Sprig & Fern ‘Harvest’ Pilsner

Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner
Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner

So yeah, there’s that. If you haven’t noticed it, or the reference escapes you, let’s set it aside for a moment and deal with the important thing first — you know, the beer.

This marks a brilliant return-to-form for lagers in the Diary, since it’s the first one in there since Budweiser. What a freakin’ turnaround. As I say in my notes, it was hardly “pilsner weather”, but I’d been keen to try this stuff since hearing about it last year. It’s a seasonal release by Nelson’s Sprig & Fern which is timed for Marchfest — which, in turn, coincides with the hop harvest. And it’s properly to-theme by using fresh (“green” or “wet”) hops, a trick often used to great effect in pale ales.1 Marchfest attendees (both nerdy and not) came back raving about this with a uniformity and sincerity that made me fairly confident it wasn’t just Holiday Beer Syndrome. An opportunity for proof arose when Hashigo got themselves a keg, but it was tapped while I was at work and zooming out of the tap. In a fit of excellentness, Dave set me aside a rigger and dropped it off on his way home — just as he’d done for 8 Wired’s Saison-yeast-ified ‘Hopwired’, stand-up gent that he keeps proving to be.

It sat in the fridge with the rest of my Personal Stash for a day or two, waiting for a suitable occasion which it found in the guise of an abnormally-productive day off and an enjoyable evening of Nerding with friends. I plonked myself on the end of the bar and then entirely failed to share very much of my one-litre flagon. It’s one of those beers that justifies selfishness as easily as it would make for evangelising material; something you don’t really want to share, but which could work wonders if you did. All “not sure if this is the right weather for it” worries were quickly punctured with a swift jab of crisp-and-hoppy deliciousness. It was like a trumpet solo blaring out into a quiet autumn night from a suburban rooftop; brash and bold, but clear and wonderful. The Internets are often Not Much Help when it comes to one-off brews and were so with this, so I’m in the dark as to just which freshly-picked hops we’re talking about, but I don’t particularly mind — they’re lush and fresh and fantastic, flavourful enough that they’re not remotely one-note even if it is just a single variety in there. On a sunny day in Nelson, it’d be absolute bliss; little wonder all the excitable, happy-faced reports from people who made the trip over to the Other Island.

But yeah, the other thing.

Dave and his fellow Hashigoans couldn’t help but nod towards the peculiar story of “Chil Pook” on the label. It’s something I’ve avoided mentioning until now, since I’m still not quite sure what to make of the whole saga, but I can hardly let their reference go unexplained. You see, my handle on Twitter is @phil_cook2 and so someone registered @chil_pook, in the manner of a seven-year-old’s first attempt to speak ‘in code’, got themselves the same distinctive icon as mine and… and… I’m not sure.

It’s not really within shouting distance of actual satire (with which I’m totally on board, whoever the target, even if it’s me), and if it’s some unfortunate soul who feels I’ve wronged them in some way, then why not say so, under your own name?3 Their posting is sufficiently erratic that we’re left with few clues as to who they really are or what precisely introduced (and occasionally seems to re-introduce) the bee to their bonnet. It’s all just a bit sad, in the end — especially since an unhealthy proportion of their material seems to be variations on a High Schoolish x-is-gay line; I’d have hoped anyone of beer-drinking / beer-giving-a-damn-about age would be past that.

I do find it very strange that I so-quickly attracted my peculiar orbiting stalker, though a few people (some fellow beer geeks, some normals, some in-betweens) have thought of it as a sort of strange badge of honour. I can kind of see their point, but I hope it isn’t wrong of me to still wish for a funnier parodist.

Verbatim: Sprig & Fern ‘Harvest’ Pilsner 3/5/11 1L rigger from Dave @ HZ, had @ MH, after a relatively-productive day off. Hardly pilsner weather, but buggrit. And Happy Birthday Karen! This stuff is legendary among Marchfesters, and now I know why; is delicious! Juicy as hop-goodness; zesty and brash but not too bitter. Halena was dubious of the nose — not being a hop-fiend — but was a huge fan. I’m in the dark about which fresh hops, but then I remembered about the Internets, and then the Internets were no help. Sadface. And with a second pint to get to know, I’m still unsure. Quite citrussy, sure, but certainly not one-note.

Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner
Diary II entry #98.1, Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner
Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner
Diary II entry #98.2, Sprig & Fern 'Harvest' Pilsner

1: My first experience of such things was with Mac’s ‘Brewjolais’, a sadly-now-retired rare example of one of the Big Breweries making something genuinely interesting, and my most-recent one (off the top of my head) was Thornbridge’s ‘Halcyon’. Wet-hopped pale ales were probably brought back to the beer-drinking public consciousness with Sierra Nevada’s ‘Harvest’, a beer which proved so popular that they added a ‘Southern Harvest’ which utilises one of the many advantages of living on a big spheroid: that there are two hop seasons, if you’re willing to travel a bit — fittingly, since I’m talking about Marchfest, their other-harvest uses New Zealand hops, getting them on a plane a.s.a.p. in a Carbon-footprint-nightmare-inducing exercise in deliciousness (my Diary entry for which is stuck in the infamous Limbo, sadly).
2: Aggravatingly, when I got around to signing up, both @philcook and @beerdiary had been recently snatched up; one by a spambot, one by someone seemingly in the U.S. who does (sporadically) record their drinking habits and finds.
3: There have been a few peculiar / pathetic / both pieces of anonymous internet slagging-off in the local beer scene, lately. It’s something that deserves fuller attention — and which deserves to wither swiftly and drop off — but I should return to it properly later, and not High Horse things here and now, since my brush with it is (so far) so trifling and lame.

10 thoughts on “Sprig & Fern ‘Harvest’ Pilsner”

  1. My theory is that it was the same prat who had the grammatically retarded dig at Dave over at his Salient column. If so, the guy is clearly a) thick and b) possessed of a chip on his shoulder large enough to give even Hone Harawira pause.

    I’m glad you addressed it. People say “ignore trolls and they go away”, but those of us with burning and insatiable curiosities then never get a chance to find out who the troll is! Not that I’m saying this will help, but you never know…

  2. Good to see some Sprig and Fern on here. When I had a chat to Tracy Banner (the brewer) a while ago she gave off the impression that she loves making good beer for good people. Unlike this @chil_pook, who just sounds like a douche.

  3. Interestingly Phil (and Greig) the terribly witty chil_pook makes certain grammatical errors that happen to coincide with those of Dave’s arch-critic “Simon” and the ratebeer nemesis of both Hashigo Zake and Yeastie Boys known as “thirstystirrer”. We’ve passed our findings on to a criminal psychologist who right now is coming up with a pen portrait of this serial creator of online alter egos. The results will shock you.

  4. Shouldn’t be too tricky. We just need a honeypot… something one of us hosts that he couldn’t resist posting on. That’d get us an IP address at least…

    OK, I might be taking this too seriously!

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