For the holidays — the familiar public ones, but also the 14th anniversary of the first entry in my actual Beer Diary — George and I sat down to talk about what’s changed, and what hasn’t, in the time since we last did one of these. We cover a little of the long arc of news, entry into and exit from the subculture of beer (or indeed anything else), the ageing of beer and of ourselves, the surprisingly fraught nature of not drinking, and keeping things in balance in this peculiar world.
Continuing in the strange experimental spirit we started with our ‘Will It Shandy..?’ investigation, Dylan ― of The Bottleneck blog, and my comrade / direct superior at Golding’s Free Dive ― and I ask the yet-more-nonsensical question: Will It Gaff? We realise that’s probably not really a noun, nevermind a verb,1 but we wanted to pick up the thread of mostly-forgotten ginger-beer-blends (with names like “portergaff” and “shandygaff”) that we mentioned in passing last time. For this round, we enlisted Annika Naschitzki ― of Tiamana Brewery, and herself an occasional blogger, who handily hails from a different (and definitely livelier)2 beer-blending culture.
As we mentioned in the last podcast, we’ve got a few Lost Episodes in our proverbial back pocket. They’ve become little exercises in time travel, but we didn’t want them to languish forever, so I’ll be uploading them over the next few weeks. This conversation was recorded on 17 September 2015.
We sat down for a few beers ‘on the record’ with our friends Dave Wood and Denise Garland. Dave is the general manager of Wellington beer bar Hashigo Zake as well as the current President of SOBA (the Society of Beer Advocates) and Denise is a journalist — and both have long been key members of the beer community. They talk about the rapid evolution of the local scene, their introductions to it and their ‘epiphany’ beers, the simple pleasures of everday beers in their right place, and the joys of making your own homebrew. We also discuss the bar business, SOBA festivals, women-in-beer groups like Beerded Ladies and Pink Boots, lament the general lack of brown ales and have a few dated-but-foreboding words to say about company takeovers — Dave idly ponders a Ballast Point buyout that was just a few weeks in the future.
Damn these recurrent hiatuses. It happened again, as these things do. But we’re back this week — rather fittingly, after the long weekend — with a little look at crowdfunding in the beer business, some reminiscences over my marvellous trip to the Mussel Inn, and looking forward to the Great Kiwi Beer Festival this very weekend, at which I’ll be doing one of my little rambles. All that by way of bicycle bells and videogames, and accompanied by two rather strikingly different Beers Of The Week.
There are several sadly-long-neglected episodes in our proverbial back pocket, which I’ll upload over the coming weeks. You — our listeners and our excellent guests — have our apologies, and also our welcome back.
At Golding’s, where I work with1 Dylan of The Bottleneck blog, it’s not uncommon to see us indulging in a little game we call ‘Will It Shandy?’ when we’re trying out new arrivals to the taps. A shandy — that’s a beer mixed with lemonade, on the remote chance the word is unfamiliar to you — is a much-maligned thing, and this upsets us both greatly. They can be truly wonderful, in a few different ways and for a few different reasons. So, starting with the Platonic Ideal of the modern shandy — a simple pale lager and a mass-market lemonade — we sat down to try a few different types of beer and see what twists and nuances we could find; to investigate not just whether we thought something could shandy,2 but also to start to test the why. In the name of both Science and Silliness, we recorded our endeavours and you can listen to the result above — or indeed over at Dylan’s. Very many thanks to him for doing all the editing work, and to The Coconut Monkeyrocket for our theme music.3
Just in time for those missing out on this year’s Beervana, a blast from the past. During the 2014 festival, George and I ― plus an excellent suite of special guests ― recorded two episodes in the seminar room, and brought sufficient quantities for the Beer(s) Of The Week to share with anyone who wanted to join the audience. Civilised. Technical difficulties beset the recordings, though, and they got lost in the weeds of last year. But, at last, here they are.
On the Friday evening, we were were joined by Matt Kirkegaard ― founder of BrewsNews.com.au and then-recent AIBA award-winner for his writing and podcast and hosting and such ― and Sean Burke of the Commons Brewery in Portland, which was part of the inaugural (and smashingly successful, and now repeated) Beervana Exchange. We drank a longtime favourite in NSW’s Stone & Wood ‘Pacific Ale’, and then Commons’ collaboration with Tuatara, ‘Nova Pacifica’.
The next night, our accomplices were Luke Robertson ― ex-pat New Zealander in exile in Melbourne, blogger and podcast and since recipient of the very-same AIBA award that Matt previously won ― and Denise Ratfield of Stone Brewery and the Pink Boots Society, and a driving force behind the utterly marvellous International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. We drank Mountain Goat ‘Hightail’ and Latitude 33’s ‘Worldly Scholar’, which was a fundraiser beer for Pink Boots.
…will have to wait until after Beervana 2015, I’m afraid. This is an insanely busy time to be a semi-professional beer nerd. Imagine if, at some stereotypical Christmastime à la hackneyed American holiday movies, you somehow had the timetable and temperament of Santa Claus, a few hundred of the elves, and a six-year-old, all at once.
And so the Beer Diary Podcast is back for a fifth season — and with our traditional delay in hitting ‘publish’, no less. Episodes should return to their usual non-super-sized format and a sharper turnaround in this back half of the year — but you all know what kind of paving projects are undertaken with good intentions. Here, we accidentally settle on a G-theme: we catch up about the end of my tenure at Garage Project, including some thoughts on how they make their interesting beers; discuss the debut of GABS — Sydney Edition, which also makes us ponder trans-Tasman beer availability; and read a neat little piece in the Guardian on Gastrophysics which sets us wondering about experiments that really should be done at the beer awards.
(16.20) BDP’s first away mission, damn near four years ago: Garage Project.
(18.00) The “cabbage beer” was Mon P’tit Chou, a saison brewed without cabbages. And George is no fan of saisons.
(23.20) Beer of the Week #2: Garage Project ‘Bossa Nova’. And I have some idea how they put the fruit in it, but that probably counts as a Trade Secret. Pete addresses the classification question in his blog post for the beer, and has similarly little patience for overly pedantic taxonomy.
(35.10) GABS 2015 — Sydney Edition v1.0, an excellent new incarnation of an excellent thing, and a lovesong to festivals in general.
(1.00.00) Tom Scott (H.F.O.T.S.) on grammatical gender. I don’t quite finish the thought in the episode, but I obviously also agree that the “key” example says as many worrying things about notions of gender as it does about oddities of grammar.
(1.33.40) Tip of the hat: Little Creatures (part of the Lion Group). It’s not rocket wizardry, people. Wag of the finger: sloppy keg-filling.
(1.37.40) Recommendations: Panhead special editions, and Hop Federation American Brown.
(1.41.20) Honorary Friend Of The Show: Neal Stephenson, my favourite living author (especially after Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett both died, sadly). I just finished Seveneves yesterday, in fact; it’s responsible for at least a day or two of my delay in getting this online. And speaking of big books, The Year Of Reading Massively is definitely worth a listen.
Back at last for a traditionally-belated ‘Year in Review’ episode, George and I called in a few guests to help ponder what 2014 meant to us in beer, since we were both extra-busy in everything else. Now-recidivist Friends Of The Show Jono and Hadyn graciously took up the challenge and joined us in searching our memories for the year’s highlights, disasters, themes and oddities — and, just for good measure, they also threw in bonus musings on professional wrestling and the sociology of Palmerston North.
(18.20) Worst Beer Writer: Gordon McLauchlan, one of our absolute dinosaurs. But not in a good way.
(22.00) Beer of the Week #2: Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’ 2011.
(27.00) Pleasant Surprise: Emerson’s, under Lion.
(37.00) Beer of the Week #3: Billy B’s Apple Stout, via our comrades at Ale Of A Time, and from South Australia as I later get totally wrong.
(40.40) Pleasant Surprise (cont’d):Homebrewing (at work).
(44.50) Unpleasant Surprise: The Chillsner™ — an abject failure of design, which I did at least have fun testing; see below.1
(49.30) 2014, Year of the x: Session (according to Beer Without Border’s ‘Beer Word Of The Year’); or Community; or Oligopoly — “thanks” to the rise of the Asahi-Boundary-Founders-Etc. hydra (via clever positioning, and bastardry); or Attack of the (Pacific Ale) Clones (with a trademark shitfight on the horizon); or of the Wheat (slightly jumping the gun…); or of the Tin (as beer-in-cans goes mainstream).
(1.18.10) Beer of the Week #4: Schneider Weisse ‘Tap X — Meine Porter Weisse, courtesy of Jono.
(1.23.20) Beer of the Year: Stone & Wood ‘Pacific Ale’ (again— plus its descendants and clones, and applause for the company); or non-Hefe-non-Wit-Wheat (more generally); or Garage Project ‘Garagista’; or Yeastie Boys ‘White Noise’.
(1.46.20) Glass of Beer of the Year: Probably-a-Tuatara-Pilsner (on the occasion of fatherhood); or Yeastie Boys ‘Minimatta’ (post-run, dying); or Garage Project ‘Beer’ (with dirty-licious burgers); or Matutu ‘Mai’ (on holiday in Rarotonga); or — among surprisingly good company in what I thought was a quiet year — Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’ (a UK-brewed cask, on an excellent evening).
(2.04.50) I hasten to add: people (i.e., George, Hadyn, and co.) were taking crotch-shots of their own pants and beaming them to my phone.
1: While writing up these notes, I gave the Chillsner a good test, and can report on its spectacular crapness. It doesn’t fit all common bottlenecks (ParrotDog: no, Panhead: yes, Tuatara: yes-but-only-after-a-sickening-cram) and the uneven (and mysterious) ribbing makes it impossible to judge in advance. It displaces a good 10% of the beer; either an initial warm sip or a bunch of wastage. And even when cooled to minus nine, itself, it could only take two or three degress Celsius off a bottle — five degrees at best. The physics is just way off: it just doesn’t have the mass or the conductivity, and the water in beer (i.e., most of the stuff) is just too damn hard to shift in temperature. (And if, as they might retreat to as last resort, it’s for keeping already-cold beer cold longer, then stubby-holders already exist.) ↑
Following straight on — after a quick re-play of the introduction, thanks to some clever editing by George — from last weekend’s episode, we’re delighted to present the second half of our Very Special podcast takeover on Women & Beer, by women, drinking beer. Megan, Beth, Hayley and Steph continue their conversation, covering topics as diverse as canned beer, food matching, ‘extreme’ beers, festivals, labeling and tastings — as well as discussing the potential need for (and nuances of) dedicated women’s groups in the community, the role of (and need for) overt feminism in the beer business.
Massive thanks to all four of our substitute hosts; I’ve really enjoyed listening to these episodes and hope you all have, as well. George and I will be back behind the microphone soon, and should also have something to share from our Beervana Sessions, shortly.
The show opens with the discussion of Beer Of The Week #2: Renaissance ‘Bloody R.I.P.A.’, which was opened at about 24.30 of part 1. Beer of the Week #3: Rodenbach, from a can, appears around 6.00 into this part. Beer of the Week #4: Almanac ‘Barrel Noir’ takes over at 29.00, and then — getting close to threatening our standing record of six, set with Stu McKinlay — Beer Of The Week #5 Mikkeller ‘Brunch Weasel’, finishes things off from about 52.00.
For a Very Special episode, George and I relinquish the microphone entirely to four of our friends. We’d wanted to dedicate an episode entirely to ‘Women & Beer’ for some time and eventually realised that we were sufficiently blessed for potential guests — and also sufficiently lacking in personal experience, for obvious reasons — that a takeover episode made all kinds of sense.
It feels strange to show-note an episode I didn’t make, so I’m going to leave this one mostly un-annotated, other than the following little details:
Comments are, as always, welcome here or on the Beer Diary’s Facebook page. In addition, all four substitute hosts are active on Twitter: Megan, Beth, Hayley & Steph. If a reference needs clarifying, a correction submitted, or any such thing, you are particularly spoilt for ways in which to have your say.
Beers Of The Week in this part are: #1 Panhead Vindicator (at around 1.30) and #2 Renaissance Bloody R.I.P.A. (from about 24.30).