Around a year ago, Luke Nicholas was talking to Sam Calagione and was able to apparently-accurately say that their ‘Portamarillo’ would be New Zealand’s second-ever collaborative brew — after the also-with-Luke Epic / Thornbridge Stout. Now, they’re everywhere.
To maybe-needlessly hammer the point: Galbraith’s Alehouse is currently hosting several brewers as part of a ‘Great Brewers Cask Ale Series’; Liberty and Mike’s made a neighbourly project in the form of a ‘Taranaki Pale Ale’; what the Epic-led ‘Mash Up’ lacks with its loosely-defined sense of “collaboration” it more than makes up for with its relatively-massive scope; and at this year’s IPA Challenge at the Malthouse alone, damn-near half the beers were collaborations to some degree or other.1
They seem like such a characteristically beer industry thing, too. I’m not sure if the wine folk are too snobbish to ever put their heads together and make something in the ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ spirit of a collaboration — perhaps they consider their boat sufficiently risen, or perhaps I usually just stay far enough away from grape juice that I don’t hear of such projects, if they do exist. Whatever; they’re a wonderful thing, and it’s great news that the trend (a very North American thing, it’d be fair to say) has crashed upon our shores. Long may it, and the spirit that propels it, continue.
And so here with are with ‘Rescue Red’, as it eventually came to be known, after a flurry of potential titles. A three-party project from Renaissance, 8 Wired and Yeastie Boys, it was brewed as a fundraiser for relief efforts in Canterbury and Queensland. Brew day was documented by Jed Soane, and the official write-up is well worth a read (and not merely by the usual standards for press releases). It’s a suitably multi-faceted thing; a sessionable, hoppy amber ale, fermented with a saison yeast. I like all of those features — in descending order, essentially — but it kept throwing enough curveballs that even after several decent-sized tastes, I wasn’t sure if I liked it. I continued to go back to it, though, which probably entails that I did like it — or at least I was a) fascinated, and b) non-repulsed.
Entirely fittingly, then, its actual appearance in my notes reigns supreme as the Grand Champion Distracted Diary Entry Of All Time; I entirely abandoned my first attempt, unfinished, and had to start afresh the next day. On the night of the initial datestamp, Jillian — her the Newfoundlander of the cigarette-lighter sign-writing — showed up at work just as I was finishing a round of Kegtris. It wasn’t long until she was due to continue her overseas explorings and head over the Big Country, so we took that as a fair-enough excuse to make a bit of a night of it — which involved borderline-gatecrashing a house party at which neither of us really knew anyone, dancing like lunatics to a fucking-marvellous and entirely-random ragtime band,2 and some generally-enjoyable wandering-around-town. Awesome fun. Hence the ‘Nope; I’ll write about this later’.
In the end, I’m fairly sure I did enjoy ‘Rescue Red’, although it probably picked up a few Circumstantial Bonus Points — not that I ever object to those; hardly-relevant surrounding happenings are always going to colour your opinion of a thing, and you’d be a fool to try and stop them entirely doing so. It was definitely quirky and interesting, without being obnoxiously so in that awful trying-too-hard kind of way. The saisonny funk, conspicuous hops and rich red malt all got along together very well, however much they might look clashy on paper — after all, it might appear that organising a fridge, someone else’s party, and a chance encounter with swing music wouldn’t work well together, either; these things can surprise you occasionally. And you’d do well to let them.
Verbatim: Yeastie Boys / 8 Wired / Renaissance ‘Rescue Red’ 26/5/11 4.8% on tap @ MH $10, but not so bad, because proceeds go to Queensland & Canterbury. “Hoppy red saison”, they say, with typical disregard for… everything — 27/5/11, restarting, with another. I was too distracted last time. Not in a bad way. I keep trying this, because I’m not sure if I like it — but I guess this kinda means I do. It’s enjoyably peculiar, but not overly or flashily so. Gorgeously red, too. Faintly berry-ish, the funk making it like cranberries on the turn.
1: i.e., Yeastie Boys and Liberty, twice; Townshend and Greig McGill of Brewaucracy; Moa’s Dave Nicholls with some help from Malthouse Overboss Colin Mallon; and a ‘Four Horsemen’ hophead supergroup collaboration in the shape of Luke Nicholas & Kelly Ryan of Epic, Steve Plowman from Hallertau, and Liberty’s Joseph Wood, again.
2: Namely, the Roseneath Centennial Ragtime Band. They play pretty-regularly around Wellington, it seems, and there are sample tracks available on their MySpace page.a
— a: Meanwhile, Myspace still exists?