Tag Archives: tasted July 2011

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.

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. 

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.

Alaskan Winter Ale

Alaskan 'Winter Ale'
Alaskan 'Winter Ale'

The best-laid plans and all that, right? Four different U.S. imports arrived in the keg fridge at work in the early stages of last winter, and all four had glorious great big ostentatious American-style tap handles. I quickly hatched a plan (not just within the bounds of my own head; I told the right people and made the relevant notes) to put them all side-by-side on the 4th of July. It just seemed to make sense. But these things had a way of undoing themselves and I’d show up to work in the days preceding the Americans’ collective birthday and find that one or other had been cracked, with or without its marvellous handle, and placed in some random corner of the taps. Sigh.

But. But — it turns out that if the proverbial man with the best-laid plan (and possibly the mice) is extraordinarily stubborn, faced with a quiet weekend night shift, and entirely comfortable with spending a few hours in the keg chiller, shuffling hefty things into organised piles in a zero-degrees-Celsius environment — the Zen Art Of Kegtris1then you might just witness a resurrection of that plan. And, as you can see from the handles arrayed behind my glass, that’s exactly what happened. It was, in its own way, beautiful. If I do say so.

July 4th tap handles
The Four of July

The reshuffle was a Saturday night, and I was (uncharacteristically) also working the Sunday — which is when I had this, as a little reward for getting everything done and ready for “tomorrow”, the 4th. I’ve entirely forgotten which lovely friend of mine I happened to bump into before work who shouted it for me as I mooched around before my shift — I’d turned up early, even further out of character and probably due to the disorientation of the schedule change.

It made for a great start to my workday, not least because 6.5% ABV in a light and sweet and gorgeously perfumed little ale helps to put a bit of a shine on your face, if you skipped breakfast. Comparisons to local-oddity ‘Captain Cooker’ from the Mussel Inn are meant as sincere and complimentary. They’re both charmingly peculiar, enjoyably different, and really interestingly tasty. And seriously, the tap handle is a fucking great big snow-covered tree. With a weirdly adorable eagle on the top. I still can’t believe the Powers That Be were content to leave that sitting in a dark cupboard, but I’m glad I overruled them.

Original Diary entry: Alaskan Winter Ale 3/7/11 From the four, all properly in place at last. Much paler than we expected, light amber. Smells like Christmass + shortbread, candy sweetness. Made with spruce, which help justify the already-awesome tap handle. Has that Captain Cookery sweet perfume. 6.5%-ish. Lovely start to a Sunday at work.

Alaskan 'Winter Ale', tap handle top (Malthouse, 3 July 2011)
Alaskan Winter Ale's tap-handle eagle
Alaskan Winter Ale, tap handle base (Malthouse, 2 July 2011)
Alaskan Winter Ale's tap handle base
Diary II entry #120, Alaskan Winter Ale
Diary II entry #120, Alaskan Winter Ale

1: Which really does seem to be a ‘me’ word — a fact that makes me deliriously proud. I do hope it catches on. If it does, I’m totally adding “neologist” to my CV.

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (My house, 8 May 2012)
St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

My Canada Day last year then continued with this, a Quebecker Oatmeal Stout, there at my desk at home (with the Diary itself and my rather-lovely Hashigo Zake bottle opener visible behind it, and it perched on ludicrously-extravagant Moa Beer leather-and-felt coaster). And, just for a sense of continuity and appropriateness I’m now — as then — listening to The Tragically Hip, who I’ve been fond of for ages and to the extent where it appears as a data point to those not-insignificant numbers of people who assume me to be Canadian.

This is a massively well-renowned stout, and it was being consumed by someone to which oatmeal stout is a kind of wintery, liquid Kryptonite.1 But it and I just didn’t get along fantastically well. Its company was pleasant enough, but it should’ve been like a fireside chat with Stephen Fry himself, given the circumstances. This just didn’t have the glorious smoothness that is half the reason I go so wibbly for a good oatmeal stout,2 and there was a faint tinge of metal that made it reminiscent (not entirely unwelcomely) of a thick foil bag of chocolate-chip cookies.

It just seemed a little past its prime — though the Best Before date was impenetrably Hieroglyphic, smooshed and encoded. Consensus from a few at Hashigo was that it probably had been around for a while and had come via a third party somewhere, this not being one of their ultra-cautious imports. While neither a disaster nor a complete swing-and-a-miss, certainly, it simply wasn’t quite what I wanted and seemed unable (in that time and place) from making good on its promise. Mercifully, in the same takeaway-shopping trip, I also bought another ‘Péché Mortel’ from the equally-Quebeçois Dieu du Diel!, which was completely delicious and undegraded and thereby rescued the evening convincingly. Now I just want another of those.

Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Original Diary Entry: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout 1/7/11 continuing the theme. $9.5 @ HZ, 341ml only 5% Another hundreder,3 which didn’t immediately grab me. The smoothness of the oats (and of the online praise), just isn’t so much there. I initially thought I just had it too cold. But it’s still having the same sharp uptick ride on the palate. Not unwelcome, just unexpected, unplanned. Slightly metal? Can’t decipher the best before. “12 B? 30 / J2010” Hopefully the latter isn’t it… Not sure. Smells like a bag of cookies. [2nd Péché Mortel was way better.]

1: Damnit. Now a Superman reference seconds after talking about Canadian music has the Crash Test Dummies firmly stuck in my head.
2: See, for example, Liberty’s stupidly-fucking-fantastic ‘Never Go Back’ — or, if you think that might be cheating a little, with its hugeness, just look to Firestone Walker’s ‘Velvet Merlin’.
3: By which I mean it scored a full 100 on RateBeer.com. I probably use that word as short hand because I really loved Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (in which it means something very different).