It’s here at entry eighteen and nearly a whole year since page one, that my Diary finds its first New Zealand brew. Shows what you get for being a New Zealander living in Melbourne when you start your Beer Diary.
I should add that even now, at the time of the Great Uploading in October 2010, it’s still a bit shameful how hard it is to get good beer from ‘the other side of the Tasman’ — whichever side you’re on. The situation is massively-improved, sure, but still pretty tragic.
Verbatim: Martinborough Brewing: Tora Dark. 330ml, 5%, $?, at home, 11/12/04. “Blerk,” says George. I think it’s great. Rich coffee taste, mild choc. (Goes brillo w/ advent calendar chocolates.) Darkish bubbles, some hanging around. Quite bitter, but in a good way. Mellows out after. (Their lager — which G.’s having — is perfectly decent, too. Heinek-ish.)
Afterthoughts, October 2010: This entire brewery has long since closed down, sadly. And it’s the first such casualty in my Diary (the aged Cooper’s stout was the first ‘retired’ individual beer in the book). A bit of research shows it was a dunkel (a black lager) so we can see that I’m still confused about how colours relate to styles, although that is about to get a whole lot more embarrassing with the next entry…
Verbatim: Liefmans Frambozenbier. $?, 37.5cl, 4.5%, neat champagne-cork, paper-wrapped bottle. Belgian. Best before end 2014! Darker than you’d think, rich bubbles, still around, fruit all over as poued. Smells just like cordial. Warm beeriness in the background. Just great. Gold medal @ Peterborough ’98. Perfect for “I don’t like beer” girls. It’s raspberry for grown ups.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: And finally, my first fruit beer in the book. Unlike seemingly-many Beer Nerds, I am very fond of the style, actually — for its inherent yumness, for its evangelistic potential, and for its messing-with-people ability. This was starting out right, too; very highly-regarded proper old-school authentic stuff.
Verbatim: Goose Island Honker’s Ale. $?, 12oz, @home, Nov 6. More West Wing, so a Chicago ale with burgers. Darkish, but hints of orange again. Bubbles not so enduring, no haze. Lighter taste + smell, still flat, muted ale-ish. More an afternoon beer. Perfectly respectable + tasty. Great everyday stuff; entry-level Liberty, almost.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not that I knew it at the time, but Honker’s is styled as an American take on English pale ale, whereas the Liberty I’m evidently comparing-to is pure American pale ale — so the observed easier-ness makes a lot of sense.
I remember this one quite well, reaching for a legendary American ale after the re-election of GWB. It was a pretty freaking bleak day; I was in a genuine philosophical funk for days, even weeks. But I knew it wasn’t the fault of the entire country, so I did consciously reach out to known / suspected “good things”, so as to keep perspective. There really is a sense in which self-medicating with beer can be healthy. Very occasionally.
Verbatim: Anchor Brewing Co. Liberty Ale. $?, 12oz, @ home, Nov 4. Bush won again, but the West Wing is on. — Great bubbles, still around, very slightly cloudy, amber color. Even smells a bit orange-colored. Quite a strong muted-fruit flavour. Tasty. (5.9%) Bananas and orange peels, but flat notes where lagers would be sharp. Still bubbly. Well-made American. And then a big Hello Coriander at the end. The feel. Another fun thing about San Fran.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: It’s taken the Diary a while to get to its first pale ale, hasn’t it? The style hadn’t really hit its stride in the Australian microbrew scene, and the market definitely skewed (as you can see from these entries) towards European imports. I like the note that it “smells orange-colored” — and can’t help but notice that my occasional American-spelling habit was quite ingrained, at this point — that seems to be me noticing the classic American hoppy flavours. But then my brain got overloaded by the fruity / herby hoppy notes and seems to’ve retreated to the wheat beer genres it knew much better at the time when trying to pigeon-hole them.
Verbatim: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout. 12oz, 4.3%, <$5, 20/08/04, at home. Same brewery as above: Carlow, Ireland. Good n black, but broad, tan bubbles which went wandering too soon. More like uber-dark ale, really. Won a gold at BIIA, 2000. Goes just great with Futurama. G. flinches at the coffee-ness. I must be StoutMan.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: With all the bitter coffee flavour that’s apparently in there, I’m not sure where I thought the line between “uber-dark” and stout lay. I quite like the “less than” signs on the prices for these two Carlow beers, too. Always good to know that I can occasionally remember a ballpark, if the details do escape.
Verbatim: Curim Gold Celtic Wheat Beer. 12oz, 4.3%, <$5, 20/08/04, at home. Dark-gold, slightly cloudy. Bubbles gone already. Nice, lightly yeasty nose. Smooth, with just a bit of sharp to stay interesting. It’s Irish, so not the wheatiest, but none too bad.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Here’s a good / terrible example of how forgetful and badly-habited I was in the early days of the Diary; a four-month mysterious gap since the previous entry. Shameful. And yeah, I’m not sure quite how I thought the “it’s Irish, so” bit really followed.
Verbatim: Jamieson Mountain Ale. 330ml, 4.9%, $3ish, 11/4/04, at home. “Dark wheat beer”. Brown-black. Weird. Seems stuck halfway. Not bad, per se, but not wheat and not dark. Can’t see it winning friends. Stick with La Rossa.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Oh, so very far to go until proper Beer Nerdery, still. Here’s me totally confused and confounded by the thought that “dark wheat beer” might be a thing unto itself and obviously under the impression that “dark” was basically a style, rather than just a colour, into which territory many beers may wander. There are some particularly-lovely dark wheats much later in the Diary, so I did eventually get the point.
Verbatim: Beamish Stout. 500ml, 4.2% $4ish, 29/3/04, at home with massive steak. It’s dark, and raining. I thought it all work together (one of those days). God bless Mr Widget. Gorgeous bubbles. Smooth, less punch than Guinness, closer to Craic*. Very good everyday stout. Uses cereals and caramel, but it’s not like I’m a mad Bavarian.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Beamish is still very-much the Overlooked Third of the classic Irish dry stouts, still. Which I still think is unfair. (The *-mark refers further down the page — see the next scan — reminding myself that ‘Craic’ was a very-tasty little number in a similar style, made by the James Squire’s pub in town.) And I’m particularly delighted to see me beginning to mock the silly and undeservedly famous “Bavarian Purity Law” so early on; it’s a subject to which I’ll definitely return…
Verbatim: La Rossa. Birra Moretti. 330ml, $?, at home, 7.2% 7/3/04. Rich brown-red color. Smells dark, almost chocolately. Tingly on my tongue. Very tasty. Round, full and classy as all hell. And it’s Italian. That’s just odd.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not sure why I had the beer and brewery names backwards; maybe the effects of it being the strongest beer in the book so far took a hold unexpectedly early. I was certainly massively impressed by this at the time, and have been pretty chuffed with it the few times I’ve had it since.
Verbatim: Zipfer Original. 330ml, $?, at home, 5.4%, 7/3/04. Neat curvy bottle. Smells very beery and lagerish, appropriately. Pale, but gold. G doesn’t like it. I do. Tastes of something, again. Not sure what. Fruit of some stripe. Harsh, in a way I like.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: I think I’d say “punchy”, rather than “harsh, in a good way”, these days. But then, maybe this one would still rate as such, given the palate shift over the years — still, it’s apparently a perfectly-decent example of what it is. It’s also one of those multiply-named beers, going by ‘Urtyp’ as well as the blander-sounding ‘Original’.