Category Archives: Actual Diary entries

Posts with beer notes — usually handwritten, as per the original Diary’s founding mission

Dieu du Ciel! ‘Rigor Mortis’ Abt and Invercargill ‘Men’n Skurrts’

Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis' Abt
Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis' Abt

Back when I was less behind in my posting of Diary entries — before I reached a full-calendar-year transcendental state of lateness — there were frequent strange moments of sitting in the sun writing about a moody winter beer, or vice versa.1 But not right now. Here I sit, drinking a rather-charming Fuller’s Double Stout on a drizzly, cold evening and looking back over notes from somewhen similar and two differently-seasonal beers enjoyed in succession.

In combination with the weather, the fact it was my Canadian friend Jillian’s birthday prompted me to grab a Quebecker beer from the Hashigo fridge that I’d been eyeing up for a while — especially after a positive experience with one of its stablemates.2 I didn’t know it at the time, but there are evidently a whole slew of Rigor Mortises — or Rigor Mortii, or Rigors Mortis, or however-the-fuck that should take the plural — but this one, the “Abt” / Quadrupel seems to be the most common. It’s wintery and huge, and I can’t tell if it’s an Adorable Snowman dressed as the Abominable kind, or the other way around. It doesn’t feel like it’s 10.5%; there’s no hot or fumey booze to it, it’s just all deliciously decadent warm, dark, fruity gorgeousness. But maybe that’s just its game; to entice you to drink pint after pint (or oddly-volumed bottle after oddly-volumed bottle)3 until it justifies its ominous name.

Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'
Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'

And then, something that looked vaguely similar in the glass, but which has a rather different character, a strikingly different history, and its origins in one of the most different things to come along in a good while. At the time — i.e., today, last year — the story of ‘Men’n Skurrts’ was one of those weird middle-ground “open secrets” that you get in a close-knit minority-sector community like that which surrounds craft beer: Yeastie Boys’ ‘Rex Attitude’, brewed — like all their beers — at Invercargill Brewery, had so tainted the system with its gloriously / glaringly smoky flavour that it peatified4 the next brew through the pipes, namely Pink Elephant’s ‘Mammoth’.5 It frustrated me that everyone involved wasn’t just more open about it; there’s no shame in the “mistake”, it hardly being a mistake at all, and literally no point in opening the valves and dumping a few-thousand litres of perfectly-delicious beer down the municipal pipes. So it wasn’t what it originally set out to be — very many good things aren’t.6 In the intervening year, everyone’s been getting better at this, at just owning up to these random mutations and embracing them honestly. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m firmly of the belief that more information is more good, and that — done properly — letting consumers in on these things will only help increase their engagement and grow the community.

Anyway.7 The World is richer for having ‘Men’n Skurrts’ in it, however the beer was begat. It’s got a wonderfully relaxing kind of subtle, rewarding complexity to it; big warming malt flavours (without too much strength) and a winning hint of soft smoke. If you were sitting in your big, comfy chair, reading an enthralling book and slowly drinking this — it’d make up for the fact that your cold-but-charming house doesn’t have a fireplace.

Original Diary entries: Dieu du Ciel! ‘Rigor Mortis’ 24/7/11 — Happy Birthday Jillian! — $11ish from HZ 341ml (crazy Quebeckers) 10.5% which it doesn’t taste like. It’s a softer, less-tart Trois Pistoles. Similarly hugely, only warmingly boozy; not fumey or instantly hot. Although actually succumbing to the temptation to have pints might be fatal, and justify the scary name. Pleasantly a little sweet.

Invercargill ‘Men’n Skurrts’ 24/7/11 $8-ish 330ml from HZ Apparently, you know, rumor has it, this is a Rex Attitude side-effect. We’re told that the next beer was still so heavily peatified, it became this instead. And it’s really good fun. You can taste a cold-smokey sideline, but nevermind the story, it’s a worthy thing.

Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts', bottlecap
Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts', bottlecap
Diary II entry #125, Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis'
Diary II entry #125, Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis'
Diary II entry #126, Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'
Diary II entry #126, Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'

1: Admittedly, I wasn’t necessarily a whole season out of synch; Wellington’s famously idiosyncratic weather played a large role.
2: And, just because I’m like that, I can’t help but notice that I’ve here referred back to a beer a had immediately after 8 Wired’s ‘Tall Poppy’ — to which I harked back in the blog post before this one. If you keep detailed enough notes, and have Just One Of Those Brains, nice little coincidences are everywhere.
3: 341ml? Really? Three hundred and forty-one? It doesn’t even translate to a sensible amount of ounces; it’s eleven and a half. (Although, admittedly, I’d be angrier if they wrote “11.5 floz” on the label. Something about decimal points in non-metric measurements gives me spasms.)
4: Now that I actually type that word out — rather than just hear it in my own brain — it occurs to me that you could pronounce it to rhyme with “beatified”, which would fit nicely with the reverential attitude some people have to those wonderfully sharp phenols.
5: Which, coincidentally, Alice Galletly wrote about recently. Another pleasant coincidence.a
— a: See above, n1.
6: Possibly my favourite example: Dr. Strangelove was written as a thriller, not a dark, satirical farce.
7: If you did want more, I recommend the write-up on the subject by my friend and former Malthouse colleague, Jono Galuszka — which he wrote the same nightb I speculated (incorrectly, it turns out) that Moo Brew’s lovely new ‘Belgo’ might be another Happy Accident.
— b: And another. See above, n1 and n5.

Croucher ‘Double D’ and Raindogs ‘Apothecary’

Croucher 'Double D', tap badge
Croucher 'Double D', tap badge

It is, for some reason, traditional that here in Wellington trans-Tasman flights arrive Eastward around midnight and depart Westward just before sunrise. I suppose it makes its own kind of sense, but it does mandate some bleary-eyed mornings and lead to the occasional un-bookable blank evening if you’re excitably waiting for a plane to land. On this particular day, Emma was inbound for a holiday and I was parked up at Hashigo with her High School friend and former flatmate Joaquin — who, for reasons of pronunciation and my weird sense of humour, I simply refer to (not just in my notes) as “The Spaniard” — while we waited for the time to head to the airport to meet her late-night arrival.

My first beer, Croucher’s take on a Hoppy Red / India Red Ale, is apparently named after their two junior brewers — Dave and Dave — rather than anything, you know, boob-ish.1 It didn’t have the vibrantly glowing redness of Bright Brewery’s ‘Resistance Red’, instead appearing more like a somewhat-paler version of that hazy crimson in the prototype batch of 8 Wired’s ‘Tall Poppy’, which was a minor-league disappointment. Overall, the beer was enjoyable, for sure, with nicely fresh fruitiness about it — but I just couldn’t shake the oddness of a slightly minerally / flinty note. In addition to a slightly-too-thin body, I just kept being reminded of tonic water2 and became gripped by thoughts of an equally-red gin to go with it. Which is madness of a kind that I can’t entirely blame on the beer, certainly, though I should stress that I subscribe to the belief that gin is amazing — and so anything that puts it to my mind is work a look. ‘Double D’ tastes like a First Draft, but one that’s well on its way to its goal.

Croucher 'Double D'
Croucher 'Double D'
Raindogs 'Apothecary', on the pump
Raindogs 'Apothecary'
Raindogs 'Apothecary'
Raindogs 'Apothecary'






It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, and I found myself with time to spare, so I had another. And I spent some time struggling to figure out what to have next before noticing the ‘Apothecary’ Amber badge on the handpull right in front of my face. I’ve had a few Raindogs beers — including one during the podcast recorded between this Diary entry and the previous — and they’ve all been solid so far. This was no exception, and succeeded in being just the right beer for the moment. Perched on the handpull for the photo, it was appropriately “Amber”, but under the lights and sitting on the white Daily Menu it managed to seem redder than the intended red thing before it. It suited the (sparkler-ed) handpull really nicely, pouring with a smooth off-white head that made it look like a (widget-ed) Kilkenny, while tasting more like one from a neighbouring, much more exciting alternate universe than the stuff we’ve got here in our World. It was velvety and sessionable, with a really delicious burnt-toffee finishes that goes on for ages and ages. Or at least long enough to bide your time with, until you’re due at the airport.

Original Diary entry: Croucher ‘Double D’ 7/6/12 (6%, $11, 425ml) @ Hashigo with the Spaniard while Emma’s in the air. Hoppy red ale, but not sirenny like Bright’s. Hazy ruddy amber. Nicely odd nose + taste. Flinty? Like tonic water in that minerally fruitiness. Makes me want red gin, not that that’s a thing. And then a Raindogs ‘Apothecary’ Amber (4.9%, $8, 380ml) which is nearly as “red”. Lovely and smooth and easy, like Kilkenny from a non-boring alternate universe. Lovely burnt-toffee note and a long finish. Just what I wanted.

Diary II entry #223.1, Croucher 'Double D'
Diary II entry #223.1, Croucher 'Double D'
Diary II entry #223.2, Croucher 'Double D'
Diary II entry #223.2, Croucher 'Double D'

1: They’re obviously also going for the bra-size-pun, of course. But the fact that they do have two Daves on staff and the fact that they also drop a Dr. Seuss reference entirely excuses the laddish humour — in this case — if you ask me.
2: Speaking (as I was) of 8 Wired, prototypes, red beers and tonic water — Søren’s experimental low-alcohol ‘Underwired’ had a similar note and a similar cast, so there might be something in the water chemistry or something about that red malt that kicks up that minerally taste, to me.

Liberty / Galbraith’s ‘Yakima Monster’

Liberty / Galbraith's 'Yakima Monster' handpull badge
Liberty / Galbraith's 'Yakima Monster' handpull badge

That right there is a real contender to win the Outstanding Achievement of Awesomeness in Tap Badge Design award.1 It’s fair to say the craft beer scene in our little nation punches well above its weight, but it’s worth also pausing to celebrate the easily-arguable notion we’re also rather spoiled in the design department.2 Beer’s a weird thing, art-assets-wise; it’s some peculiar mix of the bland, the offensively naff, the apparently-homemade, the fine-but-boring, the showy and overblown — with, at the top end, plenty of cleverly-done and extremely effective designs and occasional moments of pure freakin’ genius.3 Liberty’s main run is definitely of the clever-and-effective sort, and this comes from that final bracket of brilliance.

I’m a comic-book nerd from way back, and I just love how this takes the larger format of a pumpclip (compared to a tap badge) and crams the space full of a shambling horde of wonderfully classic-looking hideous beasts, who are familiar and yet not just copyright-infringingly lifted from somewhere else. If you were so inclined, you could stretch that into a nice metaphor for the beer itself, since — in this incarnation as the most-recent installment of Galbraith’s utterly-genius cask ale series — it’s assuringly recognisable and excitingly different at the same time. And you can enjoy that interplay from either direction, depending on whether your default position is closer to the world of handpulled pints in a nice quiet pub (making this nicely supercharged) or bigger and brasher U.S.-style hoppy pale ale (in which case, the low-carbonation delivery makes this one quite charmingly sedate).

Liberty 'Yakima Monster', handpulled
Liberty 'Yakima Monster', handpulled

The beer’s big, but it’s definitely a friendly giant — just like the brewer, if you were keen to needlessly pile on metaphors purely because they work. The booze is high — relative, particularly, to things usually served off the pump — and the hops are plentiful, but the way they’re put together makes the whole thing lush, fat and delicious. The fullness of it and the fruitiness of the flavours made me think of pineapple barley sugars — if such things exist; are the yellow ones intended to be pineapple? I can never quite tell — and it made for an incredibly satisfying pint on a lovely night at the pub. “Queen’s Birthday weekend”4 makes for a predictably-quieter-than-usual Friday evening in town and that, to me, is a marvellous thing. There was a veritable boatload of Liberty on tap in addition to this thing — which also existed in a cask-conditioned gravity-pour version, perched on the bartop.

I don’t have the kind of hyper-palate that found the cask and handpump versions massively different. That said, I only had a little sample of the former, which proved queue-inspiringly popular when it was tapped, though now I wish I’d taken the chance to side-by-side pints of the two. I was definitely at the bar in a celebratory rather than investigatory mood; my notes went largely neglected as I just enjoyed the company and the beer. The quieter-than-average night and the Liberty-packed taps upped the proportion of “beer people” in the room, and it was great — like an End-of-Week Bumper Edition of Tuesday’s long-standing Beer Geek Church. Jo seemed to be having a great time, and was definitely in fine form when George and I sat down with him (and Mike, from Tuatara) to record a podcast the next day.

The local craft beer community is fortunate to have Jo; he seems really generous with his time and his expertise (which includes wonderfully-minute details of brewing and engineering), and he’s possessed of a worryingly unique sense of humour. And the beer-drinking public is damn lucky to have his beers on the market. I can’t remember ever having one that seemed naff or wide of its target. There’s a very-credible rumour — though no official confirmation, yet — that there are soon to be much great numbers of Yakima Monsters roaming the world, with a vastly-more-voluminous contract brew coming up.

Yakima Monster was born, together with Yeastie Boys’ Motueka Monster, out of a nice little meta-competition run between their brewers alongside Malthouse’s long-running West Coast IPA Challenge. The two pit American- against locally-grown hops, and the latter has already been promoted to full-scaled production as ‘Digital IPA’.* That beer has a regular place in my cupboards and provided the perfect ‘occasion beer’ with which to mark my own nerdy observance of Alan Turing’s centenary. If I can readily stock my beer-stash with bottles of Yakima Monster, my house will be even more of a home.

* Correction, the next morning: As Joe (with an -e!) notes in the comments below, Digital IPA wasn’t originally Motueka Monster, it was Motueka Warrior — the Yeastie Boys half of their head-to-head from a different year’s IPA Challenge.

Original Diary entry: Liberty / Galbraith’s ‘Yakima Monster’ 1/6/12 6% on handpull, and a smidge from the cask on the bar, thanks to Steph. After a day in the Garage with Joe5 + Mike, now hanging with Hadyn6 + Narelle. Oodles of Liberty! It’s everywhere. So is Joe. This is lush. Not scary at all. Like pineapple barley sugars. Fat and delicious. Not a huge difference from the cask — just a little more apparent bitterness, maybe? It’s a quiet-ish evening (“Queen’s Birthday” weekend), but a lovely night at the pub. And suddenly there’s a Yakima Scarlet in front of me. Huzzah.

Three-of-many Liberty tap badges
Three (of many) Liberty tap badges
Diary II entry #222, Liberty 'Yakima Monster'
Diary II entry #222, Liberty 'Yakima Monster'
Yeastie Boys 'Digital' IPA, on Turing's Centenary
Yeastie Boys 'Digital' IPA, on Turing's Centenary

1: Which admittedly doesn’t yet exist, but should.
2: Thanks to the work of — among many others — Barry Hannah, Anton Hart, and the folks at Deflux.
3: Examples? Off the top of my head, per category: 1) The Peak beers or Stoke’s main range, 2) anything from Pumpclip Parade, and possibly things like Wanaka Beerworks’ ‘Lady’ and the Bennett’s beers, 3) Mussel Inn (though not, in that case, in a bad way; it suits them, charmingly-odd hippies that they are), 4) Sprig & Fern, maybe, 5) Moa, naturally — and 6) Three Boys, Renaissance, Yeastie Boys and Hallertau’s Main Range / Numbered Four, then 7) things like Garage Project’s ‘Day of the Dead’a and especially Hallertau’s ‘Heroic’ Range, i.e., the big 750ml bottles with the mock-classical relief art. I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I honestly think ‘Stuntman’ might just be the Best Beer Label Ever, Anywhere; it’s gorgeous, classy, and understatedly hilarious at the same time.
— a: Again: disclosures, disclosures.
4: Scare-quotes made necessary by a) it not being the actual birthday of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and b) by me being the sort of Republican (in the philosophical / small-r / non-U.S. party political history sense) who’d rather not celebrate these things at all.
5: It wasn’t until I was writing up the podcast we recorded the next day that I checked around online and found that the preferred / consensus abbreviation for Joseph is, in this case, just “Jo”.
6: Hadyn’s got an uncommon-but-not-unheard-of spelling for his name, and I occasionally blank out on just how it goes. I’m rather pleased with the little trick I came up with, in my handwritten notes, to split the difference between my two best guesses.

8 Wired ‘Saison Sauvin’

8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin'
8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin'

This’ll make three posts in a row from that neglected mid-to-late-2011 patch of the Diary that I’ve resolved not to let rust completely. But this one, at least — or “unfortunately”, if that’s what you were here for1 — will be significantly less grumpish. Not grumpish at all, in fact, since I apparently enjoyed this one. And I say “apparently” because I’m actually quite surprised at how positive my notes are. This one definitely freaked a lot of people out, and — for many of them — ended Søren’s winning streak. I thought I was one of those people; I certainly haven’t ever had a second one of these, and didn’t think I wanted one. So my memory’s evidently bad enough that I shouldn’t just take notes, I should also re-read the goddamn things more often. (Or get them on here so other people can remind me, too, I suppose.)

‘Saison Sauvin’ is outwardly very similar to the variant-yeast edition of 8 Wired’s deservedly-famous ‘Hopwired’ IPA,2 and almost-certainly descended from it since the recipes are rather comparable. You should be familiar with Hopwired and its deliciously intense tropical aromas and wonderfully fierce taste — like a freshly-prepared fruit salad hurled directly at your face. It’s a marvellous beer, and deserves to be one of the local scene’s real standard-bearers as we make ourselves better known in the wider world.

8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin', label blurb
8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin', label blurb

This takes changes things around in a few ways: Saison yeast for some funk, a touch of wheat for a paler and nimbler body, and an embiggened dose of Sauvin hops — all of which team up and turn the thing into a distinctly winey experience; my choice of glassware turned out rather alarmingly appropriate. I’d taken a bottle up to the Hawthorn Lounge to share with Peter,3 and wound up splitting it with a few other bartenders of various kinds while we all geeked-out about various booze-history related topics in that delightful way enjoyed by people with similar-but-different assortments of specialist knowledge, a whole bunch of enthusiasm, and the chance to finally sit down after a long day. And Hawthorn is a fantastic bar; cozy, a little (but not too much) out of the way, and staffed by a barman with bewilderingly encyclopedic mastery of his subject and a real knack for matching a person with the drink they need (even, or especially, when they don’t know it). The place looks like how I would like my living room to be, and is hands-down my favourite non-beer bar.4 It is, in short, civilised as fuck.

Which, I think — serendipitously — nicely matches my opinion of the beer. Each is quite-obviously intentionally different from the norm, but not in a way that comes across as clanky or contrived.5 The little extra dose of funk isn’t scary or overwhelming — I’m not one of those beer geeks who chases the truly Odd and Sour and Fighty — it had the strangely-comforting quality, I thought (in that weird way that I do, as you can see from my notes), it had a nose on it like the stables at your sprawling-but-rustic country estate (even though you don’t have one, and never had one, and nor have I nor any normal people) or like that warm winter jersey that you wear several days more than you should (because you can’t bring yourself to do without it for any given laundry day). Both the beer and the bar are interesting but ultimately still comforting while still being just exciting enough for the small hours of the morning.

Diary II entry #124, 8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin'
Diary II entry #124, 8 Wired 'Saison Sauvin'

Original Diary entry: 8 Wired ‘Saison Sauvin’ 7/7/11 500ml ÷ 4 w/ Peter @ Hawthorn and two other Industry Dudes. Longshot audition for Beer & Cocktails in a week or so. Again really pretty reddy orange. Funkiness is really warm + comforting, not sharp + scary / exhilarating. Not an aroma you flinch from. A jersey worn too long. The stables your house never had. Definitely winey. The beerguy from Hippo puts it as noble gewürtz. I love geeks! Hides its strength well, too. Certainly grapey. Good fun.

1: And, if so, stick around. I’m sure to get in a ranty mood again soon. In fact, I know I will, because I’ve got the Diary right here, and I know what’s coming up over the next few pages.
2: Which is vaguely-possibly the Diary entry that had me blacklisted on certain workplace internet filters until recently. That write-up contains a vanishingly-brief and extremely tangential mention of pornography, in the ultra-nerdy context of U.S. Supreme Court history — but that’s honestly the best I can find. McAfee (who managed the list I was on) did grant my ‘appeal’, but didn’t elaborate on the original cause of the listing.
3: i.e., Peter Lowry. Not Peter Moran (my former Malthouse colleague, friend and neighbour), nor Peter Gillespie (brewer at the Garage Project), nor Peter Mitcham (Australian beer writer, and @beerblokes on the Twitters), nor… — I know quite a lot of Peters.
4: They do have beer, and I often have a lovely Tuatara Porter or Little Creatures Pale. But when in Rome, and all that. So I usually go for their magnificent gunpowder-rum-topped whiskey old fashioned, the discovery of which was a mind-blowing revelation of pure liquid awesome.
5: One of Hawthorn’s little quirks is that overdoses of gizmos are actively frowned upon (especially sitting right at the bar) since they are prone to ruining the mood. There is arguably a big difference between fucking about with your camera and twiddling away at Angry Birds or Facebook on your cleverphone. But you don’t push your luck in your favourite bar. So the photo at the top there is a little rushed and badly lit. You get the idea, though.

Hofbräu Maibock (and the gdmfing Reinheitsgebot)

Hofbrau Maibock
Hofbräu Maibock

Beer first, rant second. It was a favourite rant, back when I was bartending, but for once I should go beer first. And despite the seemingly-faint praise in my notes, I really did quite like this one. That garish and comical HB tap has been at the Malthouse (at least) since the bar moved to Courtenay Place, and I just couldn’t ever really see the attraction of the Hofbräu ‘Original’ that usually poured from it.1 This, their Maibock, was a pleasant exception, in two senses: it was much more palatable (to me) than anything else to come from that font, and it was just pleasant. Nothing earth-shattering (though, like its Octoberfest sibling, armed with surprisingly-formidable strength), soft and lightly flavourful, with a nice texture and a gorgeous appearance. That latter factor deserves an apology, since my lovely camera should let me at least convey the appearance of a beer properly and sidestep all the usual problems of subjective experience, but I hadn’t yet had white balance lessons and I short-changed it rather tragically. You’ll have to take my word that it’s an incredibly-appealing glowing reddish-amber; it somehow made those big and cartoonishly-German handled glasses look good.

Not that I had a full-on half-litre (or larger) mug, though, as you can perhaps discern from the scale of things in the photo — or from skipping to the end and reading my original notes, wherein I also mention the “N.S.R.”; the New Staffie Regime. The Powers That Be at work had decided that we should economise on after-shift drinks, of all things. Years previous, the hard-won rule became a nice-and-simple “one pint of anything you like on tap”, but the N.S.R. put in a ten dollar retail price ceiling, for fuck’s sake.2 Thinking about that, and then about the God Damn Motherfucking Reinheitsgebot was enough to put me in an enjoyably and full-flightedly ranty mode.

Hofbrau Maibock's Reinheitsgebotty tap badge
Hofbräu Maibock’s Reinheitsgebotty tap badge

The (G.D.M.F-ing) Reinheitsgebot really does piss me off, with its perfect storm of brandwank and pseudo-history and dim-witted jurisprudence. The short version is this: anyone who recommends a beer (their own, or not) by reference to the German (or, for a bonus mark, “Bavarian”) Purity Law is either a) an idiot, b) assuming you are an idiot, or c) just blindly going along with a marketing trend without caring whether the reference is accurate or not.3 Basically, there just is no Reinheitsgebot in existence that’s anything like the usual versions of the myth — or worth crowing about at all.

People like boasting about heritage, a seemingly-ancient date, and a tradition that’s stood since time immemorial. So “1516” appears a lot, but refers to a time when there didn’t exist a Germany and when what was then called Bavaria was rather-different to what now bears the name. And it’s quite a bit before microbiology was a science (or even a hobby), so the original Three Permitted Ingredients entirely fail to include yeast, and good luck to you if you’re making beer without that; do let us know if you succeed.

But nevermind yeast, if you feel that’s mere sophistry or too technical a complaint. The 1516 rules mandate barley as the only allowable grain, despite just about every famous German Hefeweizen — i.e., wheat beer / not-just-barley-beer — that makes it to this part of the world proudly proclaiming their adherence to the “Law” anyway.4 So you should pause before cheering for this tradition if you also happen to be fond of fruit beer, or oatmeal (nevermind oyster) stout, or sugared-up high-strength Trappist ales, or any one of a metric fuck-tonne of styles which cheerfully disregard this nonsense and get on with being fantastic.

Worse still, there’s absolutely nothing in the text about “purity” at all, in any normal sense; no demand for clean water, fresh barley, or this season’s hops. Likewise, there’s no mention of cleaning your brewery, properly sealing your bottles, or just washing your damn hands. Contrary to reputation, there’s nothing in this which has the character of “consumer protection” — other than the elaborate price-fixing mandates which take up five out of the six proclamations; the famous and apparently ground-breaking part of the law is casually tossed off in a single sentence plonked awkwardly in the middle of the text and looking for all the world like it was left there by accident.

The whole history of the thing owes much more to provincialism and protectionism than it has anything do with genuine concerns for “purity” in any laudable sense — and there are damn few laudable senses of purity anyway. Almost everything ever said about it by a brewery’s marketing department is complete and blatant pants and its psychological hold on a whole nation has really stifled their brewing scene, which is a tragic waste of energy and misallocation of people’s passions. To quote the gleeful shouts of multiple brewers I’ve witnessed doing something, in pursuit of a delicious result, which would’ve caused heavily-accented tutting and tisking half a millennium ago: fuck the Reinheitsgebot — it’s not what it says it is, and it’s just a bad idea. Let it die.

Diary II entry #123, Hofbrau Maibock
Diary II entry #123, Hofbräu Maibock

Original Diary entry: Hofbräu Maibock. 7/7/11 7.2% on tap @ MH. A half, given the N.S.R.. And I think this is my first nakedly-tactical entry, to give me an excuse / mandate to rant about the gdmfing Reinheitsgebot nonsense online later… Its colour is gorgeous; clear reddy amber, very appealing. There’s something odd / [illegible]5 / vegetal in the nose, but not ruinously. Pleasantly malty, hides its booze disturbingly well. Quite full feel, but still nicely clean.

— A (Preliminary) Reinheitsgebot Hall of Shame:

Locally-brewed Beck's Reinheitsgebot label
Locally-brewed Beck’s Reinheitsgebot label
Kostritzer's non-Reinheitsgebot ingredients
Köstritzer’s non-heitsgebot ingredients list
Tuatara's unique "Rheinheisgebot"
Tuatara’s unique “Rheinheisgebot”

Beck’s is, at first glance, the worst example here; they’re using the specific “brewed under” terminology (rather than more-usual “according-to” language) to bolster the I’d-happily-argue-actionable lie that it’s German beer, not a locally-brewed clone. The label is full of non-English text and details that are clearly aimed to give the impression of an imported beer — a fact only belied by teeny-tiny text on the back sticker. The fact they engage in Reinheitsgewank and get the 1516 law wrong (by smuggling in yeast) is almost the least of its problems. The genuinely-German beer Köstritzer tries to pretend it’s Purity-Law Compliant even while openly including an unapproved ingredient, namely hop extract, on the label. But then Tuatara, in a promotional booklet, took the cake: they doubly-typo’ed “Reinheitsgebot”, trumpeted their adherence with it while also (rightly) celebrating the medal wins earned by their Hefe and ‘Ardennes’ — at least one of which (if not both) is in plain violation — and skated perilously close to violating Godwin’s Law with the unsubtle reference to ‘Bavarian regimes’ at the end, there.

1: Nor the Octoberfest version that came on annually, though with an Oompah band in attendance and everyone in costume, it was impossible to resist — but for occasion-based reasons, only; it was inherently pretty bland and samey, with a weirdly pointless higher ABV, since it didn’t seem to effect the flavour much at all. 
2: In the best-case scenario (from the point of a cost-cutting Power That Were), using unrealisticially optimistic values for the cost and staff choice variables, you could maybe save seventy bucks per week. Pretty much a rounding error on Courtenay Place rent. As far as I could figure, the real number was likely in the $20-30 range given that very few beers were much (if anything) over the $10-retail mark and very few of us drank the ‘cheap’ $8-retail stuff anyhow. I’m sure that sounds bitter (and nerdy, since I stopped just inches short of showing the actual maths of my working-out), but the N.S.R. really did come across as a needless smack in the face to the staff. 
3: This third option is what the philosophersa call bullshit. The first chap, in a), is just wrong.b b) is a liar and would easily find work in any number of marketing departments. But c), the bullshitter, is the most dangerous of all: at least liars are in some sense concerned and engaged with the truth. Bullshitters, advancing their own agendas without any regard for a the real state of things are bigger enemies of truth and progress than liars will ever be — and will therefore probably be found forming their own marketing agencies. (Or in politics.) 
— a: Or at least one of them, namely the incomparable Harry Frankfurt.
— b: And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with being wrong, as such. It’s what you do with your wrong-ness that counts; ignorance is where everyone starts about everything, but it’s just pointless and basically immoral to be incurious.
4: Later amendments do allow for wheat. But they do so by arbitrarily splitting the rules for top- and bottom-fermenting yeasts. And for the latter (i.e., for ales) it’s not just wheat that’s allowed; you can pour in sugar if you like, too, even though that unaccountably usually goes unmentioned. And the later revisions also entirely fail to regulate any kind of maturing time for lagers, despite that being kind of the point of those styles, historically. 
5: This happens sometimes, with my particular combination of scratchy handwriting and patchy recall. I thought it’d happen more often, in fact. But on this occasion, I’ve got no freakin’ idea. Fighty? Firey? Ah. No; maybe I’ve got it: feety. My friend K.T. used to occasionally describe some beers (particularly old-school English ales) as feety or footsy. I think that’s what this is. 

DB ‘Export Beer’

DB 'Export Beer'
DB 'Export Beer'

To re-cap, almost cretainly unnecessarily: beer has alcohol in it, alcohol is massively regulated and subject to substantial taxes, and the vast bulk of beer on the market is made by a few giant companies (themselves usually part of sprawling industry mega-conglomerations) and produced at a rather striking profit. The inevitable tensions ensue, and are knotted into a sticky tangle by politicians’ divided loyalties, a rather surprising level of ignorance about the relevant statistics and the strange ease with which humans can apparently be whipped into a moral panic about this stuff.

Towards the end of 2010, a review of the local liquor licensing laws has in full swing and this beer emerged as a relatively subtle incarnation of the recurring to-and-fro between the regulator and the regulated. The whole thing was still swinging this time last year, when I eventually decided I really should try the beer and stick it in The Book — and the debate hasn’t stopped yet, as these things usually possess a fair amount of inertia. The beer’s release wasn’t presented as anything topical, of course, but the veneer of bullshit that it was wrapped in was fairly transparent, to sufficiently-cynical eyes — in my own honest opinion, at least.

The official story — complete with websites, full-page newspaper ads, and a big-money TV / cinema advertising campaign — was that this was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of an iconic beer developed by Morton Coutts, who D.B. have taken to parading-around like some kind of inventor folk-hero.1 Apparently, Arnold Nordmeyer’s 1958 “Black Budget” jacked up taxes (on imported beers) and Export Beer came to the rescue of the working man. Except that’s exactly the sort of tax change that local breweries (before they were absorbed into international conglomerations) would’ve lobbied for and the factory-blokes in the ad were unlikely to’ve been drinking imported beer in the first place.

DB Export Beer ad, 'How To Lose An Election'
DB Export Beer ad, 'How To Lose An Election'

So desperate were they to ‘land’ the story, they drenched it in typically-depressing ultra-gendered language and resorted to using clips of the 1951 Waterfront Lockout as if they were footage of popular uprisings against the alleged beer-and-fun tax. For the latter, they were given a tentative little smack by the Advertising Standards Authority — the former (i.e., the sexism) is still just business-as-usual, sadly — and forced to withdraw the ads a few weeks early. But I doubt they cared; this was never about the Export Beer: you just don’t celebrate a beer this hard when you’ve already given up on it, in favour of a watered-down version, nearly a quarter-century ago.2 If you were so fucking proud of this thing that you’d fanfare its 50th anniversary, wouldn’t you have let the product survive to see its thirtieth birthday? The brandwank drones on about the quote Export Family unquote, but carefully avoids mentioning how that family’s eldest member was quietly taken out to the woodshed, unmourned, in the late eighties.

The anti-government / anti-regulation tone of the whole campaign was laid on incredibly thick, with the narrator also getting in a “never trust a man who doesn’t drink” barb (Nordmeyer apparently didn’t) — and whole thing has a clankingly-awkward tension between its pro-working-class pretensions, the reality of it as a series of ads made by suits for hundreds of thousands of dollars,3 and its coming out of a company who also produce beers which pretend to be imported and are branded as “premium” this-or-that in an effort to spin them so they appeal to just the “toffs” who are so casually derided in this campaign.4 And all of that — the overblown manner, the nastiness, and the fundamental lack of any kind of logical coherence once you look too closely — tell you what this really was: politics. Parliamentary committees and commissions start to review liquor regulations, and someone who makes a metric butt-tonne of money selling booze engages in a little sabre-rattling and murmuring that they brought down a government once, and so could do it again. Predictable, almost boring, and faintly depressing — although, strangely mercifully, a bit of an ineffectual damp squib.

So just like the beer itself, I suppose.

Verbatim: DB ‘Export Beer’ 6/7/11 745ml Quart bottle 2pk ÷ 2 w/ Peter. 5.35%, amusingly. [Transcribed later, since I couldn’t find a black pen…] All sorts of ad-man nonsense, again. And since they actually missed the 50th they cite,5 I think Martin’s right. Incredibly pale yellow; between Bud & Molson. Likewise in taste. No faults, some trace of nice fruit in the middle. But very nothing-much.

DB 'Export Beer', box blurb
DB 'Export Beer', box blurb
DB 'Export Beer', bottlecap
DB 'Export Beer', bottlecap
DB 'Export Beer'
Diary II entry #122, DB 'Export Beer'

1: Morton is no relation, it should be stressed, to local craft beer luminary Steph Coutts — she does seem occasionally nervous that people might assume a connection. And on D.B.’s recent heavy-handed use of the Coutts name, it’s worth pointing out that there’s something distinctly uncomfortable in the way that it’s all really ramped up in recent years since Morton died in 2004 and is no longer around to have his own say. I’ve heard enough conflicting second- and third-hand reports of things said by the man that it doesn’t seem straightforwardly obvious he’d be keen to see these recent uses of his name and likeness.
2: ‘Export Beer’ was replaced, in 1987, by ‘Export Gold’ and ‘Export Dry’. Both are lower in ABV than their predecessor — and the more-popular Export Gold significantly so at just 4%. Given the way excise tax on alcohol works in New Zealand (where stronger beers attract proportionally more of a levy), it’s hard not to see the downsizing of the beer as precisely the kind of number-crunching tax-policy-first decision making that they so gleefully pilloried Nordmeyer for.
3: Case in point: the ads are narrated from the point of view of Morton Coutts’ barber, a humble working-class dude who sympathises with the pub-going factory-worker chaps across the road. He’s about as folksy as he could possibly be without becoming literally nauseating — but (according to a write-up in the NBR) he’s voiced by Roger McDonnell, founding partner of Colenso BBDO, member of the TVNZ Board, and presumably a dweller in the toppest of top tax brackets.
4: This sort of tension is inevitable in giant conglomerated producers of the sort who talk about their products primarily as “brands”, and it never ceases to amuse my peculiar brain. I think my favourite was when Jim Beam was marketed with the “if it ain’t Beam, it ain’t bourbon” line and Maker’s Mark was bandied-about as “the World’s finest bourbon”. Since both are produced by the same people, I wrote to them and ask how exactly the fuck both statements could be true — and if one was just brandwank, would they at least tell me which? Unaccountably, I received no reply.
5: I initially thought they missed the anniversary, but it seems I was wrong about that — though they did cut things mighty fine, releasing this beer right at the end of 2000. As you can see from my Diary, I drank this around-about this time last year; stocks evidently lasted several months (hell, it might still be around; I’m not sure), and someone from D.B. had rather-misguidedly dropped off samples at the Malthouse. My bottle was one of those, since no one else was remotely likely to reach for it, and I’m capable of deriving different kinds of enjoyment from bland-but-brandwanky beer.

Left Coast ‘The Wedge’

Left Coast 'The Wedge'
Left Coast 'The Wedge'

It appears I might have “Black IPA” on the brain. Or hoppy porter, at least — the question of whether the one is the other is an enjoyable piece of modern beer taxonomy for me to ponder as I have a nice glass of something-dark on a wintery evening. I suspect I drink more dark beers in cooler weather,1 and Wellington is capable of serving up a bastard-cold evening every now and then. The local market is keeping me well-stocked, too: the few-days-before-this Funk Estate launch, the new Black Rye IPA from Renaissance (which is a few pages after this, further down the Diary), and — from the looks of it2 — there’ll be three-or-so at the West Coast IPA Challenge at the Malthouse next Friday night.

We had a bit of a house-warming shindig one night not long ago, here at my new (ish — we were slow in organising the party) flat, and I have a strange relationship with parties; I often find myself at a point of people-overdose and want a break. My occasionally-acute aversion to crowds and noise and such is often surprising to people who met me through the fact that I was a bartender for ages upon aeons, but the bartending was genuinely secondary to the prior fact of me being nocturnal. But the great thing — it turns out — about being a host of a party from which you fancy some time off is that your room is right there.

So I hid myself away for a while, wrote up a post — the one about my visit to Josie Bones, which did make me ravenously hungry — and drank this lovely thing. Another U.S. West Coast import from Hashigo, I’d picked it up from Regional, where Kieran and I had a bit of a Black-IPA-related ramble in which he was also3 saying things along the lines of overt hoppiness as necessary but not sufficient for something to be properly “Black IPA”; it being more about the character of that hoppiness. He pointed to ‘The Wedge’ as an example of something that should probably more-properly be “hoppy porter” — but which was no less worthy, for it.

It was exactly what I needed, in a break and beer. A generous 640ml (ish — peculiar Americans and their non-metric measurments…) bottle of loveliness, it kept me company while I hacked away at my keyboard and had genuinely delightful smooth, slightly smoky body that didn’t really even hint at its not-insubstantial strength. It was all chocolate and fruit, with a more-wintery kind of nose than Funk Estate’s beer, but I start to get hopelessly out of my league, sometimes, when it comes to identifying particular fruits or their flavours. To me, it tasted gloriously reminiscent of Whittaker’s Berry & Biscuit chocolate,4 with that Black-Forest-esque berries-and-cherry thing going on.

Again, if I had to categorise — if I’m given the taxonomy question like some kind of much-more-fun but much-less-productive travelling naturalist — then this ain’t Black IPA. But that’s just good-natured (I hope) fastidiousness and a concern for how getting the label text right and as helpful as possible is important in terms of ‘outreach’ to new customers / fresh good-beer-converts / anyone with imperfect information and impermanent guidance we can rely on (i.e., all of us). Here, the label is all hops-hops-hops in now-familiar style, but I can’t resist thinking that they’re simultaneously overstating their case and selling themselves short. They weren’t face-punchingly bitter hop notes such as you might get from a West Coast IPA with the h-word on the label that frequently,5 and the chocolatey malt they enriched (and gave that high-dose-cocoa edge) deserved to be called more than “a twist”. This was a fucking marvellous beer; well-balanced and worthy, whatever its label. And once I’d finished the bottle — and hit the Big Blue Publish Button on the post I was writing — I re-emerged from my room and rejoined the party.

Original Diary entry: Left Coast ‘The Wedge’ 26/5/12 @ home, hiding from a party. Writing some blog instead, and with Black IPA on the brain. This is almost smoky, though I did warm it well, and with a duller-fruit nose than PKB or Funk. Struggling to Name That Fruit, as I do. Emma’s beloved Berry & Biscuit chocolate, almost. (7.1%, 1 pt 6 floz, $15-ish) Beautifully smooth + soft. You’d never suspect 7%. This is pitched as BIPA but is in instructively-similar territory to the previous.

Left Coast 'The Wedge', while blogging
Left Coast 'The Wedge', while blogging
Left Coast 'The Wedge', label blurb
Left Coast 'The Wedge', label blurb
Diary II entry #221, Left Coast 'The Wedge'
Diary II entry #221, Left Coast 'The Wedge'

1: I assume. I haven’t actually charted anything, yet. But I do keep meaning to. There should be some amusing number-crunching, graph-making pseudo-mathematics lurking in my Diary.
2: Croucher Patriot was a (fantastic) hoppy-and-black-thing / American-style Porter / American Black Ale / Black IPA, and a ‘Cascade Patriot’ is on the list of contenders. The Yeastie Boys and Liberty Brewing are also again releasing twin beers, as Motueka and Yakima Raven. The place names signify the origin of the hops in each version (N.Z. or U.S.), and — especially after very red Jo’s Yakima Scarlet — Raven pretty-strongly suggests a Black IPA.
3: By “also” I mean like what I was saying about Funk Estate without meaning to imply that Kieran felt the same way about Funk’s beer. I honestly can’t remember which box he thought it best fit.
4: Something I’ve become familiar with (and fond of) through Emma’s enthusiastic-to-the-point-of-obsession liking for it; it accounted for a sizable fraction of her luggage allowance.
5: Given Hashigo’s maximally-cautious method of importing these things, I think it’s disregardably-unlikely that this was a more-aggressive beer that’d just rusted and atrophied down to the milder-mannered thing I met. But I suppose you never know.

The Fourth of July (Last Year)

Anchor Porter, on or after the 4th (depending on your point of view)
Anchor Porter, on or after the 4th (depending on your point of view)

One of the genuinely-many delightful things about celebrating “occasion beers” keyed to non-local occasions is that the magic of timezones can grant you quite a bit more time — in case you’d like to keep the party going, or just if you’re the forgetful and distractable sort.

So I didn’t get around that absurdly sexy Anchor Porter right there until the local day-after the Fourth, which was probably still the actual Fourth, since ours is a large-ish and sedately-spinning planet, around which it takes a while for daylight to circuit. No harm, no foul, right? But gawd is Anchor Porter sexy, in a bookish and interesting way that a hack Hollywood director would be obliged to convey by having it take its glasses off and let its hair down.1 Which is me anthropomorphising to a worrying extent, I realise, but I run of out words to describe the reliable-but-perpetually-exciting loveliness that the beer’s always granted me. I was, therefore, almost glad to’ve run out of time on the local Fourth; it deserves your full attention.

So there we were, last year,2 celebrating the Fourth while we worked, in the company of a handful of lovely people, most of whom could credibly claim some degree of other of Americanness and with a fittingly-fantastic array of four U.S. beers with gloriously-ostentatious tap handles happily assembled.

Victory 'Hop Wallop'
Victory 'Hop Wallop' IPA, a classic case of 'ugly label, gorgeous beer'
Brewaucracy 'Punkin Image, Ltd.', with pumpkin pie
Brewaucracy 'Punkin Image, Ltd.', with my first-ever pumpkin pie
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011'
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', after everyone else had finished theirs







My first beer of the night — the rumours are true; one of the few unalloyed joys of bartending is that you occasionally / frequently drink while you work (although the hours and the pay sometimes drive you to it, on balance) — was a ‘Hop Wallop’ IPA from Victory in Pennsylvania, generously shouted-by and shared-with our friend Kimmy (who, if memory serves, hails from nearby). Apparently originally a hop-harvest seasonal, it has all that lovely, intensely-aromatic high-velocity fruit salad kind of zip. It was heady doses of lushness and gorgeousness at the front, quickly replaced by a surprise bitter punch in the neck before it ran off and hid long enough for you to be lulled back by the nose. (Then wham-rinse-repeat happily all the way down the glass.)

We were also lucky enough to all split a rigger / growler / flagon3 of Brewaucracy’s then-new ‘Punkin Image, Ltd.’, a pumpkin beer and, as such, something very American while being not at all Fourth-ish. They’re traditionally Thanksgiving-related things, but when you’re displaced on a spherical planet, the seasons get all ass-backwards. So another of ‘our’ Americans, Annika, made proper pumpkin pie, and an unmistakable home-comfort happiness dawned on very many faces. Except mine. Mine was a face full of skepticism and doubt, since I’ve long held to the maxim that Pumpkins are Pig Food and Pigs are People Food; for peoples to eat pumpkins would be to inadvisably leapfrog the food chain. But I’d previously tried Dogfish Head’s pumpkin beer, and was astounded to find myself enjoying it, so I gave them both a chance — and can happily report that I am, weirdly, very fond indeed of both pumpkin beer and pumpkin pie as much as I still detest pumpkin pumpkin. Maybe it’s a texture problem, with the actual thing, or just the fact that — in both the pies and the beers — any flavour they might’ve had before they went in is completely swamped by deliciously soothing and satisfying winter spices.

Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', with womens
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', with delightfully-mad womens
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #1
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #1: on style and origins
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #2
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #2: on sexism and beer







And finally, I had (in my personal stash, secreted in a corner of the fridge) a great-big bottle of the then-new vintage of Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty’. Sharing it with a bunch of my favourite beer-geeky women made enough sense just leveraging off the name, but the label on this vintage went out of its way to deliver a beautiful fuck you to the sadly-prevalent sexism in this business, and that firmly cemented the idea. A rather-radical departure from the previous year’s edition — with which I began my second Beer Diary — other than in the Belgian-yeast department, I have vague memories of it causing some consternation at the Matariki Winter Beers Festival, but I definitely recall enjoying its dry, peachy funk. But it couldn’t really fail, when served according to the directions: “Enjoy responsibilty with friends, laughter and music”. Done.

This year, I’ll be helping out at Hashigo which — owing to the formidable stock of West Coast U.S. beers they import and the statistically-significant fraction of expats in the local craft beer community — is traditionally a busy one. They’ve rather spectacularly one-upped my “Four of July” from Malthouse last year, with eight visiting Americans in a row all along their main bank of taps. Should be a great lark.

Diary II entry #121, The Fourth of July
Diary II entry #121, The Fourth of July

Original Diary entry: The Fourth of July 4/7/11 working @ Malthouse with Petey & Halena. 1) Victory ‘Hop Wallop’ IPA ÷ 2 with Kim, who shouted for the occasion. 8.5% 355ml nicely pale + hazy. Big nose, blunter fruit salad cf. Hop Wired etc., nice big bitter sting, but not lingeringly so. So kind [of] like Punk, in that see-saw 2) Brewaucracy ‘Punkin Image Ltd.’ with Annika’s pumpkin pie! Which is hardly-usual for the Fourth, but this is the other hemisphere. Both were delicious + smooth. So my Pumpkins are Pig Food stance doesn’t apply to pie or beer, it seems. 3) Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty 2011’ with Haitch, Amy, Shannon, Annika + Kim — some of my favourite beer-geeky women! Total colour / weight inversion from 2010, but still Belgian & Odd. Light, dry, fruity — peachy, I thought. But what do I know? 4) Anchor Porter. Well, that was the plan. I forgot it until the next night. Such a fucking marvellous thing. Rich + fabulous.

1: Much to the consternation of geeks and just-plain-decent-thinking people alike; we know you can be perfectly sexy with your still hair up and your glasses still on.
2: I’ve been enjoying the increased topicality of posting closer to the day I actually drink a beer, but I’m resolved not to let those beers that I had to vault right over languish unpublished forever. I’ll try and make one calendar year the high-point of my slothful delay, switching back-and-forth between historical and current posts as I go — but leaving that mind-breaking back-dating scheme I formerly used entirely to its retirement.
3: Depending on your linguistic heritage, knowledge of Antipodean slang terms, and/or the state of local trademark law.

Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA

Funk Estate Black IPA
Funk Estate Black IPA

Tuesday, for the vast majority of four long years at the Malthouse, was my standing night off. Which is the kind of predictable-planning luxury that, in the bartending business, is quite a rarity indeed. They were originally granted so that I could go to pub trivia and eventually grew to include a fortnightly and shamelessly-nerdy Dungeons & Dragons night. And somewhere along then way, back when ParrotDog and Garage Project had their Official Launch Shindigs (and the latter went on to make recurring appearances with their 24/24 phase), Tuesday at Hashigo turned into Beer Geek Church.

They’ve kept something going each week for nearly a year now, and there’s always a good crowd of friendly beer nerds in attendance. And — just occasionally — there’s a colossal heaving throng of people, both nerdy and newb, crammed into every inch of available space, beery cheek by beardy jowl. The launch night of Funk Estate was definitively one of those, in the tradition of the aforementioned P.D. and G.P. premieres before it. Like those, this was the début of a new locally-based brewing operation,1 with the added magnetic effects of their main brewing-brain being a Hashigo bartender and a first-keg-goes-out-free launch policy, which shouldn’t ever be underestimated as a method for causing H. sapiens to congregate in dense numbers.

They’ve already got other brews fermenting / conditioning away, but this first release was an as-yet-unnamed Black IPA,2 picking up on a relatively-recent trend in craft brewing that’s only had a few touchdowns in New Zealand so far — notably in Yeastie Boys breakout single3 ‘Pot Kettle Black’ and Croucher’s ‘Patriot’. I’ve struggled (in a curious and nerdy way rather than one that caused any real stress) with this whole “Black IPA” lark, and whether it’s really a thing or if there’s any real reason not to just say hoppy porter, forgoing making up a new Capitalised Style Term in favour of just using an adjective. If anything, Funk’s beer was instructive — in that I think it’s the latter.

Maybe I’m being pedantic — that does sound like something I’d be — but I’d say that a Modified IPA needs some kind of aggressive / assertive hop presence, be it up the nose or on the palate (or, of course, both). There are mild IPAs, to be sure, but those aren’t the ones you’d be talking about were you to pick up the term and transplant it onto a hybrid style. You’d be better off referencing the classic, the archetype, the ur-IPA, when you plonk those three letters somewhere new. Shaun of the Dead deservedly labelled itself a “RomZomCom” because it had genuine romance, full-on zombies, and proper comedy — not vague flirtation, unspecified undead things somewhere in the background, and occasional subtle wordplay. Similarly, Braid is a ‘puzzle/platformer’ because it really is absolutely and full-throatedly both, at the same rewardingly mind-bending, joy-migraine-inducing time.4 So no matter how perfectly-hilarious the hero’s one-liner when he dispatches the villain, the movie’s not automatically transformed — by that alone — into an “Action Comedy”; likewise, no matter how deft your hop addition, your black beer doesn’t necessarily slot into the weirdly-shaped and still-forming “Black IPA” box.

If this wasn’t black, nothing about this would make you instantly reach for the IPA label, but there’s room for a hoppy-and-black thing to not be a “Black IPA”, and still be worthy and wonderful. And this was their first release, perhaps it fell short of the bitterness and punch they intended and maybe it’ll change — but ultimately I genuinely don’t care much for labels and taxonomy (as much as they’ll very-happily distract me a while). This was delicious; rich and sumptuous with metric oodles of chocolatey malt layered with fruity and gorgeous hop flavours. Launch night was a cracking success and I’ve had several tremendously-enjoyable pints around town since, often happily one after another. Shiggy (the aforementioned main brewing-brain) is a passionate and talented homebrewer and is sure to come up with some gems. The local market is increasing in population at a formidable rate, but it still doesn’t feel crowded or even very “herd-ish” at all; everyone’s doing their own thing, and there’s still plenty of room — though I am starting to wonder how soon I’ll need a third notebook.

Original Diary entry: Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA 22/5/12 @ a jam-packed Hashigo. Although I’m writing this much later, such was the jam-packed-ness. Parrot / Garage syndrome, plus buildup + bartender + free beer factors = people all up the stairs. The debut beer is a Black IPA, sufficiently far from the big boom that it doesn’t just seem an act of fashion. Here with Pete + Tim + George, crammed by the wall with no room for notes. The beer is delicious, rich + black with lovely fruity hop notes. But, if anything, not BIPA. Which is weirdly presumptive, for a non-thing, but maybe this is instructively “hoppy porter”. If it were non-black, it’d be closer to ESB — no hop punch or brutality. IPA — to me — need[s] some, whether up the nose or on the tongue. And this is heaps less roasty than PKB (confirmed in-between the tasting-and-writing, for this). But who gives a fuck about style? Not me, other than for positioning. It’s lovely, several-pints-able, and everyone’s having a grand old time.

A veritable throng at the Funk Estate Launch
A veritable throng of people at the Funk Estate Launch
Diary II entry #220.1, Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA
Diary II entry #220.1, Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA
Diary II entry #220.2, Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA
Diary II entry #220.2, Funk Estate Launch / Black IPA

1: Contract brewing, for now, at Aotearoa Brewery (home of the Mata beers)a and with what looks like a few side-batches on the go on the little (i.e., 200L) kit at Massey University. In the local scene at the moment, the “for now” in the previous sentence is pretty-much mandatory, given how frighteningly / surprisingly / inspiringly fast ParrotDog have made the jump to a concrete-and-steelb brewery of their own. Denise Garland, having returned to blogging a little while ago, wrote a great little backgrounder on Funk Estate and also filed a report from Launch Night.
— a: Weirdly, I’ve never enjoyed a Mata beer, though I’ve now enjoyed plural beers to be contract-brewed on their kit. Their own range, in my experience, has always fallen foul of naffness or faultiness. Or, unforgiveably, both. And I know I’m always quick to whine about marketing, but theirs also has an off-puttingly clunky, fudge-and-booties at the market kind of air about it, somehow — with a genuinely awkward sideline of gender politics: a giant banner on their website currently blares “Truth Be Told / Mata Ales & Lager / Passionately Brewed & Handcrafted / By A Woman”, in an apparent collision between buzzword-marketing and some kind of broken haiku.
— b: I’ve learned, with my recent high doses of in-brewery time, that the traditional English idiom “bricks and mortar” (to denote a proper physical thing in business terms) is massively outmoded.
2: ‘Blaxploitation’ was floated as a suggestion by several people — including myself, I believe — which does seem to fit the branding and the beer, although I can’t help but wonder whether four boys of European and Asian descent will ever run into strife with that aesthetic.
3: Given the multitude of musical references in Yeastie Boys beer names, it’s hard not to make an analogy in kind; and it really does fit nicely with their yearly ‘remixes’ and re-imaginings. It wasn’t their first release, but you could think of it as the first recorded single of a buddingly-famous live-jam band (since it was the first of their range to be regularly bottled), and it was certainly the first to emerge into very-many peoples’ attention with its stunning success at Beervana, like Elbow’s ‘Seldom Seen Kid’c winning the Mercury Prize in 2008 after they’d been making albums for years.
— c: Which, probably-not-coincidentally, I’m listening to right now. I should see if I have any funk.
4: I’m probably safe in assuming most of you have seen Shaun. To those likely-very-many of you who’ve never played Braid: seriously, try it. It’s a stunning piece of work, and will ruin your brain in tremendously enjoyable ways — imagine if Darren Aronofsky had made Super Mario Bros..

Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’

A later / right-now / not-long-ago bottle of Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
A later / right-now / not-long-ago bottle of Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'

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.

Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', LBQ tap badge
Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta' tap badge at Little Beer Quarter

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.

Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', label blurb
Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta', label blurb (feat. Paul Kelly)
Diary II entry #219.1, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.1, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.2, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'
Diary II entry #219.2, Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamatta'

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.)