The aforementioned ‘St. Bernard’ was proving a popular guest, and comparisons to ‘Pitch Black’ (made, unprompted, by quite a few people) had kept up enough that a couple of circuits of my ever-skeptical brain had started to fire up and crackle with the question of whether we were all just being nostalgic for that weirdly-long-lost (on tap, at least) old favourite. And I never really get annoyed with those careful, questioning bits of my brain — because they provide a damn-good excuse to retry something, you know, for Science!’s sake.1
Nostalgia, and its opinion-inflating effect, can be fairly problematic in the beer world — as much as it can be anywhere else, I suppose. People often seem overly-fond of something they discovered on holiday, or think something isn’t as good as it used to be, or swear that something imported is always “better back home”. None of those are nonsense scenarios, of course: the enjoyment of beer is an ineliminably circumstantial thing, some recipes really are sacrificed over time (given the need to make ever-increasing quantities, or in an attempt to chase a more mainstream drinker — or both), and — all else being equal — something probably is better close to its source than after a long journey. Memory in general is problematic, of course. Mine, particularly so — hence the Diary itself.
But no, on this occasion, we’re all good. Every positive thought that lingers in your mind about Invercargill’s sessionable little stout is probably bang on. I tried this again, after probably more than a year, and after a relative boatload of delightful little somethings-similar — and it was still crackingly fantastic. There is some serious wizardry involved in cramming such dense deliciousness into such a small four-point-five-percent frame. That’s cleverness, that is; artistry, even. It’s got the flavour of a much-heavier thing — big, smooth, coffee-milkshake smoothness. In its own terms, in its own weight division, it is damn close to perfection — and you have to suspect that, in a head-to-head, it could beat the tar out of a fair few members of the heavyweight classes. If Pitch Black started liberally quoting classic Muhmmad Ali smack-talk, there’d be no cause for complaint — on the simple (and also-very-Ali) grounds that it ain’t braggin’, if it’s the truth.
And once you pause for a minute — hell, take six-minutes-forty-nine-seconds, and watch the relevant episode of NZ Craft Beer TV — to consider the dizzying range that they release under their own name and the stuff they brew for Yeastie Boys and the Mussel Inn and others, you really have to be a little bit in awe of Steve Nally and his little brewery near the end of the World. If you happen to be wearing a hat, take it off to them — if you’ve not got one on your noggin right now, go get one; they deserve the gesture.
Verbatim: Invercargill ‘Pitch Black’ Stout 23/5/11 330ml 4.5% Speaking of which! $8 @ MH Worried we were just being nostalgic, but inspired to test after Jono had one earlier. And no, we’re good. This stuff is delicious. Big flavour on a lightweight thing, and very well balanced. Coffee milkshake kinda smoothness to it, with a nicely cocoa-powder bitter fizzle at the end.
1: I’ve always had a bit of a case of science-envy. I mean, I have a humanities degree. I never get to do actual science, though I have plenty of friends who do (in some very impressive ways), so I tend to overstate things when I do anything properly experimental.