It’s rather fitting that, now I’ve finally finished uploading my GABS Weekend notes, I actually have a proper Diary entry for the beer that started my trip. At the preposterously unfortunate time of four-thirty in the morning — around-about when I’d usually be contemplating going to bed — I arrived at the airport, after two hours’ sleep, a deficit from which I never really recovered1 until I slept most of the Tuesday After. But what kept me going, other than caffeine and giddy geeky excitement, was this.
Jos (from Garage Project) had a cheeky little unlabelled 330ml sample bottle,2 and we3 split it — in those appalling, bleary-eyed and boring interminable moments between the ferociously early check-in times they impose and the actual get-going time — just to set the weekend rolling in style. In low-brow, from-the-bottle, borderline problem-drinking style, but style nonetheless. It tasted fairly seriously promising, went on to be a huge hit at GABS (winning their People’s Choice vote), and left me with a powerful urge for more.
And when I got back to Wellington, it was on tap at Little Beer Quarter, so I popped in for — what turned out to be — several. But my photos from the night were a little sub-par, owing both to enjoyably distracting company and LBQ’s eye-friendly but camera-testing lighting. So I’m having another one right now,4 since I needed another photo (such sacrifices I make), since I can buy one at Staff Price from Hashigo now (and it nicely matches the slightly tea-housey decor and paired admirably with my noodles), but mostly on account of it being fundamentally utterly fucking gorgeously delicious.
It’s “Earl Grey IPA”, made with the Blue Flower variety from a local company, and it’s really rather astonishing that it doesn’t seem to’ve been done much / at all before. I’ve had a few green tea IPAs, but I’m a black tea guy through and through, myself. There’s the germ of an idea in the back of my head — the [redacted] secret I allude to in my notes — of how to use a (‘proper’) black tea in a beer, but this wasn’t it; this is just one of those style-bending strokes of genius that it’d be unfair of us to come to expect from Yeastie Boys, but which they seem to be able to pull off with uncanny grace and ease.
The citrussy aroma and hop bitterness of the IPA base go perfectly with the likewise (bergamot orange) fruit flavour and tannic edge of the tea. In hindsight, it seems blindingly obvious; the profiles of the two things are so similar and simultaneously so different in a way that succeeds spectacularly well. And the bait-and-switch of it makes for charmingly confusing drinking, as the flavours settle down after each sip and lull you into forgetting about the additional (delightful) weirdness that successive tastes deliver — at least until that tannic feel builds up and/or you find yourself having distinctly different kinds of burp. Alice is also right on the money when she pointed out (with her own sneaky-preview bottle) that the dryness of it really helps; all that fruit flavour and that not-insubstantial strength could’ve quickly gotten teeth-furryingly sweet. With typical cunning and knack, Stu and Sam and Steve avoided that and just melded two independently-wonderful things into one happy marriage. It’s marvellous stuff.
All that, and it’s a lovely liquid tribute to Australian songwriting legend Paul Kelly, named in particular for a track of purely blissful, reverb-soaked, salty and twang-tastic surf rock (itself, in turn, a reference to a break off Mornington Peninsula in Victoria). And if you’re tired of surf rock, you might just be tired of life.
Original Diary entry: Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’ 16/5/12 @ LBQ’s BGW 6.66%, apparently. This is my second go — I missed it at GABS — after a cheeky bottle shared at the airport on Friday. Paler than yer usual IPA, clear and positively honking with the blue-flower Earl Grey. Not a subtle adjunct, but one that fits stupidly well. Unexpectedly completely transforms the burps. Weird this hasn’t been done more often; the citrus, oily + bitter flavours are made for each other, really. I really want to try my [Trade Secret Redacted],5 now.
1: And about which I haven’t yet stopped whingeing, evidently.
2: Having a taste several hours before the doors of the Exhibition Building were due to open and unleash GABS upon the world (or the beer-people of this corner of it, at least) was a bit of an extra thrill since all the festival’s beers were supposed to be embargoed until the curtain went up. Several breweries jumped the gun, for reasons best known to themselves. Most that I knew about were at the definitely-forgivable end of the spectrum; little single-keg sneak-peeks in a single bar, almost just testing the waters. Some, notably Tuatara, had more full-on pre-GABS launches but had the decency to mask things (somewhat) by using different names for the same beer in different circumstances. The real sore thumb was Epic’s ‘Zythos’, which — although, let me stress, a fucking lovely beer — had been ubiquitously available long before I even owned a plane ticket to Melbourne. I’ve no idea why they did that, but it wasn’t uncommon to hear a GABS-attending geek declare themselves “done” when they’d had 56/60 of the beers from the Big Board; three weren’t available (through various freight disasters and the like) and the other one was Zythos, which was ‘everywhere and not worth worrying about’.
— a: Updated later, 11 July 2012, to add: I’ve since heard it explained (from inside Tuatara) that there was some kind of misunderstanding between the production side and their Australian distributor, which lead them to (inadvertently) break the embargo. Which does help the situation somewhat, but is certainly the sort of thing that the brewery should’ve been more active in explaining — especially as they geared up to release a slightly different beer here in New Zealand under the same name as their GABS entry.
3: i.e., Garage Project’s Jos & Pete, Hashigo Zake’s Dom & Dave, and meb — united as we were in both GABS-attendence and in holding tickets on the very same flight over to Melbourne.
— b: Then still-unemployed but now employed by both aforementioned companies, coincidentally.
4: Well, I was when I started. Then I realised that I didn’t have all the photos I needed on my server already so couldn’t get it all done remotely, from the pub. So I came home and, unable to resist the logic of it (coupled, especially, with the seasonal coldness of my house at the moment), I fixed myself a pot of Earl Grey tea. And then, rather brilliantly and while writing this very footnote, I received word from much-warmer Sydney that Emma’s just about to crack the bottle she took home after her recent Wellington holiday.c So it seems I’ve sunk so much karmic investment into the idea of “occasion beer” that now the universe conspires to have them happen around me, entirely unbidden.
— c: She’s not usually a black tea person, but is rating it very highly — pleasantly surprised that it really does taste like tea, and comparing it (very favourably) to a “white Earl Grey” tea she recently found.
5: Back in the early days of uploading my Diary entries, I stumbled upon an old note with a bit of a story that wasn’t really suitable for public consumption. The transition from private notebook to ease an addled memory to something visible on the internets — to several tens of people — is still a weird one for me to think about; only about half the entries are written with the eventual scanning-and-publishing present in my mind at all. (GABS probably kept me thinking about it, in this case.)