guilty that its chapter is shorter than Tui’s, I admit), but it was peppered with frequent sidetrackings as we tried to find a suitable North American substitute — still with no success, by the way; suggestions welcome.
— #3: Tuatara APA
- Jessie had previously described herself as hailing from “within crawling distance” of the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
- The hops used (at launch) were described in an official blog post. I believe they’ve recently (i.e., after this tasting) joined in several other breweries in switching (largely? partially?) to the new Falconer’s Flight hop blend. The flavour certainly changed around a bit rather suddenly — not for the worst, necessarily, but I still think it’s rather poor form to not, you know, say so.
- As I finally write this up, Tuatara APA is two weeks shy of its First Birthday, and is still branded “Limited Release”.
- Synethesia is both inherently interesting and very useful for describing beers — at least in this near-metaphorical, non-pathological form. Flavour seems somehow more subjective than the feel / mood / overall thingness you can sometimes convey if you employ peculiar and emotive similies instead.
— #4: 8 Wired ‘Hopwired’ IPA
- Number 8 wire isn’t named for a metric or imperial sizing; it was just a more-or-less abritrarily-numbered step on the British Standard Wire Gauge. As the son of an engineer, I can’t tell you how horrified I am to hear myself saying (even for a brief, uncertain and recanted second) that it was 8mm — it’s around half that, sheesh.
- I’ve gotten the Søren-and-Monique story a little mangled; I blame the fact that for ages, Søren was too busy making good beer to have time to get a website built, so I had to rely on third-hand biographical snippets passed around the Beer Nerd community.
- Plant & Food Research is the current name of the government-owned entity responsible for hop research and development. NZ Hops is someone you can actually buy these things from, and provides very handy / very nerdy data sheets for the different cultivars.
- My original post has this as Beer #6, but it’s just occurred to me (listening to myself refer to PKB as the one we’ll “finish off with”) that that’s wrong. It was the plan (as you can see from the lineup photo), but we decided to step away from hoppy things so we could step back, fresher.
- From what I can tell, the Beer Nerd Biography Whisper Mill let me down a little here, too. Sam wasn’t a Levi’s model as a pre-brewing job, he did a Levi’s shoot as a brewer. I think. Google is still letting me down a little, here. The point remains, though, that you have to admit he’s a good-looking man.
- There is a ‘Brew Masters’ TV show website — and, you know, ahem, torrents.
- Three Boys ‘Pineapple Lump’ Porter got deservedly-good write-ups online.
- I had both the Epic / Dogfish Head & Dogfish Head / Epic versions together when ‘Portamarillo’ first appeared in my Diary.
- I finally had a bigger dose of this stuff just a few days before writing this up. The ‘New Guy’ at work, Jono, brought in a bottle which he generously halved. Its entry should hopefully be up shortlyish, and it was still tasting marvellous.
- ‘Pot Kettle Black’ is indeed a Wilco song; so there you go.
- Stout-versus-porter is a fun topic on its own, but the Usual Story does work well enough for PKB versus PKB Stout Remix.
- My Diary entry for Deschutes ‘Hop in the Dark’ has my thoughts on the vexed question of just what the hell to name this style.
- This is the end of the notes.
1: I don’t remotely mean to imply that I don’t endorse the sidetrackings — random table-talk and distractions can be a good chunk of the fun at a beer tasting. Beer is a social drink, after all. But particularly in a crowd where most of us knew each other fairly well, we perhaps got a bit in-jokey and peculiar for a wider audience.